Basic Foam Operations - Part 6

Applying foam is another part of the entire foam strategy that if not done correctly, can lead to injury and property loss. So far, we have talked about developing a foam setup by using the proper types of nozzles, appliances and hoselays. We have...

Other considerations at the scene of a spill or fire include the need for air monitoring. In addition to applying foam, there is the potential threat of flammable gases finding there way into nearby building and even into below-grade areas. This is an important part of our safety and when enough resources are available, the constant monitoring of the air near the incident should be a standard practice. As we said earlier about intelligence gathering during the size-up, just knowing that there is a potential of fire or explosion enhances our safety. Knowledge is power; it protects us, and this critical intelligence allows us to establish boundaries. The incident we are at is a hazardous materials incident and requires the establishment of zones as well. The hot, warm, and cold zones can be set up as the incident develops, starting with the arrival of the first-due company. Air-monitoring equipment helps to establish the hot, warm, and cold zones that are typical of any hazmat incident.

One important point about air monitoring: make sure your people know how to use their meters! What gas are they calibrated to? How often are they maintained and checked? The use of a meter aids us in our ongoing size-up and it has enormous potential to aid us in our decision-making.

The use of meters should be a constant part of any foam strategy. Even after the foam is applied, it’s important to continually monitor the area. As the foam blanket breaks down, there is the escape of ignitable gases. When the meters detect this, foam needs to be reapplied.

Other tasks that are a requirement include the isolation and evacuation of the area. A spill translates into a potential fire. Take this into account upon arrival. Again, being proactive never hurt anyone!

The tasks and principles described above are all of value to the safety and effectiveness of the fire department response. Nevertheless, the first-alarm assignment may have to do more than perform passive actions. If the situation demands the application of foam at a typical Class B spill or fire involving a hydrocarbon such as gasoline or diesel fuel, then the department has to know their next actions instinctively!

Our actions should always be based on a solid foundation of training. Whether it is for a foam operation or another type of response, we’re only as good as our training has allowed us to be.

In the next, and final, part of this series, we’ll wrap up with a typical scenario and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. We will use everything that we have covered in the past six parts to problem solve in the last article. Until then…

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