The CAFS Institute is conducting groundbreaking fire testing and research in a new project to determine how effective Compressed Air Foam Systems (CAFS) can be for structural firefighting.
On October 25, 2009, in Erie, Pennsylvania, the CAFS Institute initiated a new fire testing and research program called the Delivery Rate Research Project. The pilot test was conducted in conjunction with an ad-hoc fire industry group that included Erie International Airport Fire and Rescue, Hale Products, Inc., Butler County Community College and the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy. A single-family wood frame dwelling that was slated for demolition due to an airport runway expansion project was prepared for fire testing over several days. This culminated in a live fire test, where it was allowed to become fully involved prior to fire attack with compressed air foam.
The basic questions behind the need for this research project are gallon for gallon, how much more effective is compressed air foam compared to applying water alone? What's more, what are the effects of compressed air foam agent delivery rates compared to conventional hoseline water delivery rates in the real world? The goal is a better understanding of the fire suppression capability of compressed air foam over ordinary water hose streams when used in day-to-day structural firefighting activities.
It is widely accepted that compressed air foam application is up to five times more effective than water. However, there is extensive detail behind that statement that needs to be developed-the Delivery Rate Research Project is designed to provide clarity regarding defining appropriate water delivery rates (gpm) and required total water supplies (total gallons) when using compressed air foam - this is a major source of apprehension today by fire officers who either already use, or want to become involved with implementing the technology.
Several key items surrounding the Delivery Rate Research Project test process are making this project very different than those conducted by other agencies in the past.
First, we have taken testing outside of the small- and mid-scale laboratory fire test environment and into full scale by using real-world acquired structures. No laboratory tests here, just realistic real-world comparative burns.
Second, unlike other tests done prior using primarily wood pallets for a structure fuel load, regarding room fire sets, we are using a predetermined mix of natural and synthetic fuel materials. This is important as there is much discussion in the fire service today with regard to how synthetic materials have changed fire spread characteristics and shortened flashover times, compared to all natural materials used years ago. All fuel set materials used for individual room fire loads-synthetic and natural-are weighed prior to ignition.
Third, after an extensive pre-burn time on the fully-involved test structure, a two-man hose team (simulating two-in and two-out) aggressively advances a hoseline inside the structure to simulate a real-world coordinated aggressive attack. Important to note is that these fire tests are not considered live fire training but rather live fire testing, and are conducted by industry professionals.
Fourth, scientific instrumentation is used to measure temperature in the fire environment, time to flame knockdown and total gallons of water used through knockdown and final overhaul.
Last but not least, the most important item that makes the Delivery Rate Research Project different compared to others done before is that the fire tests imitate the fashion that the fire service actually uses compressed air foam and water in real world fire response. The goal is statistically significant data that represent what typically happens when these technologies are deployed daily in almost any town in North America. This should provide fire officers, insurance companies and town and city administrators the required information, understanding and clarity when reviewing the case for investing in CAFS technology, including a better understanding of its return on investment.
Assistance is requested to spread the word that the CAFS Institute is looking for suitable acquired structures within the United States to conduct dozens more of these live fire tests for the research project. Fire organizations and agencies who would like to participate or sponsor this groundbreaking live fire test series are needed. Please contact us.
The CAFS Institute wishes to thank Chief Rick Robie of Erie International Airport Fire and Rescue and his cadre of fire instructors from Butler County Community College and the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy for all their assistance and participation in the pilot test. Thanks also go to Michael Laskaris, Steve Phipps and Dominic Colletti Sr. from Hale Products, Inc. for their participation.
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