Use of FF'ing Foam in Certain Farm/Ag Scenarios?
My second department is located in a rural/agricultural area, with over 80% of the first due area in production agriculture. Many of these operations are chicken or hog related operations so large barns (some as big as 500 feet long) are “normal” to us. We have had success in doing the “normally unthinkable” of saving several of these structures, and the animals. This past week we attacked a fire in a pullet (small chickens, 4-5 weeks old) house which had 67,000 chicks in. Only 10,000 were lost to the fire – the rest survived and will continue on their journey to your grocer’s cooler. A picture of this incident is available here.
However this most recent fire led us to some questions... Our neighboring company has just placed a compressed air foam engine into service within the last few months. We are NOT against CAFS, so this is not a knock on that.
What our concern is will the use of the any class A foam cause any toxicity concerns for the animals, especially small chicks, dairy cows, or any of the animals for that matter? By this I mean, if any type of class A foam is used in some fashion to extinguish the fire, would the animals that are not lost to smoke or fire be injured or contaminated in some manner that would require that they also be destroyed?
I have researched information on both Ansul and National Foam websites. The information below is from National Foam’s MSDS for their “Knockdown” class A foam:
Section 3. HAZARDS IDENTIFICATION
Potential Health Effects
Vapors are minimal at room temperature. If product is heated or sprayed as an aerosol, airborne material may cause respiratory irritation.
· Skin Contact
Contact with liquid may cause moderate irritation or dermatitis due to removal of oils from the skin.
· Eye Contact
Product is an eye irritant.
Not a hazard in normal industrial use. Small amounts swallowed during normal handling operations are not likely to cause injury; swallowing large amounts may cause injury or irritation.
· Additional Health Effects
Existing eye or skin sensitivity may be aggravated by exposure.
As you can see that it can potentially cause some minor problems in humans so how will this affect the especially small animals? If we use the class A foam do we run the risk of increasing the loss to the farm owner because more will die or have to be destroyed, as opposed to them “just getting wet with plain water”? Likewise what down-time will they suffer so that the foam can be completely removed from the barn structures and equipment? One other question we have is if we “coat the interior with foam” do we run the risk of suffocating small chicks, etc.?
We would like to develop some specific SOG’s to manage how we will or will not use any class A foam in attacking a fire in these types of structures - specifically in the cases where we believe that we have a reasonably good chance of saving the majority of the structure and contents. In these cases should we NOT be using the foam in the initial attack or overhaul phases so as not to increase the risk of losing more animals, etc. Obviously if we feel that there is no hope of saving the structure, we will consider the use of foam to enhance our capabilities.
As many of our fire fighters are farmers themselves, we understand the need to “do what it takes” to keep these folks in business, so we want to develop proactive policies, not only from the fire fighting perspective, but also with the goal of providing the best customer service as well. Yes, it could be said that we could use the foam and put the fire out, but if the farmer ends up losing or having to destroy all of the livestock due to foam exposure, we could literally put him out of business... (And many in our community do not have insurance.)
As I stated initially, we are NOT against the use of compressed air foam or any foam for that matter, we just need to be proactive in our approach to using it. If anyone has had any experience with this or has specific SOG’s/SOP’s that address these specific issues we would like to see them...
Any information that we can obtained would be greatly appreciated. You may email me directly or go through my website.