ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. --
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Equipping combat vehicles with fire protection is an important element during the repair and refurbishment phase. In Anniston Army Depot’s industrial complex, artillery mechanics are committed to ensuring the vehicles are safer for the occupants. While primarily used in combat vehicles, fire bottles, commonly known as fire extinguishers, are also used in depot shops for safety reasons.
The Directorate of Production’s Fire Bottle Room, where all this type of repair work is conducted, may be relatively unknown for much of the workforce. The fire bottle room averages 290 fire bottles of production each month.
When the fire bottles arrive, they are disassembled. The bottles are inspected inside and out. The mechanics check for rust, cracks, pits, visible structural damage and the threading at the bottle neck. During disassembly, the halon gas in the bottles is recycled for future operations using a nozzle to extract the gas, which is eventually returned to a large tank sitting outside. These large tanks are sent to Richmond, VA in order for the gas to be recycled. The bottles are sent to the Paint Shop and the valves are overhauled. Mechanics clean the valves by removing debris, dirt, and residue remaining from the bottle’s contents. They replace the O-Rings, which could be the difference in a bottle maintaining or losing its pressure. “It doesn’t look like much, but this step is critical. The seal could break causing the valve and bottle to discharge while we are filling the bottles,” said Destry White, artillery mechanic.
The bottles are returned from the paint shop and tested using the hydrostatic tester. The bottle is filled with water and submerged inside a jacket full of water. Air is pumped into the bottle until it reaches its specified test pressure. The pressure is held for a pre-determined amount of time, typically 30 seconds, then released. During that time, while inflated, the bottle is checked for the amount of expansion to confirm it returns close enough to its original size upon pressure release. When the bottle expands, it pushes water out of the jacket and into the weigh bowl.
After a bottle passes the hydrostatic test, the mechanics torque the valve onto the bottle neck, stamp the bottle with a unique ANAD serial number and date, then the bottle is ready to be filled with gas and contents. Each bottle’s serial number must be recorded, signed by the mechanic, and filed for the shelf life of the bottle.
According to Jordan Goodwin, heavy mobile equipment leader for the fire bottle room, documentation is very important. “We have to keep the paperwork for the shelf life of the bottle,” he said. Non-corrosive bottles have a 12-year shelf-life and corrosive bottles have a five-year shelf life.
Many of the vehicle programs being worked on depot require fire bottles to help protect the vehicle’s crew in the event of a fire inside the vehicle. Some of the platforms include the Stryker family of vehicles, M1 Abrams, M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, M88 tracked recovery vehicle, Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge, M992 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicle, 113 Armored Personnel Carrier and M109 Paladin.