1. #1
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    Default Magnesium issues in a car/truck fire

    I have had a few car fires where a lump of Magnesium has become a pain in the butt. I usually identify it pretty early on but my crews have had a bit of trouble dealing with it. We have tried narrow fog, straight stream, and on the Chief's orders- foam....I'm apprehensive about a foam blanket after the container explosion that killed a FF north of the border. Does anyone know a trick to cooling the darn stuff down without starting a fourth of July show on the floor board?
    A coward stands by and watches wrongs committed without saying a word...Any opinions expressed are purely my own and not necessarily reflective of the views of my former departments

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    Let it burn


    Lots of water , not a 1 3/4. Something bigger


    Class d extinguishing agent if it can be applied correctly

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    I've done it with a 1 3/4... It took a while, but I did it... Once. lol

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    Probably not possible to adequately flood the burning metal or alloy with enough water while in the vehicle. Refer to "Fireground Tactics" by Emmanuel Fried, PP 157 thru 162. As Chief Fried explains, the cause of the explosions may be steam explosions or Hydrogen explosions, but in either case quantities of molten burning metal are going to be thrown violently into the air. From examples cited concerning the Magnesium Products Inc. 1942 fire in L.A. involving large Magnesium castings, it is possible to extinguish magnesium by flooding the area and raising the water level above the material, thus lifting the hydrogen fire above the casting and cooling the metal below about 900 deg. F. and effectively extinguishing the fire. This was achieved only after a very large number of heavy explosions and subsequently burning the roof off the structure. Pretty interesting reading, now that I have gone back and re-read the section. If you have applied water to the mess, it is probably not possible to use Metal-X for extinguishment, as it needs to be kept dry, shoveled on thickly enough to exclude air from the metal, and allowed to stand for a very long time until the heat has dissapated. Fine Graphite with a flame inhibitor such as a Phosphate (Calgon water softener) might also be effective as a dry extinguishing agent.

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    1-3/4" on flush - keep a little distance - be patient.

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    From the fires I've been on, most mag nowadays is in the steering assembly like the shear plate. You should be able to recognize burning mag on the inside of a vehicle because the fire will look much brighter then the rest of the car. Extinguish the rest of the car first and flood the burning mag. Too many people will zone in on the mag and not pay attention to what else is happening. If your in a parking lot surrounded by other cars or a garage, knock down the rest of the fire and protect the exposures, most of the ones on the drivers side. Mag engine fires I've been on have usually burned through the hood before we got there and require a whole lot of water. Again, keep your distance, there is no reason to get hurt for a car fire.
    If your going to cry about doing the job you signed up for do us all a favor and quit, there are plenty of dedicated people standing in line for the best job in the world.

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    Dirt.

    And why flush on the 1 3/4"?
    Career Firefighter
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    -Professional in Either Role-

    Quote Originally Posted by Rescue101 View Post
    I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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    We've had chunks off the steering plate and some electronics/radio packages in specialty vehicles have given us fits.

    Ok, what I take out of this is-If you use water, expect violent reacts as you try to submerse the item.

    Bury the item

    or, if you have not already soaked it, dry chem or homemade dry chem will work.

    And, distance (Mr Mason's version of best turnout gear in the world is distance) and patience.... Geez, I wish I could get some of that in a bottle.

    I did do some video study and read a couple articles on a golf club factory fire in Los Angeles...Titanium, I think....And I seem to remember a big one down in georgia or alabama a year or two ago..
    A coward stands by and watches wrongs committed without saying a word...Any opinions expressed are purely my own and not necessarily reflective of the views of my former departments

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    Under some conditions, water applied to extinguish magnesium fires may be decomposed into its constituent elements, oxygen and hydrogen.

    Magnesium combines readily with oxygen, and hydrogen is released, adding to the intensity of the fire.

    CO2 extinguishers are not suitable for extinguishing magnesium fires.

    Magnesium will burn in an atmosphere of carbon dioxide.

    Magnesium may also burn in an atmosphere of nitrogen to form magnesium nitride.

    Common extinguishing methods which depend on water, water solutions, or inert gas are not effective on magnesium fires.

    Halogen (Halon) extinguishing agents react violently with burning magnesium since the chlorine or other halogen combines with the magnesium.

    The extinguishing method for magnesium fires depends largely upon the form of the material.

    Flooding with noble gases like helium or argon will extinguish burning magnesium.

    Burning chips, shavings, and small parts must be smothered and cooled with a suitable dry extinguishing agent like graphite and dry sodium chloride.

    If possible, remove surrounding material, leaving the small quantity of magnesium to burn itself out harmlessly.

    An excess of water applied to fires in solid magnesium may cool the metal below the ignition temperature after some initial intensification, and the fire should go out rapidly.



    Improper suppression using only a small, finely divided water spray (fog) will only intensify the fire which could result in the decomposition of oxygen and hydrogen.
    HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

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    So...... If you only have water then whats the best way??

    Maybe back a tanker up and open the dump?
    Bring enough hose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by L-Webb View Post
    So...... If you only have water then whats the best way??

    Maybe back a tanker up and open the dump?

    Doesn't everyone carry 50 pounds of graphite and dry sodium chloride?

    If the tanker water will submerge the material... yes, you could do that. Or if you can remove the material to a tank or a creek that will submerge it, you can do that.

    Sometimes a massive dump/flooding may only excite the chain reaction on a large amount of material and then things go boom.

    Many times all you can do is protect the other exposures with water, and let it burn out.

    The most important part of this situation is to not allow the oxygen, in the H2O, to bond with the material, thus releasing hydrogen and increasing the intensity of the fire, which in turn can lead to yet another reaction called Posterior-Plication.*












    Sometimes, doing nothing is doing it right.




















    (*Butt-pucker).
    Last edited by PaladinKnight; 10-21-2010 at 02:07 AM.
    HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

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    We do have a few deadbeats around we could beat the fire out with.
    Bring enough hose.

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    A combo on flush will produce larger droplets of water - a little less flashing to steam. We are talking about car fires right? Never buried a burning car (so far) Water from a distance has always worked for me , it will make it angry at first, but stay on it , it will cool off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    A combo on flush will produce larger droplets of water - a little less flashing to steam. We are talking about car fires right? Never buried a burning car (so far) Water from a distance has always worked for me , it will make it angry at first, but stay on it , it will cool off.
    What??? You guys don't call in the backhoe?

    I agree with your tactics sir. The whole point is you must flood it if water is used. Do not fog it. Usually there are not pieces that are considered large, so you should have limited risk of a massive hydrogen release.
    HAVE PLAN.............WILL TRAVEL

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    In 20 some odd years I have seen a handful, if that many, of auto fires that were not successfully put out with a booster. Yes, even the ones that shoot sparks everywhere when you hit the hot metal.
    RK
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


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    Quote Originally Posted by KuhShise View Post
    Probably not possible to adequately flood the burning metal or alloy with enough water while in the vehicle. Refer to "Fireground Tactics" by Emmanuel Fried, PP 157 thru 162. As Chief Fried explains, the cause of the explosions may be steam explosions or Hydrogen explosions, but in either case quantities of molten burning metal are going to be thrown violently into the air. From examples cited concerning the Magnesium Products Inc. 1942 fire in L.A. involving large Magnesium castings, it is possible to extinguish magnesium by flooding the area and raising the water level above the material, thus lifting the hydrogen fire above the casting and cooling the metal below about 900 deg. F. and effectively extinguishing the fire. This was achieved only after a very large number of heavy explosions and subsequently burning the roof off the structure. Pretty interesting reading, now that I have gone back and re-read the section. If you have applied water to the mess, it is probably not possible to use Metal-X for extinguishment, as it needs to be kept dry, shoveled on thickly enough to exclude air from the metal, and allowed to stand for a very long time until the heat has dissapated. Fine Graphite with a flame inhibitor such as a Phosphate (Calgon water softener) might also be effective as a dry extinguishing agent.
    Wow. Do you carry that book to every fire you go to? Clearly the Chief was wrong about a few things.
    RK
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slackjawedyokel View Post
    ........ it will make it angry at first, but stay on it , it will cool off.
    Sounds like a girl I used to go out with...

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    Memphis E34: Although I'm just a "Volunteer" I take things very serious concerning operations on the fireground, and have done so for the past 42 years. In the "old days" before the EPA and "Safety Sallies" we were exposed to "Fire Fun Weekends" as a 48 hour live-in training sesion that included live burns of everything from grass and brush, to dumpsters, cars, and aquired structures that were torched and then you were sent to the problem. It is one heck of a training session that makes you think fast and learn faster. If you wanted to survive being thrown under the bus, you searched for and read everything you could lay your hands on to help understand what was going on. One of our lead instructors always "salted" the vehicles with magnesium turnings from a local machine shop. The high surface to weight ratio allows heavy fire to be developed rather quickly and when placed in the floorboard area it almost gurantees lots of pyrotechnics when water was applied. The searching for reasons and extinguishing techniques was more of a self defense measure, rather than an incentive to learn. There is a lot of good info for company officers and well as chiefs contained in Fried's book. No, I don't carry it with me, but my copy, purchased in the 1970's, still occupies a place in my personal library.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KuhShise View Post
    Memphis E34: Although I'm just a "Volunteer" I take things very serious concerning operations on the fireground, and have done so for the past 42 years.
    No need to verify your credentials due to volunteer status. I am paid and union proud whet I am paid. I have been a volunteer longer in the community where I reside. I realize that being paid does not necessarily make you a better firefighter.
    One of our lead instructors always "salted" the vehicles with magnesium turnings from a local machine shop. The high surface to weight ratio allows heavy fire to be developed rather quickly and when placed in the floorboard area it almost gurantees lots of pyrotechnics when water was applied. The searching for reasons and extinguishing techniques was more of a self defense measure, rather than an incentive to learn.
    Exactly, not a good way to learn or teach and not the situation described in this thread. There is a difference between extra shavings thrown in the car and a fifty cent size piece of magnesium in the steering column of a standard car.

    There is a lot of good info for company officers and well as chiefs contained in Fried's book. No, I don't carry it with me, but my copy, purchased in the 1970's, still occupies a place in my personal library.
    Fair enough, but again, you can't compare magnesium in a car to a Los Angeles magnesium factory fire in 1942.
    RK
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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    "you can't compare magnesium in a car to a Los Angeles magnesium factory fire in 1942."

    100% correct, but I was trying to avoid the implication that it can't be extinguished. Some casual readers might make the jump from allowing a small quantity to burn itself out, to not seeking additional information on extinguishment when the position, conditions and amount make extinguishment the best choice. Many people in this 50 word sound bite world want an instant formula for success, instead of learning the basics of physics and chemistry and then collecting the necessary information about a situation and making an informed decision based upon all the data and experience you can muster. All you can ask of a firefighter, co officer or the I.C. is to bring along his brain, experience and knowledge, when faced with the daily challenges of serving the public.

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    So form what I am hearing from you guys is.... Don't use a solid stream or fog or anything that will break the burning material up, Use flooding amounts of water.

    Or just let it burn if that is an option.
    Bring enough hose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GTRider245 View Post
    Dirt.

    And why flush on the 1 3/4"?
    Glad I read on, I was just about to post this exact same response.

    As odd s it sounds, dirt works great if you don't have the proper class D extinguisher, and I doubt your apparatus carries any class D extinguishers. Unless you work at a factory where flammable metals are used for manufacture.

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    Be smart about it. The amount of Exotic metal in a modern automobile/lt truck is quite small. Be prepared for fireworks and slowly and steadily cool the material. With STRAIGHT WATER and some patience it WILL go out. Or it will burn itself out. If it's hot enough to light off you aren't " saving" the vehicle anyway. Stay back a bit and cool the area,then mop up. Now a FACTORY full of the stuff? Different tactics ENTIRELY. T.C.
    Last edited by Rescue101; 11-19-2010 at 09:17 AM.

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    The factory statement came from a recent video clip I came across (recent as in 6-9 months ago) concerning a factory in L. A. As crews were setting up lines and what not, aerials were flowing and the show that followed rivalled the Fourth of July.

    The overall purpose of this thread was to gain some know-how on attacking these pesky fires. For some god forsaken reason, the local habitat likes to drag vehicles to remote locations and play jr amature arsonist. By the time we get the call, get to the middle of nowhereland the fires have a serious head start. We have been seeing a lot more Magnesium chunks lately.

    Couple this fact with the use of foam on our department and the dumpster fire in Canada that killed at least one FF when fire crews put water and then foam on burning metals, I figured it might be time to investigate this further.

    My REAL concern is that my crews are wanting to get up way too close and personal with car fires. Magnesium fireworks displays in the front seat kinda make that a no-no. I appreciate the great technical and strategic input. I will try to use it to better explain the options for a car attack.
    Last edited by Fireeaterbob; 09-14-2011 at 08:46 PM.
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    I'm FINE with that. You get too close you WILL get magnesium balls thrown at you. In SMALL quantities magnesium CAN be extingushed with water,you just need to move SLOWLY and cool the material below the ignition temp(or sustained burning rate temp). Factory full? I DON'T think so. Stand back and watch. T.C.

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