New Technology Can Help With Rural Fire Operations

BALTIMORE – Technology in the fire service has exploded in the past decade, but there’s one big catch to all that innovation.

“Any new technology is only as good as your knowledge of how it works,” said Dominic Colletti, a presenter at Firehouse Expo 2013.

Colletti is a founder of Rural Firefighting Academy, a former assistant chief in Pennsylvania, has served on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an author of two books on foam, and had worked for many years for a major fire pump maker.

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“There’s a lot of new technology out there just in the last five, 10, 15 years,” Colletti said in his class titled; New Technology and Rural Firefighting Operations. “We cannot maximize new resources unless we understand the technology. And, we, the fire service, are not real good at adapting and changing.”

Colletti said the success or failure of any new technology is dependent on the person in the mirror – “you and me.”

“We all know that if someone doesn’t want to use new technology, they’re going to make it fail,” Colletti said.

In the fire service there are five big factors in making operations go smoothly; time, agent, hardware, people and procedures, Colletti said.

“The wild part in that equation is people,” he said. “People can make things go right, or they can make things go wrong.”

Colletti asked the audience what usually goes wrong when a rural water supply operation is set up. “Is it hardware, or is it people,” Colletti asked. Almost unanimously, the audience answered people.

There are, however, relatively new technologies out there than can help with rural fire operations and Colletti mentioned three – Class A foam systems, Compressed Air Foam Systems (CAFS) and a drafting device known as TurboDraft.

CAFS, according to Colletti can cut water consumption at a rural fire scene by as much as a third to half. Colletti cautioned that doesn’t mean fire flows can be cut in half, but the duration upon which a fire burns can be significantly reduced meaning less water is used over the duration of the event.

“You still need H20 to put out the fire,” Colletti said, noting that it’s water that takes out the BTUs of any fire, but it’s the homogenized foam bubbles produced by combination of soap and air that keeps the fire from reigniting making the fires go out faster.

Colletti recommended a ratio of two gallons of water per minute to one CFM to produce a good, wet foam solution. That means the pump should be flowing 120 gpm to 60 CFM of air, he said.

Touching on another product, Colletti said the TurboDraft appliance helps fire departments with drafting from static water supplies.

“You can draft with five-inch LDH,” Colletti said of the TurboDraft. He explained that water is sent from the pump to the TurboDraft, which is in the water source, and a jet siphon then sends water back up the five-inch LDH to the pump for use for fire suppression efforts.

The product makes it easier to draft from high lift areas and increases volumes over traditional drafting operations with hard suction hoses, he said.

Colletti, who has extensive experience with pumps, also said rural fire departments also ought to think about large-body, pumps up to 2,000 gpms.

The larger capacity the pump, the more water it is able to pull from draft. For example, Colletti said a 1,250 gpm pump will be able to produce 600 gpm from draft, or about 50 percent of its total rated capacity. Therefore, a 2,000 gpm can produce 1,000 gpm from draft.

“The cost of going from a 1,250 gpm pump to a 2,000 gpm pump is about two percent of the total cost of a new pumper,” Colletti said. “You might not need it for 95 percent of the fires, but when you need it, you need it and the cost is insignificant.”

Colletti said he’s always amazed at why more departments aren’t using the technology that’s available to the fire service and he’s come to one conclusion.

“It’s a lack of knowledge,” Colletti said. “They just don’t know what’s out there.”

That’s why he teaches classes about technology. “There’s all this technology out there. It’s time to use it,” he said.