1. #1
    Forum Member

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    Nov 2003
    New Rockford, ND

    Default CAFS users...is it worth it?

    We are a small rural department and are thinking about a CAFS rig. Is it really 15 times more effective than water? How much more effective is CAFS than water with foam agent? We are concerned with the added maintanance issues and the more complex operation for our volly members.

    Thanks for your input!
    Last edited by toddman; 03-28-2004 at 09:26 PM.

  2. #2
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    FightingDevil's Avatar
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    Sep 2002
    Montgomery County, PA

    Default Interesting...

    Check out this month's Fire/Rescue Magazine. There's a pretty cool article on CAFS on it..I think that some technical questions you might have could be answered there....

    For the record....my department runs a KME CAFS engine and swear by it..but our second out piece is a Mack with only water. No complaints there either...
    Once again....the above views are my own and not that of my department. (And probably should not be construed as having any real meaning, whatsoever!)


  3. #3
    dazed and confused
    Resq14's Avatar
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    Dec 2000
    New England


    It works, and it works VERY well. If you are SMALL and RURAL, and don't have a lot of people-power, SERIOUSLY consider the benefits of CAFS.

    It stretches what little water we can carry on wheels a long way. Water is not wasted in fire attack... water pouring out a door, into a basement or some place OTHER than where you want it isn't effective.

    The lightweight hoselines allow crews to move with ease. This might seem minor, but it really improves your ability to maneuver in a building.

    We've finally had the chance to start using our system on some good training fires in acquired structures, and it works as advertised.

    If you're concerned about complicated operation, investigate CAFS-equippped apparatus. I think you'll find there are some systems that are FAR easier and simpler to operate. Specify the number of steps it should take to get a CAF line in place. And I recommend making it routine. We use it on every fire, every time. Default to it. If there is a time when you don't want to waste foam on something, make that the exception rather than the rule. We have a big Pneumax/Hale/FoamPro system on our squad with 750gal of water. We will be receiving a small Snuffer CAFS with 300gal water on a quick attack chassis in a couple weeks.

    I know it's expensive, but if there is even a REMOTE chance that you can afford it, go for it. Class A foam makes your water work better, and adding air makes the foam solution work even better. While it's not the magical cure-all to fire suppression, it's pretty darn close.
    Last edited by Resq14; 03-28-2004 at 09:44 PM.
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  4. #4
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    Nov 2002
    ID, USA


    I am going to disagree a little bit with the above replys. I work for a department that is 90% volunteer. 3 years ago, when it was 100% volunteer, the chief decided to buy a CAFS unit. We dropped about $70k into a 1 ton ford, with an odin CAFS unit on the back. $5k dollars in aluminum compartments, we have an beautiful looking truck. The big problem is that being almost entirely volunteer, and in an area where we do not see much fire at all, makes this unit a little unsafe for interior fire operations. The reason I say this is that in order to run CAFS properly you must use a smooth bore tip for the cafs. An adjustable fog nozzle, will break up the stream to much, drying the foam out. CAFS coming out of a smooth bore tip in interior fire operations, offers zero safety. You cannot control the enviroment like you can with water. Not to say that it doesn't have it's places, but we have a hard enough time keeping ALL of our volunteers trained regularly in fighting fire with water. It is too much for us to keep them trained in both applications. We do use the CAFS on Wildland type fires, and for exposure protection. In retrospect I would have had an integrated CAFS unit put on our engine for 10 to 15 thousand bucks, and used the left over $55k for a used pumper tender. That would have lowered the ISO rating, a CAFS unit has no impact on ISO, and they do not recognize it. Like I said, it has it's application in different areas, if I could have done it differently, I would have. Hope my advice helps, stay safe!

  5. #5
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    SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    Jul 2003


    CAFS is incredible, we use it whenever we can.

    We are a small rual MT department, we bought a surplus BLM Heavy wildland unit with a CAFS system for 14,000.

    4x4 international chassis, 800 gallons of water, auto trany.

    This is a wildfire eating machine, and it knocks the hell out of vehicle and structure fires as well.

    We actualy reworked this unit this year, got rid of the steel tank, put on a poly. The steel tank was in BAD shape, it was a batch mix system and had been on there since 1985, we bought it in 1996, BLM runds its heavies for 10 years IIRC. We also put a new CAFS system on it, an Odin Foam Colt II. It is not done yet, but it should be back next week. Cost about 35000, but we had to do it, the old CAFS system had been worked hard for nearly 20 years and was worn out.

    Not sure who you would talk to in ND to hunt down a surpluss engine. Maybe talk to your state guys, or you fed contacts if you have some in your area.

    CAFS doesnt have to cost you a fortune.

    If you are not into crome it can be very affordable.

    We dont like crome ourselves, we like Rhino liner and scuffed up red paint.

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  6. #6
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    Jan 2001
    Madison, NJ USA


    Hi toddman,

    My department has been using CAFS with great success since 1998. It definitely makes water more efficient and is well worth the cost. We have a Pneumax system. Pneumax is now owned by Waterous and Waterous offers a CAFS unit called the Eclipse. As far as maintenance goes, it is 3 filters (1 - air, 1 - hydraulic and 1 - air/oil separator filter) and hydrolic oil.

    Sorry but I have to comment on DonnellyFire's comments. I think you might want to learn a little more about the application of CAFS, specifically the selection of nozzles for applying CAFS.

    "An adjustable fog nozzle, will break up the stream to much, drying the foam out." Yes, CAFS is best applied with a straight bore nozzle (1 3/8” ball valve with a 15/16" tip) that’s because a fog nozzle pops or strips all the bubbles from the CAFS stream and makes a very wet, milky foam. Not a "dry" foam as you stated. You cannot make dry foam with a fog nozzle.

    "CAFS coming out of a smooth bore tip in interior fire operations, offers zero safety. You cannot control the enviroment like you can with water." What are you talking about???? I have been on many interior attacks with water (prior to 98) and CAFS since then and safety is increased by the use of CAFS, faster extinguishment and cooling.

    We are a combination department and we train with CAFS and have minimal issues, no more than compared to water. It works and works well. Education and training is the key with CAFS and with any other "tool" that is purchased. CAFS is worth the investment in firefighter safety.

    Be safe,

    Captain Lou

  7. #7
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    CALFFBOU's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002

    Default Fast 2 cents...

    I am NOT an expert on CAFS (or really anything else) but from what I have heard, read and seen, it seems like a winner. From small vegetation fires to interior attack, it is a water saver and sure seems to works well on all applications.

    Also- Most of the new type 3 brush trucks in California or Nevada are the CDF type model 14s. They are build by West Mark in Ceres, CA. Here is your link- http://www.west-mark.com/firetrucks.cfm
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 03-29-2004 at 04:11 PM.

  8. #8
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    Mar 2003


    I have to agree CAFS is well worth the money. I was probably the biggest opponent to adding it to our newest engine. Not because I did not think it was effective but because it added about 35k to initial cost. Well after being out voted(thank goodness) and seeing its effectiveness boy am I glad we have it. And as far as controlling the environment on interior attack, the best way to do that is put the fire out and keep it out. CAFS puts the fire out quicker and more efficiently than water thus controlling the environment. Don't buy without researching fully all the companies that offer CAFS. Many different opinions between manufacturers. Find what will work best for you.

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