13. November 2011 08:03
(And how we think about fire suppression)
The fire service has gone through a myriad of changes in the last two centuries. We have gone from buckets to steam engines to motorized “super pumpers”. No longer do we use a long beard to filter smoke, but rather, a self-contained breathing apparatus. Even “modern” technology has changed. FR Cotton gave way to Nomex, which was followed by PBI and a plethora of other fabrics in our turnout gear. Your nose is not the tool of choice for a gas leak anymore. Hand-held multi-gas monitors now have found their place onto first-due apparatus and not just on the HazMat Unit. The list goes on and on and on….. Seems like a lot, huh? Now, take this into consideration: With all the advancements we have made in the Fire Service and how we operate, we are STILL throwing water at the red stuff. I find that to be somewhat ironic. No matter how much technology we have, water is still the most available, most portable/easily moved, most heat absorbent method of fire extinguishment still today. Of course we have seen the coming and going of the “chemical engine”. We have seen the advent of dry chemicals, halogenated and other “clean” agents, Class A and B foam products and now fire gels. Some were an attempt to replace water as the primary extinguishment agent and others were meant to enhance its effectiveness or range of use. All of these agents have their place in the Fire Service, even if it is merely their place in our history. Different fires require different methods of attack and extinguishment and I don’t think that anyone can argue that any “one” agent can everything equally well. Over the course of a few articles, we will discuss some of the properties of each of the aforementioned extinguishing agents and their usage. We will attempt to give our readers a better understanding of how these products work and how to choose the agent which is “best” for your organizations’ daily use and unusual circumstances as well. We will focus greatly on Class A foams and gels to give the reader a better contrast between the two, as well as the contrast between “like” products.