Portable CAF Fire-Suppression Systems
Experienced landfill operators know that fires are a constant possibility and an occasional reality. When a fire does occur at a landfill, in most cases it’s dealt with by one of two old standbys: soil or water.
In many situations, those materials are well suited to putting out a fire. However, when the fire involves flammable liquid (as in the case of a diesel spill) or when the machine itself is on fire and fuel or hydraulic lines are compromised, water and dirt just might not get it.
When flammable liquids are burning, water may actually spread the fire, perhaps even causing it to flow offsite via ditches or storm drains. And while dirt may put out a spilled fuel fire, it’s not going to help with a machine fire. Some landfill operators have gone so far as to take bucket loads of dirt and try to bury the machine in an effort to put out a fire. Unfortunately it takes a lot of dirt to cover a landfill compactor…and digging it out isn’t much fun either.
In reality, using soil—even if it stopped the external fire—doesn’t do much good inside the engine compartment, where the most serious damage is done and where the fire generally has enough fuel to keep burning.
Similarly, water used in these situations may not be effective, simply because it can’t easily reach all areas of the fire inside the engine compartment at once. You can end up chasing the fire back and forth while it’s continuing to generate heat and produce more fuel, destroying or burning through hydraulic lines and fuel lines.
In those kinds of situations, the ideal scenario would be that the fire department is right there onsite with very quick response and able to use some type of foam-generating system to extinguish the fire. Foam can perform better than water because of its adhesion capabilities. In other words, foam is able to stick to vertical surfaces and those other uneven, hard-to-reach areas inside a machine’s engine compartment where water simply sprays on and runs off.
Unfortunately, by the time the fire department responds with a foam unit and is able to be onsite to attack an equipment fire, the machine has probably been completely destroyed. “Great,” you’re thinking, “tell us a problem that can’t be solved. Tell us what we’re supposed to do with that?”
Here’s an idea. There are companies that manufacturer portable CAF systems. CAF is an acronym for “compressed-air foam.” These CAF fire-suppression systems can be as small as backpack size, carrying 3 gallons of water. They are a simple system that uses a reservoir of water mixed with a small amount of special foaming agent and a separate pressurized-air tank similar to a scuba tank.
To activate one of these systems, one simply opens the valve and pressurizes the system. The water and foaming agents are then pushed through the nozzle and aerated, and foam is created.
The benefit of a CAF system is that for every gallon of water/foaming agent, your system will produce 20 gallons of foam. So a relatively small unit—say, 30 gallons—could easily fit in your service truck or pickup, and could produce up to 600 gallons of foam. Depending on the type of nozzle and flow rate, such a system could produce two to six minutes of spray…out to a range of 50 feet.
Many of these CAF systems are sold to logging companies, fire-fighting agencies like the US Forest Service, state forestry departments, and the US military.
They are very durable and can even be customized to mount on a tractor to provide an onboard fire-suppression system.
How versatile are these systems? Well, they can be truck-mounted, tractor-mounted, skid-mounted—to be moved with a fork lift—or even placed on a dolly to be easily moved around a shop or other facility.
We’ve even seen one 10-gallon system mounted on a two-wheel-drive Rokon motorcycle. This setup can provide quick access to virtually any location on your landfill. This particular CAF system was manufactured by Tri-Max, www.trimax.us, and has a capacity of approximately 200 gallons of foam.
If you operate a landfill or work in/around dry vegetation, a CAF system mounted on a vehicle at your landfill could provide very quick response and very effective fire control and the cost is low compared to having a dedicated water truck onsite for fire control.
Author's Bio: Neal Bolton is a consultant specializing in landfill operations and management.