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Flares Over Marco

By Natalie Strom

USCG Auxiliary Flotilla 95 demonstrates a smoke flare from the water.

USCG Auxiliary Flotilla 95 demonstrates a smoke flare from the water.

It’s not easy putting an event together when part of the process involves alerting Homeland Security. Carl Thieme of the Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron quickly learned this lesson when he decided to bring a flare training and safety course to Marco Island.

The venture, which began in May, was realized on January 22nd at the Marco Island Yacht Club.

Marco Island Power Squadron organized the event.

Marco Island Power Squadron organized the event.

“Most people don’t know how to use a flare or a fire extinguisher because they’ve never had to,” explains Thieme. But when it comes to boating safety, “the two key things to know are how to signal you’re in trouble and how to put out a fire.” This is exactly what was taught at the flare and fire workshop open to members of the Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron (MISPS), United States Coastguard Auxiliary (USCG), the Marco Island Yacht Club and the Marco Island Marine Association.

Members of the MIPS watched as flares flew through the sky.

Members of the MIPS watched as flares flew through the sky.

The Marco Island Power Squadron collected over 200 aerial flares and even more handheld flares, all of which were expired, to utilize during the workshop. “It’s a great way to get expired flares off people’s boats,” adds Keith Wohltman of the USCG Auxiliary. “It’s OK to keep expired flares as back-ups but all boats need to be equipped with flares that are up to date.”

Flotilla 95 Commander Arne Kelsey keeps things in control.

Flotilla 95 Commander Arne Kelsey keeps things in control.

Those who would like to dispose of their expired flares can do so at the transfer station located on Elkcam Circle on Marco.

Fire Inspector John Harris teaches proper fire extinguisher techniques. PHOTOS BY NATALIE STROM

Fire Inspector John Harris teaches proper fire extinguisher techniques. PHOTOS BY NATALIE STROM

With five stations set up, those interested could practice using a flare gun, a ripcord flare and a handheld flare under the instruction of members of the USCG and the MISPS (including SAMI Commodore, Dave Dumas acting as a MISPS instructor).

The USCG Auxiliary brought out a licensed boat to monitor flare activity within the Marco River. Auxiliary crewmembers Mike Ludwig, Tom Dines, Randy Harris and Laurie Harris kept the waterways safe while also demonstrating what an orange smoke flare looks like from a distance.

MIIPS member Jim Ferry answers questions.

MIIPS member Jim Ferry answers questions.

It is absolutely illegal to set off a flare unless it is an emergency. So to see flare after flare lighting the sky near the Jolley Bridge was quite an unusual sight. So unusual, in fact, that the Civil Air Patrol made a number of fly-overs to record the action. The footage will be used for training purposes on how to better spot emergency flares from the sky.

Inspector Harris preps Sarah McFadden.

Inspector Harris preps Sarah McFadden.

The Marco Island Fire Rescue Department was on hand to teach fire extinguisher demos. Fire Inspector John Harris discussed the importance of an up-to-date extinguisher, that it is pressurized and that placement on a boat or in a house is key. He then went into proper extinguisher usage before allowing some of the braver of the bunch to try it for themselves.

“What we’re going teach you on extinguishers is a really easy acronym to remember called PASS, explained Harris. “It stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep. You pull the pin, hold the extinguisher and aim at the base of the fire. Then you’re going to squeeze and sweep. Always sweep at the base of the fire. It pushes the chemical up over the fire and smothers it.”

Dave Dumas explains to shoot the flare high into the air.

Dave Dumas explains to shoot the flare high into the air.

Smother it they did! Volunteers eagerly put on fire gloves and a helmet and took turns putting out the small controlled fire set by the Fire Department.

Safety was the theme throughout the whole day. Flares that were duds were disposed of properly, safety goggle were worn while practicing and those willing to put out flames were also protected. Safety should always be the theme when heading out on the water.

Remember to have up-to-date flares and a fire extinguisher along with all other required safety materials designated by the US Coast Guard. To learn more visit http://www.uscgboating.org.

Sarah McFadden extinguishes the controlled fire with instruction from Harris.

Sarah McFadden extinguishes the controlled fire with instruction from Harris.

The Marco Island Sail and Power Squadron and the United States Coastguard Flotilla 95 both teach boating safety courses throughout the year on Marco Island.


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