Community

Markham Fire switches to ‘safer alternative’

Markham Fire & Emergency Services (MFES) is the first large municipal fire department in the world to transition its entire fire apparatus fleet to a non-toxic, bio-based gel.

“The City of Markham and MFES takes the health and safety of our staff, residents, visitors and our natural environment very seriously,” MFES Deputy Chief Matt Keay says. “Once we identified the risk associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – known as PFAS – in our firefighting foams, we immediately began looking for safer alternatives.”

MFES partnered with FireRein and PPE Solutions to replace its fluorinated firefighting foam, which contains PFAS, with the new fire suppressant Eco-Gel™. The substance is a non-toxic water additive that suppresses both Class A and Class B fires. Firefighters will use less water to knock down both regular fires and hydrocarbon fuel fires. The gel suppressant is already in use in several other industries, including wildfire and mining, due to its safety and effectiveness.

MFES Deputy Chief Matt Keay

“This project involved two main components: safely removing and responsibly disposing of the PFAS containing chemicals and replacing it with a safe and effective alternative,” says Keay. “FireRein and PPE Solutions provided outstanding support and expertise in helping us switch over our fleet and provide training on the new product’s use.”

The non-toxic gel was tested in the DRAGO unit, an auxiliary vehicle that shoots mist more than 200 feet with a width of 50 feet wide, and increased reach by about 20 per cent while improving the effectiveness of fire suppression.

“The Markham Professional Firefighters Association (MPFFA) supports any innovation based on making Markham’s firefighters and residents safer,” says MPFFA President Andrew Ireland. “The removal of PFAS containing foam and the conversion to a safer alternative is fully supported by the MPFFA.”

Mayor Frank Scarpitti also lauds the transition. “I want to thank the leadership at MFES for recognizing the hazards posed by firefighting foams and undertaking the transition of our fire trucks to the non-toxic gel,” he says.

Photo courtesy of the City of Markham

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