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Fire Extinguishers
Posted by: (
Date: January 19, 2008 12:18PM

Halon extinguishers are now illegal but they were the best. I still cary a couple halons on our 10 hp Stanley. The dry powder extinguishers have to be recharged every time that they are used, unlike Halon and CO2 that can be reused over and over again until they are finally empty. The powdered extinguisher not only gets compacted in it's cylinder in time, but when it is used, the powder gets into impossible places that cannot be readily cleaned, like your burner grate. One poof of powder in the mixing tube area with your fire cycled on, and your burner grate is instantly sealed shut with fine white powder plugging it's drilled holes just like Portland cement. No quick cure but to drop the burner and drill out the burner grate holes. On our big 30 HP 5,500 pound 12 passenger Mt. Wagon, I carry a large CO2 fire extinguisher. I am confident that it can handle most any fire problems that can come up. Refilling a CO2 extinguisher is very affordable too. On fuel spill fires, there isn't anything better than a foam fire extinguisher. I haven't had any experience with foam AFFF extinguishers being used on steam cars. The foam could make a mess.

Re: Fire Extinguishers
Posted by: (
Date: January 19, 2008 10:01PM

Apart from avoidance, having a fire extinguisher on board is best option,
Halon is illegal, with substantial fines possible for release, interestingly enough, halon is still legal for aircraft.
That aside, what are the options available,

Firstly there is a water extinguisher, good for carbonacous fires (wood, paper, plastics) now on a Loco there is a substantial amount of wood, but the size of extinguiher would preclude its use anyway, however a good hosing can be very effective, as water will cool, smother, protect the person fighting the fire and is (usually) readily available and cheap.

Option 2 would be a dry powder, essentially baking soda, these come in 2 types, the variation being (a) price and (b) the contents, the 2 points being linked, the more expensive ones have a triple named powder which is slightly better at putting out a wider range of fires, it "interfers with the chemical reaction", separating the fuel from the oxygen, excellent "knock down" performance in that it works very fast, but the fire is subject to reignition if the powder clears, as the ingredients for a fire, heat, fuel and oxygen will still be present, I agree that the powder gets EVERYWHERE and is a bugger to remove, but for sheer size, portability, effectiveness, price and availability mean that this is the extinguisher of choice for most vehicle applications.
They are 1 use only, but as they are cheap this is ok.
I carry 1 on the car and 1 in my back up vehicle/trailer,in fact at the price they are worth having in all vehicles, old and new.
The powder will "settle" and compact over time, but this can be remedied by inverting the extinguisher once a month, -also a good time to check the gauge to ensure it is still in the "green" area

Other options are indeed foam, which is only detergent and water and the foam is created by venturi action when the extinguisher is operated,
This is a particularly good extinguisher in that it can be used to PREVENT a fire, (note that in the recent plane crash at Hethrow, they doused the plane with foam in case of a spark)
so in thecase of fuel spraying all under/around your car you could happily empty aa foam extinguisher over it and be confident of preventing a disaster,
If used to extinguisher, they are best for liquid fires, not spraying into the fuel, but layering a blanket over the fuel to smother it, this blanket will generally stay intact for 15 or 20 minutes, enough time for you to do someting more permanent.
Unfortunately size again usually would prevent you carrying on aboard your steamer as they, like water come in 9 litre sized extinguishers (minimum), howver there is a lot of merit in keeping on in the garage and or the trailer

CO2 is another option, possibly an alternative to powder, as it will not gum up anything, can be supplied in quite small cylinders and will work effectively over a range of fires, but... (always a but!)
the gas is a quite high pressure, meaning that the cylinder is very sturdy (read heavy) and they discharge very quickly and the CO2 is heavier than air and will blow away very easily making their use on the road limited, The gas as it discharges is very cold and MAY damage through clod cracking, but again a good case can be made for having one handy in the workshop/garage

There are other whizz bang ones, but cost is often prohibitive,

For my money, keep a dry powder on the car, a spare in the trailer, and if really keen a foam one in the trailer as well.

hope this enlightens.


Re: Fire Extinguishers
Posted by: Tim Senior (
Date: January 20, 2008 06:51AM

What about straight water? We have gallons of that on board. I realise that its not a lot of use on liquid fuel but it seams to work quite well on most things. A year or so ago I tried experimenting with a pipe on a blow down valve, it was all a bit hairy but it did put out all the fires I tried it on, even vaporized fuel . Does anyone think that it could be done safely?
Another thought is a pump an the water tank.
I realise that there are lots of snags but I'm only chucking ideas about.

Regards Tim

Re: Fire Extinguishers
Posted by: Mike Clark (
Date: January 20, 2008 04:25PM


In the UK Halon is legal for aircraft, for the military - and according to general wisdom also in the Houses of Parliament -- these guys look after themselves!

AFFF extinguishers' minimum size seems to be 1.75 litres. AFFF seems to be the preferred extinguisher in UK motorsport. There are new Halon replacements but they seem to be very expensive and mainly used in plumbed in systems on racing cars.

Tim - I've tried the blowdown technique - it easily put out a tray of burning kerosene. I've never had a major burner pan fire but I would think a hose on the blowdown would be ideal as the steam would exclude all air. You do need a strong hose - the snag is that the heat forces off the normal jubilee clip hose attachment - perhaps use a hydraulic hose instead. Also you need some heat resistant gloves to handle it.


Re: Fire Extinguishers
Posted by: (
Date: November 7, 2008 11:00AM

A Stanley is more prone to have a fuel fire when it is being first fired up than when it is steaming down the road. When first firing up, there isn't any steam pressure yet in the boiler. So, when the operator needs it most, he shouldn't expect to have any boiler fire fighting water pressure when the boiler is cold.

Re: Fire Extinguishers
Posted by: (
Date: November 7, 2008 03:25PM

I have just been informed by Ken Hand of Kansas, USA, that recycled Halon extinguishers are still legally available for sale to the general public by fire extinguisher companies. It is just illegal to manufacture new Halon gas or sell newly manufactured Halon fire extinguishers. Is it this way in the U.K too?

Re: Fire Extinguishers
Posted by: Jeff Theobald (Moderator)
Date: November 8, 2008 04:36AM

Hi All,

We have had a few fires over the years, the best one being some years ago on the London to Brighton when we were steaming along remarking how well the car was going when a Police motorcyclist came alongside shouting “Stop! Stop!! You’re on fire!!” to which we both replied “That’s OK we’re suppose to be” he dropped back, and then came alongside again shouting even louder “You’re on fire” at that point a great lick of yellow flame shot around our legs and we realised he was right!!

Our immediate reaction was to shut down all fuel valves, open the stack blower, blow the whistle, and as soon as we came to a halt opened the blow down valve, the car was completely enveloped with steam which put the fire out, the problem was a split pilot fuel line which was spraying fuel at the side of the burner pan. That day we got to Brighton without the use of a pilot.

With the experience of this in mind I now thread the end of all blow down tubes, and carry a length of reinforced rubber tube with a threaded fitting to one end, I have only ever had to use it once to put out a pan fire before it got out of control. On a Stanley if things are going wrong, lift the bonnet flap and boiler smoke box door, do not lift the whole bonnet, at least then the flames will go straight up drawing from below, and not get caught under the bonnet, burning the paint off, if it’s a bad fire.

As always with a fire in a Stanley, try not to panic, think about what is going on, try to have a procedure in mind beforehand, which valves to shut and which to open. Most of the time you have the best fire extinguisher right there in front of you! Hope this helps, Jeff

Re: Fire Extinguishers
Posted by: Rolly (
Date: November 8, 2008 07:14AM

A friend of mine had a very bad fire. The fuel line ruptured before the steam automatic. He was burning gasoline at the time. Gasoline covered everything, as he was moving. He sensed a problem and stopped. That’s when the burner backfired and everything went up.
Three extinguishers did not get it out, and then the steam line to the water glass melted and steam went everywhere and put the fire out.
I think a quick disconnect steam lance is a great idea.

Re: Fire Extinguishers
Posted by: Mike Clark (
Date: November 14, 2008 02:58PM

The small amount of CFCs released by a Halon extinguisher must be less damaging than the emissions from burning a whole Stanley. I have no doubt about the performance of halon extinguishers having used one last year on a steamer where the owner's powder extingusher failed to do the job. Just paint it red!


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