Fixed fire fighting foam system results in tragedy at a US Air Force base

Published:  16 January, 2014

US Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigates the cause of an incident that killed one man and injured three others.

31-year-old Jonathan Lord (Valparaiso) died after a large amount of fire fighting foam was released into the hangar on January 8. He had worked as a contractor for Defense Support Services at Eglin (northwest Florida) since 2006.

The three injured people (also contractors) were treated for foam inhalation problems and released shortly after the incident.

What caused the system to trigger the release of foam is yet to be ascertained. A similar incident in occurred in Eglin's King Hangar in 2012, which resulted in foam 10-12 feet deep. Eglin is geographically the US' largest Air Force base.

The fire suppression system in the 90,000-square-foot maintenance hangar has 24 foam generators hanging from the ceiling.

Two operational F-15s were in the hangar when the foam was released, as were a non-operational F-15, F-16 and an A-10 used for educational purposes.

Following the news, a spokesperson at JOIFF – the international association for industrial hazard management – pointed out that this was the second fixed fire-fighting system fatality that had come to its attention in as many days, and advised its members: ‘Take care you fully understand the operational conditions under which a discharge of the fire fighting system can occur. Also note the potential impact it can have on personnel operating in the same space.  Check your safe working practices in and around these systems and whether safety interlocks are required to be activated when personnel are present.  Know intimately your fire-fighting systems and keep safe.’

See video of a test discharge of the same system in 2009:

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