Fire-Fighting Equipment

Fire-Fighting Equipment

 

technical equipment designed to rescue people and protect valuable goods and natural resources from fire. The basic apparatus are fire trucks, fire-fighting trains, fireboats, and fire-fighting airplanes and helicopters. Fire-fighting equipment also includes fixed fire-extinguishing and fire-alarm systems, fire extinguishers, fire hydrants, and other means for conveying fire-extinguishing agents to the scene of a fire.

The first attempts to develop fire-fighting equipment date from remote antiquity. Even before the Common Era, the Greek engineer and inventor Ctesibius constructed a fire engine that the Roman architect Vitruvius described as being able to shoot water upward. The engine was constructed with a water-flow fire pipe, that is, a reciprocating two-cylinder pump. Ctesibius’ invention was forgotten, however, and it was not until the 16th century that the goldsmith Anton Platner constructed a similar manual fire pump in Augsburg, Germany; the pump could send a jet of water 6 to 8 m. In 1672 in Amsterdam the Dutch inventor Jan van der Geide equipped a pump with an extensible hose; this made the pump the major tool in fire fighting. Water-flow fire pipes came into use in Russia in the 17th century; these were manual reciprocating pumps consisting of a pipe with a nozzle. The pipes were made of sheet copper or wood and were sometimes more than an arshin—some 70 cm—in length.

After the invention of the steam engine, the first steam-driven fire pump was constructed in London in 1829. The pump was transported on horse-drawn wagons. Steam-driven fire pumps, which were introduced into Russia in 1862, could pump between 1,000 and 2,000 liters per min for up to 40 m. Pumps were first produced in Moscow in 1896. Although the newly invented steam automobile replaced the horse-drawn wagon, it was heavy and inconvenient; raising the steam pressure took between 10 and 15 min.

Motor vehicles with internal-combustion engines were first used in fire fighting to carry firemen. In 1892 in Germany the first motor vehicle equipped with a mechanical fire pump was produced, and in 1907 the first mechanized fire ladder mounted on a motor vehicle. The motor vehicle radically changed the tactics used in extinguishing fires: it expanded the area served by fire-fighting stations, reduced the amount of time needed to reach a fire, and permitted mechanization of labor-intensive fire-fighting operations. In Russia, the first motor vehicle to carry firemen was used by the Moscow Fire Department in 1907. It was produced in Moscow at the Gustav List plant and could travel some 60 km/hr. It carried a crew of eight, as well as tools, ladders, and fire hoses. Fire trucks were subsequently acquired by the fire departments of St. Petersburg (Obukhov Factory), Riga, Arkhangel’sk (commercial port), and Kazan. In prerevolutionary Russia, however, the fire truck was not common, and there were just over ten such vehicles before 1917.

Although water was long the major fire-extinguishing agent, it was not effective in a number of situations, for example, when oils and petroleum were burning. In the early 20th century, A. G. Loran, an instructor at a Gymnasium in Baku, proposed a new fire-extinguishing agent—chemical foam generated in fire extinguishers. The foam fire extinguisher, which Loran patented in 1902, used the chemical reaction of basic and acidic solutions as the basis for its action.

During the first months of Soviet power in the USSR, great emphasis was placed on the development of fire-fighting equipment. The production of foaming agents, foam powders, and various foam devices got under way, and series production of fire trucks began in 1928. The USSR has pioneered the development of the technology and methods used to extinguish burning gas and petroleum gushers by means of explosives; the technique has found wide use throughout the world. In 1967 the USSR began using devices that extinguish gas and petroleum gushers by means of a mixture of exhaust gases from turbojet engines and water vapor.

Fire-fighting equipment in the USSR is being developed with an eye to mechanizing fire-fighting operations. Equipment is being developed to make use of highly effective fire-extinguishing agents and make the work of firemen as easy and safe as possible. Fast-response stationary automated systems are being created and introduced to discover and extinguish fires at their onset.

Special types of fire-fighting equipment have been introduced to safeguard airports and petroleum-refining, petrochemical, and chemical plants. The equipment uses highly effective fire-extinguishing compounds based on halogenated hydrocarbons, as well as inert gases, powders, moderately expanding foam, and finely dispersed water (fog).

Industrial production has begun for fire tankers, truck-mounted pumps, waterworks, special-service automobiles, and water-foam apparatus. A heavy-duty fire truck now produced for airport service can pump 60 liters per sec and has a turntable monitor, a water-foam device, and a tank capacity of 11,000 liters; the truck permits rescue operations and extinction of any type of airplane fire. Special types of fire-fighting equipment produced for use in the northern USSR allow fires to be fought at atmospheric temperatures ranging from —50° to 35°C. New equipment has been introduced to fight fires in ports, petroleum storage areas, railroad yards, forests, and peat plants and on offshore petroleum rigs. Airplanes and helicopters are used to combat forest fires. Fireboats of the General Gamidov type may be used on offshore petroleum rigs under any weather conditions.

Outside the USSR, the German Democratic Republic and Czechoslovakia have assumed leading positions in the production of fire-fighting equipment. The Metz and Magirus plants in the Federal Republic of Germany and the Angus, Dennis, and Simon plants in Great Britain have long experience in the production of fire ladders, fire trucks, and motor-driven pumps. The 30-m fire ladder produced by Metz, which is mounted on a special Faun chassis, is light, maneuvers well, and has good handling features. Simon produces a crank hoist mounted on a rotating platform.

Simplex in the USA and Cerberus in Switzerland are among the leading foreign firms producing automatic fire alarms and fire-extinguishing apparatus.

P. S. SAVEL’EV

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