Cobra takes the sting out of fire

30 September 2010, 06:13

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service is spending around three million pounds upgrading some of its fleet and is now using revolutionary water jet technology to help make its fire crews -and the public - safer.

It's been used by heavy industry for many years to make shapes out of solid sheet metal.  Now the cold cutting technology that was originally pioneered in Milton Keynes is being taken on by the fire and rescue service.

Its use by the emergency services has been developed by the Swedes and following an EU grant, Northamptonshire is becoming a leading player in using the equipment in the UK.

In some ways it's like the pressure washer you might use to clean the car or the patio.  But instead of running at about 40psi of pressure this unit runs at around 300psi.  That's enough to cut through several feet of solid steel or concrete.

The technique allows firefighters to get a water source into hot spot areas, without going into the building itself.  During initial tests in Corby, a room was heated to temperatures of 1000c and the Cobra technology allowed fire crews - from a safe position outside - to cool the room to 50c.

You can watch our video of it being tested today in Rushden below:

 In April this year two firefighters were killed tackling a fire at a block of flats in Southampton.  Northamptonshire's Chief Fire Officer, Martyn Emberson, told Heart that they are still waiting for final reports to be carried out on that incident but it may be a case where this could technology could've helped protect firefighters.  He said: "What happens with a fire in a closed compartment is that it burns the oxygen in the room.  It releases lots of smoke and unburned products of combustion and then the fire dies back as the oxygen is used up. 

"The moment we open a door to go into a fire it feeds it with oxygen and it then ignites all of those unburned products and this effectively results in an explosion which in effect incinerates everything in there - including firefighters and anybody else."

"This technology allows us to get a cooling jet into the compartment to remove the heat before we open the door and let the oxygen in so it's a much safer envrionment internally."

The Cobra technology is being carried in a VW van to allow it greater mobility but it's also being fitted to some of the new Scania fire appliances.

Andre Gonzalez de Savage is the county councillor responsible for community safety and told Heart: "What we can do now is provide a service which is a much safer way of putting out a fire which makes it much safer for the firefighters and the community."