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Fighting Fire With Powder: Extinguishers And Proper Diesel Fire Fighting Techniques

Jul 17, 2008
Diesel fuel is one of the most commonly-used industrial fuels and, funnily enough, diesel fires are one of the most common industrial fires. Plenty of businesses that rely on diesel fuel to a large extent keep powder extinguishers handy in order to prevent diesel fires. But the best powder extinguisher in the world won't help you without a good knowledge of exactly how to fight a diesel fire when the worst does happen.

The key to understanding a diesel fire and how to fight it is this: diesel fuel, when it burns, gives off extremely flammable vapor residue. This residue not only fills up the air with poisonous fumes that can easily overcome an unsuspecting person, but it allows the fire to keep "feeding on itself". A traditional water extinguisher can put out the flames, yes, but it can't smother the vapors, which can burst into flames easily anew and make it impossible to effectively fight the fire.

The first step in fighting any diesel fire is to make sure that there's no additional fuel going to the fire. Since diesel fires commonly occur in diesel fuel lines or storage tanks, this isn't an idle concern. More likely than not, unless you're dealing with an actual isolated spill of diesel fuel, your fire is secretly being fed, and you've got to prevent this.

As we mentioned, your extinguisher can't be water or dousing-based. You'll need an extinguisher that works on a "smothering" principle in order to prevent the flammable vapors from rising (and in the process cutting off your own oxygen.) Powder-based extinguishers are a good choice, as are foam and similar extinguishers with a "smothering" function.

If you manage to get the fire under control, it's still a good idea to remain in the area for at least an hour afterward in order to make sure that the blaze doesn't start again. This happens more often than you'd think, due to diesel fuel's lingering vapors and the possibility that the fire is being fed from an unknown source. Just stay and watch, preferably in an area where you haven't seen the fire previously and that's a good distance away from any known storage areas for diesel or other fuels. You don't want to be watching for further fire outbreaks and find one bursting up under you.

And if you can't keep the fire under control--know when to quit. The longer diesel fires burn, the more dangerous and heat-intensive they become. If you start to feel yourself getting seriously short of breath, use the powder extinguishers to get to an exit and leave the area, not forgetting, of course, to call fire-fighting professionals as soon as you're safe. There's no sense in fighting fire with fire, and neither is there any sense in fighting a diesel fire with your own life.
About the Author
Powder fire extinguishers of every size with advice, prices and details can be seen at www.FireProtectionOnline.co.uk
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