Article Archive
Changing the Face of Storage Tank Fire Fighting
Vol. 26 Spring

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines innovation as a new method, custom, device, etc; a change in the way of doing things.[1] One company where innovation is the norm is Williams Fire and Hazard Control (WFHC). Whether it is in tools, technology or techniques, Williams Fire and Hazard Control is on the front lines of innovation.

Looking back at storage tank fire protection we see that while fixed and semi-fixed storage tank fire protection has basically remained the same for the past 60 years, the size of the tanks has grown larger.  Industry has adapted by changing the way we fight storage tank fires by adapting new techniques and technologies. With every new incident industry was learning and adapting through trial and error. But as the storage tanks get larger, we need to upgrade our tools, technology and techniques to meet these larger tanks and get ahead of the problems and challenges presented.  There are now storage tanks that exceed 400 feet in diameter and the characteristics of some products have changed.  Current industry practices to combat fires in these tanks just won’t work anymore. Equipment positioning distances for Type III application are becoming impractical and unachievable; in many cases requiring equipment to be placed in the dike area. Resources required for mega tank extinguishment are becoming greater and for many facilities and municipal fire departments, cost prohibitive.   Thinking outside the box, Williams Fire and Hazard Control has addressed this concern and developed a system to combat fires in these large storage tanks.

Tank Battalion

The Tank Battalion series consists of frontline tank protection assets to protect the myriad of tank designs and sizes found in industry today, including the mega storage tanks. These assets take into consideration the safety of responders and plant personnel, provide for manageable logistics and cost efficiencies during these challenging financial times, allowing management to better protect their tanks and the millions of dollars in product they hold. 

The Tank Battalion series includes the following components:

Point and Shoot System - intended to protect an external floating roof tank in the event of a seal fire. It consists of small (275 gpm) foam wands and an emergency monitor riser pipe (optional).

  • Hollow Point System- designed to protect the full surface of a closed roof tank.
  • Ambush System- protects the full surface of an external floating roof tank.

While it is the accepted strategy that Type III[1] extinguishing assets be maintained on hand for response contingencies, testing has shown that the Tank Battalion systems are more effective, result in reduced risk to response and plant personnel, and provide rapid extinguishing capabilities with manageable logistics and budgetary considerations.

Point and Shoot

      Williams Fire and Hazard Control’s Foam Wand and Daspit Tool technologies and tactics have been used to extinguish flammable liquid fires throughout the world and have proven 100% successful. Evolving from these portable technologies and tactics, the Point and Shoot system increases application rates and reduces extinguishment times while offering a fixed system application for seal fire protection.  These foam wands are permanently mounted to the side of the storage tank.

      Traditional Type II[2] fixed systems application for storage tank protection is typically foam chambers or foam makers. These are generally minimum compliance devises and generally do not result in the quickest extinguishment of the seal fire. As a foam chamber pours expanded foam into the tank’s seal area directly below the foam chamber it relies on gravity and the head pressure created by the discharged foam to push the finished foam to the left and right of the area directly below the foam chamber thus limiting the foam run.    This requires that for larger tanks, a large number of foam chambers will be required to be evenly spaced around the tank’s circumference. As storage tanks get larger, an increased investment of capital and maintenance is required. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that “…tests have shown that foam can travel effectively across at least 30m (100 ft) of burning liquid surface[3]  but in the case of foam chambers the recognized maximum distance for the foam to travel from a foam chamber is 80 feet, 40 feet to the left and to the right of the discharge chamber.[4]

The Point and Shoot system provides a more aggressive and more efficient foam application. In actual tests, the Point and Shoot system provides 240 feet of coverage from one wand, a 200% increase in performance over a foam chamber and with a much higher application rate. The time required for foam coverage is also decreased with the Point and Shoot system as well. The 240 ft coverage is achieved in 1:14 minutes as compared with 1:40 minutes for 80 ft coverage using a foam chamber. The foam wand distributes foam from three orifices, two lateral and one discharging foam down the wall of the tank immediately below the wand. The lateral discharges are 112.5 gpm each while the tank wall discharge is 50 gpm. The  result is faster extinguishment times (30% reduction with increased application rates of 0.3 gpm per sq ft) and fewer units necessary, thus reducing capital expenditures by reducing system costs.  Dwight Williams, of Williams Fire and Hazard Control states that “in the many seal fires seen by our company, it is more common that less than 20% of the seal was involved in fire.” This system allows the option of charging only the areas effected therefore saving time and resources.

      An optional feature of the Point and Shoot system is the addition of a separate riser to allow a Daspit Tool monitor to be quickly mounted for rapid deployment.  During previous operations, deploying a Daspit Tool meant hand stretching large diameter, or multiple smaller diameter hose-lines up the tank ladder (Photo).  This creates an unsafe condition for firefighters operating on the wind girder and tank ladder caused by hose clutter, bursting hose or couplings leaking slippery foam solution.  The Point and Shoot system avoids this clutter and unsafe conditions by providing a fixed riser and quick connection of the Daspit Tool to this riser. Once the rim seal fire under the landing is controlled by the Point and Shoot foam wand, a small team can easily attach the Daspit Tool monitor to the riser to assist in complete extinguishment or provide additional foam resources if necessary. An example where the Daspit Tool would be effective would be a sunken roof application to provide vapor suppression and control.

Hollow Point

            The Hollow Point system was developed to overcome issues faced by foam chambers when they are installed on a fixed or cone roof tank for the purpose of full surface protection. When installed on closed roof tanks, once again the foam chambers rely on gravitational forces and the static head pressure of the foam to provide propulsion for the foam to cover the surface area of the product. The Hollow Point system projects the foam toward the center of the tank as well as to the left and right along the tank wall. Normally, the area against the tank shell is the last area to be fully extinguished. With the Hollow Point system, it is the first area to be protected and extinguished. Simultaneously, foam is directed towards the center of the tank. As foam builds up in both areas, the foam concurrently flows from the tank walls to the center and from the center towards the tank walls. Any gaps between these two areas are closed by this application technique.

            The Hollow Point’s discharge head is designed to flow 1,000 gpm; 600 gpm through the center stream and 200 gpm through each of the lateral tank wall orifices. Aeration holes aerate the foam before it leaves the head allowing aspirated foam to land on the liquid surface. This aspirated foam has a relatively low expansion ratio compared with other devices to allow the “small bubble” foam to quickly and effectively run across the surface of the liquid resulting in a quicker extinguishment. Remember, the more air introduced into the foam results in a stiffer foam that does not flow easily. The less air introduced results in a thicker, more fluid foam.

            The main objective of the Hollow Point system is to improve upon the current method of closed roof storage tank protection by projecting foam rather than pouring it. The system uses carefully engineered discharge tip sizes with built-in FootPrint®  Enhancers and is coupled with an efficient air aspirator to provide  a favorable flow rate and range.


            Large diameter jumbo storage tanks have created a problem for firefighting forces. Type III applications on these large tanks require huge amounts of resources and firefighting equipment. In some locations, 400 ft diameter storage tanks are present. In some locations, 386 ft diameter storage tanks are the norm. Consider the resources of foam concentrate, personnel, water supplies and equipment necessary to extinguish a fire in one of these tanks. Not to mention that with the best nozzles on the market today, with the longest reach, you’d have to set up close to the tank to accomplish an effective foam run, therefore increasing risk to responders.

            The Ambush system is designed to provide an authoritative fixed system response for external floating roof storage tanks. It provides more efficient water/foam application densities over a type III application technique. Type III streams typically encounter fallout with the resulting reduction in foam density. The Ambush system attacks from a protected elevated position above the fire along the tank perimeter resulting in little to no fallout. Any fallout that does occur lands in the tank.  This application results in quicker response times, thus resulting in fewer personnel required, less exposure time for the personnel on-scene, minimal product loss and less damage to the tank shell, resulting in less business interruption. The Ambush system can be engaged by personnel that may lack the specialized training required to initiate and sustain a Type III application.

            The Ambush addresses four distinct areas. These are: the area to the left of the wand, the area to the right of the wand, the center of the tank, and the area directly below the wand. Each wand head provides balanced foam attacks left and right of the wand with foam running away from the wand and along the tank wall. The upper stream discharges foam at a slight upward angle toward the center of the tank. Another stream discharges foam from the wand head back against the tank’s shell, protecting the area below the unit. As Ambush units are combined around the perimeter, the collective center-aimed streams attack the central fire area of the tank. Simultaneously, the left and right streams propel foam along the perimeter of the tank, extinguishing fire in its path. As the wand applications meet adjoining wand applications, the foam blanket begins to converge toward the center of the tank where it meets the FootPrint® spreading from the center. The combined effect creates a full-surface foam blanket.

            The above systems which make up the Tank Battalion Series will revolutionize storage tank firefighting.  Remember that as with any foam systems, the systems should be maintained and the proper foam concentrate used. Results will differ with different types and manufacturers’ foam concentrate. Facilities should use the most effective and efficient foam concentrates for their systems.  It should be noted that the Tank Battalion System components have patent pending and have been submitted for Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listing. Discussions with major oil companies have received favorable results, with managers stating that they would use these systems in place of foam chambers because of the reduced maintenance costs, efficiency of the systems, and the increased safety to operating personnel.  For further information, please contact the authors or Williams Fire and Hazard Control direct at


Chief (ret) Craig H. Shelley

Chief Shelley is a 40-year veteran of the fire service.  He served with the FDNY for 26 years retiring as the Chief of Marine Operations. Craig was also the Chief of the City of Rutland (VT) Fire Department as well as serving as a Fire Protection Advisor for Saudi Aramco. Chief Shelley served for seven years on the NFPA’s Technical Committee on Training. Craig has performed petroleum industry and marine consulting throughout the world, most recently for a major oil company in Libya where a comprehensive analysis of process, storage and marine facilities was conducted. Currently, Craig is the CEO of World Safe International, LLC and a member of the Williams Fire and Hazard Control team. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Fire Service Administration and a Master of Science degree in Executive Fire Service Leadership.

Battalion Chief Sue Tarantino

Chief Tarantino is a 26-year veteran of the Charlotte (NC) Fire Department. Sue has served as a Battalion Commander for 11 years, during which time she supervised the operations of the hazardous materials company. In her current capacity she oversees the pre-incident response planning and response to numerous petroleum storage tank facilities within the battalion’s response district. She has also served as the Chairperson for the department’s Health and Wellness Committee and drafted the CFD’s respiratory protection program. Chief Tarantino is an instructor in Advanced Strategy and Tactics at Piedmont Community College as well as Command and Control with the Office of the State Fire Marshal.  She currently is a senior fire protection specialist with World Safe International, LLC. Sue holds an Associate degree in Fire Protection Technology, a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Psychology and a Master of Business Administration.

[1] Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition (1991).  New York: Simon and Schuster

[2] A Type III discharge outlet is a device that delivers foam so that it falls directly onto the surface of the burning liquid in a manner that causes general agitation; for example, lobbing with a foam nozzle. (American Petroleum Institute [API] 2021, Fighting Fires in and Around Flammable and Combustible Liquid Atmospheric Storage Tanks)

[3] A Type II discharge outlet is a device that delivers foam onto the burning liquid, partially submerges the foam, and produces restricted agitation of the surface; for example a foam chamber. (API 2021)

[4] NFPA 11, Standard for Low, Medium, and High-Expansion Foam 2010ed, A. Quincy, MA: NFPA

[5] NFPA 11, Standard for Low, Medium, and High-Expansion Foam 2010ed, Table Quincy, MA: NFPA 


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