Why don't firefighters use sand for a grease fire?
The question posed online asked how firefighters put out a grease fire that's out of control and burns the whole house
A question posted recently on Quora asked, "Why don't firefighters use sand instead of water?" Ben Urwin, a father, husband and firefighter, gave his opinion on the topic below. Check it out and add your own thoughts in the comments.
There are two scenarios with very different answers.
For a small grease fire, limited to a pot or a stove top, sand would be a viable option. Except that then we would have to carry sand everywhere, and it frankly won't be useful for much else. Not a winning proposition.
There are a number of alternatives available:
- Put a lid on the pot. My fire department loves it when the solution doesn't cost anything!
- Use an ABC fire extinguisher.
- Use baking soda or similar that happens to be nearby.
You specifically ask about a large grease fire that has spread to the rest of the house. That is the second scenario.
The answer here is that we will use water. Many fire departments will inject foam into the water to increase its efficiency in fighting a grease fire, but mine doesn't. Remember what I said about loving things that are free.
The fire department can safely put water on a grease fire because it is equipped to do so. When I put water on a grease fire, I am able to put at least 125 gallons per minute on it if I need to. And I do so with 100 psi of pressure, which allows me to do it from the next room. Our personal protective equipment is the last piece of the puzzle, which keeps us safe while doing something that would otherwise be a bad idea.
When we first apply water to a kitchen fire, for example, that started out as a grease fire, it is common to get a big red flash as the water hits the hot grease and makes a fireball. The hose line will quickly knock that down, along with any other surface fire present.
This is different than a large scale, flammable liquid fire such as in an industrial setting or a fuel spill. For these incidents, class B foam is used.