Wheeled Fire Extinguishers – Why and Where to place them
History tells us that the modern fire extinguisher was invented by British Captain George William Manby. In 1818 he designed and built a container made of copper that held 3 gallons of the chemical potassium carbonate combined with compressed air. This enabled the fire suppressant chemical to be expelled with good force to cover and suppress the fire, driving the oxygen away from the fire and stopping the chemical reaction need to sustain the fire.
Over the years and decades, improved versions of the fire extinguisher were developed to enhance the fire extinguishing capability. Early in the twentieth century several large-scale fires resulted in significant loss of life and property. These disasters brought a spotlight of attention to the need for better fire prevention and safety regulations and improved fire fighting equipment and strategies.
One of those landmark fires was the March 25, 1911 New Your City Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. This fire claimed the lives of 147 people working in a clothing factory, most of which were immigrants and women with an average age of 21. The company occupied 3 top floors of a 10-story building. At the time, there were limited fire safety regulations, and regulations were often ignored as was the case with this fire.
One of the many factors that contributed to the level of destruction of this fire was that efforts to fight the fire were hampered by fire truck ladders that were too short, and fire extinguisher capacity insufficient for the potential size of the fire. Modern day wheeled fire extinguishers have a much larger capacity than portable fire extinguishers. Wheeled fire extinguishers, while classified the same way as smaller hand-held extinguishers, carry significantly more fire extinguishing agent, have higher flow rates, discharge the agent a greater distance, and provide for a longer discharge time.
Wheeled fire extinguishers are standard equipment in many commercial and industrial settings like construction sites, chemical plants, storage facilities, laboratories, refineries, ship docks, and off shore facilities. They are also increasingly being used in other settings like horse stables and large entertainment venues. These facilities require an immediate way to combat early stage fires and with a greater capacity to do so. This greater fire extinguishing capacity requires a much larger tank, and the larger the tank the greater the weight of the fire extinguishers. The agent capacity for wheeled fire extinguisher units are from 30 lbs. to 350 lbs. and can weight up to 700 or more total pounds. Yet, the extinguishers must be mobile, easily and rapidly transported by a single person, from its storage position to the location of the fire. This may also require maneuvering around obstacles and down aisles. As such, they must be designed with a broad base of support, weight properly distributed, and engineered so one person can move and position the extinguisher to engage the fire in a short period of time to keep the fire from growing and spreading. Special features that make this possible are large semi-pneumatic rubber wheels or very large diameter steel wheels and unique handle positioning to ensure easily handling and maneuverability.