Short Change On Fire Extinguishers
Just watch this little demonstration of fire-fighting foam in action:
Way back in 1999 Loose Fillings -see Back Issues above – pointed out a serious shortcoming in UK competition rules about fire extinguishers in our kind of cars. It was noted that dry powder extinguishers – which universally work on alcohol fuel and which you can buy in any hardware shop – were ‘prohibited’.
All this was in the context of the (now) editor taking the Walton JAP to the UK and being told he would have to remove the compact 1 kg dry powder unit that was required in Australia. Apparently ‘prohibited’ means to the UK Motor Sports Association (MSA) that you can’t even have it in the car.
The UK requirement, you see, was for proprietary halon replacement Zero 2000 or generic AFFF – which doesn’t work on alcohol. For that you need ‘AR-AFFF’ – that is ‘alcohol resistant aqueous film-forming foam’. This important distinction simply wasn’t made.
As if to demonstrate this to all concerned, about the same time the Vintage Sports Car Club (VSCC) published a picture of a methanol-fueled Cooper Bristol burning out even though it had an MSA approved plumbed-in system. Only when marshals arrived with dry-powder extinguishers was the blaze extinguished.
Eventually, the issue was pressed home face-to-face with the secretary of the VSCC and the technical head of the UK Motor Sports Association (MSA). Neither would budge an inch from their opposition to the use of dry powder (despite it long being an FIA approved extinguishant) and their unwillingness to specify alcohol-resistant foam when the fuel required it.
Fast forward nearly 20 years to the new MSA rules for 2018, and we still find the old rule in place:
K Competitor: Safety
. Extinguishers are classified as …
…. Dry powder extinguishers are prohibited.
But wait … there’s more … there are also new rules, for the time being optional and recommended, but soon to be mandatory, which at last adopt FIA prescriptions as follows:
3.3.2 Permitted extinguishants:
AFFF, Clean Agent, powder or any other extinguishant
homologated by the FIA.
3.2.3. Minimum quantity of extinguishant:
• AFFF 2.4 litres
• FireSense 2.4 litres
• FX GTEC 2.0 kg
• Viro3 2.0 kg
• Zero 360 2.0 kg
• Extreme 2.0 kg
• Powder 2.0 kg
Note there is still no mention of the need for alcohol-resistant foam even though ethanol blends are now being used in ‘modern’ competition as well as old fashioned methanol for historics. Read this, for example:
Alcohol resistant aqueous film forming foam
AR-AFFF is the firefighting agent of choice for fires involving all types of hydrocarbon or solvent fuels. These solvents include ethanol and ethanol blended gasoline (E-10, E-85 and E-95), acetone, methanol, ethers, esters and some acids.
AR-AFFFs provide longer residence time in vapor suppression situations, particularly when firefighters encounter unignited fuel spills. AR-AFFF is required for fires and vapor suppression of spills involving E-10, E-85 and E-95 gasoline-ethanol blends now being carried in standard over-the-road gasoline tankers for delivery to retail gas stations. (https://www.firerescue1.com)
Be that as it may, in the UK, where extinguishers are optional for hillclimbs, you can now use dry-powder for racing.
But in Australia, where extinguishers are mandatory for hillclimbs, an extinguisher is no longer required for any form of racing!
Make sense of all that if you can, and wonder if the people who make these rules know what they are doing!
PS: Both in Australia and the UK some serious questions are unanswered by Loose Fillings’ inquiries:
Except for the Australian Grand Prix, CAMS does not require that alcohol-type concentrate (ATC) or alcohol resistant (AR) foams be used trackside – it simply says they ‘are usual’. But are they?
The new MSA regulations don’t incorporate the FIA standard’s requirement that extinguishers be labelled with the type of fuel for which they are suitable. So how would anybody know?
Does your club, be it in Australia, UK or elsewhere, ensure that alcohol type extinguishers are used at meetings it supports?