Data base for real tank fires and large-scale foam tests

Tank fire review
Tank fire information of interest
Contact persons


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Tank fire Review

A literature review has been conducted to gather information related to the extinguishment of actual tank fires and relevant large-scale fire extinguishing tests. The aim was to search for data that could be used for validation of foam spread models developed in the FOAMSPEX project. In total, 480 tank fire incidents have been identified worldwide since the 1950s and the information collected has been compiled into a database. A list of the 480 incidents with some data is provided in the report.

Out of the 480 fire incidents, detailed information has been found for about 30 fires, e.g. tank diameter, application rate, time to control, and extinguishment. For each of these fires, a more detailed summary of the existing data is also provided in this report.

Assuming that the data collection is complete for the 1990s and thus far for the first decade of 2000, this indicates that the number of tank fires per year worldwide is in the order of 15 to 20. However, if all fire incidents were be reported, also including rim seal fires, the number would probably increase significantly.

Lightning is declared to be the cause of ignition for about 150 fires. This confirms the conclusions from other studies stating that lightning is the most common source of ignition. For about 190 of the fires, there is no information available about the ignition source.

It can be noted that all the 30 fires studied more in detail were attacked using mobile equipment and over-the-top application, although in some few fires sub-surface injection was used in parallel. No information has been found of full surface tank fires extinguished by fixed systems only. There seem also to be a lack in experience in fighting full surface fires by monitor application using FP foam although this is probably the most common type of foam concentrate for tank fire protection in the oil industry.

As this review shows, there is a lack of well-documented data on the extinguishment from tank fires in the range from 50 m in diameter and larger Such large-scale fire tests would be of great importance to provide further experience and validation data for foam spread models. Having access to validated foam spread models would not only be relevant to confirm the limitations of existing equipment and foams, but also contribute to a better fundamental understanding of foam spread and possibilities for the development of foam concentrates and foam equipment. In light of the present debate concerning the environmental acceptability of the most high-efficiency foams today, containing flouro-surfactants, such a foam-spread model seems even more important.

Although great effort has been expended to collect information, there are probably a significant number of fire incidents, which have not been identified. Further, more detailed information and experience is probably available concerning most of the identified fires that could contribute to an improved understanding of tank fire protection. Such information is not available in the open literature but could no doubt be obtained through indepth interviews with site personnel etc. Based on the information gained in this project, it is apparent that there are gaps in the available information, e.g. tank fire fighting using fixed systems.

We would therefore like to invite all people, companies and organisations involved in tank fire protection to submit further details on identified or unidentified tank fires to be included in the established database, see below.


In 2001, the EC-project FOAMSPEX was completed. One of the main results from the project was the development of a model for foam spread on a burning fuel surface. In the FOAMSPEX report, the model predictions were compared with some few real tank fires, but it was concluded that there was need for further validation to estimate the uncertainty of the model. In order to do this, this literature survey was initiated with the aim of establishing a data base for real tank fires and large-scale foam tests (larger than approximately 500 m2). Every single tank fire that occurs is a very expensive event and we were convinced that there must be a lot of information and experience, which could be very valuable for the future. By collecting information worldwide in a data base, this could be a source of knowledge, both for the oil and fire protection industry and fire brigades.

Tank fire information of interest

The data of interest has been divided into three groups: information about the tank and the tank fire, information about the foam and the extinguishment, and information about the response of the fire brigade. Each group include several questions. These questions are listed below. You do not need to have the answer to every question to contact us. We are grateful for all information we can get. (See typical examples in Appendix A in the report)

Basic data about the tank fire (or large-scale fire test)

1. Date and location of the fire
2. Type of tank
3. Diameter and height
4. Type of fuel, filling ratio
5. Cause of ignition
6. Type of fire (rim seal, full surface)

Data related to the extinguishment

1. Weather conditions
2. Mobile attack/fixed system
3. Type of equiment (fixed/mobile, etc)
4. Type of foam
5. Application rate
6. Time to knockdown
7. Time to complete extinguishment

The general fire brigade response

14. Preburn time
15. The need for cooling of adjacent tanks
16. Totally used amount of cooling/extinguishing water and foam concentrate
17. Number of involved personnel
18. General positive/negative experience from the operation

Contact persons

Responsible for the collecting of data concerning tank fires and large-scale foam-spread tests are

Henry Persson 
Tel: +46 10 516 51 98 (direct) 

Anders Lönnermark 
Tel: +46 10 516 56 91 (direct) 

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden 
Fire Research, Fire Protection 
P.O. Box 857 
SE-501 15 BORÅS 

Related Information

Contact Persons

Henry Persson

Phone: +46 10 516 51 98

Anders Lönnermark

Phone: +46 10 516 56 91

RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Phone 010-516 50 00, E-mail

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