Fire fighting in and around crashed aircraft, unlike in other fires, is a highly specialized field of fire fighting (Crash Rescue, n.d.). Its worth noting that today’s aircraft present a dreadful hazard to both emergency responders and the passengers (Eversole, 2003). This is because air craft construction material and some of the cargo carried are highly flammable (Eversole, 2003). Eversole (2003) continues to state that accessing the interior of the aircraft is restricted by space and the evacuation procedure and priorities. This is an unlikely situation in the usual fire fighting cases. For that reason, air craft fire fighting provides a unique challenge and requires different strategies from the conventional fire fighting. This then calls for different fire suppression agents with exceptional working qualities. This term paper tries to explain why aircraft firefighting requires different fire suppression agents. It then goes on to explain how common aircraft fire suppression agents work.
Greater care must be taken when responding to an aircraft fire especially when the responders are not sure of what it is carrying. The key to this type of emergency is planning(Eversole, 2003). Therefore, the responders should take time to investigate the types of hazard present, where they are located and how to deal with them. Furthermore, one should also try to look for numerous emergency situations presented in an air craft accident. According to Eversole (2003), these situations can be “proximity fires, structural fire, mass casualties, hazardous materials and environmental contamination”. These situations complicates these emergency responses as some hazards such as oxygen vessels, combustible metals, batteries and composite materials can cause significant suffering to responders and passengers (Eversole, 2003). For example, composite fibers present in the aircraft part, when fragmented, can penetrate the skin causing harm to body organs (Eversole, 2003). The fire fighter is also challenged by the limited capacity to access the interior parts of the aircraft to attack a fire or save a passenger. Forced entry in to an air craft is also difficult because the construction materials are heat treated metals. Forced entering is further frustrated by the fact that crew- initiated passenger evacuation is given priority in the initial response to an aircraft fire (Eversole, 2003).
Although, the mechanical properties of an aircraft determine the success of an emergency response to a fire, considering a good fire suppression agent is equally important. The most common fire fighting agents in an air craft are water, dry chemicals agents, foams and dual agents. Water works by lowering the surface temperature of a fire to below the ignition temperature of a fuel (crash rescue, n.d.). Dry chemical agents, on the other hand, work by presenting a knockdown effect to the fire (Eversole, 2003). Foams have strong cohesive properties and are able to cover and cling to vertical and horizontal surfaces of the fuel (Us Department of Transportation, 2004). Lastly, dual agents are used to extend the range of the dry chemical and at the same time take advantage of both foam and dry chemical agent extinguishing properties (Eversole, 2003).
It can, hence, be concluded that aircraft fire fighting is a highly technical profession. This emergence response presents many challenges that are not present in other normal fire fighting situation. Consequently, individuals undertaking these challenges should be specially trained on the tactics to employ. Therefore, ways to curb common air craft hazards such as wheel fires should be pre-planned to standardize the response (Eversole, 2003). However, complicated hazard should be handled by experts and experienced air craft fire fighters to minimize casualties and any other types of damages.
Crash Rescue and Fire Fighting. Retrieved 10th May 2012 from
Eversole, J. (2003). The Fire Chief's Handbook. (6th ED).Penn Well Books
Us Department of Transportation. (2004). Advisory Circulars: Air Craft Fire Extinguishing AgentsAC No: 150/5210-6D. Retrieved 10th May 2012 from