I have been a proponent of CAFS since first becoming aware of its capabilities when managing public-safety agencies in the 1980s. I have purchased CAFS equipment for departments that I have managed. I have watched the equipment evolve over the years with enthusiasm. But I also have been disheartened by the failure of the fire service to readily adopt this important tool. Last year I had a chance to see, first hand, the impact that CAFS can have on real-life outcomes.
Last July, a fire broke out in the roof eaves of my 3-story, 100-year-old, wood-frame home. The fire department was called, quickly responded and extinguished what was a relatively small fire confined to charring of about 100 square feet of roof beams and damage to the kitchen below the fire area. Though the damage was minor, it ultimately became necessary to almost completely rebuild the interior of the residence due to the water damage, which seeped throughout the entire house, destroying almost all of the century-old lath and plaster walls. The initial fire damage and confined-area water damage was about $50,000, but the total damage to the property exceeded $225,000 and required my family to vacate the property for more than seven months.
After numerous conversations with the fire-insurance adjusters and restoration experts, I learned that this story is quite commonplace. Relatively small fire damage — due largely to the quick and expert response of firefighters — translates into significant property damage because of the amount of water needed to extinguish the fire. Recently, in a nearby neighborhood, a century-old mansion suffered a fire. Firefighters contained the fire to the room of ignition — on the third floor. In short, they did a great job. But the water damage to the property was reported to exceed $350,000 — a figure that I predict ultimately will be greater.
- Read the main story, "Making the Case," to learn what city managers and mayors need to know about compressed-air foam systems.