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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.