By Chuck Sallade
Published Tuesday, September 1, 2009
| From the September 2009 Issue of FireRescue
Thermo Technologies, creator of Thermo-Gel, has teamed up with Akron to create a nozzle specifically designed and manufactured for gel applications. My department has owned gel-applying nozzles for years, but we never used them because they were poorly constructed, made of plastic and were difficult to clean after use.
Upon initial inspection of the nozzle sent to me by the folks at Thermo Technologies, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The fit and finish on this nozzle is top notch. Also in the box were various fittings, a short length of hose and both 1- and 5-gallon containers of gel. Lastly, there were instructions for how to use the system, but like any good ol’ boy, I tossed them aside (I also don’t use maps). I was able to assemble the entire system for the first time in less than 5 minutes, and was ready to start spraying gel. On subsequent attempts, I was able to assemble it without a glitch in about 1 minute.
I placed the cap assembly, which is nothing more than a lid with a quick connect on top and a pickup tube on the bottom, onto the 5-gallon container of gel, hooked into the length of hose provided with the system and threaded onto the nozzle both my gel hose and my water hose. I throttled the pump up to 175 psi and opened the nozzle. I had gel in about 15 seconds, and was spraying the stuff all over the place.
A fair amount did get on the windshield, and I made the mistake of turning on the wipers. Oops! What a mess. I also sprayed an old, dried-out, wooden fence post, and learned a few things I would’ve found out sooner had I actually read the instructions first: Applying this gel in a stream pattern puts it on too thick, which causes it to sag and run off the target due to gravity, and there’s a lot of overspray that winds up on the ground surrounding your target.
The proper way to apply this product is in a fog pattern so the coating is not so thick that it will sag under its own weight. There is an adjustment knob on the nozzle to enable the user to set the amount of gel in the water. This is for different uses, ranging from protecting vegetation to autos to structures. (Note: I did not test the nozzle’s fire suppression capabilities—only protection; however, I have no doubt as to its potential.)
We applied the recommended amount of gel to all three of the above mentioned, then tried to set them on fire and, as you might have guessed, they wouldn’t ignite. With a blow torch held to the door and window of our engine, it wouldn’t even get hot to the touch. We tried to light the grass on fire with a weed burner and could not. I held the weed burner to a piece of plywood for several minutes and couldn’t even get it to char. The only reaction was a small amount of steam from the gel’s moisture. Mission accomplished.
I went back to the fence post 4-plus hours later to see what the gel looks like dry, but it was still gel! This is, of course, a function of heat, wind and relative humidity, but impressive nonetheless.
In the spirit of consistency, I cleaned the gel out of the system without reading the instructions first. I was surprised how easy it was to flush out the system and remove all the material from the nozzle. It took about 2 minutes to complete the flushing process and clean off all of the parts—much easier than I had expected based on past experience with this type of set-up.
A Type 6 apparatus with this system mounted on the back could effectively save many structures from an oncoming fire front, but also having this system on a structure engine could prove handy in saving adjacent exposures during a house fire. In less than 5 minutes a crew could cover a house in gel, and simply monitor it during an incident—something that cannot be accomplished with straight water or CAFS.
The nozzle retails for $899; a four-pack of 1-gallon containers costs $295; and the backpack made to fit the 5-gallon container costs $132. For more information, visit www.thermo-gel.com.
Thermo-Gel Akron Nozzle
+ High quality fit and finish;
+ Easy to assemble; and
+ Prevention ignition.
923 East Interstate Ave.
Bismarck, ND 58503
Comment Now: Post Your Thoughts & Comments on This Story