High-Expansion Foam Controls Abandoned Mine Fire
—L. A. County F. D. photo by J. Ohanesian
WHILE ON PATROL on March 28, Captain Burns of the Los Angeles County Fire Department spotted a fire at the abandoned Red Rover gold mine southwest of Palmdale. This started a chain of events which led to the department’s first use of high-expansion foam on a fire of this type.
Personnel from Station 80 in Vincent responded with Engines 80 and 406. Engine 406 is one of the department’s light, fast, brush rigs stored for immediate service at the station and was suitable for use on the steep hill and curves on the winding road near the mine. Chief Pederson of Battalion 11 also responded.
Fire fighters using 1-inch lines quickly extinguished the burning wooden derrick over the shaft. Then they attempted to put out burning timbers in the shaft by lowering 1-inch lines using fog. One thousand gallons of water—the amount carried in the tanks of the two pieces of apparatus— were applied. Results were ineffective.
The hole was then covered with scrap tin, timbers, a salvage cover and dirt in an attempt to cut off the oxygen. This resulted in several back drafts which blew off the cover.
The following day it was suggested that high-expansion foam be used. From East Los Angeles Station 3, 65 miles distant, Foam 3 was dispatched. On hand when the rig arrived at 10:30 a.m. were Division Assistant Chief Harvey Anderson and Battalion Chiefs Hamp, Seymour and Schull. Backing up Engines 80 and 406 and Patrol 80 was Engine 217.
Fifty gallons of high-expansion foam concentrate was used making approximately 1,000,000 gallons of foam.
The shaft was filled at times and foam flowed out another shaft located 100 feet away and 50 feet lower in elevation. This indicated the foam was extending from the shaft where it was being applied to other tunnels and shafts in the complex.
Upon concluding the application, the foam held in the shaft for about 20 minutes and then a small amount of smoke and steam could be seen filtering through. Two hours after operations had stopped, the foam had dissipated and a small amount of smoke was coming from the hole. By 9 a.m. on March 30, inspection revealed the fire was completely out. The conclusions as reported to FIRE ENGINEERING by the three Battalion 11 commanders, Pederson, Morton and Schull are:
“It was apparent to those present that this type of unit has a definite place in fighting fires in shafts and tunnels. The value of high-expansion foam was very apparent. Within 10 minutes after starting application large volumes of steam emitted from the hole. This continued about 30 minutes before concluding the operation and only a small amount of smoldering material was not reached by the foam.”
The fire was determined to have been started by three teen-age boys who were attempting to find the depth of the mine by lighting tumbleweeds and dropping them into the shaft.