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Fire Down Below

Sun Princess 1980 - Star Princess 2006

Star Princess in Bremerhaven, Germany 2006 - Repairs Following Fire


Short of the ship sinking the worse thing that can happen at sea is fire, surrounded by water and nowhere to run.


As a purser cadet for P&O in the early 1970’s part of the training was a fire fighting course at the Warsash Maritime School. The school still exists but is now part of Solent University. We were stationed at Southampton and shipped to the college each morning. The week started off gently with theory in the classroom.


But we were soon to experience fire first hand. We were kitted out in firefighting suits with breathing apparatus on our backs and were chased around the ground until we almost collapsed on the grass. I’m not sure the purpose of this exercise but we were certainly knackered by the end of the exercise.


Marine fire training at Warsash


Day two and we were introduced to the hazards of fire and smoke, there was no messing around. A small brick build structure with a metal hatch on the roof and a ladder down into the interior. A fire was ignited inside close to the ladder. One by one the hatch was lifted and an innocent cadet had to get down the ladder, of course, every time the hatch was opened the fire was fed and flared up. In my haste to enter the confines, l missed the ladder completely and landed on my backside next to the fire, quickly expelled from the hut by the instructor.


The next major exercise was to enter a smoked filled building representing the superstructure of a ship. We entered as a team to find a body overcome by smoke. We were numbered and had to maintain contact with our fellow cadets. The instructor threw a hissy fit when we emerged in the wrong order having not maintained contact with each other. The smoke was generated by a smoke bomb. One cadet actually picked up the smoke bomb and had to be treated for burns. Smoke room training at Warsash


It was all good training that thankfully I never had to action during my time at sea. The nearest I got to fire was on Oriana when one day I discovered smouldering rags in a working alleyway. I immediately phoned the bridge from a nearby bulkhead phone. Of course, in those days all calls went through the ship's telephone exchange. A fire crew arrived pretty sharply and all was well.


I was reminded about the fire at sea from fellow Seadog Colonel John Kling who I sailed with on Oriana and Pacific Princess. We recently connected again on a Facebook Group that holds a “Crew Bar” zoom meeting on Sunday evenings. (contact me for details if interested).


The Colonel was instrumental in setting up Ch4 a shipboard TV station on Sun Princess in the 1970s. He has vintage video footage of events onboard. One such event was the fire onboard Sun Princess in Vancouver Harbour in 1980. The fire started before “The Sun” had set sail on her Alaskan Cruise. This incident led to a rethinking of the passenger lifeboat drill. Previously the lifeboat drill was held on the second day of the cruise, normally at sea. Cruise ships now hold the drill before the ship leaves port on the first day. Following the onset of Covid, these drills now take a different form with instructions available on the TV in your cabin. This is followed by checking in at your muster station. Modern technology facilitates this.


The “Old Man” on Sun Princess at the time of the fire was Captain (Sammy) Bradford. Some days after the fire The Colonel interviewed Capt. Bradford

for the ships TV channel Ch4.

Thankfully the fire on Sun Princess was soon extinguished with little damage, however, two crew members were injured, but returned to service a few days later.


Twenty-six years later the Star Princess was not quite so lucky. At 3.00 am. en route from Grand Caymen to Montego Bay a fire broke out in the passenger compartments in the midship section on the port side of the ship. Shortly after, the captain sounded the general emergency signal—seven short blasts followed by one long blast on the ship's whistle over the public address system, horn, and various alarms. Passengers evacuated their cabins into public areas through smoky hallways, grabbing their life jackets on the way where they spent the next seven hours.


The fire was allegedly caused by a cigarette left burning on a balcony, which had become hot enough to melt the balcony divides made from plastic polycarbonate,. The fire caused scorching damage in up to 150 cabins, and smoke damage in at least 100 more on passenger decks. Sadly one passenger died from inhalation of smoke and gases and thirteen other passengers suffered significant smoke inhalation.



The cruise was terminated in Montego Bay and passengers were evacuated to hotels in Jamaica and subsequently flew home. All passengers received a full refund and were reimbursed any out-of-pocket travel expenses they incurred. The ship had been on a Caribbean itinerary that departed from Port Everglades on 19 March 2006. With 79 cabins destroyed and a further 204 damaged, the ship was moved to the Bahamas where she was prepared for a transatlantic crossing to Bremerhaven, Germany for repairs.


The ship resumed service later that year. Following this disaster Princess implemented new measures that aim to prevent a disaster of similar proportion, which include enhanced procedures for handling fires and clear communication during emergencies, the addition of sprinklers to all balconies and the replacement of plastic furniture with non-combustible alternatives.


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11件のコメント


Mike Hayes
Mike Hayes
2022年4月25日

Re Fire on the Sun.

The much loved JY was Captain of Sun Princess at my time of the event.

My Band was playing live music

in the International Lounge and over the P A Captain John Young in his inimitable style announced “ Ladies and Gentlemen. , sorry to interrupt your drinking and entertainment, but we have a slight trauma in the Chinese Laundry of which we are attending. Nothing to worry about , just a little wisp of smoke and soot which will be eradicated shortly. Please continue to enjoy yourselves and to assist you all with that the will continue with entertainment and the all the drinks are on me and the House. Goodnight”.

All was fine…

いいね!
Mike Hayes
Mike Hayes
2022年4月25日
返信先

Hee haw

いいね!

Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
2022年4月25日

Mike.

I stand corrected. If you would like to write about the Birth of Channel 4 on Sun Princess, please let me know, i would be delighted to put things right and tell your story.

いいね!
Salty Seadog
Salty Seadog
2022年4月25日
返信先

Thanks Great Mike.

I plan to use it soon.

If you have any photos of you and the bands would ypu be happy to let me use them.

my email is david@milemarker.co.uk

いいね!

Mike Hayes
Mike Hayes
2022年4月24日

Correction.The birth of Channel 4 on Sun Princess was created by Myself Mike Hayes, Gerry Dyer and Rob Morley for part of Alaska seasons Marathon,Tug of War and then the Caribbean Season including Palm Island ,Lou Garcia, Jimmy Carter, Leslie Jon shows and French , Magnificent Adventure , French and America show we relayed for the crew. An introduction by Captain Bob Ellingham of the greatly anticipated Royal Princess‘s design with a lack of Bridge Wing. Oops.

Also a flight over St Thomas by an Officer and myself and Rob Morley , Officers name escapes me but a very eventful flight on which the plane in question had a faulty door latch and me having to hold it closed, an…

いいね!

Sun Princess was the former Spirit of London the ship pictured was NOT Sun Princess I should know I worked onboard. Get you ships right so far reading your posts its all wrong. Dont believe me go to the site I worked on the love boat.

いいね!
Mike Hayes
Mike Hayes
2022年4月26日
返信先

The former Spirit of London renamed Sun Princess was featured in a movie which was the pre curser for the series LOVE BOAT. The series no doubt boosted bookings for cruises on All 3 Princess ships ,SUN, ISLAND and. PACIFIC.We former crew members all have our favorite Princess.

いいね!

Jamie, The Purser
Jamie, The Purser
2022年3月13日

Very interesting topic, and one I have personally experienced as mandatory training when I joined Shaw Savill as assistant purser on Southern Cross prior to sailing on my first voyage to sea in 1967. As David has highlighted here, it was quite scary stuff for a young purser, but fortunately instructors ensured all trainees were observed and 'saved' from the fire if unforeseen incidents occurred.

Back in my days at sea, fire and boat drills happened on sailing day, a few hours after leaving port, and usually in Southampton Water off Cowes. When emergency siren and bells were sounded, passengers proceeded to their cabins, collected lifejackets, and made their way to the muster station on promenade deck, where lifeboats were…

いいね!
    
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