LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Fire can send any independent business owner's hard work up in flames. But tire dealerships, which are typically filled with flammable substances and hard-to-extinguish stacks of tires, are particularly easy targets. Enter FuelBuster, a product invented in 1986 to render spilled combustible liquids, such as gasoline, non volatile.
In the last nine years, however, fire departments have come to discover FuelBuster can fight a host of other fires-including those that involve tires.
``Without a doubt, no pun intended, we are setting the world on fire with our new technology,'' said Fuelbuster inventor and owner of FuelBuster Laboratories Inc., Ron Thames.
Once a pile of tires has become ignited it can take firefighters weeks to fully extinguish the blaze. But mixed with water, FuelBuster, which looks like strawberry jam, can extinguish tire fires in a fraction of the time it takes untreated water or fire-fighting foam, Mr. Thames said.
Firefighters generally use water to remove the heat or foam to remove the oxygen from burning materials. But FuelBuster chemically reacts with the non-burning gases released from burning materials during a fire, Mr. Thames explained.
The product, which is biodegradable, non-toxic and non-corrosive, also prevents re-ignition, reduces temperatures and decreases toxicity associated with fires, according to Mr. Thames and tests performed by Clemson University.
FuelBuster makes fighting fires less hazardous and gives firefighters a better chance at saving more of a burning structure, Mr. Thames contends.
FuelBuster is Underwriters Laboratories Inc. listed for class A, regular material, and class B, liquid, grease and gas, fires. However, since it is usually applied to a fire as a mixture of FuelBuster and water, it should not be used on electrical fires, he said.
``It's not a cure-all for everything,'' Mr. Thames admitted. ``But in fire service, we offer a product that gives a wide variety of uses.''
FuelBuster can be purchased in small, hand-held containers or in 5- or 55-gallon quantities that can be mixed with water in pressurized fire extinguishers.
``You have an extinguisher that can actually stop a small fire. And the smallest of fires turn into big fires,'' said Mr. Thames, who recommends dealers fill 10 to 20 extinguishers to place around their shops.
Those with large piles of tires, however, might opt to simply store unmixed drums of FuelBuster on site for use by a local fire department in case of a fire, he added.
In either case, the best defense against a catastrophic fire is to be prepared, Mr. Thames advised.
``FuelBuster is an insurance policy,'' he said. ``A lot of people say `it won't happen to me.' But when it's happening, and it's burning, it's too late.''