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Fire Suppression in the ARFF World: What Can We Learn?

Grady North


The Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) may be associated by many with municipal or wildland firefighting, but many of our member companies also produce airport rescue fire fighting (ARFF) apparatus, both for domestic and international markets.


Although there are several firefighting methods unique to ARFF situations, there are also many similarities. Here is an overview of ARFF fire suppression techniques, many of which apply equally well to municipal or wildland tactics.


In 1962, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), then known as the National Aviation Facility and Experimental Center, and the Naval Research Lab at China Lake conducted extensive research. The tests established the turret performance standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the FAA, and the International Civil Aviation Organization that are still in use today. At the time of the tests, protein foam and manually operated air-aspirated turrets were the technology of the day.

Even though turret technology and foam agents have changed, techniques developed in the 1960s’ testing are often used today. Rain drop is a term used to describe raining foam down on the fire from a distance. The protein foams of the time dictated this technique. Protein foam has very little burn-back resistance. If the foam cover breaks, the exposed fuel can quickly reignite. The rain drop technique allows firefighters to build up a thick foam blanket on the fuel without disturbing the surface.

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