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Compressed Air Foam for Structural Fire Fighting: A Field Test

Compressed air foam, which is a relatively new development in the realm of fire suppression technology,
has gained wide acceptance in the wildland and rural fire protection environments. Several
of the characteristics and capabilities that have been reported by users of compressed air foam suggest
that it could be a valuable addition to the arsenal of urban as well as rural fire departments.

The potential benefits of a transfer of compressed air foam technology to the urban environment were
recognized by the United States Fire Administration, which provided the opportunity to conduct the
field evaluation program that is described in this report.

During most of 1992 and the early part of 1993, the Boston Fire Department participated in a field
test of a compressed air foam system (CAFS). Partial funding for the program, including the equipment,
analysis and reporting, was provided by the United States Fire Administration (USFA), part of
the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The overall objective of the project was to evaluate the
applicability of CAFS technology to an urban fire suppression environment.

This report is primarily based upon the observations of the crews on Engine 37 who used the CAFS
equipment during the test period. They had the closest contact with the project and obtained the
actual “hands on” experience that was desired to evaluate CAFS. The results of a series of small-scale
tests of the CAFS conducted during the evaluation period at the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy
are also presented and discussed. Additional information is provided as background, along with
comments from the district chiefs in District 5, other officers and firefighters, and additional observers
who were requested to assist in the evaluation and report development.

The full study distributed by U.S. Fire Administration/Technical Report Series can be accessed here.