New firefighting water cannon said to produce up to 81000 liters/minute
SWEDEN: The largest and supposedly most powerful water cannon for firefighting has been developed and tested in the small town of Åmål, Sweden. The cannon is claimed to be able to throw water up to 200 meters at a flow rate exceeding 22000 US gallons per minute. However - is lots of water always the solution? And will systems with capacities this extreme actually be effective in a real life situation?
By Bjorn Ulfsson / CTIF NEWS
According to FFS Firefighting Systems, this is the largest water cannon they ever built, and in their own estimate, it is the most powerful in the world. It has recently been tested in the old Oil Harbour of Åmål, a town of just 12000 inhabitants.
Beautifully situated on the shore of Lake Vänern, Sweden´s largest fresh water lake, connecting to the ocean though an elaborate system of channels, the City of Åmål has a long standing history of ship building and also of shipping, so the idea of a new marine industrial product being built locally, has created great local interest. The people of Åmål flocked by the hundreds to the harbour where the system was tested on a sunny day in the beginning of November 2017.
Several sets of video drones hovered around the area during the test, capturing the footage which became the basis of the demonstration video shown above. (The left photo is a screen shot from that video)
Two large V12 diesel engines pull the water from the lake and deliver it to the cannon, reputedly with a top capacity of 4800 m³/h.
Needless to say, this is a monitor system that requires larges bodies of water to work: A firefighting system this size would drain the water system of a medium size town in a matter of a very short time!
The tests, which were conducted in the Fall of 2017, are to assure the designers that the prototype is correctly put together, before it is demonstrated at industry fairs.
Fighting the fire miles from the water source
FFS Firefighting Systems normally specialize in marine firefighting systems, usually mounted on boats. However, their focus is now also on large scale firefighting for oil refineries, oil depots and harbours, where large amounts of water is both needed during fires, and also available without the risk of draining the communal water system.
The key is mobility and speed: the systems must be compact enough to transport quickly on land, and because the engines are integrated into the pumps, it fits into a steel frame the size of a transport container.
Extremely long hose lines: with some pressure stabilization along the way, the pumps should have the capacity to enable crews to reach fires up to 3 kilometers / 1,7 miles away from the water source.
It remains to be seen how well this water cannon works in real life situations, and on actual fire grounds.
Forest fires - firefighting in great need of volume
With recent wild fires in mind in Europe, California, Australia and Canada, the need for high capacity systems has been a hot topic of discussion, as aerial forest firefighting is both costly and often dangerous. Perhaps in lake country districts, a cannon of this capacity could be adapted for forest firefighting - giving crews a chance to fight wild fires at a safer - and cooler - distance.
However, like all new technical inventions, we haven´t seen the performance in a real fire yet. The cost of the system has also not yet been announced; will it be affordable enough for a fire service to take a chance?
Environmental concerns are also likely to play in. With water volumes this extreme, coupled with a high likelihood of increased waste due to the inherent aiming difficulties with these types of cannons, the polluting impact on ground water, rivers and lakes will also be greater, as potentially contaminated extinguishing water eventually makes its way back to where it came from.
Voluntary firefighter asked to step away from extinguishing a fire in his own building
Only a few years ago, on January 17th 2010, the Åmål Voluntary Fire Brigade had to interrupt their extinguising efforts at a fire at Dalbo Boats, a yacht storage warehouse just yards away in Åmål Harbour, when concerns for the well fare of Lake Vänern was raised by local authorities.
As extinguishing water from any fire can contain larges amounts of chemicals and toxic particular matter, the toxicity of a smouldering fire fueled by hundreds of tons of plastic boat hulls, is not a small source of pollution, even for a grand body of water like Lake Vänern.
Plastics also have a tendency to burn for a long time, even with foam and water applied. So; instead of extinguishing the fire and risking an oxygen deprived fire, local fire chief Tommy Kihlberg decided to open the building up with a digger to allow for as clean of a burn as possible, essentially letting the building go in a sort of controlled burn.
The owner of Dalbo Boats, Håkan Skogh, and also one of the part time voluntary firefighters deployed at the fire, stood in tears as he watched the warehouse burn, unable to do anything to save the business he had built with his own hands.
Håkan Skogh eventually tried suing the city, claiming to have lost 40 million Euros due to the decision to stop extinguishing efforts, eventually reaching a settlement for parts of his and his clients´ losses.
It was later determined that the local fire chief made the right decision. As it is known by chemists that a smouldering fire creates more, and more highly toxic chemicals, eventually finding their way back to the lakes and ground water sources with the stream of extinguishing water, large amounts of water was not the right solution in this particular case.
However, what technology do we use when environmental stakes are high, but the threat against human lives is even higher?
Firefighting really hasn´t evolved much at all in the last 100 years when it comes to the environment. Perhaps because environmental impacts from extinguishing water have not been fully understood until quite recently, methods and technology for clean firefighting are severely lagging.
Recent concern with CAFS and other firefighting foam systems have also put a dampener on the development of extinguishing additives.
CTIF NEWS hopes to return to this topic in the near future with some coverage from new inventions in that area: recent claims have been made, also by a Swedish company, of having produced a completely non toxic additive, developed especially for forest firefighting, with a "sticky" quality which makes it require less water to kill a forest fire.