Opinions and Experiences of a Number of Fire Chiefs Regarding the Use of Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers

CARBON DIOXIDE GAS, or “carbon snow,” or CO2 all accepted names for the same article, is available for fire department use to extinguish fires. The gas is stored under high pressure in cylinders and these cylinders may be carried on fire apparatus as portable units, or the larger size tanks may be mounted as a permanent fixture.

To obtain authoritative information on the use of carbon dioxide gas for extinguishing fires, a representative number of Chiefs were asked their opinion and experiences regarding the use of this gas in extinguishing fires in electrical equipment, lacquer and finishing plants, inflammable liquids, dry cleaning liquids, printing establishments, running gasoline fires, garages, boats, airplanes, and manhole fires.

The following information was received:

James E. Granger, Chief, Cleveland, Ohio: We have been successful in using carbon dioxide for extinguishing incipient fires of the types outlined.

I witnessed a demonstration of the efficiency of carbon dioxide in manholes, conducted by the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company. This corporation has a trailer containing sixteen 50-pound cylinders of carbon dioxide, operated in series. The trailer is hooked to a powered vehicle so that it could be moved to the scene of operation.

The demonstration took place in two manholes simultaneously. The manholes were five hundred feet apart but connected by the usual conduits. The conduits were not in use, but for the test were stuffed with rags, ropes and other combustible material. The manholes selected were on a street of ten per cent grade. The material was saturated with kerosene and ignited.

After burning and smoldering for some time a cover was placed over the manhole at the highest elevation with the nozzle of the carbon dioxide extinguisher suspended through an opening in the cover.

The contents of three 50-pound cylinders were discharged into the manhole. The fire in the manhole was extinguished and the gas traveled down through the conduits to the lower manhole and extinguished the fire at that point.

I believe that this demonstrated the efficiency of carbon dioxide as an extinguishing agent for the tvpe fires met with in telephone, telegraph, or illuminating and power line installations. Should we desire, this equipment is available for use by the Fire Department.

Arthur E. Chambers, Chief, Yonkers, N. Y.: A large metal cylinder, with metal cover, containing tar in the process of heat treatment for roof application, was placed in a narrow alley between two large frame apartments. It ignited. The metal cover held the flames from spreading and permitted the cylinder to become white hot. Because of the proximity of the buildings to the cylinder, great care was required in removing the cover so that the fire could he fought.

With a carbon dioxide extinguisher, the fire was extinguished a few seconds after pulling off the metal cover with a pike pole, and no damage was done to either apartment.

A large ground connection in a power plant became red hot and ignited the rear of a panel board, and the wiring in the vicinity. The fire was held in check by the use of a carbon dioxide extinguisher until the power could be shut off.

Intense fires resulting from inflammable liquids, dry cleaning liquids, running gasoline fires, and garage and boat fires of serious conditions have been quickly extinguished through the use of carbon dioxide on many occasions.

Charles A. McGinley, Chief, East Orange. N. J.: Several years ago 1 had an unusual experience with a running gasoline fire. An automobile tank was punctured in an accident and ignited. Burning gasoline flowed along the gutter of the public highway.

An Unexpected Burning of New York's Garbage A garbage scow caught fire when a match or other ignited substance was dropped in one of them as it was tied up along with 23 others at Riker’s Island, New York City, awaiting a tow to sea for dumping. It could not be cut loose for fear of endangering other craft in the harbor and hence spread fire to others adjacent. Fire boats finally extinguished the flames, and little real damage is reported.

The first company to respond to the alarm was not equipped with carbon dioxide extinguishers. In fact only one company, a Squad Company, was using this type of equipment.

The first company to arrive stretched a large 2 1/2-inch line and had accomplished nothing when 1 arrived. The Squad Company arrived shortly after I did. We used the carbon dioxide extinguisher. trained the nozzle on the fire close to the tank towards the ground with a stream of water to wash the gasoline fire far enough away from the tank to prevent reignition of the gasoline.

The results were very satisfactory and were achieved in a short time. They convinced me that all fire companies should carry a carbon dioxide extinguisher. All companies in this department now carry them, and they are used on many types of fires with excellent results—fires such as grease, gasoline, oil, etc.

I am sure that if we had not had this carbon dioxide extinguisher to use on this particular fire, the department would have appeared ridiculous before the large crowd that had assembled.

In my opinion, it is the best extinguisher for running gasoline fires in use today.

Stephen L. Marley, Chief, East Hampton, N. Y.: We have three carbon dioxide extinguishers in our department, and I carry one of the units on my own car.

On July 6, 1935, I received word of a fire. Arriving on the scene I found the transformer vault on fire. Oil had run on the cellar floor and was on fire. It was quickly extinguished by the carbon dioxide. Fire in the vault with a line load of 2,200 volts, was also easily extinguished.

In another case, a road tar machine caught on fire. The coal tar was at a boiling point. This blaze, too, was extinguished with little effort.

I have had occasion to use these extinguisrers on automobile and gasoline fires and find that they extinguish this type of fires quickly and satisfactorily. I would not be without them and I would recommend that they be placed in every garage and dry cleaning establishment.

William H. Kenah, Chief, Elizabeth, N. J.: We have been using carbon dioxide gas in our department for the past three years, and we find it very effective in extinguishing small fires in electrical equipment, automobiles, oil burning stoves and ranges, gasoline pumps, and quantities of gasoline and other flammable materials.

We have equipped all of our combination wagons with carbon dioxide extinguishers and are using these extinguishers in place of soda and acid. We avoid the damage to hose caused by leaking connections and we reduce the damage to materials that follows when spattered by soda and acid.

Ralph J. Scott, Chief, Los Angeles, Cal.: An accurate check has been made regarding the use of carbon dioxide extinguishers and we find that they were used from the period of May 1 to December 13. 1935. in the following manner: All of these uses have proven that this medium is particularly successful on such fires.

Running gasoline includes back fires in automobiles where carburetors were ignited, leaking gasoline tanks, and broken feed lines. The 24 fires of this type were all handled successfully.

Electrical equipment, including short circuits in automobiles, overheated motors and generators, and burning transformers, 31. All were handled without any trouble. Other instances are:

Grease on stoves, 7: automobile interiors fired by careless smokers, 4; pans of gasoline and sumps, 4: illuminating gas leaking and ignited, 3; tar kettles, 2; boat fire, where oil was flowing, 1.

There is no doubt that should the occasion arise, the other types of fires mentioned can be successfully extinguished, providing that the fires in printing establishments, garages, airplanes, lacquer finishing and boats have not gained too much headway.

It is the ideal method of handling fires in manholes and holds of boats where cargo and equipment damage would result front the use of water or other liquid extinguishers. We regard carbon dioxide with favor and resort to it on many occasions where we feel that its use will save property damage.

John H. Graham, Chief, Montclair, N. J.: The Fire Department has used carbon dioxide gas in extinguishing gasoline fires in automobiles, and on oil fires starting from oil burners, but we have not used these extinguishers to any great extent.

They have been used satisfactorily. They avoided damage by chemicals or water.

Lloyd Gramley, Chief, Aurora, Ill.: We have had carbon dioxide extinguishers in the department for some time and we have used them for fires in electrical equipment, automobiles and inflammable liquids. But the best demonstration was one where there was a running gasoline fire from an automobile. It put out this fire in a few seconds, where the other types of extinguishers would have required minutes.

Isaac M. Hubbard, Chief, Greenwich, Conn.: The carbon dioxide extinguishers are among the best department equipment. I have used them on electrical equipment, gasoline and oil fires, and in every way, they have proved satisfactory.

I recommend the carbon dioxide extinguishers as part of standard equipment on all fire apparatus units.

George Brencher, Chief, Darien, Conn.: I can truthfully say that the carbon dioxide extinguishers used in my department are the best all around extinguishers that we have.

On January 29, 1934, we received a call to a house fire at 2 a.m., when the thermometer was 17°. We made the two-mile run and found a fireplace partition was on fire. The 2 1/2-gallon soda and acid extinguishers were frozen as was the 40-gallon acid tank. The hydrants were out of order. Nothing was left but two fifteen-pound carbon dioxide extinguishers. The fire was put out with these two extinguishers.

We have had good results with this type extinguisher on automobile fires. We obtained much better results with these than with others. They leave no dirt nor do they cause any damage.

We also had a fire in a tailor shop. A 10-gallon gasoline tank under pressure which operated a pants dresser, let go and sprayed gasoline over all the walls and floor. The carbon dioxide extinguisher put out the fire in thirty seconds.

Soda and acid are not used in the large tanks any more. If a chemical line is needed we carry a flexible gas hose hooked to the chemical tanks. We have a coupling that fits the carbon dioxide extinguishers. The men are trained to remove the hose and horn, attach the flexible hose, apply the required pressure, and do this before the men wth the line reach the fire. No time is lost.

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