Proper Handling of Combustible Metal Fires

Issue 2 and Volume 161.

BY KEVIN L. KREITMAN A local fire department arrives on the scene of a working fire. The incident commander (IC) sizes up the situation and, intending to extinguish the fire, instructs fire crews to begin pumping on the fire 92 pounds of hydrogen and 742 pounds of oxygen per minute. Sound farfetched? Think again; it happens all too often in the United States. ICs and firefighters have been giving and receiving the erroneous information that a combustible metal fire can be extinguished if enough water is applied. This is an extremely dangerous idea and puts responders and communities at needless risk. Combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, zirconium, tantalum, lithium, and sodium are becoming more prevalent in use, shipment, and recycling. Significant quantities of these metals may exist in or travel through your jurisdiction, and you don’t even know it. Vehicle manufacturers are using increasing quantities of magnesium to reduce…

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