Basic Foam Operations - Part 7

A motor vehicle accident has occurred at the intersection of a heavily traveled area of a commercial downtown area. It has involved a commercial tanker truck holding about a thousand gallons of diesel fuel, most of which has spilled. The occupants are...

Foam Delivery System

Setting up a foam delivery system in your department doesn’t have to be a complex operation. It’s important that every community be able to engage in a basic foam operation. Remember that we are dealing with a variety of fuels ranging from hydrocarbons to polar solvents and a spill or fire involving either should be a part of the department’s preparation.

At the very least, each engine company should have the ability to go into operation and / or support another engine company on scene. To facilitate a more effective foam response, each engine company should be equipped with:

  • A 200-psi portable in-line eductor rated at 95 or 120 gpm. (Could a lesser flow work? Absolutely, but strive for overkill in everything you do. There is no such thing as a fair fight!) This doesn’t take up a lot of space, but offers great capability
  • A typical fog nozzle rated at 95 gpm or greater, with a low-expansion, air-aspirating attachment that can be snapped on quickly compliments the in-line eductor
  1. For fuel fires, the standard fog nozzle can deliver a good range, but a lesser expansion ratio (AFFF type foam will work successfully in such an application because aqueous film is being delivered)
  2. For longer lasting foam (i.e., a higher expansion ratio than the traditional fog nozzle delivers), the air-aspirating attachment offers additional versatility
  • The standard 1¾-inch and 2½-inch hose are ideal for typical foam operations. The 2½-inch diameter hose allows for the application of foam from relatively long distances. Remember the numbers associated with the eductor (not more than 65% of the eductor pressure can be used for friction loss, nozzle pressure and elevation)
  • Each engine and ladder company should also be provided with 3 to 5 five-gallon pails of foam concentrate. The type depends on the needs of your department, but the AR-AFFF is a great place to start and is of great value on both polar solvent and hydrocarbon fuels. Just make sure you know the manufacturer specifics as it relates to the foam concentrate you are using!
  • Finally, these are perishable skills and you must train periodically. Training can be as simple as using “watered-down” foam concentrate (say, 1 gallon per pail and fill the rest with water. This allows members to grasp the principle, see the end result and learn from any mistakes, while operating in a safe, no fire, training setting.
  • For those lucky enough to have an actual training area for foam application, use the correct ratios and application rates and make sure a backup line is also available.

This seven-part series covered a lot of material and offers a foundation to build on. But remember, each manufacturer is different and their specific recommendations should be followed as it relates to using their equipment. Also, there are many sources out there that offer significant amounts of information. Take a look at the references identified at the end of the first article in this series. There can be instances of contradiction and confusion if you look at so many sources, but the important thing to remember is to get the specific details as it relates to the equipment you use!

The only way to truly become proficient is through study, training and incident critique. The best time to begin is now, not tomorrow. The fire service is a very in-depth field and countless hours of training, reading and study can bring you to a high level of proficiency, but there is always more to learn. The day you feel you don’t need to pick up a book or to go out and train is the time to hang up your hat!

ARMAND F. GUZZI JR. has been a member of the fire service since 1987.  He is a career fire lieutenant with the City of Long Branch, NJ, Fire Department and is the deputy director of the Monmouth County, NJ, Fire Academy where he has taught for over 20 years.  He has a masters degree in management and undergraduate degrees in fire science, education, and business administration. View all of Armand's articles here. He can be reached via e-mail at or