Holy Smokes: Fire Salvage Workshop

As a part of PRICE Training Action Team, Melissa was invited to attend the Smithsonian’s fire salvage training, “Holy Smokes: Fire Salvage Workshop.” This took place at the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms’ (ATF) Fire Research Laboratory. The event involved lectures about fire salvage, recovery, prevention, and safety. Along with the lectures, participants were invited to study a mock museum storage room that was going to be burned in a controlled fire (see Figure 1). The fire engineers then set the room on fire while the participants listened to an engineer’s interpretation of the event through IR cameras and thermometers.

Following the burn, the participants broke into groups to manage salvage. Melissa’s group established a grid system to document the item’s original location within the room. The group also determined how to prioritize objects for recovery based on needs and value to the “museum” (with the help of PRICE members acting as “material experts.” Melissa also gained experience in recovery cleaning and packing. All the while the team had to manage distractions from mock press reporters and thieves.

Figure 3. Melissa determining prioritization for recovery of collection items salvaged from the burnt room by discussing value with “material experts.”