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Fire suppression turns green

TetraKO is a corn starch-based water enhancer that can be pumped through standard fire equipment

By Jamie Thompson
FireRescue1 Senior Editor

Green technology has begun to dominate various industries in recent years — and the fire world is catching up quickly.

Environmentally-friendly fire trucks are becoming increasingly common, and the trend has been extending to fire suppression products, too.

Released in April, the latest is TetraKO, a corn starch-based water enhancer that sticks to vertical and ceiling surfaces and can be pumped through standard fire equipment.

Suitable for both suburban and urban environments — as well as wildland situations — one of its key features is its versatility.

It's been under development for several years, with a team of chemists from 3M and H.B. Fuller working diligently in coordination with a group of Midwest-based firefighters who worked in a consultative capacity to advise on how to match the chemistry with the needs of the fire industry.

TetraKO converts to steam once applied and exposed to fire and heat, improving its knockdown power and providing longer-lasting suppression.

"We felt the need to create a water enhancer that could effectively be pumped out of a standard pumper, a product that has truly different characteristics than other water enhancers," said Doug Ruth, founder and CEO of EarthClean, which produces TetraKO.

"It's been under development for the last seven years, and we've spent the last year working with approximately 15 fire departments in the upper Midwest and California, testing the product. We are in the process of applying for US Department of Forestry QPL designation.

"From the beginning, we designed it not only to be phenomenal for fire suppression but to be very friendly to the environment, too."

Ruth said during extensive testing and live fire incidents, the enhancer was shown to perform up to 30 times more effectively than plain water, and up to 10 times more effectively than foams.

As well as the resulting benefits — such as enhancing firefighter safety by working so quickly, and reducing rekindling and water damage — Ruth said TetraKO is also simple to use.

After being batch mixed with water, the resulting solution can simply be pumped through standard fire apparatus, hoses and nozzles.

This ease of use, according to Ruth, affords it versatility, with the enhancer being suitable for use in wildland settings, too, particularly in light of its green credentials. TetraKO's mixed solution has been certified as "ready biodegradable," the highest level possible, by an accredited and independent research lab.

"It means when we say we are using green chemistry and we are good for the environment, we can actually back it up," Ruth said.

"What is interesting is that in all of our research, people used the phrase 'earth friendly' a lot."

However, the key attribute, according to Ruth, remains its ability to enhance firefighter safety at the fire scene.

"Number one, we built it for firefighter safety — it can help to keep firefighters in a much more defensive mode, and because of the fast knockdown … it gets the firefighters home faster."

EarthClean Corporation is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and its development team consists of scientific, engineering, and firefighting resources. For more information on TetraKO and to see it in action, visit www.tetraKO.com.

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