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NEWS | Nov. 18, 2021

NRL Chesapeake Bay Detachment Fire Science Researcher Receives Top Honors

By Nicholas E. M. Pasquini, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Chesapeake Bay Detachment fire protection researcher John Farley received the 2020 Fire Protection Research Foundation Medal Award. The award was received in partnership with Gerard G. Back from Jensen Hughes Inc. for their work in evaluating the fire protective effectiveness of new fluorine-free firefighting foams (F3s).
The award-winning project, Evaluation of the fire protection effectiveness of fluorine-free firefighting foams, informs end users about alternatives by evaluating the firefighting capabilities of fluorine-free, Class B firefighting foams on fires involving hydrocarbon and alcohol fuels. More than 165 fire tests were conducted to determine foam application rates and foam discharge densities as a function of a range of test parameters.
The study highlighted the importance of following the listed parameters while applying F3s, according to the Fire Protection Research Foundation experts. The study’s objectives were to determine the firefighting capabilities of four F3s and one baseline short-chain C6 aqueous film-forming foam formulation. Capabilities under examination included control, extinguishment, and burn-back times as a function of application rate and discharge density for a range of test parameters including fuel type, water type, and fuel temperature.
“The experiences gained with this National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Research Foundation project provided NRL with important opportunities to get firsthand firefighting experiences with the commercially available fluorine-free foam products,” said Farley, director of Fire Test Operations at NRL’s Navy Technology Center for Safety and Survivability.
With these experiences, NRL then developed a follow-on Office of the Secretary of Defense-sponsored Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), WP20-5373 “Fluorine-Free Military Specification Development” program.
This new ESTCP program gave NRL additional insight to develop an essential comprehensive firefighting performance data set for the new commercially available F3 products. NRL will use this information to fulfill the Department of Defense’s (DoD) National Defense Authorization Act requirements that mandate the DoD to issue a new F3 military specification qualification standard for all DoD shore-based applications by January 31, 2023.
“As the leading firefighting applied research organization for the U.S. Navy, it is important that NRL remain engaged with the development and updating of the germane NFPA standards that are used worldwide by the fire protection community,” Farley added.
Fire incidents with catastrophic consequences historically resulted from flammable liquids, and this remains an important fire protection hazard. These fire incidents can occur in places such as aircraft hangars, shipboard spaces, flammable liquids fueling facilities, or large fuel storage tanks. Class B firefighting foams are often used in both manual and fixed system applications for vapor suppression and extinguishment of flammable liquid fires. Foams form a film and/or a blanket of bubbles on the surface of flammable liquids, which prevent the fuel vapors and oxygen from interacting and creating a flammable mixture.
Fire protection foams have changed composition in recent years. The commercial foam industry markets the new F3 as environmentally-acceptable alternatives for legacy fluorinated foams.  The new F3 products were evaluated during the OSD ESTCP WP20-5373 to help further validate the true firefighting performance capabilities in comparison to the legacy fluorinated firefighting foam products that are currently being used by the DoD.
“Such recognition for the NRL fire protection team is a clear example of how continued advances in the understanding of complex processes, such as fire protection, are applied quickly to important problems,” said Peter Matic, Ph.D., Associate Director of Research Materials Science and Component Technology Directorate at NRL. “This work was done in a manner relevant and timely to all communities involved in this critical issue.”
“NRL has made a concerted effort to develop and identify suitable firefighting agents with zero potential impact on ozone depletion and global warming for shipboard applications,” Farley said.
The NRL Chemistry Division helps prevent fires at sea and is home to the Navy Technology Center for Safety and Survivability. The Center performs research, development, test, and evaluation on fire and personnel protection, fuels, chemical defense, submarine atmospheres, and damage control aspects of ship and aircraft survivability. NRL’s Chesapeake Bay Detachment has facilities for research and development of fire protection technologies for use on surface combatants and submarines, as well as development and testing of new fire extinguishing agents.
The Fire Protection Research Foundation, an NFPA research affiliate, plans, manages, and communicates research on a broad range of fire safety issues in collaboration with scientists and laboratories around the world. The Fire Protection Research Foundation awards the Research Foundation Medal annually to recognize outstanding achievements in fire and life safety.
The Research Foundation Medal recognizes the project completed in the previous year that best exemplifies the Foundation’s fire safety mission, technical challenges that have been overcome, and a collaborative approach to execution – the hallmark of all Foundation projects. An awards committee consisting of representatives from the Foundation Board, Research Advisory Committee, and NFPA technical staff reviewed summaries of 18 eligible projects and conducted staff assessments of how they meet each of the criteria.

The awards ceremony will occur during the annual NFPA Conference in Quincy, Massachusetts, in June 2022.

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL is located in Washington, D.C. with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; Key West, Florida; Monterey, California, and employs approximately 3,000 civilian scientists, engineers, and support personnel.
For more information, contact NRL Corporate Communications at (202) 480-3746 or

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