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

Bees Sleep Around, Not Always In The Hive

by Admin 25. June 2012 05:51

Bee Sleeping On Iceberg RoseBy: Eliza Osborn

Last fall I wrote a post about finding so many bumble bees sleeping on my Zinnias in the garden. I would check on them for a few hours, sometimes till 11:00 A.M. before they would wake up and take off.

I only saw bumble bees and only on the Zinnias, not on any of the many other kinds of flowers nearby.

This week I’ve been finding honey bees (at least that’s what they looked like) sleeping in the roses. Even though the Zinnias aren’t blooming yet, I’ve not seen any bumble bees sleeping in the roses.

In my opinion, honey bees must have the better taste.

Thanks and happy planting!

The Grapes Are Coming

by Admin 20. June 2012 05:20

Grape vines reaching the top of the arborBy: Eliza Osborn

This year we hope that the grape vines will cover the top of the grape arbor so that the arbor area will be shadier and cooler near our garden. Even though the vines made it to the top last year, it will take a lot of leaves to shade our arbor, which is 50′x10′. There are 10 grape vines, one at each post, except for the Kiwi vines at the two post on one end.

Even more than the shade to look forward to though, are the many, many grapes which are growing. We got some last year, but nothing like what's coming this year. All of the grapes are seedless, table grapes, some white and some pink or red.

Besides eating plenty and sharing a lot (we have a large family), we will dry some. They make the best raisins.

Ah, so much to look forward to. I love summer.

Thanks and happy planting!

Magnesium fire... What next?

by Admin 15. June 2012 07:44

Out of control... or is it?Hey FireIce bloggers. You are the Chief of a rural fire department and you were just toned out to a motor vehicle fire. You, your District Chief and your engine company of 2 firefighters are responding.

Upon arrival you find a 2000 Ford Expedition with heavy fire coming from the engine and passenger compartments. The vehicle is 20’ from a structure…

During attack you find the engine compartment has magnesium components in it as it starts to explode with sparks…

What Do You Do?

FireIce instructor's synopsis is below…
Upon arrival the firefighters attacked the vehicle fire with a 1 ½” pre-connect. Upon discovering the magnesium components in the engine compartment the firefighters went defensive and began to protect the structure. The Chief pulled a 2 ½ gallon pressurized water extinguisher loaded with FireIce and attacked the engine compartment fire with magnesium…
Here are the quotes from the Chief on scene:
“There was none of the usual sparks or small explosion associated with putting water on the fire.”
” The FireIce gel coated and cooled the magnesium as soon as it made contact with the fire.”
“All in all great product can’t wait to use until we can try it on a larger scale like a house fire.”
The District Chief quoted:
“FireIce did exactly what we have seen in the videos.”
“Then it was used on the rest of the interior and put down all the smoke and steam within seconds.”
“Great Stuff, it’s always better to see it in action on a live burn rather than a controlled environment conducted by the seller.”
Many of you said to use foam, but why?? Whether it’s wet foam or dry foam what are you achieving??
Faster knockdown, better cooling abilities, better suffocation??
Here is what foams definition of Heat Resistance: Foam's ability to resist the actual heat of the liquid or surface on which it is applied.
The Firefighters Guide to Foam by National Foam: Rates its AFFF’s heat resistance ability as fair (page 7).
What happens to foam when absorbs heat? Does foam displace heat?
Let's take a moment to look at how foam works and what it can do and CANNOT do.

When foam concentrate is mixed with water, whether you are using a Class A or B product, its main action is to break the surface tension of the water. Thus, the water becomes "lighter" (hence the term "light water"). The principle theory behind Class A foams is that the reduction in surface tension (or separation of the molecular structures of water through adding a surfactant) will allow the water to "penetrate" into tiny cavities, like cracks, crevasses found in porous materials.

By making the water lighter with a Class B product, it allows water to float across the top of hydrocarbon fuels (which normally have a lower specific gravity than water alone). Once the finished foam product is on top of the fuel, the surfactant is then released from the mix, creating a film which covers the fuel and separates it from the oxygen available in the ambient air. This action works very well and I am certain will continue to be a great asset to the fire service for fighting flammable/combustible liquid fires.

What can foam NOT do?

First, with its mediocre heat resistance, it has a hard time standing up to extreme temperatures for any length of time. Even if we aerate the mix, we have to be cognizant of how high heat will affect the finished product. Finished (B) foams are laden with air bubbles to "lighten" the water. What happens to heated air? It will have a drastic increase in molecular activity and will expand, causing the bubbles to burst.

Secondly, if using Class A foam, you cannot "penetrate" a non-porous material (i.e.-solid steel or magnesium). The product will simply run off the fuel.

So.....we are fighting a magnesium engine block fire. It is non-porous AND produces very high heat! Can we put out magnesium with water or foam? Yes, but only from a great (safe) distance and using COPIOUS amounts of either agent. Foam or water will run off of the block easily and will rapidly vaporize under the intense heat.

FireIce is a water enhancer! It will: A) stick to the block and allow more heat absorbing water molecules to continue to "stack" on top of itself, absorbing the heat at a faster rate and for a longer period of time and B) allow us to be closer to the burning product without the explosive effects of applying water to burning magnesium. FireIce will also "coat" the burning block, excluding ambient air from the combustion process…

Stay Safe!


By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

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Categories: FireIce | GelTech Solutions

Many Plants Re-seed And That Can Be A Good Thing

by Admin 14. June 2012 06:13

The Snapdragons in these pots are volunteers from last years plants.By: Eliza Osborn

Since I’d never grown Snapdragons before last summer, I had no idea what a wonderful plant it is. Not only is it pretty, and the kids like to make the dragon’s mouth open, but it re-seeds freely. This year I planted lots and lots and next year I hope to have them filling in everywhere.

I did learn that there are taller varieties that grow to 3′ – 4′, and that would determine where they should go in the garden. I have some of both in my garden.

The other plants that I know re-seed, at least here in zone 6, are Hollyhocks, Cosmos, Bachelor Buttons, and sometimes Zinnias. I’m sure there are others, those are just the ones I know of.

Thanks and happy planting!

FireIce Academy

by Admin 7. June 2012 04:50

Size it up!Hey FireIce Blog Readers! FireIce Academy is back in session!! Please size up the scene…

You are the officer of the first due Engine Company responding to a reported structural collapse of an apartment building.

Upon arrival you see what is pictured. There are No reported missing persons...

What are your initial actions?

What other resources will be needed?

How do you begin Rescue Operations?

What do you do about Safety… for your crew? Bystanders?

How do you secure the scene?
Stay Safe!


By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

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Categories: FireIce | GelTech Solutions

No, I Didn’t Build The Peas’ Support Too High

by Admin 7. June 2012 04:42

Sugar Snap Pea Vines Reach 6 ftBy: Eliza Osborn

Last year I thought I’d built an adequate support for the Green Peas and the Sugar Snap Peas in the garden. After all, it was about 4′ high.

I was so wrong. I just put bamboo in the corners of the raised beds and then strung jute for the peas to climb on. The whole thing collapsed from the weight of the vines and peas. I spent all season trying to prop it back up and not very successfully. Picking the peas was made difficult because we had to hold up the heavy vines to get to the pods. I’m sure we missed a lot of peas last year.

This year I decided to get more creative. I built a scaffolding out of the bamboo poles (we have lots of bamboo, bought in bundles at a thrift store) and then strung twine back and forth. I made it about 6′ tall. I got a lot of comments about how tall it was and was convinced that I had gone overboard a little.

Not so. This week the vines reached the top rung, at least the Sugar Snap Peas have and the English Peas aren’t far behind. I am so glad now that I made it so tall. The vines are loaded with pods already and lots of blooms still coming. Looks like a good year for peas.

Thanks and happy planting!

Back to School...

by Admin 31. May 2012 05:46

Head First Ladder BailoutsIn rapidly deteriorating conditions, a properly performed head-first ladder bailout can be life saver. Here are some important fundamentals to prevent injuries during the procedure:

Place the ladder at an angle less than 75 degrees to allow for greater control and prevent slipping.

Place the tip of the ladder just below the window sill so the exit area is kept open and the firefighter can keep low.

Exterior teams should position ladders on upper floor windows to provide alternate exit for interior companies in the event of an emergency.

Have a crew or member available to heel ladders or reposition ladders in the event the firefighter is in a window over from the ladder.

Communicate and listen; know where crews are operating and adjust accordingly

Be proactive.

When training, make sure you use rated safety line and a rated safety harness assembly on the firefighter and inspect all ropes and harnesses in use prior to training.
Content Courtesy of FireRescue1


By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

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Categories: FireIce | GelTech Solutions

Getting Rid Of Aphids On Roses

by Admin 31. May 2012 05:29

Hundreds of buds on the Queen Elizabeth rose bushesBy: Eliza Osborn

I've done things this past 2 weeks that I never, ever, thought I'd do. Actually it had never even occurred to me to do before.

Since we’ve been having such a beautiful, warm (sort of) and dry spring, I thought that we would escape the plague of the aphids that we suffered through last spring. Not so. Well, they aren’t nearly as bad as they were last year, but they are bad enough, and besides, I have a lot more roses to worry about this year.

My usual tried and true method for combating aphids is to spray them with a mixture of Ivory liquid in water, wait 10-15 minutes and hose them off really well to wash away the soap and the dead aphids.

This year the roses are maturing and setting hundreds of buds. As I worked in the garden I began to notice that some of the buds looked like they were wrapped in brown velvet. Since I was very busy and didn’t really have time to stop and mix my aphid-killer potion, then wait to rinse them off, and I didn’t want the little buggers sucking juice from the rose buds for another day or so, I just reached up (with gloves on) and started squishing the aphids. That was gross and I couldn’t believe I was doing it, but, hey, it really worked…except that the leather gloves I was wearing made it hard to do and I wound up actually pulling off some of the buds.

So, the next step was (you guessed it) to remove the gloves. I did hesitate, for about 3 seconds, and then I reasoned that I could go and scrub my hands and the aphids would be gone in a fraction of the time it would take to do the civilized method.

After doing this a few times, I realized that some were falling off (only to crawl back up later) and I needed to catch them some way. So, since the aphids were always concentrated on the bud and about an inch down the stem, I found that I could grasp lower on the stem with my left hand, keeping the bud over my palm and use my right hand to smash the aphids.  I was surprised to find how many dropped off as soon as I took the stem in my left hand. It must be an instinct for their survival, which explains why there are a bazzillion of them.

Now, not only do I have to kill the ones on the bud and stem but also the ones that drop into my palm.

I know that it’s Yucky! I know that it’s Disgusting! But it works. I go on patrol each day to see if any new colonies have been established. I’ve pretty much obliterated them at this point.

The things we will do for our roses.

I was surprised that when I revealed my revolting aphid-control method to other gardeners, I found that they’d been doing it for years.

Who knew?

Thanks and happy planting!

Health Tips...

by Admin 22. May 2012 04:04
Stay Equipped
Hey FireIce blog readers!!! There's a trend that's spreading through the Fire Service at an alarming rate.

That trend is Job Related Cancer!

Studies have shown that not wearing your SCBA's during fire ground operations or not having your turnout gear cleaned regularly increases your risk of cancer.

In a three-year study completed in 2005 by the University of Cincinnati, researchers concluded that firefighters face a 102% greater chance of contracting testicular cancer than any other type of worker, a 53% greater chance of multiple myeloma, a 51% greater chance of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a 39% greater chance of skin cancer, a 32% greater chance of brain cancer, a 28% greater chance of prostate cancer, a 22% greater chance of stomach cancer, and a 21% greater chance of colon cancer.

Stay Safe!
By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer