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Thread: Foam Systems

  1. #1
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    Question Foam Systems

    Hi guys. I'm new to this site, but have been getting alot of info just reading past forums. We recently got a Scotty backpack foam system for use in timber and brush fires. We've never used foam in the past on grass and/or timber, but aided another department last fall that did. It seemed to work well, if for nothing else, smothering any remaining fire in burning logs and trees. Anyone else use foam? I'd like to know if anyone uses the Scotty system, or what works best. Thanks.


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    Class A foam is very effective on wildland fires and makes your water go alot farther. It will not mop up for you though, you still need to stir it into the burning fuels to get complete extinguishment just like you would with water, it just makes the process easier and faster.

    We have a built in system on our engines and patrols. There is a FoamPro foam proportioner on my engine, it uses an electric pump to inject precise amounts of foam into the plumbing. For general use I set it at 0.1% to 0.5%, this doesn't really even look much like foam more like soapy water but it allows the water to really penetrate well compared to straight water. For particularly stubborn areas like stumpholes I usually bump it up to 1-2%, this makes a pretty thick foam useful for filling stumpholes or catfaces in trees.

    The FoamPro is on the expensive side ($3000-4000 or so), but it allows the use of Class A or B foam. There are many cheaper Class A systems that can be retrofitted fairly easily to existing apparatus. I've used several but the two I like are the Blizzard Wizard and one by Robwen, both can vary the amount of foam used. The Robwen unit is more expensive ($1500?) and complicated but includes a 5 gallon foam tank, the Blizzard Wizard is pretty cheap (under $500 I think) and very simple, if you leave a space for a 5 gallon jug of foam you don't even need a seperate foam tank, the foam unit can be fed from the jug. For a slip on brush pumper the Blizzard Wizard would be my choice.

    The portable units are probably good to give you an chance to try out foam and see what you think of it. The ones I've seen go on the firefighter like a backpack or hang at the side, neither of which looks like it would be fun to use on an active fire, and really even seems rather impractical for mop up. Play with what you have to see how you like foam, but if you decide to outfit more apparatus with foam I would try to convence your higher ups to go for an engine mounted system.

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    Thanks for the information. This is going to be used on a small grass rig that runs only 1" forestry lines from a gas powered pump. We are going to try Silvex, probably starting at about .5% and working from there. Has anyone used this foam? Any suggestions for types and ratios would be helpful.

    As for convincing the higher-ups, that essentially consists of the Chief and myself. This is a really small (12 member) volunteer department, with an even smaller budget, so I doubt an engine mounted system is in our future. We built this grass rig last fall on donated money, an so far, are very happy with it. I would like to see what others are using, especially department built rigs. Photos would be great.

    Thanks again.

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    We recently purchased some of the Scotty hoseline eductors (with the 2gal jugs). Recently used for training and on overhaul of a garage fire. Does a nice job of putting down a blanket of foam. 2gal of foam does not last long and the jug is out.

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    Northeast Iowa? We bought a truck from Key West several years ago. We're Southwest Iowa. The system we bought is the backpack type with a 30 GPM nozzle. We opted for the variable flow metering valve, which is adjustable from .5%-3.0%. We may get to play with it this weekend. If the weather cooperates, we're burning a barn on Sunday.

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    I couldn't find the blizzard wizard but Cascade sells an almost identical unit. If you built the grass truck yourself, you will find this is easy to install. If you decide you like what foam does, you might consider it, I found it works as well or better than many more expensive systems. (I do not work for Cascade or have any relationship with them other than being a satisfied customer). I do like the Foam Pro we use better but that is in a completely different price range.

    http://cascadefire.cfestriketeam.com...&productId=380


    Silvex is good foam, I've used several other brands as well but don't have a favorite. Do not mix brands, people may tell you all foam is compatable but I've seen two different brands of class A foam react before and it is a mess, it turns into something resembling Crisco shortning and you have to scoop it out of the foam tank. If you stick to just using foam buckets instead of a permanent tank this isn't much of a problem. With the Foampro I never have found a need to go over 1%. Eductor type foam systems like the one I listed above and I'm assuming the backpack unit you have the foam is not as efficiently used. You should notice a difference at 0.5% this will be the thin soapy water foam I mentioned above, at 2-3% you should get a decent foam blanket. Play with the foam to see what concentrations you like but don't think you need to have a thick blanket to be effective, if you compare the difference between a low % foam and plain water you will see the foam solution sticks better and soaks in faster, once you get to an obvious foam it also works well but uses you foam up faster too.

    Foam is good stuff but it can be hard on equipment, particularly the concentrate. If it gets spilled on the truck or if you spray the truck with foam you want to get it cleaned up the same day if at all possible, it will remove paint very effectively if left on for an extended period. You will also find it will dryout your skin and leather so be aware of that. Not as much of a problem with skin since most people will figure out to use lotion if their skin gets dry but it will take the oils right out of leather gloves or boots shortening their life pretty dramatically, avoid standing in the foam and rinse your equipment with clean water after use if you got foam on it.

    The concentrate mixes well with water (a gallon of foam can provide soapy water to more than 1000 gallons of water), so trying to wash away even a small spill of concentrate can take alot of water. I'd suggest using kitty litter to pick up the bulk of a spill and then washing away the residue.

    Here are two links to foam publications from the US Forest Service R&D labs

    http://www.fs.fed.us/eng/php/library...um=9251%201209

    http://www.fs.fed.us/eng/php/library...um=9351%201208

  7. #7
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Here's The Cheap Shot..................

    I have a Type 6 with a Pump that provides 100 GPM @ 150 PSI. It had (Keyword here is HAD) a Foam System that was worn out, so I removed it and set up my own system. A 3/8 Quarter turn valve is attached to a short pipe nipple that in turn, is connected to the intake piping. A 2 foot length of 3/8 clear plastic tubing is connected to the valve. When I want Foam, I put the end of the tubing in a 5 gal foam container, then open the valve 1/4 turn. It works for me, and the cost was less than $10.00
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark0502f
    Thanks for the information. This is going to be used on a small grass rig that runs only 1" forestry lines from a gas powered pump. We are going to try Silvex, probably starting at about .5% and working from there. Has anyone used this foam? Any suggestions for types and ratios would be helpful.

    As for convincing the higher-ups, that essentially consists of the Chief and myself. This is a really small (12 member) volunteer department, with an even smaller budget, so I doubt an engine mounted system is in our future. We built this grass rig last fall on donated money, an so far, are very happy with it. I would like to see what others are using, especially department built rigs. Photos would be great.
    Silv-ex is one of the standards out west here though we have been buying Phos-Chek "Anchor Point" which is not featured on Astaris's web site for some reason. It is very cheap, like $7/gal delivered on the state forestry contract as opposed to $11 or $12 for other brands. It carries very few ratings or anything but it works as good as anything else and I like it just fine. Also you will find Fire-Trol out there which is good and also nice because it smells like citrus. But any class A or wildland foam will work, just get what is cheapest. Even dish soap or laundry detergent, liquid or powder, will work.

    What I did on my type 6 back in the day was to carry a gatorade bottle and I would dump foam into the tank for a batch mix at an estimated 0.05% to 0.1%, yes that is right, not a typo. For wildland fire you don't really want "foam" you just want water with a little soap in it to wet the material and you never can tell how long it will be to get resupplied so you make the foam stretch as far as you can.

    Now that I work for a municipal department I have nice electronic Foam Pro systems on my engines. I have them preset for 0.3% which is what I will use on inital wildland attack and then drop back to 0.1% to stretch it out (and save money) once the fun is over. On a structure fire I might bump it up to 0.5% for initial attack (lots of bubbles then) but 0.3% works pretty good too.

    The main advantage of foam as I see it in a wildland situation is to reduce the number of tender (tanker) loads and stretch out the water between them. Also helps with backpack loads

    Birken

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    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Yeah, That Too............

    Birken, Good Points. Some years back, I went into a store and bought 36 gallons of Liquid Dish Detergent (1 Gal. jugs) because we needed a wetting agent, and couldn't wait for Foam to be brought in. When I got to the Checkout, the clerk asked why I wanted that much, I explained the Fire/Wetting Agent thing, and the Manager came over and told her to void the charge slip and the store donated the soap. Seems that the manager lived in the area where the fire was burning, and he wanted to make sure we had what we needed. We mixed it on a ratio of 1 quart to 100 gallons of water (0.25%) and the water penetrated the duff down to 18 inches with no trouble. My current Foam on my Type 6 is FireTrol, and it works well from 0.25 up to 1.0%. I agree that, except for "Blanketing" in structure protection, anything over 1% is more than enough.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BirkenVogt
    But any class A or wildland foam will work, just get what is cheapest. Even dish soap or laundry detergent, liquid or powder, will work.
    Dang! Beat me to it!

    We've been batch-mixing Dawn dish soap in our tanks for years, and it works great. For some reason, the really cheap dish soap isn't effective. Maybe some fire protection student out there can research it and find out why.

    We also have Scotty 2 gallon foam units on the brush trucks. The foam unit makes it a little impractical for offensive firefighting, but they work great for defensive stuff (laying wet lines) and overhaul on wildland, structures, cars, whatever. That 2 gallons does go fast, so it's helpful if you've got a few pails of Class A foam handy. We use the real stuff in the Scotty units.
    Bryan Beall
    Silver City, Oklahoma USA

  11. #11
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Smile Hey Brian!!.............

    Good to hear from Y'all in Silver City. Can you let us know how things are going down there? Stay Safe and pray for Rain.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

    www.gdvfd18.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by SilverCity4
    Dang! Beat me to it!

    We've been batch-mixing Dawn dish soap in our tanks for years, and it works great. For some reason, the really cheap dish soap isn't effective. Maybe some fire protection student out there can research it and find out why.
    I bought some of the cheap dish soap for my kitchen and found it to be much thinner than Dawn. I hypothesize that it contains more water and less soap. We always used tide laundry detergent though.

    Birken

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    Thanks for all the info. We played with this system a little yesterday, and you're right, the Silvex is more like soapy water at 1/2-1%. It does make a decent blanket at 3%, but obviously uses a lot of concentrate. Speaking of the Dawn dishsoap, another department around here pre-mixes a little in all of their rigs; engines, tankers, wildland, etc. Besides being a wetting agent, they say it helps keep valves and everything else lubricated and working free. Makes sense.

  14. #14
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    Default Class A

    As a refernce, class A has a UL standard to meet for "wetting agent" but no standards on foam.

    In other words, class A is not required to make any foam blanket. Most do, but many do not.

    As far as percentage, use it per the UL or manufacturers specifications. In most cases, .3% (one third of a percent) is sufficient. Some require 1% to adaquatily foam, but work great at the .3% as a wetting agent.

    Any higher percentages used and you are throwing money down the drain. If an agent is listed in UL at .3%, and you use it at 1%, you are using three times too much. At $10.00 per gallon, that equates to $30.00 per gallon. At 3%, thats over $90 per gallon!

    My experience of the best foamers is, and I do this alot,

    National Foam
    Angus Foam
    Phos-check
    Silvex

    As far as regular detergent, I have used it and it does work fairly well in a pinch.

    The problem with dish detergent is that it is a degreaser, and will probably dry out the seals and seats in your pump and valves. That negates any money you might have saved buying it in the first place.

    Also, class A foams are qualified by USDA forrestry and under go many tests, the toughest of which is the corrosion test.

    Any foam not on the list, such as Ivory soap, you can count on corroding your tank and piping.

    JT

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