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  1. #1
    Forum Member PenguinMedic's Avatar
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    Default Austin Plane crash: NON-POLITICAL fire question

    I have a feeling the other thread on the crash will be locked shortly... as it should IMHO... So I wanted to start a new post where I could ask a question, and where the rest of us can talk about FIREFIGHTING not Tea-Party politics.

    Does anyone know yet if this was a sprinklered building? The reason I ask is two-fold.

    1) I will often spar with our Fire Prevention folks at work about the code consessions that are given if a building is sprinklered. Such as longer exit distances, less fire resistant building construction, and higher occupancy limits. Their attitude is that sprinklers either extinguish or contain MOST fires, so it's OK to give up on exits and other things. They also see it as a way to control suppression costs, because less firefighters & units are needed to respond. If this WAS in-fact a sprinklered building, it seems to me that it didn't help much on the floor of impact. It looks like a fairly new building, so I would assume (Yeah, I know, NEVER assume) that it's sprinklered, but would really like to know for sure.

    2) If I remember right, there was an article in Fire Engeneering pre-9/11 that talked about pumping AFFF into sprinkler & standpipe systems to give you foam on the fire floor. In a nutshell, it said that an engine with a foam system could hook up to the FDC's and let you deploy a foam line from a standpipe outlet on upper floors. It also said that a standard sprinkler head does a fine job aerating (sp?) AFFF and will make a good foam blanket. Has anyone tried this in training or at a real fire? It seems like a great idea.


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    What's wrong with tea-party politics?

  3. #3
    Forum Member pasobuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PenguinMedic View Post
    I have a feeling the other thread on the crash will be locked shortly... as it should IMHO... So I wanted to start a new post where I could ask a question, and where the rest of us can talk about FIREFIGHTING not Tea-Party politics.

    Does anyone know yet if this was a sprinklered building? The reason I ask is two-fold.

    1) I will often spar with our Fire Prevention folks at work about the code consessions that are given if a building is sprinklered. Such as longer exit distances, less fire resistant building construction, and higher occupancy limits. Their attitude is that sprinklers either extinguish or contain MOST fires, so it's OK to give up on exits and other things. They also see it as a way to control suppression costs, because less firefighters & units are needed to respond. If this WAS in-fact a sprinklered building, it seems to me that it didn't help much on the floor of impact. It looks like a fairly new building, so I would assume (Yeah, I know, NEVER assume) that it's sprinklered, but would really like to know for sure.
    Interesting question - we get similar ones here about people being able to escape a high rise/large building in the event of a fire. 9-11 is still fresh in many peoples' minds - especially those here in NY who knew people that died that day.

    Remember, this is an EXTRA-ORDINARY event - 'common' sprinklers are NOT designed to put out a fire of this magnitude - as in caused by a large volume of fire/fuel at once. They are designed to catch the fire when it is smaller and keep it from spreading and hopefully extinguish the fire also.


    2) If I remember right, there was an article in Fire Engeneering pre-9/11 that talked about pumping AFFF into sprinkler & standpipe systems to give you foam on the fire floor. In a nutshell, it said that an engine with a foam system could hook up to the FDC's and let you deploy a foam line from a standpipe outlet on upper floors. It also said that a standard sprinkler head does a fine job aerating (sp?) AFFF and will make a good foam blanket. Has anyone tried this in training or at a real fire? It seems like a great idea.
    Darn - ran out of time at work...will have to finish my thoughts later!

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber JHR1985's Avatar
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    your standard sprinkler will do an okay job at aerating the foam. They have specially designed heads that work a lot better but they arent justified in an residential or commercial setting
    The Box. You opened it. We Came...

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  5. #5
    Forum Member PenguinMedic's Avatar
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    Well, I found a close-up photo from the fire that APPEARS to show sprinklers operating in the building:



    Look at the ceiling of the first floor to the right of the photo. Obviously the water pouring down on the left is runoff , but that fan pattern of water looks like an operating head.

    Remember, this is an EXTRA-ORDINARY event - 'common' sprinklers are NOT designed to put out a fire of this magnitude - as in caused by a large volume of fire/fuel at once. They are designed to catch the fire when it is smaller and keep it from spreading and hopefully extinguish the fire also.
    I totally agree with you on this Brother. The point I was trying to make is that firewalls, exits, and other protection measures are needed THE MOST it times like this. The same with fully staffed fire companies. Many "Progressive cost-conscious" communities will try to justify 2-man engines spaced 10 miles apart because they have mandatory sprinkler ordanances. At the same time, we the firefighters fail to prepare and train for something like this "Because everything in our first-due is sprinklered, so we'll never have a big fire".

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    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PenguinMedic View Post
    I totally agree with you on this Brother. The point I was trying to make is that firewalls, exits, and other protection measures are needed THE MOST it times like this. The same with fully staffed fire companies. Many "Progressive cost-conscious" communities will try to justify 2-man engines spaced 10 miles apart because they have mandatory sprinkler ordanances.
    I work in a city where we are constantly working to improve staffing to handle a "basic" house fire. So, my opinion may be a little skewed on this. I don't think it's reasonable to ask people to plan their buildings to withstand every type of possible incident.

    I think fire protection systems (including fire walls and exits along with suppression) should be designed to handle incidents that are foreseeable for an occupancy. Just as you can't rubber-coat the sidewalk to prevent people from getting hurt when they fall, I think it would add unreasonable costs to expect every building to be able to withstand impact from an airplane.

    I do share your fear about staffing. Instead of low staffing because of sprinklers, a more common argument I hear is that only two people on an rig are needed because all the FD does is "medical runs." Just like with building fire protection systems, however, I think you can only expect a fire department to be able to handle incidents that are foreseeable for the community. Of course, if you have an airport and tall buildings, plane crashes into those buildings may be very foreseeable.

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    The major problem you have is the sprinkler is designed for the fuel load present in the building. For a flammable liquid fire the IFC requires .3 gpm/sqft, which probably would be required for a situation like this. Even if charging the system with a pumper could not overcome the hydraulics, pipe sizing and sprinkler head concentration not present in an office building. Another problem with using AFFF in a 3 dimension fire between floors is getting the foam blanket to sustain. Who knows what the fuel load was like in there, I wonder if anyone has ever done burn studies on 1040's. Hopefully no one was injured. Sorry this skewed the subject, deal with a Factory Mutual Insurance Rep and their logic the fire department is there to watch their system respond.

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    To the best of my knowledge the building was sprinklered and it appears some of the photos might back that up. Also I can confirm that I saw our AFD support staff pulling our Class B foam trailer to the scene, but I am not sure if they used it. I drove by about 20 minutes after it happened and the main body of fire was knocked down. That type of plane only carries about 50 gallons of fuel, but who else knows what that whack job might have had in there. The nearest station to the incident (8's) is about 1 mile away.

    "These are my opinions and not those of AFD, yada, yada, yada......"

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    No loss of life I believe, the fire sprinklers had to play into this. Also rated stair towers and rated floor assemblies. BUT also an aggressive attack by the FD.

    Regarding AFFF and sprinklers. Standard sprinklers are used on closed head foam systems in the design of the systems. Feeding the FDC with foam maybe a little more challenging depending on how much foam you can supply, required gpm etc. Some sprinkler systems may require 1000-2000 gpm depending on the occupancy, and sprinkler design, etc. At a 3% solution that is 30-60 gpm of foam. Say 10-15 minutes of AFFF duration that is about 450-900 gallons of AFFF concentrate. Do most FD carry that much AFFF??
    Fire Sprinklers Save Firefighters’ Lives Too!

  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber JHR1985's Avatar
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    I heard that it was an offensive attack...

    Funny... I thought that Austin didnt do Offensive attacks.

    Just sprayed and prayed

    The Box. You opened it. We Came...

    "You'll take my life but I'll take your's too. You'll fire musket but I'll run you through. So when your waiting for the next attack, you'll better understand there's no turn back."

  11. #11
    Forum Member PenguinMedic's Avatar
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    I think you can only expect a fire department to be able to handle incidents that are foreseeable for the community. Of course, if you have an airport and tall buildings, plane crashes into those buildings may be very foreseeable.
    In our district we have two "Airparks" which are housing developments with runways in them. One is about a mile from our industrial park & "Big Box" shopping area, and it's runway lines up with them. We are also about 5 miles from a regional airport that runs small jets, LifeFlight helos, & a commercial helo company that operates Boeing Vertol (Chinook) twin-engine helos. Several years ago one crashed in a field in our district and killed the three man crew. Based on all that, yeah, I think it CAN happen here. I bet there are more fire departments in America that could reasonably expect this to happen to them (More likely by accident for sure) then not.

  12. #12
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Most small plane crashes are nothing more than a challenging SUV extrication, if there is even anything left. A plane hitting building is so incredibly rare, it is more likely that a car or truck will hit it and in which case the response is the same. Its a vehicle with gasoline. The fact that it has wings doesn't change it.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

  13. #13
    Forum Member PenguinMedic's Avatar
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    I don't know dude, that was a heck of a lot of fire today for "A vehicle with gasoline"

  14. #14
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    An office full of a billion reams of paper, office desks, office chairs, plastics, shredders, carpet, and a ton of shattered windows allowing unlimited fresh air. I could do it with a few cans of gasoline and an axe. With that kind of fuel load, all you need to do is accelerate the fire past the initial slow down and control of the sprinklers. You do that and there is no stopping it.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PenguinMedic View Post
    In our district we have two "Airparks" which are housing developments with runways in them. One is about a mile from our industrial park & "Big Box" shopping area, and it's runway lines up with them. We are also about 5 miles from a regional airport that runs small jets, LifeFlight helos, & a commercial helo company that operates Boeing Vertol (Chinook) twin-engine helos. Several years ago one crashed in a field in our district and killed the three man crew. Based on all that, yeah, I think it CAN happen here. I bet there are more fire departments in America that could reasonably expect this to happen to them (More likely by accident for sure) then not.

    It can, but look at the big picture. Thousands of fires a year in the U.S. 1 or 2 aircraft strikes into multi story buildings a year? Passive fire protection in the building if it isn't compromised by the owner/tenants will keep the fire contained to the origin floors long enough for occupants to evacuate out of the building and the FD to mount an attack. Asking people to put a sprinkler system that can handle a plane crash in an office building is massive over kill. I don't see the costs and hassle worth it, when passive protection built into the building will provide needed time to handle the life hazard. The only people the sprinklers would save are those incapacitated by the initial crash who would be unable to evac.

    Really what you want is a deluge system in all applications, or some sort of zoned deluge system that would be able to keep quick growth fires like this in check. You'd need these very aggressive industrial systems used in high hazard occupancies in a low risk office building. Doesn't seem worth it at all to me.

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    The plane according to reports was a Piper Pa-28 which holds 50 gallons of 100 low lead avgas. Not a huge amount, but the biggest problems is that when an aircraft hits something at speed, i.e. a building, it tears the fuel tanks open(usually a rubber bladder inside the wing structure) the force of the tanks ripping open will cause the fuel to atomize or turn into many small droplets which burn a lot quicker. As was stated, this initial fire probably overcame the sprinklers and breached walls and whatnot. It seems to me thought the the sprinklers would have been able to catch up to the fire as it started to progress to other rooms(perhaps that is what happened) i dunno. It's amazing that more people weren't hurt. Good job to the guys out there working on scene.

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    Forum Member FFWALT's Avatar
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    Let's take the plane out of the equation and talk about a basic structure fire. Has anyone pumped foam into the FDC to help with suppression? If so how did it work?

    I'm not up to speed on CAFS but would that work? Would there be any advantage over regular foam or would it defeat the purpose of the CAFS?

    Has anyone pumped foam up several stories? We tried once without success but we had less than an ideal set up. It was pumped from the engine to the intake of the platform through that pump and up the waterway to the bucket which was used as an elevated manifold. We were trying to get it 110' feet to fight a grain elevator fire. Wound up taking foam buckets up and using a in line eductor to make foam. We don't have many multistory buildings in our area but I would like to know if getting foam to the upper floors is even possible. If so it would be one more tool in the tool box.
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    The photo above of the sprinkler operating indicates a pretty good spray pattern.We will most likely never know, but I wonder if the FDC was connected to and at what pressure they were able to keep it at. In this type of fire with so many sprinklers operating the water pressure would have been very low to the sprinklers without connecting to the FDC. The sprinkler design at best would have been 7 sprinklers operating (1500 sq. ft. design area and 225 sq. ft. sprinkler spacing) at the same time. But had they tried to maintain 150 psi at the FDC the sprinklers may have had a chance of keeping the fire from spreading past the area of impact.
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  19. #19
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    In addition to open sprinkler heads, I'm sure there were busted pipes in the area where the plane went in. That is going to create a HUGE problem for the rest of the system that was still intact. I'm wondering if it would be worthwhile for the FD to start shutting down branches of the system that have no hope of doing anything and therefore increasing the amount of water to the perimeter of the fire? If an elevated master stream flowing 1500gpm in the window is barely touching it, I doubt another few drops from an over-taxed sprinkler will help, save it for elsewhere int he building.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I can only imagine the crash broke some sprinkler lines too ... that will sure mean a lot more pressure needed.

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