The Frisco (TX) Fire Department became the first fire department in Texas to use a Firefighter Air Replenishment System (FARS) in a working fire.
FARS are a standpipe for air, the latest technology in building-installed firefighter life safety systems. FARS deliver a safe, instant supply of air replenishment to firefighters so they can survive in the toxic, smoky environment of a structure fire. Just as standpipes replaced buckets as a delivery system for water, FARS replaces the “bottle brigade” of firefighters who must hand-carry replacement air bottles up dozens of flights of stairs, or deep into large horizontal structures, to provide air replenishment to fire crews. With FARS, firefighters can refill their air bottles in 2 minutes or less under full respiration at fill stations located throughout a building — a much faster, safer, more reliable way to resupply air and avoid the poisonous effects of smoke.
The Frisco high-rise fire occurred on May 16, 2021 on the 12th floor of the Twelve Cowboys Way apartment building, a luxury residential high-rise built in 2019.
According to Keith Gall, battalion chief of administrative services for the Frisco Fire Department, Units E3 and T3 were the first to arrive on the scene. Initially, the call was a water flow alarm. That escalated to a high-rise fire response once T3 made the 12th floor and discovered smoke in the hallway. T3 crew donned their SCBA masks and protective hoods and entered the fire apartment. The sprinkler system in the apartment contained the fire to a couch.
One of the building’s many FARS fill stations was on the 11th floor. According to T3 Captain Raul Esquibel, attack crews quickly refilled their second bottles at that fill station. “The system was easy to work with,” said Esquibel. “You connect the hose and turn the valve to operate. The bottles filled quickly with minimal heat transferred. It was very simple and straightforward to use, no issues. The system operated well.”
“I see the FARS system as a time and effort saver,” said Battalion Chief Will Tramel, who was the incident commander on scene. “For a typical high-rise response, firefighter crews bring multiple SCBA bottles to a collection point in staging. As bottles are expended, a new one is attached to the SCBA pack. With the FARS system, the same bottle can be filled multiple times.
This saves time between switching bottles. It also saves energy because firefighter crews can travel lighter as they climb stairs to reach the fire.”
Without FARS, fire departments deliver replacement air bottles manually, using an “air bottle brigade” that must carry replacement air bottles up numerous flights of stairs or deep into large structures. This is a labor-intensive, time consuming task, undertaken when seconds matter. There have been numerous incidents where firefighters have run out of air and suffered serious injury or loss of life.
For the past 20 years, cities across the country have required FARS in new construction of large structures. They are now required in 20 states across the U.S.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), which includes Frisco as well as Dallas and Ft. Worth, recently recommended that all of its 230 member governments adopt codes requiring FARS in their current code cycles.
“FARS are a game changer for firefighter life safety,” said fire service air management expert Mike Gagliano (Seattle FD, ret.), who co-wrote the definitive textbook on the subject, Air Management for the Fire Service, and serves on the board of the Firefighter Air Coalition, a firefighter safety advocacy group. “Firefighters need two things to fight fires — water to extinguish the blaze, and air to allow responders to survive in the toxic smoky environment. We have lost too many firefighters to the devastating effects of fire smoke. Thanks to the visionary fire chiefs across the country who have brought FARS to their cities, a dangerous job is being made safer with FARS.”
About the Firefighter Air Coalition
The Firefighter Air Coalition (FAC) is an advocacy group dedicated to promoting firefighter safety through the use of air management best practices, advanced fireground research, and the adoption of codes requiring firefighter air replenishment systems (FARS). Comprised by leaders from the fire service, industry, and government, the FAC is the nation’s leading advocate for the full implementation of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1404, “The Rule of Air Management,” and the adoption and implementation of International Fire Code Appendix L, which outlines the requirements for FARS.