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Fire Fighting

Speedway brings together many fire fighting problems: -

Volunteer personnel with low levels of training
Highly flammable fuels, and other combustibles,
A continuous chance of fire,
An open atmosphere that readily supports combustion.

Fire consumes, among other things, oxygen, which the driver of a racecar also needs to maintain life.
Generally, when a driver is denied oxygen for a short period of time, suffocation begins.
If the supply of breathing air is not restored within three minutes, permanent damage to the body commences and life is threatened.
Assuming a driver in a fire is injured and in need of medical attention, the target time for bringing a fire under control must be in the region of 30 seconds, with complete extinguishment shortly afterwards
The persons responsible for the preparation of firefighting systems are the Promotion. The apparatus and personnel on race day are the responsibility of the Clerk of the Course (CoC), who, in most cases will delegate the task on race night to a Chief Fire Marshal.

The Promotion must:
   Have an audit system of maintenance in place. Portable fire extinguishers require periodic maintenance and careful handling. Portable fire equipment at Speedway tracks are handled and moved about by many people who set up the meeting and tidy up after ward, this type of handling often causes internal breakages with in the equipment. Because one cannot see the damage to the equipment the problem is not always obvious until the unit is required in an emergency.
   Supply (through an Agent if required) a mobile firefighting vehicle equipped as required under the SNZ regulations. The equipment should have sufficient firepower and trained personnel to handle a large fire.
   (A large fire is described as 40 gallons of petrol; some of the SNZ classes can carry up to 55 litres of Methanol).

The CoC Must:

   Assure that each fire marshal involved in the first contact with the fire has been briefed in the basics of firefighting and the use of fire extinguishers, and preferably has attended a basic firefighting training session.
   Coordinate the placement of firefighting personnel and equipment to best comply with the required response time.
   Maintain the level of readiness of the firefighting team throughout the entire race meeting.

Speedway encounters the following types of fire:

Fuel, both petrol and Methanol
Oil and grease
Plastics, fibreglass and it's resins

Generally, the following recommendations will be effective:
Types 1 through 4 - should be dealt with great respect, recognising that electricity can short- circuit through metal parts, and the extinguishing material.
Type 6, Magnesium Fire - very difficult to extinguish. When magnesium burns it creates its own oxygen. Liquids should not be used under any circumstances. Efforts should be made to exclude the oxygen from the fire by smothering with dry powder, dry sand or simply shovelling track material on the component.

Given the that the aim is to bring a fire under control within 30 seconds, the deployment of personnel and the preparations for combating a Speedway fire require that each person who may become involved in the fighting of a fire should have the basic knowledge of:
the equipment involved,
the nature of the extinguishing chemicals,
the nature of the fire,
the methods of fighting a fire.

The user of firefighting apparatus must possess knowledge of the equipment available to fight a fire, including:
the ability to visually identify the type of extinguisher,
the ability to operate the extinguisher,
the characteristics of the contents when released,
the limitations of the extinguisher.
There are different types of extinguishers, extinguishing chemicals and propellants, depending on the intended purpose and manufacturer.
For example:
some extinguishers are the partial discharge type, able to be turned on and off as desired.
some extinguishers discharge fully when operated,
Some extinguishers work only in the upright position.

The following sizes of C02 and powder-type extinguishers are the most useful, and generally available.

   3-kg) hand- extinguishers for fire marshals and pit marshals, some times known as "runners". These can be carried easily, on the run, and used as first intervention extinguishers. Discharge time approximately 17-20 seconds.
   9kg) Hand- extinguishers for fire marshals and pit marshals. This size is the limit one person can carry for a long distance and operate effectively. Discharge time approximately 20-25 seconds.
   13.5 kg) hand- extinguishers. This size is the limit a person can carry for a short distance. They are generally brought to the scene in a support vehicle. Discharge time approximately 20-25 seconds.
   Larger extinguishers, (45 kg) and greater, are mounted on wheels for portability and can be used in several ways on the infield and paddock areas, and generally mounted on Utility vehicle's for track usage.

Extinguishing Chemicals
The requirements of the firefighting chemicals are:
   to knock-down the fire,
   seal the fire from oxygen,
   cool the heated parts.

There are four basic kinds of chemicals available:
Dry Powder

   Provides a blanket over the fire at a great speed
   Very effective if fire is put out completely in one pass
   Poor (as compared to foam) sealing characteristics
   Re-ignition (flashback) can readily occur.

C02 (Carbon Dioxide)

   Emitted as a gaseous substance
   Easily misdirected by prevailing wind
   No sealing effect
   Use for small local fires [brakes etc]
   Not recommended for general trackside application


   The solution mixes with air as it is expelled and forms a foam blanket
   Very effective if fire is put out completely in one pass
   Provides a foam blanket with good sealing characteristics
   A cooling action is achieved as the water evaporates out of the foam.
   The chances of re-ignition (flashback) can still occur.

   While water extinguishers should not be used for fighting flammable liquids or electrical fires, they have many good applications, such as grass fires, combustible fires, methanol fires, cooling down drivers and also cooling down hot metal after a fire has occurred.

All fires have the potential to give off toxic fumes. Inhalation of fumes or smoke could cause breathing difficulty to the person involved. Every person fighting a fire should avoid breathing the fumes from a fire as much as possible.
Wind is a factor in fighting fires. Whenever possible, a fire should be attacked from the downwind side. The wind will assist in spreading the extinguishing chemical over the file.
This technique often improves visibility and minimises the inhalation of fumes.

Small: A fire that one person can put out in under 7 seconds, with or without a fire extinguisher.
Medium: A fire that one person can put out within 7 seconds, with a fire extinguisher.
Large: A fire that is not covered by the definitions of Small or Medium. A large fire should be dealt with by a planned attack using the 4x2 method.
Time will make fires bigger. As time passes, a fire tends to grow in size and intensity, depending on the amount of material available to burn.
The formula for each person involved in the fighting of a fire is:
recognise the hazard
know the defence
act in time
Although it is essential to work with the greatest possible speed:
   assess the situation
   protect yourself
   pause to assemble assistance, if necessary
   coordinate the attack on the fire
An important element of awareness for firefighters is a condition that is a potential in all fires.
It is referred to several ways: re-ignition, re-kindling or flashback`. It is particularly important when volatile substances such as gasoline are involved.
Every substance or material that can burn has a temperature at which it starts to burn. A fire starts when that temperature has been reached, and the fire can continue as long as the temperature is maintained or exceeded, and oxygen is available.
When a fire starts, temperatures of all substances rise quickly. When extinguishing chemicals are introduced to the fire, the primary action of the chemical is to reduce the supply of oxygen which puts the fire out totally and hopefully keeps it out until the temperature of all substances have reduced to a level where they will no longer burn even if oxygen is present.
Simply stated, re-ignition of a fire can occur for two main reasons, even after extinguishing chemicals have been applied.
Reason 1: If the fire has been put out, but the temperature of a substance HAS NOT reduced sufficiently, and oxygen is AGAIN available.
Reason 1. If the temperature of the substance HAS reduced, oxygen is AGAIN available, and a source of ignition, such as a spark or a smouldering ember is present.
Firefighters are warned to be aware of this situation, particularly if a fire occurs in grassy areas, such as the verges of a racetrack.

The most effective method of firefighting a fire is described:
Four firefighters are involved as a team.
The team starts from the downwind direction, if possible.
The team pauses to establish their relative positions.
The leading two, with dry powder extinguishers, approach the fire, one on each side, sweeping the powder from side to side to cover the area of the fire. The second two follow in support of the first pair.
When there are fewer than four firefighters available, such as in the case of first-intervention situations involving corner marshals, the method described is varied, however the principle should be remembered.
In any event, one firefighter should always attempt to stay back to cover the other fighting the fire. This is called the "buddy system".

Volatile liquids such as petrol do not burn. It is the vapour given off, combining with oxygen in the air, that ignites and burns. Therefore, if we separate the air from the liquid by applying an extinguishing agent to form a blanket over the liquid, the fire will be starved of oxygen and go out.
Each person responsible for the use of a fire extinguisher is advised to visually inspect, daily, the extinguishers they may be called upon to use and assure themselves of the mechanical condition. Any fire extinguisher suspected of being faulty must be set aside, reported and replaced.
Proximity suits, fire-entry suits and asbestos suits are not recommended when using the 4x4 system. They are unwieldy and encumbering. Denim or cotton overalls are fully satisfactory and if required can be treated to be fire-resistant. MAN-MADE FIBRE CLOTHING SUCH AS NYLON OR POLYESTER IS NOT RECOMMENDED. Underclothing of wool material is best.
Extinguishers have a designed spray pattern to allow the firefighter to stand back from the fire and utilise the spray to cover or blanket the fire area excluding the oxygen. Being too close to a fire could cause the force of the spray to blow the fire away without putting it out.
Once the fire extinguisher has been used, even momentarily, it is no longer considered reliable and must be set aside, reported and replaced.
Dry powder and foam will penetrate the engine, chassis and bodywork and all mechanical components of a racecar. This can cause jamming, sticking and blockage of mechanisms. Drivers and mechanics should be warned of this when these materials have been used on their cars.

Any mechanical device requires maintenance, particularly those using chemicals, as is the case with fire extinguishing equipment.
A fire extinguisher around a racetrack is subject to abuse during the daily track set-up and closure, and should be unknowingly rendered inoperative.
Small extinguishers are particularly prone to:
   loss of charge
   damage to operating mechanism
   loss or bending of safety pins
   damage to hoses
   obstruction of nozzles
Large extinguishers are subject to neglect, and corrosive attack by the chemicals used.
The supplier or owner of the equipment should incorporate a program of inspection and maintenance of all extinguisher equipment between race events. The inspection should confirm extinguisher contents, mechanical condition and appearance.
Most fire extinguishers are pressure vessels and, under the various Provincial Pressure Vessel Acts, require periodic hydrostatic testing and inspection by a qualified person.

The recommendation of using Dry Powder does not preclude other extinguishing chemicals from being considered or used.
Dry Power is considered to be the material most commonly available, understood and used at this time, and provide a basis for consistency in training and practice.