There are many reasons why departments should use compressed air foam (CAF). All of them apply in some respect to all fire professionals; however, the significance of each will vary depending on how your department is organized, as well as its staffing levels, equipment, location and target hazards. Here are just a few of the main arguments for using foam: #1: Firefighter safety—Providing additional firefighter safety is the most important reason for a department to adopt the use of Class A foam. Because foam is a more efficient extinguishing agent than water, it allows firefighters to extinguish the fire quicker, which decreases their exposure time. Second, the high energy of a CAF stream provides a longer reach, allowing firefighters to operate farther away from the incident in a safer location. Example: vehicle fires. In these types of incidents, an extended stream reach can keep firefighters away from the danger of exploding air bags, bumper struts, etc. During structure fire incidents, the smooth-bore CAF stream allows effective knockdown of the fire from the exterior, providing a safer environment prior to crews entering the structure. #2: Limited staffing—Of course, CAF does not replace personnel; people are still needed to perform multiple fireground operations ranging from fire attack to search and rescue to ventilation and overhaul. It does, however, allow first-arriving firefighters to do more in the first few minutes of the incident, which in turn, positively affects the remainder of the incident. It can also reduce the total time on scene. This will allow engine companies to get back in service sooner. #3: Limited water supply—When water supply is an issue, the use of foam can actually extend the capability of the supply. This may be a critical factor when no water is available and/or firefighters must rely solely on the water that they’re carrying. Additionally, if using less water, there will be less water damage due to firefighting efforts. #4: Wildland/urban interface (WUI) situations—Many departments face a WUI problem at some level. It may be as complex as multi-million dollar homes in heavily forested areas or as simple as overgrown vacant lots where a brush fire can threaten adjacent structures. CAF is very effective when used to protect homes and other property, which are considered exposures in WUI situations. Structures can be protected with a layer of foam, and firefighters can move to a safe area before the fire arrives. Foam can also be used to create firelines to hold fire back or as an anchor from which firefighters can conduct burn operations. #5: Improved fire investigation—Because foam is capable of quickly extinguishing a fire, less evidence will be destroyed, which will make the investigator’s job much easier. The lower total volume of water applied also leaves more of the evidence in its original place or position. #6: Environmental impacts—Lower volumes of water used means that less fire debris will be washed out into the environment and down drainage systems. Class A foam’s attraction to carbon tends to remove carbon particulates from the smoke, thereby keeping them out of the atmosphere. The use of foam to create firelines in wildland scenarios is also more eco-friendly than creating the line with heavy equipment. #7: Fiscal responsibility—Although CAFS are expensive, the addition of the technology to an apparatus dramatically increases its effectiveness on the fireground. Adding CAFS will increase the cost of a pumper by about 10 to 15%, but it will increase its firefighting effectiveness by 200% to 300%. #8: Better customer service—Combined, all of the above reasons allow the fire department to provide better customer service to both its internal customers—firefighters—and its external customers—the community that it has sworn to protect.

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