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Vandenberg firefighters welcome flame of innovation

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg firefighters use a traditional water hose to put out a fire in east housing here May 12. Members of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Vandenberg fire department are testing a high-pressure nozzle system versus a traditional nozzle system. The test was to determine if the high-pressure hose could work in structural fires. ( U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephanie Longoria)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg firefighters use a traditional water hose to put out a fire in east housing here May 12. Members of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Vandenberg fire department are testing a high-pressure nozzle system versus a traditional nozzle system. The test was to determine if the high-pressure hose could work in structural fires. ( U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephanie Longoria)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg firefighters discuss the test of a high-pressure hose after calming a controlled fire in east housing here May 12. Members of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Vandenberg fire department tested a high-pressure nozzle system versus a traditional nozzle system. The test was to determine if the high pressure hose could work in structural fires. ( U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephanie Longoria)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Vandenberg firefighters discuss the test of a high-pressure hose after calming a controlled fire in east housing here May 12. Members of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Vandenberg fire department tested a high-pressure nozzle system versus a traditional nozzle system. The test was to determine if the high pressure hose could work in structural fires. ( U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Stephanie Longoria)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Vandenberg fire department used east housing here to test theories on how to better fight fires May 12-15. 

Engineers from the Tyndall AFB, Fla., laboratory tested a high-pressure nozzle system against the traditional nozzle system here to see if the high-pressure system could be used in structural fires.

The test has the potential to save lives and to make firefighters' jobs easier, said Sean Glaser, the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department south battalion chief. 

AFRL engineers placed 12 censors and an infrared camera in two rooms, which would later be engulfed in flames. The firefighters waited until the fires reached a certain temperature and then they put out the fire using the different hoses. Using the censors and the infrared camera, the engineers began to document the comparison between the two hoses.

"Fighting fire is all about getting the temperature down and putting it out," said Jim Powell, a 30th CES fire captain. "Although the high-pressure hose released a lot less water, it seemed to accomplish those tasks just as well as the other hose."

If it did in fact work just as well as the other hose, firefighters will be much more mobile and less fatigued during a fire. Water weighs approximately eight pounds per gallon, and the current hose releases nearly 100 gallons per minute compared to the high pressure system, which dispenses around 20 gallons per minute, said Dave Trevvett, the Air Force Research Laboratory project manager.

Although the hose dispenses less water, the water covers a larger surface area, which is why AFRL engineers believe it will be able to work just as effectively as the current hose. Also, added mobility inside a structural or wildland fire could mean the difference between life and death for a firefighter or occupants of the house.

"With the hose we use today, it is very difficult to back up or even turn around," said Captain Powell. "This hose allows us to move on a dime."

Coming up with innovative ways to fight fire is not only going to help the Air Force, but local communities as well. Each year Vandenberg responds to a multitude of structural and wildland fires in the area.

"We came to Vandenberg because they are among the most professional in the Air Force," said Dave Trevvett, the AFRL project manager. "Their experience in wildland fires and their involvement in the community make them a perfect choice for the tests."