YUKON — The paint was peeling and the air bags were popping Thursday as officials from Cold Fire set a car ablaze at the Yukon Fire Department.
The car fire was part of a demonstration the company conducted for firefighters, law enforcement agencies and companies like Chesapeake Energy. The maroon car was sacrificed to show how quickly Cold Fire can extinguish a fire.
The fire that melted the interior of the car and caused the roof to buckle was put out in seconds.
Cold Fire is a plant-based liquid fire suppression chemical that undergoes a reaction to heat that causes the chemical to absorb it.
To demonstrate, a Cold Fire employee wrapped his hand in a Cold Fire soaked towel and held burning magnesium.
Cold Fire President Thom Payson said the chemical is biodegradable and doesn't require special clean up after use, as is the case with some fire suppression chemicals.
“You can even drink it, but it won't taste very good,” he said.
Payson said most law enforcement agencies and fire departments still use older dry chemical extinguishers that he said are often ineffective at putting out fires.
“If you think back to how police cars looked 30 years ago, and look at them now you can see quite a bit has changed from a technological standpoint,” he said. “But in most of those cars is a fire extinguisher that is essentially the same thing people were using decades ago.”
Payson said its application goes well beyond fire departments. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has outfitted its cars with Cold Fire and it was used by Shawnee police during a rescue last month.
In that incident, a man was trapped under his vehicle after he was thrown from it. A fire started in the grass while rescuers attempted to get him out from under the car. While doing that, they doused the man with Cold Fire to protect him in case it spread.
Shawnee police Sgt. Phil Burger said the man escaped with only a broken collar bone.
Payson cited an accident in Dallas earlier this year that did not end well as officers emptied several dry chemical-based fire extinguishers into a car in a failed effort to save two people inside.
“They could talk to them but they couldn't get them out and they couldn't put out the fire,” he said. “They were running up to nearby houses to see if they had any more extinguishers.”
Yukon Police Chief John Corn watched as Payson and his staff conducted the demonstration Thursday. He came away impressed, and interested.
“I think as a department you're always looking for ways to protect the public and property and this is one way to do it,” he said. “We don't typically budget for things like fire suppression but it's something I definitely want to look into.”
Corn said his officers are sometimes called upon to put out fires.
“We sometimes are the first people out to the scene of an accident so while we may not deal with fires every day, there are situations where we have to,” he said.
Cold Fire costs about four to five times more than dry chemical extinguishers but less of the suppressant is required to put out fires. A typical dry chemical extinguisher costs about $50 to $70.
There is also no maintenance necessary, as is the case with cartridge based extinguishers that must be sent to a third party to be recharged. It can also be purchased in bulk and mixed with water while some canisters are small enough to fit in a glove box of a patrol car.
“Departments can pressurize it themselves and as long as it's stored properly it has no limit on the shelf life,” he said.
“Ultimately the cost can be lower in the long run.”