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Sanibel Fire District adds foam system to its arsenal

By Staff | Oct 7, 2009

Last week, the Sanibel Fire Rescue District added another element to their arsenal of firefighting equipment that will assist their members in battling wildfires on the island.

The POK Foam System, purchased through an annual grant received from the U.S. Department of the Interior, is one of the latest weapons fire departments across the country are employing against wildfires. The state-of-the-art “Quick Stik” technology, which uses a solid, foot-long compound which – when mixed with water flowing through a special nozzle attached to a firehose – is far more effective and less cumbersome than traditional foam systems.

“It’s much easier than carrying a five-gallon bucket of foam, which weighs about 40 pounds,” said Danny Duncan, chief of the Sanibel Fire Rescue District. “This system’s been out for a couple of years, but we never bought it because we didn’t have the money.”

According to Duncan, the Sanibel Fire Rescue District receives grant funding each year from the U.S. Department of the Interior because they attend fires at the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which is federally funded. Since 2004, Sanibel has received $14,568 in grants, which they have used to purchase a variety of firefighting equipment used almost exclusively for wildfires. They have bought personal protective gear – including helmets, masks, gloves, pants and boots – as well as lightweight hoses.

“You can use structural firefighting equipment to fight brush fires, but that bunker gear is a lot heavier than the wildfire-type gear,” Duncan explained. “In the past two years, we’ve had two major brush fires, both off Island Inn Road. Having the right equipment to fight those types of fires makes our job a lot easier.”

With the POK Foam System, a solid, pink-colored cartridge is inserted into a chamber inside a specially-designed nozzle, which attaches to the end of any fire hose. When water flows through the hose and into the nozzle, it triggers a chemical reaction that breaks down the stick into a sudsy foam.

“When we add foam to water, it helps coat and penetrate the surface of what’s burning,” said Lt. John Murray of the SFRD. “Essentially, the foam prevents the fire from rekindling. Water tends to run off more. The foam really soaks into the fuel and cools it better.”

Last week, members of both Sanibel Fire Stations were trained in using the new foam equipment.

“It’s going to make a huge difference to us,” Murray added. “The old liquid foams would sometimes go bad or congeal, so this is a much better system for us to be using.”