By Cristi Laquer
Photo Fire Service Plus
A large fire is started at a Major International Oil Refinery tower to test FireAde.
Fire suppression education has long been focused on the "fire triangle," or the three elements that keep a fire burning: oxygen, heat and fuel.
In recent years, the triangle has been expanded into a "tetrahedron," a four-part formula for fire suppression.
Georgia-based company Fire Service Plus has taken advantage of these new principles by developing a suppression product — FireAde — that acts rapidly to cool the area of application, extinguish any active fire and prevent re-ignition.
"Free radicals" are the additional key element of the fire's life cycle identified in the four-part formula, but traditional firefighting methods cannot contain these unstable particles, which cause fires to re-ignite.
Multi-purpose suppression agent FireAde not only has the advantages of existing suppression agents, but it is also uniquely able to combat free radicals by chemically bonding with them.
It can be mixed into water and deployed as foam. More traditional foams work by smothering a fire, denying it access to oxygen and fuel. Cooling agents are also available on the market to take the heat out of a fire, usually by applying water.
But the chemical composition of FireAde allows it to not only form a tighter physical barrier around the fire's fuel than most foams do, but also to form a chemical barrier that renders fuel, such as flammable liquids, inert. It achieves this because its positively charged molecules attract the negative, hydrocarbon side of molecules in gasoline or other liquids. This reorientation "cocoons" each molecule so that it cannot burn.
"Once departments see FireAde, they can't believe it," said Jeff Shirk, national sales manager of Fire Service Plus. "They never go back because of the versatility of the product. A fire department may have three or four products to do the same things that FireAde can do."
Only one hose, spraying a mixture of FireAde and water, is used to attack the fire.
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1.48 minutes later, the fire is extinguished. Tests with other foams required at least 4 minutes to knock down the fire using three hoses.
Since it can bond with harmful free radicals, FireAde also has applications in controlling hazardous spills and toxic smoke; according to Shirk, black, sooty smoke becomes gray and eventually white when the product is sprayed into it, while it can also bond with toxic chemicals, either in vapor or liquid form, making them inert and safe. Widening adoption
While the bulk of the company's early business came from local fire departments, other firefighting industries have begun to use the product, too. Customers include several major speedways, such as the USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla., and the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, which use FireAde as their primary firefighting agent.
"Raceways love it for the cooling effect," Shirk said. "Within seconds after extinguishing a fire, you can walk up and put your hand on the car."
Because FireAde reduces the surface tension of water, a mixture of FireAde and water penetrates materials better than water alone and does not burn off as quickly. This can reduce the amount of water needed to douse a fire. According to Shirk, this ability to conserve water has proven especially helpful for rural departments, who may not always have a ready supply of water available.
"Everything in our product is water-soluble, so it has an indefinite shelf life. Nothing in it will cause it to separate or thicken," Shirk added. "You can premix it in water, store it, and it will never separate."
FireAde can also save departments money by reducing damage to other equipment: because it is not corrosive and does not congeal like other foams, there is no danger that it will clog valves or corrode apparatus. Safety ratings
Along with its firefighting efficacy, FireAde has also earned high marks for its environmental safety from several testers.
Environmental testing agencies in Germany have given FireAde their best Class 1 rating for environmental safety and low toxicity, a better result than any other fire suppression foam has achieved. The results of this test are recognized by many international agencies, including by the FDA and EPA.
According to Fire Service Plus, FireAde breaks down safely in natural settings, meaning firefighters can use it outdoors without fear of creating environmental hazards. It is also non-toxic and safe on the skin.
In addition, American Underwriter Laboratories' tests have confirmed that FireAde complies with NFPA 18 Standard for Wetting Agents.