Ethanol Fires can be difficult to extinguish. Discuss why this is true and what approach firefighters might use to fight this type of fire.
Fire is one of the major risks associated with the use and transportation of ethanol. Ethanol Fires can be difficult to extinguish as water does not put out ethanol fires, and the foam that has been used to smother ordinary gasoline blazes does not work well against the ethanol fires. If water used to extinguish Ethanol Fires, the fire would not budge. This is because ethanol can burn easily and completely with excess oxygen. The heat potential for ethanol is around ten thousand btu so water or a traditional foam will not extinguish ethanol until it is diluted four or five times with water.
The firefighters use alcohol-resistant aqueous-film forming foam (AR-AFFF) to extinguish a bulk ethanol fire. There are two main types of foams that can be used to extinguish ethanol fires; aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), and alcohol type concentrate (ATC)-AFFF. The foam forms a vapor suppressing seal to extinguish the fire. In overall, AR-AFFF is the most effective and most versatile agent used to extinguish ethanol fire in all scenarios. This alcohol-resistant aqueous-film forming foam (AR-AFFF) is expensive as compared to conventional foam so firefighters sometimes decide to allow the ethanol to burn out if there are no exposure issues.
Meyer, E. (2014). Chemistry of Hazardous Materials (6 ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.