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Firefighters Using Flame-Retardant Grenades to Battle Fires

September 09, 2008 08:55 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
A new firefighting tool minimizes some of the hazards firefighters face in their work.

Grenades for Firefighting

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Firefighters in the United States have added another weapon to their arsenal of firefighting resources. It’s a device that looks like a land mine, is deployed like a grenade and can extinguish—or at least partially contain—a fire.

The FIT-5 (‘FIT’ stands for “fire interruption technology”) is used by more than 37 fire departments along the East Coast. When deployed, it releases a cloud of potassium carbonate, which is a flame retardant and can stop a fire at a molecular level. The device can be particularly useful for extinguishing fires in rooms with computers because it leaves behind a potassium carbonate powder that can simply be vacuumed up. However, potassium carbonate can be harmful if inhaled by people, and irritate eyes or skin.

ARA Safety, the company that produces the FIT-5, says their device isn’t suited to extinguishing a wildfire; it works better in enclosed areas. However, firefighters have relied on even more sophisticated technology to help in that arena. In July, NASA aided California firefighters working on wildfires by sending out its Ikhana aircraft drone to collect data about fires and transmit that information to fire commanders. With that knowledge, fire commanders were able to position crews more effectively and issue evacuation orders when necessary. “This unmanned plane is a true lifesaver,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.

Background: History of firefighting

The world’s first firefighting station was founded by James Braidwood in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1824. Even though some of his firefighting techniques are still used today, Braidwood was only recently honored for his work when a statue of him was erected in Edinburgh. Former Edinburgh firemaster Dr. Frank Rushbrook told the BBC that Braidwood was the first person to apply scientific principles to firefighting, and that he is “one of the most respected and heroic people associated with the fire service anywhere in the world.”

Related Topic: Are firefighters doing too much?

Reference: Home protection

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