Class A Foam and CAFS Briefing: Structural Firefighting

Compressed air foam systems (CAFS) produce finished foam by injecting "compressed air" into the foam-solution stream. The term "high energy" is sometimes used when discussing CAFS because the energy of the air compressor that forces air into the...


Compressed air foam systems (CAFS) produce finished foam by injecting "compressed air" into the foam-solution stream. The term "high energy" is sometimes used when discussing CAFS because the energy of the air compressor that forces air into the foam-solution stream is added to the energy already...


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Using CAFS, we can handle a much greater volume of fire than ever before. This know-how has redefined our perceptions of what we can do with initial arriving resources — our personnel and water supply. CAFS use can impact firefighter decision-making in regard to fire control strategies at potential large-loss structure fires. Without CAFS, in some severe fire cases, we would ordinarily choose a defensive water application strategy — stand back, let the main body of fire burn and protect exposures. When deploying CAFS, we are highly effective with an aggressive offensive fire attack with initial-arriving firefighting resources.

Conclusion

As an end-user of CAFS generated Class A foam for over two decades, I have come to expect quick knockdowns and reduced total water supply need, sometimes by as much as two-thirds, as compared to using water alone. Time after time, fire after fire, CAFS show significant benefits over straight water. These benefits include:

  • Fire extinguished in less time
  • Fire extinguished with less total water supply
  • Reduced personnel stress from advancing lightweight compressed air foam-filled hoselines
  • Reduced personnel stress due to quick extinguishment
  • Firefighters have to spend less time performing overhaul operations
  • Reduced personnel exposure to heat and the toxic products of combustion
  • Greater fire volume extinguishment from the initial exterior foam application point (when conducting an offensive attack on a fully involved dwelling) prior to the crew making aggressive entry
  • Reduced fire and water damage to structures
  • More effective exposure protection applications
  • Increased likelihood of victim survivability
  • Increased efficiency of personnel and available resources

A typical CAFS apparatus includes:

  • Water tank
  • Foam concentrate tank
  • Fire pump
  • Foam proportioner
  • Air compressor

DOMINIC COLLETTI is the foam systems product manager for Hale Products and the author of the books The Compressed Air Foam Systems Handbook and Class A Foam — Best Practice for Structure Firefighters. Colletti is a former assistant fire chief and serves on the technical committee of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1500 Fire Department Occupation Safety and Health Program. He is a fire instructor with over 20 years of CAFS tactical firefighting experience. Colletti may be reached at dcolletti@idexcorp.com.