At approximately 2330 hours on Saturday, July 9th the special service tones dropped at Cabin John Station 30 for an unusual request. In Catonsville, Baltimore County, a seven-story Days Inn had caught fire, bringing 4 alarms worth of units to the scene to help control fire, which reportedly started in an electrical closet and had spread to the top floors. After most of the fire had been knocked, command staff on scene was tasked with finding a way to provide positive pressure ventilation to the building.
For those of you who aren’t well versed in fire science, positive pressure ventilation is a technique in which firefighters force clean air into a building to push out smoke and heat. This is especially useful on large building where it would cause excessive damage to create enough opening to let smoke at heat vent naturally. The only problem with doing positive pressure ventilation on a seven-story building those is putting enough air in. To properly ventilate using positive pressure, more air must be forced into the building than what can be let out by natural and man-made openings. When the vent group supervisor noticed that several small fans, usually suited for a one or two family house wasn’t providing enough air, he turned to the planning division chief to come up with a solution. That solution was Airboat 730.
This is not a first for the airboat. Almost a year ago, the airboat was called to Baltimore to help ventilate a tunnel that had filled with smoke. On this night, FF Jim Gross of the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service and Cabin John Park Volunteer FF Harrison Wilson took the airboat to Catonsville to assist. Airboat 730 was positioned at a large doorway at the bottom of a stairwell while still attached to the trailer and began forcing large amounts of air into the building. Under the direction of the vent group supervisor, Airboat 730 ventilated for about thirty minutes – until it was confirmed that most of the smoke and heat had been forced back into the building. FF Gross and FF Wilson made it back to their bunks around 0230 hours Sunday Morning.