Capabilities and Limitations of Compressed Air Foam Systems

Published on February 1, 2012

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Capabilities and Limitations of Compressed Air Foam Systems (CAFS) for Structural Firefighting - Workshop Summary (PDF, 3 MB)

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Fire Protection Research Foundation report: "Capabilities and Limitations of Compressed Air Foam Systems (CAFS) for Structural Firefighting - Workshop Summary"
Author: Casey C. Grant, P.E.
Date of issue: January 12, 2012

This report is a summary of a workshop held December 13-14, 2011, at the Montgomery County (MD) Public Service Training Academy.


Compressed air foam (CAF) used for firefighting involves applying a solution of water and a class-A foam concentrate in a mixture with compressed air to control or extinguish a fire. In the 1970’s this technique gained popularity for use in wildland fire fighting, and in the decades that followed it was further adapted for fighting structural fires. This included it being incorporated into apparatus used by urban/suburban fire departments.

Over the years the use of this technology for structural firefighting has not evolved as fully as had been anticipated. Despite generally favorable reviews on the overall extinguishing capabilities of CAFS, questions and concerns remain on certain performance characteristics such as operational tactics, maintenance, and reliability. This project seeks to provide a comprehensive scientific study on the use of CAFS for structural firefighting.

This two year project is led by California Polytechnic State University (CalPoly) and involves a collaborative effort with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) in coordination with fire service partners. One of the tasks of the project is to conduct a workshop with interested and experienced parties to discuss safety effectiveness implications associated with CAFS, and to review and discuss the proposed project research plan. This report documents all pertinent information relating to this workshop.

The Research Foundation expresses gratitude to the Project Technical Panelists, research team members (from CalPoly and NIST), workshop attendees, and all others who contributed to this effort.

Special thanks are expressed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (AFG Fire Prevention & Safety Grants) for providing the funding for this workshop and project. The content, opinions and conclusions contained in this report are solely those of the author.