July 1, 2006

 What Is CAFS?

CAFS is a revolutionary system for fighting structure fires in areas where water is scarce.  In stead of water only being applied to a fire, CAFS adds foam to the water and compressed air in the line such that a mixture of water, foam, and air bubbles comes out of the nozzle of the firefighter's hose.  It knocks down fires much faster than water alone, and it uses far less water to do it.  Because of the compressed air, it also shoots farther than water only thereby adding a level of safety for the firefighter.

How Does CAFS Work?

Only 10% of the water applied to an item on fire, especially a vertical wall, sticks.  The rest flows to the floor.  Because of the foam, CAFS causes the water to reduce its surface tension enabling it to stick more to the item on fire, and to penetrate it such that the water lasts longer to remove more heat and cool down the fire.  It's equivalent to trying to wash grease off one's hands with water only - it doesn't work that well.  But add soap to the water, and it penetrates the skin and removes the grease.  Think of the foam in CAFS as the soap.  In addition, the air bubbles in the water stream help the mixture to cling to the item on fire which results in additional absorption of heat and insulation from nearby heat.  The water in the mixture is what actually extinguishes the fire.  All the foam does it make it work better.

How Does CAFS Use Less Water?

Because CAFS is much more efficient at putting out fires, it stretches the amount of water needed to put out a fire by a factor of 5.  A 1000 gallon tank of water in a CAFS scenario does the same job as 5000 gallons of water in a regular water-only scenario.  Moreover, the ability of the foam to cling to what it strikes virtually stops the fire from reigniting.  In a town such as Little Compton where there are no hydrants and only a few places to draw water to put out fires, CAFS is the ideal choice.  Damage to homes, especially water damage, will be significantly reduced when CAFS is used.

Benefits Of CAFS For Little Compton


         Because of itís unique ability to rapidly knock out even very large structure fires, our Fire Department will have the potential for limiting heavy fire and water damage to homes and other structures in town. This could save our homes and their irreplaceable contents.

         Rapid control of home fires will enhance to possibility of rescuing people trapped within their burning homes.

         Implementing CAFS offers the potential of lower fire insurance rates for the homeowners of Little Compton.

         Quick knockdown of fires using CAFS will minimize the possibility of serious injuries to firefighters. CAFS fire streams can reach 50% further than water streams, enabling first responders to attack the fire at a greater distance, substantially cutting down exposure to the very high temperatures of a burning structure.

         CAFS uses smaller and lighter 1-1/2  to 1-3/4 inch fire hose. This ability reduces the stress of handling larger and heavier fire hose. 50% or more of firefighter deaths are caused by heart attack and strokes due to exhaustion. Firefighters who survive heart attacks are permanently disabled.

         CAF is biodegradable and non toxic. CAF presents an easy clean-up.

         CAF is a minimum of five times more effective in controlling fire than plain water. This capability goes a long way towards solving the serious shortage of water for firefighting in Little Compton.

         The Exeter Volunteer Fire Department has been highly successful in combating structure fires with their two CAFS units. Since deploying CAFS they have not even needed to use their Tanker truck for resupply.

         Cumberland now has three CAFS pumpers, and the Fire Chief has stated that they will never again purchase a fire truck that does not include CAFS as a standard capability.

         The return on investment to retrofit our American LaFrance pumper will be substantial. If we save one home, one life of either a fire victim or a firefighter, the small cost will be returned a thousand times over.


How Could CAFS Be Added To Our Fire Department?

In order to add CAFS to a fire truck, the truck must be retrofitted with a foam reservoir tank, an engine-driven air compressor, and some changes to the plumbing.  In Little Compton, the best choice would be to add CAFS to the new pumper truck.  Only the air compressor and plumbing changes would be required.  The estimated cost is between $40,000 and $50,000 which is roughly one-sixth the cost of a new vehicle.  The funds from the ambulance collections could easily be used at no cost to the taxpayers.  What a great investment for what you get in return.