Waterous CAFS Retrofit Leads to New CAFS Purchase.



A Waterous compressed air foam system (CAFS) retrofit of a 1998 MR Mack pumper two years ago convinced members of the Budd Lake (N.J.) Fire Department that compressed air foam should become an essential part of its fire suppression operations.

This spring the department took delivery of a 2008 Seagrave pumper equipped with another Waterous CAFS unit.

“When we decided to get on-board with CAFS two and a half years ago, we weren’t in an economic position to purchase a new engine like we were able to do this year,” said Robert Sheard, a past chief and active member of the department.

Budd Lake members decided to take the plunge with the retrofit in 2007 because they had heard about the knockdown and suppression capabilities of CAFS. They selected a unit powered by a pto-driven air compressor, the Waterous 200-P model CAFSystem, and worked with the factory to ensure the retrofit would work well.

Minor Modifications

“Before we purchased our CAFS, we had a 1,250-gpm water pump on the truck,” said Sheard. “We implemented minor pump body and piping modifications to the new CAFS system so it could be installed on the older truck and used with the existing pump.”

Budd Lake’s service area covers 23 square miles about an hour west of Newark, and members respond to everything from woodland wildfires to residential structure fires to light industry blazes.

Factory-Trained Instructors

With the retrofit CAFS unit in place on the 1998 Mack, Budd Lake officials arranged for product orientation and education courses through Waterous to learn the ins and outs of operating and servicing the system. “Obviously things were a little different on the truck after the retrofitting, so we had to get to know our vehicle again,” said Sheard. “Our department was also unfamiliar with CAFS.”

Facilitated by factory-trained instructors, the education courses took place at the department over two days. The material covered a range of topics, including the properties of compressed air foam, CAFS applications, Class A versus Class B foam, absorption rates, pump operations and theory, routine maintenance, preventative maintenance, nozzle applications and water supply.

“We spent about three hours in the classroom on the first day to get a feel for the operational theory behind CAFS and how compressed-air foam enhances your water supply,” Sheard said. “Then we went out on the training grounds and learned how the system worked on the retrofitted truck. We flowed some foam, practiced different application and nozzle techniques and worked with different types of foam consistencies.”

Creating wetter foam particularly impressed department members when they learned how well it adhered to the exterior of a training structure for exposure protection. And they were surprised by the quick cool-down period after interior operations.

“When we applied CAFS to the interior of the training structure, we didn’t generate as much hot steam as we would with water,” Sheard said. “The foam didn’t evaporate as easily and it penetrated deep into the burning material so there was little chance of a rekindle.”

While the department has a new Seagrave with CAFS, there are no plans to retire the retrofit Mack any time soon.

“Our 1998 engine is still going strong,” said Sheard. “We use CAFS for everything we can, whether it’s wildland fires, vehicle fires or structure fires, and the new truck complements our retrofitted engine. We now have two trucks equipped with CAFS, which is a great thing for our community.”