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FR1 community: Your take on compressed air foam systems

We asked our Facebook fans what they thought of compressed air foam systems, received a number of different views

By FireRescue1 Staff

The use of compressed air foam systems is becoming increasingly common within the fire service, whether it be portable or vehicle mounted. We asked our Facebook fans what they thought of CAFS and received a number of different views and how it can be best utilized. Add your own ideas in the member comments section below. 

"We like compressed air foam, but do not make your entire handlines foam; have it designated to a certain handline. This way you can do both at the same time." - Johnny Maynard

"Saw it used at a demo we did here in my town. It only took about 25 min for it to work but other than that, she put out a fully involved old cattle barn, pretty big place too, in about 45 seconds." - Craig Price

"We have a CAFS on our 2007 Pierce Contender. Personally I think it's a great tool to have! Fire suppression is much easier and takes less water, and with us being a rural volunteer department, water is at a premium. If the funds are available, I'd recommend it to anyone, urban or rural!" - Josh Reiss 

"Waste of money, water is free and foam isn't. So if you're a busy department, it becomes costly." - Ben Cunningham

"CAFS sucks... A volunteer engine had one at our structure fire and it would not penetrate the rubble... Does not work with overhaul." - Jace Sandstrom

"CAFS are great when used correctly. If used in a very hot environment, it will knock down the fire but not take the heat out of the fire so you can still get steam burns and ruin turnout gear. It does work very well for mop-up, especially when the house's integrity has been compromised. If you are going to use a CAFS, talk to the pump manufacturer and get some good hands-on training. [A nearby Darley plant has] a truck and will actually let you use it and spray foam and change the concentration around to see the effects it has." - Lawrence Snider 

"It is a great tool. Always remember that in a big fire scenario, there is no substitution for GPM! Great for overhauling, mop-up, and great with wildland." - Domenic Scaife

"We have limited water resources as we are very rural. We also have rural oilfields and respond to a lot of distant lightning strikes. CAFS is a MIRACLE in extending our water. We love CAFS." - Lenda Rowe-Greene

"We have CAFS on every piece of apparatus and love every second of it. It actually does penetrate well when used correctly in trained hands. It's not gonna do the work for you." - Ron Hood Jr 

"Have it on a heavy rescue — works great on car fires. Not intended for use on structures." - Clint Swain

"Best thing ever... 1000 gal into 3000 gal with a touch of a button. Much safer on crew, 120 psi with one hand of total control. Just spend the money on the dual action foam/adjust nozzle." - Jarod Franks

"We have one on a 2004 Pierce Enforcer... works great on knockdown. You still have to remember it is not a substitute for GPM though. Maintenance is higher as it needs to be exercised every couple of weeks... Class A foam runs about $13 a gallon and usually run it at 3 percent per 100 gallons of water for interior attack with a 2:1 water GPM to air ratio. P/O need to be really experienced." - Raymond Ehlers II 

"Foam is used to knock the flame out when the vapor source is on the ground. Look at how ARFF teams knock a fire out from an aircraft fire that is burning JP4 fuel. While the foam prevents the vapors from rising, other factors that feed the fire — plastics, cushion, foam, etc. — still need water to put out. Yes, foam is not for everything but it is sure handy when you need it!" - Ken Anama

"CAFS takes some training for both the FF and engineer. It also costs more — initial cost of the engine and maintenance. Having said that, it is hands-down worth every penny and time spent in training. It greatly reduces time spent extinguishing the fire. In the head-to-head tests we did (straight water and traditional foam) it was at least 50 percent faster. Additionally, much less water was used, reducing water damage. It also reduces overhaul, which helps the investigator and is very useful in structure protection. Check out USFA publication TR-074. They did a small study with Boston in the early '90s." - Thomas Morgan 

"We have three CAFS units and don't know why anybody would not spec it on new trucks. In three years, we set up dumptanks three times out of 60 to 75 workers. Very seldom do we use more than 100 gal of water and two to three gal of foam. Depending on your ideas of cost-effective, take into account time — usually one hour vs. three to four. I believe it's the best thing to happen to the fire service since gas-powered pumps or the Jaws of Life. Everybody needs to find the funding for a CAFS unit. And remember, if you work with one, it's not magic; you still have to dig through during overhaul. CAFS just makes the water wetter and more effective!" - Ben Laughlin

"We have CAFS on seven of our trucks. Great tool for the right application. I prefer water myself, it seems to knock down the BTUs better and get a much better steam conversion. Pluses are that with the air/foam mix, the hose weighs less and is easier for one person to handle. It's pumped at much lower pressures; we standardized ours to 100psi. I wouldn't use CAFS right off the get-go in a fire but it works great after you get the main seat of the fire knocked down." - Jason Harmon 

"We have two trucks that have CAFS and we have a lot of woods fires in those areas and they work great. We also have a staffing deficiency so it is good to use from a quick exterior attack on the fire until more help arrives." - Pj Parks

"Here is our department explanation why it's worthless and science to prove it.'The foam does NOT work well for room and contents fires exactly because of this argument. Because the post-flashover stage is identified as having three-dimensional volume involvement, the great majority of the compartment volume is filled with burning vapors. Large water droplets found in standard sprinklers do not effectively impact the flames at the vapor level. The even larger water drops found in CAFS applications are virtually useless on the burning vapors that fill the volume of the compartment. The foam simply falls through the flame until it hits the floor.' www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBCq_lzqE3E" - Jeremy Watters

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