A fire needs three things to burn – oxygen, heat and fuel. If one of these three is removed, the fire goes out. Most extinguishing foams attack fire by means of vapor suppression. Separate the fuel from the oxygen and combustion can not be sustained.
Novacool UEF, made by Baum’s Castorine of Rome, NY, takes a different approach. Rather than oxygen, Novacool attacks the heat side of the eternal triangle of fire, said Brian Ritter, technical officer for Novacool.
“Our whole mission is to remove the heat from the problem,” Ritter said. “Then we don’t have to worry about fuel vapors.”
Fire fighting foams such as AFFF use fluorosurfactants that are persistent and bio-accumulative in the environment. Novacool UEF (universal extinguishing foam) enhances the effectiveness of water by using rapidly biodegradable substances such as anionic, nonionic and amphoteric surfactants instead of fluorosurfactant.
The product reduces the surface tension of water to improve its penetrating ability, boosting the heat transfer from fuel into the water and reducing fuel vapor pressure by emulsifying class B materials at the fuel’s surface.
Novacool demonstrated the effectiveness of its product in live-fire demonstrations conducted at the Gulf Coast Emergency Response Academy in Axis, AL, during the Industrial Fire World Emergency Response Training and Expo in April.
“The product provides a rapid knockdown by cooling the fire,” Ritter said. “We put out a flammable liquid in a test pan in less than 15 seconds. We’re talking about putting out a 1,500-to-1,700 degrees Fahrenheit fire in 15 seconds and being able to touch the metal pan only 10-to-15 seconds later.”
Ritter, who also serves as a battalion chief with the Wiley (TX) Fire-Rescue, then used Novacool to tackle a three-dimensional fire involving a loading terminal training prop.
“We were showing how fast we could knock down a flammable liquid fire with one person and a single hand line,” Ritter said. “That fire was still being fed raw fuel. Going for vapor suppression on a 3D fire is hard to do because you have flammable liquids dropping on top of your foam blanket.”
Novacool proved effective in extinguishing the leaking overhead valve and eliminating the source of ignition for the escaping vapors, he said.
“I learned nearly 20 years ago that if you remove the fire you remove the problem,” Ritter said. “That’s what excites me about this product – it removes the heat.”
Although Novacool is in direct competition with fire fighting foams, it carries a UL listing under NFPA 18, 2006 edition, which governs wetting agents.
“We chose NFPA 18 because the big test under the AFFF standard involves producing a foam blanket that stays intact for a certain period of time,” Ritter said. “That’s not what this product does. So we tested to the NFPA standard that seemed most appropriate.”
Novacool does generate a foam blanket with a consistency equal to other fire fighting foams, he said. As with those products, the foam blanket must be constantly replenished to keep vapors suppressed.
“Reignition has not been an issue in our testing,” Ritter said. “We tried to reignite 700 gallons of ethanol two minutes after the fire was extinguished. It would not reignite. Even if you remove the heat, the vapors are still a problem. Our message is we have a foam blanket too.”
Novacool also provides an emulsifying agent. The resulting solution then mixes with the fuel, breaking it into very small droplets. These droplets of fuel are surrounded or encapsulated by the surfactant/water mixture to extinguish the fire and prevent reignition.
Novacool is classified as effective against Class A and B fires. It has also been demonstrated on Class D and Class K fires, Ritter said. The product can be used with any existing foam proportioning system or even batch mixed directly into a foam tank if necessary. If added directly, agitation is recommended.
The product can also be mixed with other fire fighting foams without problems with gelling and congealing, Ritter said.
“We get the best results using compressed air foam systems,” he said.
Because Novacool is basically an additive, no specialized training is needed to use it, Ritter said.
Against regular fires, Novacool is applied at .4 percent. Polar solvent fires require a .5 percent application. A 500-gallon tank of water only requires 2.5 gallons of Novacool. The product can be used at an application as low as .2 percent for certain Class A fires.
“It is mainly being used in the municipal fire market because municipal fire companies just don’t have a lot of room to carry a whole bunch of foam,” Ritter said. “By putting single source foam on their apparatus, they no longer have to specify fire engines with dual agent tanks.”
Most municipal departments that carry a second extinguishing agent such as AFFF foam typically do not carry more than a couple of gallons, he said. Even at the lowest application rates, that quantity is unlikely to last more than a few minutes.
One of the key departments to adopt Novacool has been in Seattle, WA, where the product was initially used by the department’s four fire boats that protect a 193 mile waterfront, Ritter said.
“Puget Sound is an environmentally sensitive body of water,” he said. “They needed an environmentally responsible pro-duct. Novacool is non-toxic, non-cor-rosive and comp-letely bio degrad-able.”
Once the depart-ment saw the suc-cess its fire boats were having, a few other select fire companies began using it, Ritter said. Now it is in use throughout the department.
Exhibiting at the Industrial Fire World training event was Novacool’s first attempt to make the industrial fire protection market aware of their product, Ritter said.
“People encouraged us to demonstrate it to educate industry about our universal fire fighting agent,” he said.