18th April 1942 – another fire breaks out on Normandie

march 18 1942Once the fire on Normandie had been totally extinguished, and she was stable although lying on her side, plans began to be considered for salvaging her. The risk of further fires was taken very seriously, and comprehensive precautions were quickly put in place. With fuel oil floating around from the main fuel tanks, tons of cork insulation everywhere, collapsed partitions, plywood, upholstery and carpets, the risks were manifold. An ex-battalion chief was appointed to organise a fire watch: he recruited thee assistant chiefs and 21 firemen, all ex-New York City firemen each with at least 20 years’ experience. The group was organised into three sections each standing an 8-hour each every day.

There were numerous small fires on Normandie during the months of salvage, but only three were moderately serious. One was on 13th March 1942 but was quickly extinguished by another worker. Then on 18th April 1942 a worker using an acetylene torch ignited the cork insulation in a refrigeration compartment. This was potentially serious: three separate fire alarms were raised as the fire burned for over four hours. In the end firefighters had to cut holes in the hull to reach the fire and put it out. Another notable fire broke out in May 1942.

There were many barges moored alongside the wreck. One was fitted with a bank of carbon dioxide tanks, linked to a system of one-inch piping running around the ship, for immediate use in another major fire. There was also an eight-inch fire main, connected to the City water main. This was divided into two four-inch pipes, with numerous outlets for firefighting hoses to be connected. For a while three fireboats were stationed locally, and there was also a barge holding emergency breathing apparatus and resuscitation equipment. No further risks were to be taken!