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2-Alarm Oil Rig Fire on Mobile River

Mar 8th, 2023


At approximately 1:48 PM, Mobile Fire-Rescue Department crews were dispatched 400 Dunlap Drive for reports of a dry dock vessel on fire. While responding to the scene, units noted plumes thick, black smoke billowing across the skyline.


Upon arrival on scene (1:53 PM), firefighters discovered a decommissioned, multi-story oil rig with flames and heavy smoke present. Initial reports from shipyard workers was that the rig held oil, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, cardboard, insulation, and other flammable materials. A 2nd-alarm response was immediately requested. Incident Command requested aid from the US Coast Guard along the Mobile River. The Mobile County Emergency Management Agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management were notified for hazardous materials potentially washing into the River and waterways.


First alarm units [4 engines, 2 ladder trucks, 2 rescue trucks, Fire Boat] assessed the scene in order to establish access for an initial fire attack. Command and Support staff worked with shipyard staff, gathered information regarding the rig layout, cargo, potential hazards, and a quickly-formulated but safe operational plan.


Fire suppression teams loaded members, gear, high-rise hose lines, and other necessary equipment into a nearby lift operated by shipyard personnel. As teams were being lifted to an access point on the rig, approximately 10-12 stories high, 2nd-alarm units [4 engines, 1 ladder truck, 1 rescue truck] were advised to report directly to a second-level staging area approximately 2 blocks away from the rig and standby for assignments.


Suppression teams were able to successfully make necessary hose connections and establish a water supply. Crews applied direct fire attacks, dousing flames with hundreds of gallons of water and foam. Aerial ladders were raised to assist in suppression and cooling efforts from the exterior. More than 55 firefighters, including paramedics, command staff, and support staff coordinated efforts to mitigate the incident.


After approximately 90 minutes of continuous suppression efforts, command staff raised important considerations, and agreed upon potential, alternate plans for completion. With the threat of floor instability and crew safety a concern, extinguishing the fires as soon as possible was paramount. Shipyard management and Coast Guard representatives assured that any potential oil or fluid hazards were minimal.


Using drone technology infrared cameras, MFRD staff was able to clearly identify remaining compartments of flames and coordinate attacks head-on.


After approximately 3 hours, the incident was under control. Investigators assessed the scene atop the rig and began the preliminary investigation. The cause of the incident remains undetermined, pending further investigation.


Thankfully, there were no injuries sustained during scene operations, and no shipyard personnel were injured.


At approximately 6:18 PM, all MFRD crews, apparatus, and personnel were clear of the scene. Shipyard staff remain on fire watch through the evening.

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