Fire Extinguishers

SPAAMFAA Form # SP-04, Minimum Safety Guidelines for Apparatus Operation, Page 1, #6, states β€œEach motorized apparatus shall have readily available, a modern type fire extinguisher with a minimum rating of 10 BC that is in serviceable condition.” by standards to be stated on the printed nomenclature affixed to the extinguisher. The rating and the size are two totally different things. The rating is based on the type of extinguisher and the types of fires (types are A,B,C, &D) that the particular unit is suitable for use on, so the rating will include the letter or combination of letters for the types of fire it can be used on. The numbers that are part of the rating give an idea as to the amount of fire that the extinguisher

The required rating of 10 BC indicates a fairly small amount of fire and that it is suitable for use on flammable liquids (class B) and electrical (class C) fires. Most vehicle fires originate from these causes. The idea is to use the extinguisher early on in the development of the fire.

Please note that the rules requirement is only a MINIMUM! Do you want to trust the well being of your beautiful fire apparatus to only a MINIMUM rules requirement?

Having been a firefighter for almost 50 years now AND having started working part time in a fire extinguisher shop in 1969 and now own a fire systems & extinguisher business, I would NOT trust any of my vehicles to only a 10 BC size unit. Most 2 Β½ LB. dry chemical type extinguishers carry a 10BC rating! So what to carry on your rig??

I have seen quite a few fire trucks on fire or severely burned! You must realize that when driving the rig on the road, gasoline is flowing and a leak at any point in the fuel delivery system can ignite and become very serious, very quickly. Even on diesel engine apparatus, serious fires occur because the fuel is under high pressure and a leak atomizes the fuel, which makes it more readily ignitable and once ignited, burns like a blow torch. I have photos of a tower ladder that was cruising at 50 MPH down the road, a crew of 4 on board, an unknown fuel leak ignited and by the time the rig could get stopped, an inferno was in progress. Thankfully, the ff’s in the jump seats were wearing their nomex gear and bailed off to the side of the rig, still almost being burned before the rig stopped. All the fire extinguishers on board the rig could not extinguish the fire, because once stopped, everyone including the driver bailed and he did not cut the ignition or engine off, so the rig continued delivering pressurized fuel to the fire. The fire was so hot, it so severely damaged the ladder beams above the engine compartment and the rig was totaled! My collection of rigs include older rigs with gravity feed gasoline, gasoline with electric fuel pumps and later rigs that run diesel. I recommend pre-planning what to do in the event of a fire for each & every rig you operate. Always cut the fuel supply and electrical system off immediately if a fire should occur. Always have readily available a supply of fire extinguishers – NOTE THAT I AM USING PLURAL LANGUAGE ! On my older β€œtrailer queen” apparatus, I carry a 2 Β½ LB. Halon extinguisher as a 1st line of defense. Why Halon????? It is a gas and will not cause any damage to the rig where as a dry chem unit will require specialized clean up and can cause engine damage if it gets into the engine. I also carry a 5 LB. dry chem unit as a back up in the event the fire is not controlled with the smaller halon unit. Note that these are smaller, completely restored rigs. In addition there is a 10 LB. capacity dry chem in the tow vehicle.

On the rigs I drive over the road, regardless of the age of the rig, the type of fuel or the fuel delivery system, I carry at least 2 each, 10LB. size units. You ask, why 2? Murphy’s law – There is always a chance the 1st one does not work! In ADDITION, I have the extinguishers the rig would normally carry in service. For 60’s & 70’s rigs this is normally a 20 LB. capacity Ansul (dry chem) AND a 20 LB. capacity Co2 unit, all of which I maintain in operable condition & inspect annually, as a minimum. If there is a fire, I will start with the Co2 unit, for the same reason as he Halon stated above, then as a back up, go to the dry chem ical units.

Remember that if you are driving your rigs over the road, chances are you will not be close to a fire station when a fire occurs and even if you were, chances are they could not get there in time to save your rig! Your rig is like a boat when it comes to fire protection – YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN! So you better pre-plan and think about the investment of time and money you have in your rig. Yes, good fire extinguishers are expensive but nowhere near what you have in the rig, do you really want to take a chance loosing your rig?????

β€” Thomas L. Herman

Silver Trumpet – 2015 Vol. 3