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National Foam

Pictures accompanying this article can be found right here, and always check out the "Pictures from the Field" link up top when a new article is posted, there will usually be a corresponding picture set.

     One of the most under used and under appreciated tools for hazardous materials mitigation work is FOAM. One of the best products I have used is from the company called National Foam. I had the distinct pleasure of attending their class and becoming a National Foam Industrial Instructor many years ago. These people specialize in FOAM and all things connected to firefighting foam. They are staffed by area firefighters which makes them the horses’ mouth as far as interfacing with all fire departments. With this type of liaison, whenever you have a question regarding the implications of their product, you never have to deal with a salesman. You are dealing with a fireman. This prevents miscommunication and gets you the customer the correct answer the first time. National Foam has received awards from the federal government regarding all the saved lives it was responsible for aboard Navy ships during WWII. In addition, all appliances for National Foam are fabricated on site by many of these same firefighters. National Foam also builds Foam Firefighting apparatus for Oil field firefighters around the globe. This is definitely a top drawer organization. One particular product I am very fond of is “Universal Gold”.

     In the beginning days of hazardous materials vapor suppression, Foam for haz-mat use was a sloppy affair, had clogging issues in the field and generally was so difficult to use that it was placed on the back shelf of most firefighting operations. With the domestic increase in terrorist activities in our country vapor suppression has risen into high concern within our list of needs. Vapor suppression of any contaminant released by accident or on purpose accomplishes two goals for the firefighter:

  1. By stopping the evolution of vapors from a release, large scale evacuation procedures along with non-existent man-power to carry out those procedures is not needed. Think of your department and just imagine the amount of planning, man-power and equipment that you would need just to evacuate one senior citizen home in your town. “It isn’t going to happen” we do not like to hear this, but we all know this is the truth. In place sheltering is fine, as long as those senior citizen buildings can be self-sufficient and sealed from the outside for an extended time period. Most will never be, and are not now. Complete and rapid vapor suppression of an area spill or deliberate release completely eliminates exposure to nearby citizens.

  2. Confinement of these vapors along with product confinement gives the fire department command time to adapt. Very few of us have resources immediately at our disposal. By having the time to deploy these contractor resources we can save lives.

     National Foam replaced the difficult challenges of early “mixed foam” with Universal Gold. The stats on this particular product are stunning. As you will see in the following photographs, Environmental usage is as impressive as its vapor suppression capabilities. For any of your Foam needs, contact these people. There are many issues regarding Foam and its’ use, but in firefighting mode I have found the greatest challenge to be application. There are three main areas that are critical for a successful outcome:

  1. volume onsite
  2. air aspiration
  3. application rate

These three are the most important if you want to save lives and minimize destruction at your site.


     Due to the concept of “¼ drain time” you must be able to calculate the total gallons of Foam you will need, and have it onsite before Foam application operations begin. This is due to the “1/4 drain time” concept of the Foam bubble breaking down and returning to its liquid form. If you cannot replace and increase Finished Foam faster than it drains, you will not be able suppress the fire vapors. The result will be that the Foam “burns back” faster than you can apply it and cool or smother the surface, resulting in a continuation of the fire, or continuation of vaporization of hazardous air pollutants.

     To get the best performance out of your Foam, ALL nozzles must be air aspirating. The aspiration of air into the Foam solution directed from your hand-line is what produces finished Foam of the highest quality. If you view the Tanker Fire on I-75 in Hazel Park, Michigan on July 15th, {of which I will have pictures and video up soon} this is exactly why I remained on this scene from 2022 until 0330 the next morning. We had major problems delivering this volume of Foam.

     The application rate is another critical factor that must be taken into consideration. Unless you can deliver the volume of Foam required for the size area of the fire, at the proper speed, you will revert to the same end as the “1/4 drain time” scenario. The Foam applied will not be able to overtake the burning rate and extinguishment will be unsuccessful. In your operations, be sure you can implement these three concepts before attacking a flammable liquid fire. The accompanying photos from National Foams Training Program highlight these concepts and other interesting points.

Haz-Mat Mike

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