West Richland fire department uses foam to help put out fire

West Richland fire department uses foam to help put out fire
WEST RICHLAND, Wash. -- It's the latest in fire-fighting success and it's right here in the Tri-Cities.

Benton County's Fire District Four is one of the first local departments to use foam to douse flames. A brand new rig was fit to do it.

It might look like your standard fire truck, but Benton County's newest half-million dollar behemoth comes with another fire-fighting weapon.

Foam.

"It's exactly the same thing as dish soap in a bucket to wash cars," says Fire Chief Bill Whealan.

But this dish soap can not only cool burning surfaces, but make water work four-times better to put the fire out.

"When you're looking at a four to one effective ratio, to me that's a lot. If we can actually get in with that four to one ratio, we'll cool the fire off, provide safer conditions for our firefighters, control the fire quicker by cooling it off," Whealan added.

The thing that makes the unit so effective is the air compressor unit found on top of the truck. It allows firefighters to inject bubbles into the water and foam, helping them put out fires even quicker.

Two drops of water are dropped on a piece of cardboard.
But when the foam is added--the water immediately soaks in.

Bill Cherwien has been training other firefighters on how to use the new equipment.

"Ideally, we'd have three people in the truck. That way, everybody can be focused on their jobs and not two or three at once," he says.

He says the ability to control the foam from inside the cab of the truck will make it a much better tool to quickly putting out dangerous situations -- and keep more people safe.

The practice of adding foam to water in firefighting has been around since the 90's.

Other districts say they haven't jumped on the technology yet because start up costs are too high.