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New System Improves Fire Safety In Motor Sports And Lowers Pollution

firesafe.jpg (20996 bytes)Problem: Fifteen percent of professional drag race vehicles catch on fire each year. Several of these fires result in vehicle damages in excess of $100,000 and several thousand dollars in medical expenses related to driver injury. The conventional vehicle fire suppression chemical, Halon, causes depletion to the earth's protective upper ozone layer. Several governments including the U.S. have banned the production and/or further use of Halon.

Solution: Firefox Industries, a company near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, distributes a new fire extinguishing chemical and a system to deploy it. The non-toxic chemical, Fire-X-Plus™, reduces vapor release from the fuel, emulsifies the fuel so it will not burn, and absorbs the heat of the fire at many times the rate that water does. The Firefox FX-400 system which deploys Fire-X-Plus overcomes the wind forces at high vehicle speeds better than Halon, making it a great solution for both the fire problem and the environment.

After considerable trouble trying to find a driver willing to test the Firefox system on a dragster at speeds up to 300 mph for the first time, Firefox turned to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Air Vehicles Directorate's (AFRL/VA) outdoor wind tunnel. This multi-million dollar wind tunnel is designed to test high speed airplane fires and could easily handle a race car fire.

WTN arranged a Cooperative Research & Development Agreement between Firefox and the AFRL/VA to test the new Firefox FX-400 system and Fire-X-Plus at several wind speeds on a dragster. After 30 tests of different fire sizes at different wind speeds and several system adjustments, Firefox concluded that the FX-400 system with Fire-X-Plus could reliably extinguish high speed vehicle fires better than a Halon system.

In September 1995, Firefox officially offered the FX-400 system and Fire-X-Plus for sale at the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Within 2 years, most professional dragster owners purchased an FX-100 system. During the 1997 race season, the FX-400 system extinguished over 36 fires with no damage to the vehicles or burns on the drivers. At less than $1,000, the FX-400 system controls vehicle fires economically.

Benefits:

  • Fast extinguishing rate
  • High fire suppression effectiveness
  • Environmentally clean
  • Low weight
  • Low cost
  • Saves equipment
  • Protects drivers
  • Reduces fire related crashes
  • Allows drivers to finish the race season and collect prizes and endorsements
  • No more demoralizing fires to ruin a race team's season

Current Status:

  • Over 100 car fires suppressed with savings exceeding $1 million.
  • Increasing sales of Firefox's fire suppression systems.
  • Firefox has now developed an FX-100 for lower speed race car engine fires.
If you have any questions about this Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or are interested in getting more information about technology transfer and CRADA projects, please contact Jim Singer at Wright Technology Network (937) 253-0217 or CRADA@wtn.org

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