FireIce Q& A - Positive Pressure Ventilation(PPV)

by Admin 9. August 2012 08:12

Hey FireIce Bloggers!  Check out todays question and answer below:

PPV FanDescribe this operation. How must the blower be placed at the open entry point?

ANSWER:

Positive Pressure Ventilation or PPV is defined as: “A method of ventilating a confined space by mechanically blowing fresh air into the space in sufficient volume to create a slight positive pressure within and thereby forcing the contaminated out the exit opening”.PPV Procedures

The fan or blower is placed 4’ to 10’ from the entry point you must ensure the fan cone completely covers the entry point. An exit point MUST be created opposite the entry point to push the smoke out of the exit opening.  This exit opening should be the same size or slightly smaller than the entry opening.  The entire goal is to create postive pressure an it is important that no other exterior doors or windows are opened during this operation.

Once the structure is stabilized you can open and close interior doors and exterior windows to pressurize one area at a time. Opening and closing interior doors at the proper time can accelerate the removal from heat and smoke. Also removing cold smoke from a building after the fire is extinguished is achieved by placing a negative pressure fan at the exit opening. Source: Chapter 11 Ventilation, Essentials of Fire Fighting 5th Edition. (See Illustrations)

If deployed properly PPV can prove to be a useful tool on the fire ground Proper Training and Practice on this operation is essential to ensure “Everyone Goes Home”. Stay Safe!
By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

Wildfires and What’s Being Done? (Part III)

by Admin 13. July 2012 08:03
(A segmented look at Firefighting, Fire Extinguishing Products, and Fire Suppression)

We’ve looked at firefighting foams and now we’ll look into long term retardants and What’s Being Done…
What are long term retardants?
Quite simply it’s the red stuff dropping from aircraft across the world on wildfires! So let’s look at the technical side of Long Term Retardants…
A fire retardant is a substance other than water that reduces flammability of fuels or delays their combustion. This typically refers to chemical retardants but may also include substances that work by physical action, such as cooling the fuels or by initiating a chemical reaction that stops a fire.
Early fire retardants were mixtures of water and thickening agents, and later included borates and ammonium phosphates. Borates are chemical compounds which contain oxoanions of boron in an oxidation state and ammonium phosphate is salt of ammonia and phosphoric acid. Today’s long term retardants are comprised of Diammonium Sulfate, Monoammonium Phosphate, Diammonium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Hydroxypropyl, and Performance Enhancers of Diammonium Sulfate is a synonym for Ammonium Sulfate and other synonyms are Sulfuric Acid, Diammonium Salt, Actamaster, Dolamin, and Mascagnite. Ammonium Sulfates are an inorganic salts which is part of soil fertilizers and its purpose is to reduce the soil pH.
Monoammonium Phosphates is an ammonium dihydrogen phosphate and is formed when in a solution of phosphoric acid is added to ammonia until the solution is distinctly acidic. Monoammonium phosphate is often used in the blending of dry agricultural fertilizers and it supplies soil with the elements nitrogen and phosphorus which is usable by plants. The compound is also a component of the ABC powder in some dry chemical fire extinguishers. This substance is also supplied in an emerald green or aquamarine crystal growing box kit for kids.
Diammonium Phosphate is used as a fertilizer and when applied as plant food, it temporarily increases the soil pH.
Guar Gum, Hydroxypropyl is an inert ingredient used as a thickener. Its common characteristic is that it’s a water absorbing polymer.
Ok that sounds pretty technical and that’s what’s in the red stuff...  What are its effects on the environment?
Well according to the manufacturer they say it’s…
“Long-term retardants are the safest, most effective, and environmentally friendly retardants available. No other products meet the current USDA Forest Service specification for long-term retardant. This specification includes product qualification testing for combustion retarding effectiveness, environmental, safety and health and corrosion standards.”
Ok so the manufacturer states that its product is the safest, most effective, and environmentally friendly and no other product meets the US Forest Service Specification. Hmmmm lets have a look at that…
According to the USFS Qualified Products List they are correct! There are no other companies listed on the QPL with a product that is classified as a long term retardant… So they are a sole source provider to the Federal Government...
So how effective are long term retardants?
There are no public records with the US Forest Service for Lateral Ignition Flamespread Test or Combustion Retarding Effectiveness. So the answers are unknown to the public...
Let’s recap what we have learned so far. Chemical composition is very salty with fertilizer salts. Here is a breakdown according to the MSDS sheet listed with the US Forest Service.
 Components:                 
Diammonium Sulfate, CAS #7783-20-2 = >65%
Monoammonium Phosphate, CAS #7722-76-1 = >15%   
Diammonium Phosphate, CAS#7783-28-0 = >5%
Guar Gum, Hydroxypropyl, CAS#39421-75-5 = Performance Additives, CAS# Trade Secret = The trade secret performance additives are protected by “trade secret” but the manufacturer states “Our wildland fire retardants consist of fertilizer type salts, a coloring agent, corrosion inhibitors, and flow conditioners.”
Ok so there are corrosion inhibitors in the red stuff well what are they?
In an environmental assessment of long term retardants dated October 2007 conducted by the US Forest Service it states ” Previous retardant formulas contained sodium ferrocyanide 2 as a corrosion inhibitor. It was found that under certain conditions, sodium ferrocyanide poses greater toxicity to aquatic species and aquatic environments than retardant solutions without this agent.” While we cannot confirm what corrosion inhibitors are currently being used today in the current formulas because they are a “trade secret”. One can only assume that they have not improved since 2007 and here is why…
In July 2010 a Montana Federal Court Judge the Honorable Donald Malloy “ordered the U.S. Forest Service to take a hard look at its use of toxic aerial fire retardants and their impact on fish and wildlife habitats.”
Ok so that blows the claim by the sole supplier to the Federal Government that they are the “safest, most effective, and environmentally friendly retardants available.”
Hmmm, no testing results available on effectiveness. So the “safest, most effective, and environmentally friendly retardants available” on the market today?
Not so much according to the environmental watchdog groups who filed a federal lawsuit and not according to a federal judge.
So What’s Being Done?
“Molloy ordered the Forest Service to comply with the federal laws by Dec. 31, 2011, threatening contempt sanctions if the agency fails to do so.”

"The Federal Defendants are advised that failure to comply with this deadline may subject them to sanctions, including contempt proceedings, and could conceivably result in enjoining the continued use of aerially-applied fire retardant until the law enacted by Congress is complied with," Molloy wrote. "The issue requires immediate attention."  

That was July 2010 and in December 2010 headlines are;

 “U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula” announced “that he will be taking senior status in August 2011.”

Coincidence??? Guess we will have to wait and see…

So who is the manufacturer of the sole provider of products used by the Federal Government to retard and combat wildfires?

They are called Phos-Chek and the Phos-Chek Fire Safety Group is part of ICL Performance Products LP, North America's premier phosphate chemical manufacturer.

So who is ICL?

“ICL Performance Products LP is a worldwide leader in the manufacturing and marketing of phosphates, phosphoric acid, and phosphorus chemicals.”

Since it is a Limited Partnership company is there a bigger picture or group?

“ICL Performance Products LP, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Israel Chemicals Limited (ICL), based in Tel Aviv, Israel. ICL is engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of fertilizers, industrial products, metallurgy, and performance products.”
So during this segment we discussed long term retardants and the jury is still out on them. We have also looked at firefighting foams more commonly known as Class “A” foam used for fire suppression. In the next segment we will look at fire gels or water enhancers and how they affect firefighting equipment, the environment and the effectiveness for fire suppression or exposure protection.

By: Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

Wildfires and What’s Being Done? (Part II)

by Admin 2. July 2012 05:48

(A segmented look at Firefighting, Fire Extinguishing Products, and Fire Suppression)

In the last segment we touched on some of the things that are being done by the local, state, and federal agencies to reduce the threat of wildfires in the wildland urban interface. In this segment we’ll look at fire extinguishing products and their effectiveness.

It appears that wildfires have become a pandemic and we have all seen the news clips of airplanes and helicopters dropping some sort of liquid on a fire…
But what is that liquid?
Some of it may be clear, some of it appears to be bubbly, and some of it may be red or blue. More often than not they are fire extinguishing products and some have been around for close to 100 years to aid firefighting efforts and help to firefighters with fire suppression. So let’s look at these fire extinguishing products and how well do they work for fire suppression.
Firefighting foams are the chemicals that have been around longest ever since the early 1900’s and developed by a Russian Chemist named Alexsandr Loran. Originally firefighting foams were designed to combat flammable or combustible liquid fires. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when the foam manufacturers came up with the idea of making a formulation to be used on wildland fires which has evolved into Class “A” foam.
So what are firefighting foams or class “A” foams?
The chemical composition of these fire extinguishing products vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but all contain some sort of surfactant. Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of liquid (usually water). Surfactants are usually organic compounds which are carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon and cyanides. Other components of firefighting foams are organic solvents such as trimethyltrimethylene glycol and hexylene glycol, foam stabilizers such as lauryl alcohol, and corrosion inhibitors.
Now that we have your attention of what’s in firefighting foams! Let’s look at their effects on the environment…
The US Forest Service QPL (Qualified Products List) specifies a mix ratio of 0.1 to 1.0 % foam concentrate to water and clearly states that they must be mixed within that ratio to comply with their specifications. Now on the other hand firefighters are taught in the Fire Academy to mix firefighting foam at a ratio of 3 gallons of foam concentrate mixed with 97 gallons of water to get an end product of 3% foam. Hmmm the US forest Service says a maximum of 1%... Why?? Let’s look at toxicity on mammals and fish…
Acute Oral Toxicity Mammals (Foam Concentrate):
Phos Chek WD 881 = 4378 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it also is moderately irritating to non washed and washed eyes, and has a 0.9 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
Phos Chek WD 881-C = >5050 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it is also moderately irritating to non washed and washed eyes and has a 1.4 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
Tyco Silv-Ex = >5050 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it is also severely irritating to non washed and washed eyes and has a 2.7 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
National Foam KnockDown = >5000 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it is also moderately irritating to non washed eyes and mildly irritating to washed eyes and has a 1.2 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
**Note** The lower the Lethal Dosage value (LD₅₀) is - the more toxic it is.

Fish Toxicity (Foam Concentrate):
Phos Chek WD 881 = LC₅₀ 11 mg/L soft water and 10 mg/L hard water.
Phos Chek WD 881-C = LC₅₀ 17mg/L soft water and 10mg/L hard water.
Tyco Silv-Ex = LC₅₀ 46mg/L soft water and 28mg/L hard water.
National Foam KnockDown = 28mg/L soft water and 26mg/L hard water.
**Note** The lower the Lethal Concentration value (LC₅₀) is - the more toxic it is.
Let’s look at what firefighting foams do to fire equipment? We already established that firefighting foams contain corrosion inhibitors. Corrosion inhibitors are a chemical compound that decreases the corrosion rates of a material, typically a metal or an alloy. Corrosion tests are designed to measure the loss of structural integrity of the affected metal and potential loss of the metal item. Significant corrosion in fire pumps or aircraft may have catastrophic effects to human life. Corrosion testing is based on mils-per- year and the US Forest Service is looking to minimize the risk of corrosion- caused fire equipment failure in the field. The benchmark is less than (Uniform Corrosion Partial Submersion at 120˚F (Foam Concentrate):
Phos Chek WD 881 = 0.1 Aluminum, 1.9 Steel, and 0.5 Yellow Brass.
Phos Chek WD 881-C = 0.9 Aluminum, 4.7 Steel, and 0.7 Yellow Brass
Tyco Silv-Ex = 0.1 Aluminum, 4.9 Steel, and 3.5 Yellow Brass
National Foam KnockDown = 0.4 Aluminum, 1.1 Steel, and 0.1 Yellow Brass
While all of these firefighting foams comply with the US Forest Service Specifications it should be noted that the above testing results is public record and are published on the US Forest Service’s website.
How effective are firefighting foams in aiding firefighters in fire suppression or fire extinguishment?
Simply it last for seconds compared to water!!
Here are the test results from the US Forest Service QPL list.
Lateral Ignition Flamespread Test (LIFT)
Phos Chek WD 881 = 211 seconds compared to Water = 112 seconds
Phos Chek WD 881-C = 255 seconds compared to Water = 124 seconds
Tyco Silv-Ex = 139 seconds compared to Water = 128 seconds
National Foam KnockDown = 225 seconds compared to Water = 116 seconds
Basically what we have learned from this segment is that firefighting foam is corrosive to firefighting equipment, it’s not that great for the environment, and it’s not very effective compared to water.
So stop wasting the taxpayer’s money!
On a side note National Foam as well as AFG Firewall, Kidde, and Ansul are all owned by Tyco. In the next segment we will look at Long Term Retardants the red stuff being dumped from airplanes and helicopters…  

By: Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

Wildfires and What’s Being Done?

by Admin 25. June 2012 06:10

(A segmented look at Firefighting, Fire Extinguishing Products, and Fire Suppression)

In this segment we’ll look at fire extinguishing products and their effectiveness.

It appears that wildfires have become a pandemic and we have all seen the news clips of airplanes and helicopters dropping some sort of liquid on a fire…
But what is that liquid?
Some of it may be clear, some of it appears to be bubbly, and some of it may be red or blue. More often than not they are fire extinguishing products and some have been around for close to 100 years to aid firefighting efforts and help to firefighters with fire suppression. So let’s look at these fire extinguishing products and how well do they work for fire suppression.
Firefighting foams are the chemicals that have been around longest ever since the early 1900’s and developed by a Russian Chemist named Alexsandr Loran. Originally firefighting foams were designed to combat flammable or combustible liquid fires. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when the foam manufacturers came up with the idea of making a formulation to be used on wildland fires which has evolved into Class “A” foam.
So what are firefighting foams or class “A” foams?
The chemical composition of these fire extinguishing products vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but all contain some sort of surfactant. Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of liquid (usually water). Surfactants are usually organic compounds which are carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon and cyanides. Other components of firefighting foams are organic solvents such as trimethyltrimethylene glycol and hexylene glycol, foam stabilizers such as lauryl alcohol, and corrosion inhibitors.
Now that we have your attention of what’s in firefighting foams! Let’s look at their effects on the environment…
The US Forest Service QPL (Qualified Products List) specifies a mix ratio of 0.1 to 1.0 % foam concentrate to water and clearly states that they must be mixed within that ratio to comply with their specifications. Now on the other hand firefighters are taught in the Fire Academy to mix firefighting foam at a ratio of 3 gallons of foam concentrate mixed with 97 gallons of water to get an end product of 3% foam. Hmmm the US forest Service says a maximum of 1%... Why?? Let’s look at toxicity on mammals and fish…
Acute Oral Toxicity Mammals (Foam Concentrate):
Phos Chek WD 881 = 4378 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it also is moderately irritating to non washed and washed eyes, and has a 0.9 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
Phos Chek WD 881-C = >5050 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it is also moderately irritating to non washed and washed eyes and has a 1.4 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
Tyco Silv-Ex = >5050 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it is also severely irritating to non washed and washed eyes and has a 2.7 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
National Foam KnockDown = >5000 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it is also moderately irritating to non washed eyes and mildly irritating to washed eyes and has a 1.2 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
**Note** The lower the Lethal Dosage value (LD₅₀) is - the more toxic it is.

Fish Toxicity (Foam Concentrate):
Phos Chek WD 881 = LC₅₀ 11 mg/L soft water and 10 mg/L hard water.
Phos Chek WD 881-C = LC₅₀ 17mg/L soft water and 10mg/L hard water.
Tyco Silv-Ex = LC₅₀ 46mg/L soft water and 28mg/L hard water.
National Foam KnockDown = 28mg/L soft water and 26mg/L hard water.
**Note** The lower the Lethal Concentration value (LC₅₀) is - the more toxic it is.
Let’s look at what firefighting foams do to fire equipment? We already established that firefighting foams contain corrosion inhibitors. Corrosion inhibitors are a chemical compound that decreases the corrosion rates of a material, typically a metal or an alloy. Corrosion tests are designed to measure the loss of structural integrity of the affected metal and potential loss of the metal item. Significant corrosion in fire pumps or aircraft may have catastrophic effects to human life. Corrosion testing is based on mils-per- year and the US Forest Service is looking to minimize the risk of corrosion- caused fire equipment failure in the field. The benchmark is less than (Uniform Corrosion Partial Submersion at 120˚F (Foam Concentrate):
Phos Chek WD 881 = 0.1 Aluminum, 1.9 Steel, and 0.5 Yellow Brass.
Phos Chek WD 881-C = 0.9 Aluminum, 4.7 Steel, and 0.7 Yellow Brass
Tyco Silv-Ex = 0.1 Aluminum, 4.9 Steel, and 3.5 Yellow Brass
National Foam KnockDown = 0.4 Aluminum, 1.1 Steel, and 0.1 Yellow Brass
While all of these firefighting foams comply with the US Forest Service Specifications it should be noted that the above testing results is public record and are published on the US Forest Service’s website.
How effective are firefighting foams in aiding firefighters in fire suppression or fire extinguishment?
Simply it last for seconds compared to water!!
Here are the test results from the US Forest Service QPL list.
Lateral Ignition Flamespread Test (LIFT)
Phos Chek WD 881 = 211 seconds compared to Water = 112 seconds
Phos Chek WD 881-C = 255 seconds compared to Water = 124 seconds
Tyco Silv-Ex = 139 seconds compared to Water = 128 seconds
National Foam KnockDown = 225 seconds compared to Water = 116 seconds
Basically what we have learned from this segment is that firefighting foam is corrosive to firefighting equipment, it’s not that great for the environment, and it’s not very effective compared to water.
So stop wasting the taxpayer’s money!
On a side note National Foam as well as AFG Firewall, Kidde, and Ansul are all owned by Tyco. In the next segment we will look at Long Term Retardants the red stuff being dumped from airplanes and helicopters…  

 

By: Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

Switching To A Higher Gear

by Admin 22. March 2012 07:03

I have covered the major fire suppression agents in previous articles and have tried to be as neutral as possible in those presentations. However, I have to admit that I am quite partial to gel agents (particularly FireIce). Now, what I will not do is tell you that other products are terrible or ineffective. They have purpose and a place/time to be used. There is no disputing that fact. I do believe that there are some rather shoddy products out there that I would prefer not utilize (and frankly would rather use straight water than to waste time on those products). Will I tell you what they are? NO. I’m not here to bash anyone else’s product. What I am here to do is to educate Firefighters on how to properly deploy a gel agent and make it work for you.

Utilizing FireIce as a suppression agent is quite easy. Do you have to change how you fight fire? Absolutely not! Can you change how you fight fire? YES you can! As this article progresses, we will discuss how we can change what we are doing, when utilizing FireIce.

We have all been taught the infamous T, Z and O patterns for nozzle operation. Many have learned how to be effective with a solid stream, while others may not have had that opportunity. These methods do not necessarily have to change when adding FireIce to the operation. However, there are a few nuances that can be employed.

FireIce can be utilized with ANY stream pattern (fog, straight, or solid). We have found, in our own testing, that the straight or solid stream is the stream of choice. Fortunately, the fire service has begun its movement away from wide fog patterns within enclosed areas, opting for the decreased steam production of a tight stream. Wide-angle streams break down very rapidly in high-heat environments and create a LOT of steam (which generally tends to displace firefighters more than anything else). The formulation of FireIce allows us to use a narrow- angle fog pattern without creating the steam-bath that straight water or even foam streams produce. So, no matter what you are used to using (stream-wise), FireIce is just as effective.

How about those flow-rates?

Well, guess what? That doesn’t change either! You can utilize the nozzle, hose, and normal GPM, pump and nozzle pressures that you already utilize. That makes implementation of the product that much easier! We are not re-inventing the wheel. We’re just enhancing its performance!

We discussed in the last article (Changing Gears, part IV), how a gel product works, so I won’t duplicate that information here. What I will attempt to do is introduce you to the tactics of using FireIce gel and help you understand how it is slightly different than the norm.

I know what you are thinking: “You said we don’t have to change anything.” Well, you really

don’t have to. It’s a choice. However, if you want to get the “full” benefit of a gel, your tactics will have to change slightly.

Your stream application will be the same. The difference is…..you won’t have to use as much water to accomplish the same end result.

Now….hold on a minute…don’t get the lynching mob together just yet! I know that you have had EVERY salesman of EVERY new product you have seen tell you the exact same thing. Right? Yeah, I’ve gotten those sales pitches too! Some of them are true…some…..not so much.

You have to remember how a gel works. Rather than the molecules of water being separated, decreasing the surface tension, as with a foam product (which means you will still have water rapidly evaporate into steam or just run off the burning material), FireIce binds the water molecules together into a gel form, making them stick to the burning material and absorb the heat. FireIce will “coat” the burning materials, as well as the other surfaces that are off- gassing and preparing to ignite. This action allows the product to absorb the heat at the source AND prevent further off-gassing of nearby materials (which will eventually lead to flashover). Therefore, once the agent has been applied to the burning area, you can shut off the nozzle!

The application/tactic is very simple. When advancing to the fire, if you encounter rolling flames, at the ceiling, simply coat the ceiling and upper walls. You will prevent them from off- gassing, as well as cool the overhead. Continue advancing to the seat of the fire. Once the seat is in stream-range, utilize whatever pattern you like on the burning materials in short burst. Look at it this way. Do a quick knock-down of the fire, shut off the nozzle, wait a second for your visibility to return and if you see more flames, re-apply the product in another short burst.

This is not an extreme change of tactics, however, it is slightly different than going in and discharging 125-150GPM like a wild-man and hoping for the best. I have seen that tactic used on hundreds of fires. Water will evaporate, run off or just never make it to the actual “seat” of the fire. Foam products will do the same thing (for the most part). Foam is slightly better than straight water but only slightly. FireIce actually enhances the properties that water inherently possesses, rather than break it down.

Generally speaking, we call this tactic “painting”. If you think of it in those terms, it may make more sense. If you are painting something, do you just go crazy with the paint? No. You “coat” the object you are painting with short, sweeping burst! Otherwise, you will have a mess on your hands and paint running everywhere. FireIce is utilized in the same fashion. We want to make short “painting” strokes with the stream and “coat” the materials that are burning. It’s just that simple.

You CAN use FireIce the same way you have always used water/foam but taking a different approach will actually save you time, effort AND water! That is the ultimate goal. This product does not take away the fun of the interior attack (as some folks have worried it will). But let’s face facts. The “fun” at a fire only last for about 10-15minutes. After that….it’s all just plain

WORK! None of us want to spend hours upon hours mopping up after a fire. We are tired, wet, sore and hungry. We want to get back to the house, clean up the rigs and tools, and call it a good day! Right? We can keep doing things the way we always have but…..we will never get more effective than we already are and we will continue to bust our humps doing the laborious task of overhaul for hours after a fire is declared out.

There is an old adage that goes: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got!”

Change is hard to take sometimes but when it makes sense, you have to go with it. Don’t let the future of firefighting pass you buy.

Be safe out there. Till next time………

Preplan a major incident in the WUI?

by Admin 13. March 2012 05:16

We are excited to publish another edition of FireIce Academy for our blog readers.

As we get prepared for fire season, we ask the question...  Can you preplan a major incident in the WUI(better known as the Wildland Urban Interface)?

The answer is absolutely!

We talk and train frequently on pre-planning of structures but how often do Engine Companies actually preplan for a Wildfire? Wildland Teams, HOTSHOTS, Forestry Divisions, etc. do this constantly but as the "First Responder" to this event are you really doing much more than putting the Wildland gear on the truck? WUI

How do you begin? This is not an exhaustive list and you have to tailor it to your region…

1) Begin at the station by preparing apparatus. Ensure that pumps work properly, tanks are full and extinguishment/retardant agents (FireIce) are ready to be deployed properly.

2) Check the Fire Weather Forecast for the day and print it out. It's good to keep a copy in the unit for later reference. It will also be of great benefit to be aware of any incoming weather fronts, which could drastically affect fire behavior.

3) Know your area! Know where homes are located including the most remote or isolated ones.

Locate natural breaks; lakes, streams, roadways, cleared land, and so on. This will aid in planning for safe staging, back-burning, and resource allocation.

Get accustomed to viewing your area on a topographic map or satellite images (Google Earth). Being able to make the connection between drawings and what is in front of you will allow you to get a better perspective on what is really going on and where you trouble spots are.

Know your water sources and how to access them BEFORE you need them. Plan for possible deployment of portable pumps or performing drafting operations.

Know where you will likely need to apply retardants or suppression agents (FireIce) and where you will need to station apparatus, in the event of an Interface fire threatening homes.

4) Get to know your State/Federal Wildland responders. Build a relationship with them now and learn what to expect from each another. Show up to the party with a coordinated game-plan.

5) Plan for "worst case scenario"! Just like with Hazardous Materials Response, look ahead and have a game plan for the "what if" situation. Know what resources you have available and build a relationship with them "before" the "Big One".

6) Make certain that your Wildland Gear is in order, shelters are in good repair, snacks and hydration are readily available and all crew members understand LCES (and how to communicate). Always remember your Standard Firefighting Orders and know what common the denominators are of Fire Behavior from tragic fires.

There are a multitude of other things that can be done to "Pre-Plan" for a Wildland Incident; however, if you aren't doing anything then this is a good start. Remember to "look to the sky", as well, when responding. Don't let a beautiful, sunny day fool you into a sense of security. Pay attention to tell-tale cloud formation, wind speed/direction, time of day, approaching fronts and topography.

Please add any additional tips you may have to Preplan for a Wildfire… Stay Safe!

By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: FireIce | GelTech Solutions

Changing Gears (Part IV)

by Admin 7. March 2012 04:54

"Are you Gellin'?....I'm Gellin'."

 

Well, thus far in our pursuit of Fire Suppression perfection, we have been presented a “veritable pantheon” (to quote Alton Brown) of foams, wet chemicals, dry chemicals, nozzles, eductors and bears! Oh my!  (Sorry, got on a roll there.  But I’m sure you get the point.)  We have spent the last century trying to find the perfect product for fire suppression.

We have definitely not failed in our endeavors.  I am quite certain that old Benjamin Franklin would be quite proud of our efforts and many of the resulting products.  Our best and brightest have continued to develop products better than their predecessors for the better part of the last century.  Which may lead some to question, “where do we go from here?”.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the future of firefighting is HERE!  (and if you call right now, we’ll double your order and throw in a special gift for free!!!  Ha, ha ha!.....okay, well, not quite.)

In the last three parts of the “Changing Gears” column, we have looked at how water performs its job, how foam changed what water can do and how dry chemicals can either stand alone or be used in conjunction with the other two.  In all of our studies, trials, triumphs and failures we have to remember one key principle….FIRE has not changed!  We have tried everything to fight it more effectively and more efficiently but fire itself has not changed.  Of course the fuels we are combating now are different and create another variable to be considered, that goes without saying (although, I just said it anyway…)

Fire still has four basic components that allow it to grow and thrive:  Heat (from any one/more sources), Fuel (the reducing agent), Oxygen (often the catalyst) and an on-going Chemical Chain Reaction.  As firefighters, we are taught that the removal of any one of these individual components will cause flaming combustion to cease.  We have also learned that water is still the best, most plentiful resource by which this goal is accomplished.

Dry Chemicals may interrupt the chemical chain reaction or smother the product (excluding the oxygen).  Foams have cooling properties and for B-class fires, can blanket the fuel, thus cutting off the available oxygen supply (however, water is still the primary component of foam solutions, so IT is actually doing a lot of the work).  The primary function of foam (whether A or B concentrates) is to reduce the surface tension of the water, making it lighter so it will either float on a fuel surface or creep into the pores/crevasses of solid fuels.

Agents such as Inergen, Halon or Carbon Dioxide have been used as “flooding” agents to displace the oxygen in a given space, basically asphyxiating the fire.  These agents do not fare well out in the open but serve a great purpose in preserving electrical and computer equipment.

With all of that being known…what is next?........

………..enter Fire Suppression Gels to the market!

Gelling agents are not exactly new to the fire service.  We have been seeing that “red stuff” (PhosChek) dropped from C130 aircraft for a few decades now.  Barricade hit the market hard during the Florida Wildfires of 1998.  Other new gels have reached the market over the last couple of years as well (i.e. - Tetra KO, ThermoGel and FireIce).  The gel revolution is here!  Now! We are no longer waiting for the next advancement in Fire Suppression technology.

Traditionally, Gel Products have been utilized for structural protection (medium and long term) or as a fire retardant ahead of an active fire.  This is where we have seen the utilization of U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Air Force aircraft.  For the past 3 decades, there has been a push toward “green” products.  The environment has become a deeper concern to everyone and the impact of fire suppression and protection products has come under harsh scrutiny by several organizations, including the Department of Environmental Protection.

Although gels have been around for a bit, they have not gained much notoriety in the mainstream fire service. You will be hard-pressed to find a municipal fire department which routinely carries a gel product in their arsenal.  It’s time for change!

Finally, gels are making it into the arena of Fire Suppression rather than being relegated to protection.  FireIce Gel (a Geltech Solution) has bridged the gap between being a retardant and a suppressant.  When utilized in different mix ratios, the product can easily work for both applications.  

(Author’s note:  As a fire service member for 26yrs and having worked as a Company Officer and Fire Instructor, I have had the opportunity to utilize most of the products on the market in live situations.  While, my intent is not to “bash” other products, I have intimate knowledge of FireIce, have used it in live fire settings and can attest to its power and efficiency.  My intent is merely to educate the reader, utilizing my own experiences.)

What is FireIce and how does it work?  It’s very simple!  FireIce is a powder product that when introduced to water, absorbs 400x its own volume, thus forming a gel.  The components are very simple: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Potassium.  It has been tested by the U.S. Forest Service (extensively) and is classified as safe for the environment.

FireIce is classified as a “water enhancer”.  Rather performing as a water “additive” with its own properties, FireIce enhances the properties that water already has.  By binding the water together into a gel form, the product has the ability to absorb more heat, more rapidly than straight water or even a foam solution.  In addition to the cooling effect, the product also adheres to the surface of combustible materials, excluding oxygen and preventing the off-gassing (pyrolysis) of the product any further.

It has been debated for years that the utilization of a straight or solid stream (which holds the water together longer, while reaching the seat of the fire) will produce less steam in the firefighter’s environment and make it the firefight more tenable.  It is a well-known fact that smaller droplets of water will vaporize more readily than larger droplets.  Due to the binding capability of the product and how the water molecules stay more intact while traveling to the fire, less water is lost on the way to the seat of the fire.  This translates into more water hitting the seat and absorbing the heat (while stopping further fire growth simultaneously).  This also means that less water can be used to extinguish the fire, due to the fact that we are not losing water to the atmosphere, prior to reaching the “real problem”.

Are there other “good” products on the market that will extinguish fire?  I would be a liar if I said there weren’t!  What I am saying is simple:  this argument can be likened to something we can all understand.  We all know things that are good but if we had our choice, we would choose something else that is better.  

Gels are still new to the mainstream Fire Service but they are getting around and being utilized by some departments, with great success.  The Fire Service is ever changing and WE don’t like change!  That is well understood.  I am part of the “traditional” Fire Service myself.  But, I have made this statement before, “I’m not telling you to throw out your Leather New Yorker or stop being aggressive firefighters”.  It’s simply time to open our minds (like our Father’s did) to new suppression technology.

There’s a NEW water in town……are you Gelling yet?

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: FireIce | GelTech Solutions

L.C.E.S. Applying a Wildland Staple to All Incidents

by Admin 24. January 2012 07:37

With all of the wildland fires going on in the U.S. right now, I decided to take a break from the “Changing Gears” column and focus on something a little different.  I will be continuing with “Changing Gears” soon (with the next segment on Dry Chemicals).


Most of the Fire Service is very familiar with the acronym “L.C.E.S.”, which represents: Lookouts, Communication, Escape Routes and Safety Zones. 

Lookouts Communications, Escape Routes, Safety Zones

It has been driven in to the minds of Wildland firefighters for a number of years and is a staple of Firefighter Safety in the wildland and Urban Interface.  While working on some other training post, I began to see how LCES could be applied to all aspects of our job.  That’s right, it’s not just for the woods anymore!  

We are constantly trying to re-enforce safety to our new and seasoned firefighters.  The training community is always looking for some way to get the safety message across and keep it in the forefront of the Firefighters’ mind during operations.  Well, why not use what they already know and teach them how to apply it in different aspects of the job?  

Let’s take a look at an example:

Structural Fires
Lookouts- Are they needed for something that is not moving?  Absolutely!  Walls come down, roofs collapse, smoke/fire conditions change, etc., etc., etc……..Being a lookout is the primary job of the Incident Safety Officer, however, EVERYBODY on the fire-ground is a “lookout”.  This is a crucial function that must be performed at all incidents.

Communication- Well, I shouldn’t have to even mention this one but….. yeah, I will anyway.  Communication is key to safety, incident management, logistics, and interagency cooperation.  The basis of the Incident Command System is proper communication flow, which is essential to the mitigation of any type of emergency.  A radio in the hands of a Firefighter, is his lifeline to help when in trouble or his/her notification of impending disaster.  Maintaining communication with crews operating out of the line-of-sight will provide a higher level of safety for those crews and better situational awareness for the Ops Chief or IC, in regards to what he/she cannot see. This is essential!

Escape Routes- We don’t normally see this as an issue at structural fires but it most definitely is.  Interior crews are constantly on the lookout for a way out.  You must be aware of where to go when things go bad.  Where are windows or doors located?  How about the exterior crew?  Do you have a plan for where to go if a wall collapse begins?  Is there an alternate route to safety? These (and others) are questions that should be considered at your next structural fire.  The fire may not be leaving the building but the building can “misbehave” very badly, in a number of ways.  Know what route to take to safety!

Safety Zones- This is another of those actions that we subconsciously take every time we pull up to an incident.  Where are we going to position the apparatus?  Where are our collapse zones?  What is a safe location for the ICP?  Where will EMS be placed?  These should all be considered Safety Zones!  Firefighters should be aware of places that are NOT a good place to retreat for safety, in the event of a catastrophic event.  They should learn how to identify safe locations for getting clear of collapse zones, changing SCBA bottles, etc.  

If we train our Firefighters to think this way, they will ultimately become safer workers and have a better understanding of what “full” situational awareness is.

Obviously, I only touched the surface of how LCES can be applied to something other than a wildland fire.  It is up to the individual, the officer, the instructor and the Chief to find other ways to employ a safety measure that we ALL already know.  LCES!  Use it your way!  Use it for LIFE!

Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: FireIce | GelTech Solutions

Wind Driven Fires should not be taken lightly...

by Admin 18. January 2012 06:41

Hey FireIce Blog Readers! FireIce Academy is back in session!

In today's FireIce Academy we are going to try and illustrate the fire condition of a wind driven fire. A photo is just a small snap shot of time and it is sometimes difficult to determine what is going on. Wind driven fires kill firefighters and should not be taken lightly.

Wind Driven Fires

Tests and studies have been done by many departments and NIST, but historically there isn’t anything as far as a live fire training program until now.

Please review the attached link which covers the history of WDF, studies that have been conducted by FDNY and NIST. You will also find how to build a prop and simulate a wind driven fire.

The author of the paper, Chief Ray Altman, is a well respected educator/training officer and is a good friend of FireIce.

History of WDF

Stay Safe!

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: FireIce | GelTech Solutions