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Hydrogen Generator Fire


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Call to hydrogen generator on fire in city centre building site what do you do?  Generator also contains lithium batteries.

Thoughts on this one, was an actual job up here last night.

Brief discussion in passing this morning, one I've had no exposure to but all was said treat it a bit like a LPG fire and cut the fuel off if you can.

We have a number of hydrogen vehicles on the docks around here and I believe a Supermarket is running some of their lorries so could be anywhere in the UK.  Still quite a new topic in some areas and some will have had more exposure than others but we also had a hybrid car go up which I think was a first for crews around here.  By all accounts both jobs took some time to deal with.

In time they might become the norm but interested to know thoughts on it, is there any sort of media effective on these or is it a case of let them burn?  I know batteries need cooling and thats a different topic but curious on this one.

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If it's a downtown location then it's likely to be hydrogen made via electrolysis of water so I would certainly look at to cut the power. As for letting it vent it's an interesting thought experiment.

Hydrogen burns about as close to complete combustion as you can get and the flames have low radiant heat and light, they can be almost invisible to the eye in the daytime. So big hazard there. But it's also absurdly buoyant and will escape to the atmosphere at soonest opportunity, so venting it may well be an option if everything is cool enough.

If you know that you have cut the power supply my main concern would be the batteries. 

TICs everywhere that's for sure 

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Isn't there a failing by fire service employers if they are not providing suitable SOPs for emerging technologies like this?

The 'green' market is huge and we have already seen how building Regs and legislation failed to keep up with the speed of change with insulation innovations. And of course, the public inquiry learned that LFB fire safety staff had received training in Grenfell type cladding systems but not operational staff - what a cock up

I have had no dealings with hydrogen generators but the mix of hydrogen and batteries sounds fraught with risk

A few years ago and when retired, I was involved in investigating a job where the local FRS blundered into a burning UPS room full of lead acid batteries with insufficient PPE. Astonishingly nobody questioned the decision

Four firefighters were hospitalised with acid burns

I made enquiries on here and elsewhere about what training or SOPs UKFRS' were providing on UPS equipment It was very poor.

In London, there will be 1000s of UPS systems, yet LFB's SOP on electrical risks only gave one paragraph to UPS risks. Disgraceful.  

It really is time for your employer to prepare you in a much more detailed and timely manner. For example, has your FRS got a hydrogen generator procedure or SOP?

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Randomly, an article popped up on a social media firefighting page about hydrogen fires and how NASA dealt with them in the 60s and 70s: 

"In spite of the dangers of hydrogen, NASA lacked a comprehensive system for detecting a leak for much of its career. Part of hydrogen's danger is that it gives off low radiant heat, meaning its flame is invisible in daylight. NASA came up with a rather creative solution for the issue. During the Apollo missions, scientists and engineers would simply walk through the facilities with a long broom held out in front of them. When the broom touched the invisible burning hydrogen, the end would suddenly combust and they could mark another area which had dangerous gas within it. It was low-tech — but it worked"


So make sure you have a broom and you'll be alright!

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My understanding is hydrogen is more dangerous than LPG when venting so whilist letting it vent could be more dangerous but I'm no scientist but I'm not sure on that.

Messyshaw - I'm not ops there are plans in place but its still a new topic up here. I've attended various training sessions over the years with crews but this is new since I was last on station like that.  I've had a chat with a few mates who are ops and still a new one to them so was curious on the topic.

Broom method, now that is simple, like the idea of that, too simple for use these days, would need some over complicated alternative!!

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