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11 September, 2003


Yes, McMurdo has a fire station just like those at home. In fact the gear they wear here is exactly the same as there; nothing special is used for the cold weather. I guess they would be plenty warm inside a burning building. The water in the tanks stays warm in the firehouse, so it will stay liquid for quite a while, and they constantly pump the water, the motion keeps it from freezing. But when they are done, the hoses are frozen and difficult to roll back up.

Some poorly built buildings have burned down here before. The science building I am working in was the most expensive building per square foot in the world when it was built. Protecting it from fire is a high priority. Also, there are thousands of gallons of fuel stored here. A small fire would be devastating in the middle of winter. Careful pre- positioning of a second fire station several miles out by the runway helps in a quick deployment should a fire occur there. They have ARFF (Aircraft Rescue and FireFighting) trucks to spray foam on fuel fires; all of it is environmentally friendly.

I was given a tour of the fire station by Molly who is a fire fighter from Colorado Springs. She has been here for an entire year. She drives the large engine and is very knowledgeable. Amongst all her gear; face masks, helmet, breathing apparatus, oxygen tanks and fire resistant clothing is a beeper that goes off if she stays motionless for too long. This is in case she is unconscious in a fire, and then someone could rescue her. So as she stands in her outfit and talks to me, she constantly moves about to keep it from going off.

Outside the station they are cleaning an engine that was left where the wind filled the interior with snow. They have a portable heater blowing hot air in the engine to melt the snow. They routinely clean their engines and keep the firehouse in good working order.

Today we did not have a launch scheduled. It was time to catch up with things and finish some lab work. The results from our last flight confirm what the world is expecting, that the ozone hole is opening up now. The size of this hole will be interesting to discover. Later I will show you some data.

The main firehouse.

The dispatcher has probably the most important job at McMurdo.

Molly in all her gear.

Observation Hill is in the background.

Molly driving the engine.

Melting the snow inside the truck.

An ARF (alcohol resistant foam) engine.

The new fire chief.

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