South Valley Firefighters Battle Ethanol

March 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some who want to "go green" are switching to ethanol based fuel. But ethanol presents a big challenge for firefighters because it burns so clean.Ethanol is all around us. It's in antifreeze, perfumes, paint and now even the fuel we put in our cars.

Ethanol is an alcohol produced from corn. Plants that produce ethanol are scattered across the central valley like in Goshen. More are planned.

As ethanol use increases, so does the risk for accidents and fires. When ethanol ignites fire crews must battle a fire they can't see.

Tulare County firefighters set 200-proof ethanol on fire. Orange flames can be seen, but only because there was petroleum residue at the bottom of the barrel.

Michael Pavone, Tulare County Fire, says "We're always training on different types of fires different types of scenarios I know we're looking into ethanol right now and what we should be doing and preparing as a fire department."

Tulare County Fire uses AFFF or Aquas Film Forming Foam which can put out purely ethanol fires because it's alcohol-resistant.

"It lays a membrane over the surface of the material that you're trying to put out which keeps the fumes down," says Pavone.

The Visalia Fire Department used to use AFFF but now they use a different foam called F-500 and every engine is stocked with an extinguisher of the F-500 foam

Not all fire departments in the south valley carry foam that can put out an ethanol fire. But Tulare County crews say they're ready and willing to help.

Danny Wristen, Tulare County Fire, says "It's the give and take and using the other resources that are around at the departments that have made the fire departments successful for 200 plus years.


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