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Energy and environment
Fire-Brake foam
additive that turns water into fire-fighting foam

The debut for Canadian chemist Ted Schaefer's fire-fighting chemical was during Sydney's bushfire emergency in the summer of 1993/94 - much earlier than expected. 3M Specialty Chemical Products factory at St Marys in Sydney was suddenly cranking out tonnes of Fire-Brake months ahead of schedule, to deal with the devastating bushfires of that summer.

Schaefer began working on the chemical for 3M in Canada, where forest fires destroy 50% of commercial timber production each year. He transferred to Australia in the late 1980s to complete the work and make the product suitable for Australian conditions.

When one part of Fire-Brake is added to 99 parts of water it makes a foam that slows evaporation and increases the dowsing or smothering effect of the water by five times. This saves property and increases the effectiveness of bushfire tankers.

Fire-Brake was so successful that demand in Australia, New Zealand and Canada skyrocketed.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
3M Specialty Chemical Products : all aspects of innovation
Key People
Ted Schaefer : chemist/inventor

Further Reading
'Stay in Touch',
Ed David Dale & Malcolm Knox,
Sydney Morning Herald, 31 July 1996

3M Australia - fire fighting
NSW Fire Brigades
NSW Rural Fire Service
NSW State Emergency Service

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Fire Brake was first used to protect Sydney properties during the devastating fires of 1993. Courtesy 3M Australia.
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