SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE. Ill. -- Fire suppresive foam covers the floor of Hangar 1 prior to a test of the new fire suppresion system March 24. The system covered the floor four feet deep in less than four minutes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Paul Villanueva II)
by Senior Airman Andrew Davis
375th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
4/1/2009 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Hangar 1, normally a place of bustling activity as aircraft from all over Team Scott get repaired, refitted and have routine maintenance performed, was eerily quiet the morning of March 24.
Instead of housing planes, the hangar only housed plastic sheets draped over the tops of plywood walls lining the sides of the hangar.
Suddenly, an onslaught of sirens blared and bright blue lights flashed to warn of the impending flood of water and foam that came gushing out of 15 connected discharge devices spread throughout the ceiling.
The foam and the empty hangar were part of a test to demonstrate the effectiveness of a recently installed fire suppression system.
"Hangar 1 is protected by a 2 percent mixture of high expansion foam and 98 percent water that generated approximately one meter in depth of foam in the further corner of the hangar within four minutes during our initial test," said Tom Hughes of Vangaurd Contractors. "For the test, we constructed plywood walls around the red line in the hangar four feet high and erected another four feet of plastic above the plywood as a precaution. We also blocked off the drains and placed plastic sheeting over the grating."
The fire suppression system is set up to automatically go off in the event a sprinkler head is triggered, but also can be triggered manually.
"Under normal conditions if the temperature reaches 200° F at a sprinkler head, it will initiate the release of water from that head and within one minute the foam will also be triggered," explained Mr. Hughes. "The foam works to cool and smother the fire's much needed oxygen. There is also a backup manual release at each exit door from the hangar."
The fire suppression system also features a multitude of fail safes that ensure Team Scott personnel and equipment are protected from a fire inside the hangar.
"The system also has 1,057 sprinkler heads, and any one will initiate the fire suppression system causing both water and foam to be released," said Mr. Hughes "The water is supplied from Bldg. 39 which has three 250 horsepower pumps. These will pump 2,500 gallons per minute each, and only two are required to run at a time.
"They are pumping water from a 3,000,000 gallon tank and it also has an emergency generator that will start and run the pumps if there is a loss of normal power," he added.
The test, which was deemed satisfactory by Mr. Hughes, showed just a small portion of the system's real world capabilities.
"There is a 1,000 gallon tank (of foam) in the hangar that can be emptied in 12 to 15 minutes; during the test on March 24, we dumped approximately 175 gallons and filled over four and half feet of foam," said Mr. Hughes. "It is possible to have foam 18 to 20 plus feet deep in the hangar when the tank is emptied."
The system was installed in pieces by Vangaurd Contractors, with the help of two subcontractors. This was the last test the contractor will perform before turning it over to the 375th CE Fire Department, who will be in charge of the system.