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   Success Stories

Last Update: 23-10-2012  
Related category(ies):
SMEs

 

Countries involved in the project described in the article:
Finland  |  France  |  Greece  |  Italy  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom
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FIRELI – New hose equipment to increase safety of firemen

Every year, fires affect large areas of forest in Europe - mostly in the Mediterranean countries, where an average of around 500,000 hectares are destroyed annually. That is the equivalent of 50 times the land area of Paris. The economic cost is estimated at between €600 and €800 million per year. For those involved in the dangerous task of combating forest fires, the hoses used must be flexible and manoeuvrable, not too heavy, and able to withstand dragging across rough terrain.

© Fotolia, 2012

The hose produced as a result of the FIRELI project, which began in 2008 with majority funding provided by the European Union (EU) under its 7th Research Framework Programme (FP7), exceeded all initial expectations, being able to withstand temperatures of up to 400°C for more than 15 minutes. The initial aim of the two-year FIRELI project, which brought together 9 partners from 6 European countries, including several SMEs and the National Technical University of Athens, was to produce a firehose able to resist 350°C heat for up to 10 minutes instead of one - which would significantly reduce the danger faced by forest firefighters.

Above all, the hoses used in fighting forest fires need to be fire-resistant. Apparently, extinguished areas of forest fires may frequently burst into flames again, if unnoticed by the firefighters as they move ahead. Faced with the 350°C heat that can easily be generated in a forest blaze, existing hoses are unable to survive for more than a single minute. The margin of error for the firefighters is very small.

Above all, the hoses used in fighting forest fires need to be fire-resistant. Apparently, extinguished areas of forest fires may frequently burst into flames again, if unnoticed by the firefighters as they move ahead. Faced with the 350°C heat that can easily be generated in a forest blaze, existing hoses are unable to survive for more than a single minute. The margin of error for the firefighters is very small.

The quest for a more fire-retardant hose successfully overcame a list of challenges. Researchers had to find a way of introducing the necessary flame-retardant material without compromising the quality and performance of the basic rubber used in the hose construction. They also had to make sure that any modifications to the composition of the hose did not result in the emission of toxic chemicals when the hose was exposed to heat All this had to be done while keeping the cost of the new hose within acceptable limits - no more than 60% above that of existing hoses.

The second key achievement of the FIRELI consortium concerned the coupling mechanisms used to join lengths of hose together. Not only did a new FIRELI design for such couplings result in a 30% reduction in the water pressure loss that has typically occurred at such joints in the past; they also successfully incorporated a thermal barrier coating to protect the inner rubber layer of the hose itself so that the metal of the coupling (aluminium, stainless steel or brass) does not conduct heat through to the rubber.

By achieving the technological and scientific breakthroughs needed to meet all of these requirements, successfully producing a new hose with greatly enhanced fire resistance in a cost-effective way, and without compromising the other qualities required of the hose, the FIRELI consortium has potentially brought greater security to the lives of firefighters.

The FIRELI hose and couplings are expected to enter industrial production in the near future, for an intended global market of firefighting services, as well as civil protection and military organisations and NGOs. In addition, the FIRELI system is suitable for both suction and delivery, and is therefore applicable in other industrial settings, including agriculture or heavy industries such as oil refineries, construction or maritime settings.

Project details

  • Participants: Spain (Coordinator), France, Finland, United Kingdom, Greece, Italy
  • FP7 Project N° 222152
  • Total costs: € 1 360 091
  • EU contribution: € 1 054 570

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