Last October, members of the Wildland Fire Policy councils attended two-days of testing at TEEX’s Brayton Fire Training Field. Day one consisted of aerial drops for the TetraKO water-enhancing technology, simulating aerial operations in a wildland utilizing a Fire Boss single engine tanker.’ Technology and
TetraKO is a patented powder-based technology designed to be batch mixed with water or injected through a proprietary eductor system with the pump in circulation. It does not require any specialized equipment or nozzles for use, and can be pumped through standard fire equipment. Using “sheer thinning technology,” the product is converted into a free-flowing liquid when pumped under pressure (as with firefighting operations), and reverts back into a gel once it leaves the nozzle and impacts a surface. As a gel, it has “stick and stay” characteristics that allow for excellent extended protection and suppression characteristics. It has proven to be effective in both wildland and structural applications, and via application from units ranging from small portable pumps all the way up to aerial tankers. Cleanup leaves no residue and is simple, requiring only rinsing and system flushing with water.
The benefits of TetraKO over water alone and other water-based suppressant and retardant additives currently available to the fire service, include:
- Increased fire protection and suppression qualities,
- Non-toxic and non-corrosive,
- Less product to water ratio resulting in greater cost efficiency,
- Lower potential for product and water damage during structure protection,
- Safer product for firefighter and public who may be exposed during operations, and
- Better performance under pressures associated with fire streams.
Case histories serve to substantiate these more formal tests. Following are some of those case histories:
- The Spring Lake Park–Blaine–Mounds View (Minn.) Fire Department use TetraKO to extinguish a fire that had vented through the roof at a local community church. The church building and much of its contents were saved, with minimal water damage, and the fire was controlled in 15 minutes.
- The Oakdale (Wis.) Area Fire Department used TetraKO to help contain a 10-plus acre wildfire. Approximately 175 gallons of solution was able to control one-third of the perimeter of the fire, accomplishing what typically would be required of a much larger vehicle and water load, all without any evidence of rekindle.
- The Wayzata (Minn.) Fire Department used TetraKO to suppress a residential fire with major involvement and extension throughout 50% of the structure. The initial crew was able to knock down and suppress the exterior flames, protect the garage exterior, and quickly extinguish the fire while a second crew extinguished the fire that had extended to the attic, all with very minimal collateral water damage. A total of approximately 40 gallons of solution was used for the initial knockdown and control.
- The Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View (Minn.) Fire Department also used TetraKO to extinguish a fully involved residential garage fire with exposures including a car and two snowmobiles. The initial crews used two, 1¾-inch pre-connected lines and approximately 500 gallons of solution to completely extinguish the fire and limit collateral damage to the home and exposures.
- The Santo (Texas) Fire Department and several other mutual-aid companies used TetraKO at the 2011 Possum Kingdom complex fires, which involved more than 148,000 acres and threatened more than 600 homes.
Consensus feedback indicated that firefighters found TetraKO substantially more effective than Class A foam for structural protection, mop-up and pretreatment. Though not measurable or statistically significant, collectively, these case histories provide a more qualitative view that, in total, show a consistent and comparable measure of effectiveness of TetraKO in supporting protection and suppression activities in both wildland and structural operations.
Firefighter Safety and Effectiveness
The proven effectiveness of TetraKO over water alone and other suppressant and retardant additives also positively impacts firefighter safety and effectiveness as:
- The direct exposure to fire and related phenomenon (e.g., flashover) is reduced as the time to suppression is significantly reduced,
- The “stick and stay” protective properties of the solution means fewer fire events, thus fewer responses and exposures to firefighters,
- TetraKO does not exhibit the “slick” nature of other gel-based systems, meaning a reduced risk of slips / falls,
- The incidence of rekindles are virtually eliminated, thus reducing or removing related follow-on exposures and risks,
- Fires – both wildland and structural – are more effectively contained with reduced quantity of applied product,
- Water damage to structures and exposures is minimized as less product, and thus less water, is needed to effectively extinguish fire, and
- TetraKO reduces the temperature of the upper thermal layer in a typical single room and content fire by 37% in 3 seconds after application of the fire stream, compared to a temperature reduction of only 21.6% with water alone, thereby more effectively reducing the potential for extreme fire behavior.
The only limitation to integrating TetraKO into protection and suppression operations is the direct cost of the product, when compared to using no additives in firefighting water supply. The direct costs of using TetraKO (as noted earlier), while comparable pound per pound to those of other water additives, however, are actually half to one-third that of foam when comparing amounts necessary for effective application (i.e., efficiency). When factoring in CAFS equipment and maintenance costs, comparison costs of TetraKO are substantially lower. Because TetraKO needs no specialized technology or equipment to be introduced and applied, and no specialized cleanup is required, it is the more cost-effective solution in the long run.
To become integrated operationally, minimal training is needed (primarily focused on that of mix rate) as applications are the same as that for other gels and foams used in protection and suppression operations.
Similarly, cleanup necessary to put equipment back into service is relatively simple and routine, involving only rinsing and flushing, so no additional specialized techniques, training, or equipment is needed.
Presently batch mixing is the only way to get the product into the system. Pre-mixtures in tanks need to be emptied after a certain time period. TetraKO technology complies with all requirements of NFPA 18A with the exception of mixability. Shelf life is at least two years as long as the container is sealed and dry.