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Fire Extinguishing Systems - Frequently Asked Questions


What are the differences between extinguishing agents?

Halon 1211: Advantages are that it leaves no residue, effective, not thermal shocking and the bottle withstands higher cockpit heat compared to Halon 1301. Disadvantages are that it is toxic, does not quench the fire and is Ozone depleting. This chemical was not designed for system use as it is toxic, designed for hand held fire extinguishers only. This is one of two chemicals used by FireBottle (the other being CEA-614). Safecraft offers this chemical for high-heat installations. We recommend Halon 1211 when the bottle is placed over exhaust systems or stored in an area where the bottle will be subjected to sustained temperatures at or above 130º F.

CEA-614: This is a Halon substitute. Advantages are that it leaves no residue, not thermal shocking, and relatively Ozone safe. Disadvantages are that it does not quench the fire and it takes twice as much material to do the same job as Halon. It is also expensive. Although 5# of CEA-614 may be legal for use in the SCCA, it will not do the same job as 5# of Halon. This agent is not used very much anymore.

FE-36: This new agent is a Halon substitute. It is not considered Ozone-depleting. It is used by Safecraft in their SFI-certified systems. It leaves no residue and is not thermal shocking. Disadvantages are the same as CEA-614: it does not quench the fire and it takes twice as much material to do the same job as Halon. It is also more expensive than Halon. The SCCA now requires an SFI-certified system in all new cars. If this is what you need, either choose this agent, or the ESS system with AFFF.

AFFF or ColdFire: These are examples of foaming water-based systems. Advantages are that it quenches the fire. Disadvantages are that systems are heavier, will not spread out like Halon, leaves a mess both in the car and on the track. If you would like this agent, we provide ESS brand systems using AFFF.

Halon 1301: In my opinion, the best product on the market. Advantages are that it is effective, non-toxic, non-caustic, leave no residue, small, lightweight, industry standard with plenty of supply, no thermal shock, leaves no mess. Disadvantages are that it does not quench the fire and it is Ozone depleting.

What happened to Phoenix Fire Systems?

Phoenix seems to have gone out of business. Phoenix bottles cannot be refilled. We recommend that you replace your system with a new Safecraft system.

What areas should be covered by the system?

Read your rule book as to which areas are required to be covered. Always cover the driver area first. The other two areas are the fuel cell and the engine compartment. With a 5# system, I would only go to 2 areas. With a 10# system, there should be plenty of chemical to go to all three areas. Understand that most of the chemical will go to the shortest distance (path of least resistance). Design your system so that the driver's compartment will get the most chemical.

I've heard that Halon has been banned. Is that true?

Halon 1301 is stockpiled across the country. There is plenty of this around and it is readily available. Expect Halon 1301 to be around for at least another 10 years or more. The manufacture of this chemical has been banned by international treaty but the use of it has not. Halon can still be manufactured for critical uses such as the military.

What is the toxicity level of Halon and at what concentration will it extinguish a fire?

Halon 1211 and 1301 will extinguish a fire at about a 5% concentration. The difference between the two agents is that Halon 1211 becomes toxic to humans at about a 2% concentration and Halon 1301 becomes toxic at about 9% concentration. You can see why we prefer the Halon 1301, however, we have Halon 1211 in our LT and RS systems for high-heat environments. Halon 1211 can be better when mounting in a very hot location such as on top of the exhaust system. Halon 1301 will expand more rapidly than Halon 1211 and therefore it can have a tendency to over-pressurize the cylinder.

What should I do if my car catches on fire while I am racing?

Your first consideration is to get your car stopped quickly and safely. As you are looking for a good place to pull over, shut off your engine and battery master switch. This will keep the fuel pump and electrical system from adding to the excitement. Using your best judgment as to how fast you need to get out of the car, try to find track personnel such as a flag person to park close to. (Flaggers will not come to your aid, but they do have fire extinguishers that you can use. Also, if they see you are on fire, they will call the safety crew out to help.) Park the car in an area that is safe from other cars on the track and away from other items that may catch on fire such as gasoline storage or dry grass. After the car is stopped, hold your breath, release the fire extinguisher system and then get out and away from the car. Remember the track is still "hot" and it would be really sad to get out of a burning car just to get hit by another racer passing by. Keep your head by practicing an emergency bail out.

If the fire is out of control, all of the above may "go out the window". Just remember three main things: Stop the car, hold your breath and get out!

Why should you hold your breath? Well, two reasons. One, smoke and fumes can be very hot and/or caustic and they can burn your lungs. Smoke inhalation can choke you and make you pass out. Two, high concentrations of Halon can be toxic.

Remember, your helmet and gloves will be very critical in a fire. The shield needs to be down to keep your face from burning and to keep the temperature of the air you breath lower. The gloves will protect your hands from hot metal and melted roll bar padding. Two-layer SFI-rated or FIA-rated gloves are highly recommended.

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