SELF-SUFFICIENT FOAM UNIT
A December 1991 incident involving a spill of approximately 1,000 gallons of toluene at the BASF Chemical Plant, located adjacent to state and interstate highways and in a densely populated suburban community, made it painfully clear to the Lodi (NJ) Fire Department that it had to devise a way to ensure a ready supply of firefighting foam in its area.
Immediately on arrival at the scene, the officers of the department initiated the appropriate hazardous-materials response standard operating procedures (SOPs) and issued mutual-aid calls across the area for the large quantity of foam needed to mitigate this incident.
Unfortunately, the chemical plant’s on-site stock of foam was located in the “hot zone,” in an area immediately adjacent to the spill. It took more than two hours to stockpile a sufficient quantity of foam to begin the necessary operations. The cold weather that day played a great part in buying the fire department time to prepare an attack.
Shortly after this incident, the Lodi fire chiefs developed the concept of a foam trailer. Realizing that the project could be accomplished only if it were regional, they brought the idea before the South Bergen Mutual Aid Group. After input from various fire departments, what started out to be a trailer evolved into a foam tanker and then into a unit with carrying and delivery capabilities.
Funding for the project was the first major obstacle encountered. Lodi’s borough manager suggested applying for funds from the Community Regional Development Committee. A plan presented to the committee was approved, and the regional foam unit project was awarded a grant for $50,(XX).
The mutual-aid group then developed specifications and initiated the public bidding process. The ultimate result was Unit 616, delivered in September 1993.
UNIT 616: DESCRIPTION
The unit, 27 feet long and 91 inches wide, is mounted on a GMC Topkick chassis. Among its features are a 1,000-gallon UPF storage tank and a 656-gpm positive displacement pump that can be used to fill the 1,000-gal Ion storage tank from 300-gallon foam totes or 55-gallon drums and transfer foam concentrate to a foam operation already underway. The tank also can be filled by pouring the contents of five-gallon cans down the fill tower.
The hose bed is divided into three areas, each capable of carrying 200 feet of I ¾-inch hose. Two of the areas are used for attack
Photos by Chuck Cuccia. lines, the other for transferring foam concentrate.
The unit’s on-board attack package consists of a prepiped foam monitor with a 500gpm self-educting nozzle and two attack lines prepiped for 100-gpm 1-3-6 percent balanced-pressure, in-line eduction. Each side of the unit has a water supply inlet that carries a 2-inch Siamese appliance for multiple supply line feeds.
The unit now was ready, but the mutualaid committee had not resolved the issue of how to pay for the foam. An appeal for donations from the fire departments in the region that would be served by the mutualaid group covered the cost of only 500 gallons of foam concentrate. The Lodi chiefs approached the 3M Company with its problem. The foam manufacturer proposed that it would provide the remaining 500 gallons on consignment, provided that Lodi would agree to respond with the unit, at the manufacturer’s request, to incidents occurring within a 50-mi!e radius. This arrangement was approved.
UNIT 616: TRAINING PROGRAMS
The next step was to form a committee to develop minimum operational guidelines and procedures, listed below, that would ensure efficient use of Unit 616 on a continuing basis:
- an operator’s course to acquaint mem-
- bers with procedures for operating the foam pumper.
- guidelines for mutual-aid companies and fire departments spelling out how Lodi would respond and what it would provide.
- procedural guidelines for the police to use in dispatching Unit 616 on requested responses,
- operational guidelines for performing the hydraulic calculations needed to achieve correct fireground flow, and
- a roster of crews for the unit so that personnel would always be available to respond and correctly use this special piece of firefighting equipment.
Unit 616 is fully operational at this time and is traveling to various sections of Bergen County so that departments and mutual-aid companies can learn how to operate it. While there have not been a great many actual calls for its vital cargo, its existence is becoming more widely known. Lodi now stands ready to respond to foam-firefighting incidents in one of the most heavily industrialized areas of the United States— and all because a few firefighters asked the question, “What if?”
Additional information is available from Lt. Chuck Cuccia, Lodi Fire Department. Fire Company #1, at (201) 340-2799.
I. Other factors adding to the urgency of developing a plan that would make firefighting foam available when needed are that Lodi, a 2.2-square-milc suburban community located about 10 miles west of New York City and with a population of 25,000, has more than 30 chemical companies and intersects several of the nation’s busiest highways.