Fire Foam Fun in 1972

Dubai was not cash rich in 1972. Oil money had yet to flow into the economy. Each Emirate still had responsibility for its own public services such as health, security and fire fighting. Later these were unified under the Federal Government who then funded these services. But in 1972 Dubai Municipality was short of money so couldn't afford the modern fire fighting equipment Dubai's Fire Brigade needed. Solution was eventually found - with some fun and foam included!

1971: Fire Engines that couldn't fight fires!

Management of newly opened Port Rashid did not want to operate their own Fire Brigade - fire fighting was not their business. They wanted firefighting "outsourced" to Dubai's Fire Brigade! Dubai Municipality's lack of money and Dubai Fire Brigade's limited amount of old fashioned equipment was standing in the way. Modern fire fighting equipment was needed- lots of it!

1971: We called Dubai Fire Brigade to a ship fire in Port Rashid. Within minutes, their Fire Engines were set up then - nothing happened! None of the Fire Engines started. Firemen stood around. Smoke continued to billow from the burning ship. "What's the problem?" the Fire Chief was asked. He shrugged his shoulders. "Fire Engine Pumps won't work. Been broken down for weeks. No spare parts. I keep asking to buy spare parts but no one will give permission!"

From Report on Ship Fire. Port Rashid 1971

Eventually Port Rashid and Dubai's Fire Brigade came together -a deal was struck. Port Rashid would buy Fire Fighting Equipment for Dubai's Fire Brigade - Fire Brigade would take responsibility for fighting Port Rashid's fires. Fire Chief listed his fire fighting equipment requirements.

He was like a child being let loose in a Sweet Shop - he wanted everything! But he had a favourite - a High Expansion Foam Generator. "This is essential" he said.

High Expansion Foam Generators make lots of foam quickly that can smother oil fires and fires in inaccessible areas such as mines, basements, tunnels, warehouses and maybe ships. So the order was placed. Months later the equipment arrived and handed over to Dubai Fire Brigade.

1972: Playing with Foam and Fire Engines

L to R: Al Maktoum Bridge Road, Clock Tower, Deira Fire Station. Image by Tony White

Dubai's Fire Chief invited Port Rashid's Management to a full scale demonstration of his new fire fighting equipment at 3pm next day, at Deira Fire Station in Port Said Industrial Area adjacent to Al Maktoum Bridge Road and Dubai's Clock Tower.

Who could miss an opportunity to play with fire engines! Everyone went! The Firemen demonstrated their new fire engines, power saws, breathing apparatus and all the other "toys". Finally it was Fire Chief's prized High Expansion Foam Generator.

HEF Generator was set up on the large expanse of sand outside Deira Fire Station. The Fire Chief gleefully pressed the start button. Huge volumes of foam immediately spewed out from the machine, rapidly spreading across the sand, heading towards the Fire Station then into the Fire Station until it hit the back wall, continueing upwards engulfing the new Fire Engines parked inside. Firemen started running into the Fire Station and into this wall of foam, reappeared grinning then disappeared again into the foam. Occasionally an arm waved out of the foam. Foam was fun!

Fire Chief decided enough was enough and pressed the stop button. By now there was a massive blanket of foam in and around Deira Fire Station. The wind changed direction! Slowly the Foam Blanket moved away from Deira Fire Station, onto the sand area, continued drifting until it moved on to Al Maktoum Bridge Road. Dubai's Drivers expect the unexpected but none expected to encounter a metre deep blanket of brilliant white high expansion foam blocking the road.

Traffic ground to a halt! Nothing could be done. Only wind, weather and time would break up this gleaming blanket of foam.
There was never any report of Dubai Fire Brigade using High Expansion Foam to fight a fire. But, at least, their Fire Engines could now fight fires!