"We use CAFS for every firefighting operation."

Every year the Vienna fire department is called on about 150 firefighting operations - from burning trash cans right through to large fires. In 130 operations, the CAFS system from Rosenbauer was used for extinguishing. And the other 20? They had already been put out before the fire department arrived. In an interview, the commander of the Wels volunteer fire department, Fire Chief Ing. Franz Humer, explained why they trust the CAFS system.

Rosenbauer: How long has Wels been using the CAFS system?

BD Ing. Franz Humer, MSc: Both of our rescue extinguishing vehicles (RLF) are equipped with a CAFS system. One has been in service since 2010, the other since 2008.


How do you proceed for fire operations?

In our case, the RLFs are the first to respond. Other vehicles are alerted later, if needed. The first RLF to arrive extinguishes with wet CAFS foam. A second pipe is always used too. Other vehicles are technically redundant and are now only needed for really large fires. The second vehicle to arrive supplies the first response RLF with water.


What is your experience when laying hose lines?

The low weight of the hoses is naturally a huge advantage in operation. Basically, there is no problem with hoses kinking in practice. In operation we use rapid action dispensers. The operator places the B hose relatively close to the building entrance and sets the distributor. This also applies for fire fighting in the open. Then we basically proceed with C42. Three units in each hose carrier cage. Every cage also contains a shut-off valve. Through laying we have one problem less than those who prepare hose bays and must then keep pulling them.


In your opinion, are there advantages in direct fire fighting with CAFS foam?

The key is a competent nozzle operator. They can very easily observe where an extinguishing effect has already been achieved. With water, you have virtually no orientation aid, whereas the CAFS foam remains stuck on the cooled surface. You can very quickly break the fire when using CAFS. And with the use of CAFS you have significantly less water damage. When using water, you have to extinguish much more "on a hunch". CAFS is also used to prevent a fire from spreading further. Furthermore, the burn-back safety is much better. In the beginning, we even received letters from insurance companies saying that it was almost unbelievable how little was damaged during extinguishing.


Does CAFS foam also work to cool flue gases?

CAFS is absolutely appropriate for normal cooling of flue gases. The spatial effect of water is good, but surfaces such as ceilings are cooled much better with CAFS. The ceiling has a lot of storage volume for heat, so cooling with CAFS works much better. In our region, flashovers take place long before the fire department arrives on scene.


With CAFS foam, you can also achieve relatively large throw ranges and heights. Is this taken advantage of in operations?

We also use CAFS on our aerial ladder and our 42 m work platform. With other proportioning systems, you just cannot get the extinguishing agent to such heights.


Do you also use dry CAFS foam in operation?

Yes. We start with wet CAFS foam, then automatically change over to dry. Wet CAFS foam is used to break the fire, then we proceed dry. Often neighboring buildings are also protected with dry CAFS foam.


How difficult is it for the operator to operate the pump in addition to the CAFS system?

For the operator, it is actually hardly any more effort. They don't even have to access the system, but just have a user interface that is easy to keep an eye on. All they have to do here is press the corresponding buttons. This is easily in included in the normal training. The greater challenge is training the nozzle operator. Here, specific nozzle training is required to operate the system.


What does the Wels volunteer fire department training look like?

In basic training, two days are used exclusively for getting to know the nozzle. It is often compared with the Austrian armed forces: a serviceman must also dismantle their weapon, even blind-folded in the end. The process is similar with us. If you find yourself in a smoke-filled room, you must be able to operate your nozzle blind. The fire fighter must know what happens if they turn to the right or to the left. CAFS training is part of the normal training for us. What "comes out of the front" is of secondary importance in the beginning- you must be capable of using the system. Then later there is special training with the CAFS foam, so that one can learn the advantages.


What are the benefits that you see after six years of experience with CAFS in Wels?

We have always been a fire department that extinguished with foam a lot. We have long been convinced that foam makes sense, that it is "better" than water. The negative properties of water, such as no penetration or dripping off the surface can be made up for with foam. The team leaders were prepared as we had already used foam for almost every operation. So CAFS was the logical consequence. We skipped the pressure mixing trend and started immediately with the high-tech version.