26 Feb 2008 Another Ethanol Problem: Fire
From Chris Blank of the Associated Press:
The nation’s drive to use more alternative fuel carries a danger many communities have been slow to recognize: Ethanol fires are harder to put out than gasoline ones and require a special type of firefighting foam.
Many fire departments around the country don’t have the foam, don’t have enough of it, or are not well-trained in how to apply it, firefighting experts say. It is also more expensive than conventional foam.
“It is not unusual to find a fire department that is still just prepared to deal with traditional flammable liquids,” said Ed Plaugher, director of national programs for the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
The problem is that water doesn’t put out ethanol fires, and the foam that has been used since the 1960s to smother ordinary gasoline blazes doesn’t work well against the grain-alcohol fuel.
Wrecks involving ordinary cars and trucks are not the major concern. They carry modest amounts of fuel, and it is typically a low-concentration, 10 percent blend of ethanol and gasoline. A large amount of conventional foam can usually extinguish such fires.
Instead, the real danger involves the many tanker trucks and railcars that are rolling out of the Corn Belt with huge quantities of 85 or 95 percent ethanol and carrying it to parts of the country unaccustomed to dealing with it…
Read the rest here.