MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - There was no way a firefighter was going down there. Too dangerous.
The underground utility pipe, about six feet wide, dipped seven feet down. At the end of the descent, a wooden pallet in flames floated in potentially flammable liquids from a breach in the pipe.
Pull. Pop! Toss.
The canister cannonballs into the soup. Even underwater, it explodes and gurgles, releasing a fire-suppressing aerosol. In seconds, the fire is contained. It's under control.
The whole thing is a simulation taking place at the Olive Branch Fire Department's training facility. And that's all it takes to impress department Lt. Art Dunlap.
"The product gives us a chance to suppress the fire," he said.
The Stat-X First Responder is a fire suppression device manufactured by Fireaway, Inc., of Minnetonka, Minnesota. It's a bona fide grenade, pin and all. When a firefighter, hazmat worker, or utility safety regulator yanks the pin and tosses it into a blaze, the First Responder's environmentally safe aerosol bursts and chokes the fire.
The First Responder helps the real first responders gain control of a fire while they're waiting on reinforcements.
"The chief will toss a Responder, a couple of Responders. It'll contain it. It'll hold it in that garage. It'll hold it on that front porch. So, the firefighters, when they arrive, are fighting a fire size X, not 10X," said Fireaway Senior Vice President of Sales George Ciottone.
Dunlap tossed a First Responder into a dumpster fire fueled by bone-dry pallets and lighter fluid. The fire was so hot, another firefighter couldn't get close enough to use a fire extinguisher. But the First Responder's aerosol contained the fire enough to lower the heat and allow the firefighter with the extinguisher to get closer and finish the job.
"Whenever it's deployed, it protects the firefighters that are going in," said Dunlap.
Ciottone said, "It is not a fire extinguisher, although in some cases, it will totally extinguish a fire."
Like when he tossed one on the floor next to a raging oven fire inside the OBFD burn building's mock kitchen.The aerosol not only suppressed that fire, but also extinguished it.
"And it actually did so without actual direct contact," said OBFD Capt. David Taylor. "It was in the room near the fire, and it actually extinguished the fire. I am impressed!"
Ciottone said between 40 and 50 utility companies use First Responders to tackle manhole fires. The grenades are not available to the public -- only to commercial and rescue clients. OBFD will be the first Mid-South fire department to carry test cases of First Responders. Department leaders will consider them as a possibly permanent addition to their firefighting tools.