The process of combustion needs oxygen for it to take place. Fire protection and fighting methods are based on limiting the supply of oxygen supplied to a fire. Foam is formed due to a collection of bubbles, and it is one of the tools used in firefighting and protection. The foam covers the fire reducing the supply of oxygen, thus reducing the intensity of the fire and finally putting off due to lack of oxygen.
The use of foam to fight fire is informed by the discovery that burning cannot take place without oxygen. It was in the 17th century that Lavoisier discovered the nature of fire and the chemical reaction that takes place during combustion.
After man realized that substances could not burn in the absence of oxygen, he was interested in finding the means of reducing the supply of oxygen as a means to stop the fire. In the 18th century, sand and water were used in the process of fighting fires since they could reduce the amount of oxygen present during a fire (Clark 27).
In 1877 Johnson J. mixed some chemicals forming foam that he used to put off petroleum fires. The chemicals were stored in different tanks and mixed whenever one wanted to put out fires.
The search for better methods of forming foam continued for a while until in the 1930s when a protein that could produce foam when dissolved in water was discovered. This made things easier, and the whole process of producing foam faster and cheaper. Most of the foam used in fire extinguishing exercises today is obtained from this protein through chemical synthesis.
Uses of foam
In the beginning, the foam was used in fighting fires caused by fuels such as petrol. However, later, it was discovered that it could be used in putting off any types of fires as the basic principle behind the whole process is limiting the supply of oxygen (Hall 55).
Today foam is used to extinguish big fires that break out in organizations and other business places. The foam is stored in huge tankers after its formation and transported to the fire scenes although some fire extinguishing companies prefer carrying the foam manufacturing chemicals to the scenes.
The chemicals are mixed under appropriate conditions to produce the required amount of foam, which is then directed to the fire. The process of directing the foam to the burning area can be aided by horse pipes and pumps. This stops the fire almost instantly, thus saving businessmen from huge losses (Hawthorne 42).
Advantages of using foam as a fire fighting tool
Foam is light as compared to both water and sand. Comparing the weight of foam to those of the other materials gives a clear reason as to why it is the most preferred. Its light nature makes it easy to transport it to the fire scenes. This is unlike sand, which is too heavy to transport when huge amounts are required.
Foam does not destroy the materials it saves from being consumed, unlike water and sand. It has characteristics that prevent it from wetting materials when used in putting off fires. This is not the case with water which wets papers and other materials making them useless.
Unlike foam, and leaves the saved merchandise dirty and unattractive to look at or use. The aftermath of using foam for putting out the fire is not challenging to reorganize while using sand leaves huge volumes at the fire scene, making it difficult to clean the area (Hall 67).
Foam is easy to form, as it requires a given combination of chemicals. Sand and water are however hard to collect, and they may be unavailable in some areas. Searching for water and sand in such areas might lead to the areas affected by the fire burning down completely since the exercise takes a lot of time. On the other hand, once you have the relevant chemicals, you can form foam.
Disadvantages of using foam
It is technical and requires skills obtained from a training process to use it to fight the fire. The act of mixing the chemicals requires one to know the appropriate proportions and the conditions under which the exercise should be carried out. Thus, if this is not taken into consideration, the foam formed may not be sufficient or effective. This is unlike sand and water, which do not require any skills (Hawthorne 51).
The chemicals and equipment used in foam synthesis are expensive. Huge sums of money are spent on purchasing the chemicals and the equipment while water and sand do not require special equipment or chemicals; hence they are cheaper methods.
In conclusion, foam stands out as compared to the other methods as its advantages outweigh those of the other methods. The cost should not be a big issue as the equipment is only purchased once. Foam is indeed the best method of controlling unwanted fires.
Clark, William. Firefighting Principles and Practices. New Jersey, NJ: Saddle Brook, 2011. Print.
Hall, Richard. Essentials of Fire Fighting. Stillwater, OK: Fire Protection Publications, 2010. Print.
Hawthorne, Eddy. Petroleum Liquids: Fire and Emergency Control. New Jersey, NJ: Englewood Cliffs, 2007. Print.