Friday, 12 February 2010

A Potter's Nightmare

Or "Things That Go Boom in the Night"

Although I often fired that kiln, this did NOT happen on my watch! What happened here was that the kiln was started on small pilot burners, left a couple of hours, then the gas was turned on to the main burners... But three of the four pilot burners went out. And my boss didn't check, or purge the kiln atmosphere before turning on the big gas valve... so it filled with a nice mix of forced air and gas, and... bricks rained out of the sky.
This was in, ahem... 1977. yes, children, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. 
I learned a few useful lessons from that. And after the kiln was rebuilt, I learned that combustion experts are not infallible, and that fire extinguishers only last a few seconds.
The gas valve guys had come and fitted new flame-failure devices to the kiln, and were testing the auto proportioning valve. They'd run the kiln up to red heat, and decided to go for lunch whilst it cooled a bit. 
So without telling anybody, they popped the door, left it open about an inch. Just above the kiln door was a roof with wooden timbers.
Our clay pugging part timer went into the kiln room, let out a shriek, and yelled "We're on FIRE!", so I yelled to everyone (There were twelve workers) to get out, and call the fire brigade, whilst I heroically ran in the opposite direction, toward the fire... (see how brave I am?) (or stupid?). I grabbed the first extinguisher, aimed it at the flames and ""PHOOOOOOF! it said, and went limp. Yep. phoooooof. No foreplay so to speak, just hit the button, a white jet, and a fire extinguisher hanging limply.
What a disappointment. And the fire was still going. Oh. And the air was filled with choking, eye watering, blinding white powder.  The fire was going even better than before, right up to the apex of the roof. I ran back into the main room, grabbed the foam extinguisher, and tried that. Oooh baby.. the fire loved that, gimme some more, she panted.... but that foam extinguisher? Shppurrrtttttt! tt! tt t... And then, that was it. That fire, she was still going, crackling and banging and moaning. Your extremely brave correspondent said "Fuck it", and left the building, coughing and wheezing .
By which time heehawheehaw! the fire engine was roaring in through the gate.
It turned out, don't-cha know, that my technique was wrong.
The firemen went up the roof with axes, ripped the tiles off and blasted about a zillion gallons of water on it. Well, yes, of course, they smashed a couple of weeks' worth of production, but they saved the kiln room and the glazing room.

Just around then, a white van turned up with two gas furnace experts, who'd had a pub lunch. With beer. And missed all the excitement they'd caused. Their company's insurance faced a big claim, and I hope those two were sacked.
After that, I went on a fire training course. I've forgotten most of it now. But my technique is better.

Despite my heroism, I didn't even get a medal.

Seriously, potter-friends,  learn what to do in a fire. I know. kilns are good at NOT starting fires. But we can all be stupid at times.
Get the right extinguishers. Your local fire department will often do free training sessions. A fire extinguisher comes and goes in about fourteen seconds.

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  1. Sourav, you left a "comment" here. It contained a link to a website of a company offering health&safety training. And the comment body was a paragraph of the text in my post.

    This blog has a ZERO tolerance to spam.
    You got four hours and one click out of it. Now piss off.

  2. Oh. And you got reported to google's spam policing bots. Might have to use a different name soon.


Spam will be reported and swiftly deleted. I will put a curse upon you if you post spam links.