Gensets that are stored indoors should be stationed in a well ventilated area to avoid the temperature of the genset rising too high, says fire risk management and support company ASP Fire CEO Michael van Niekerk.
“The first issue to take into consideration is that most generators either have an integral tank at the base of the genset, a 2 200 ℓ bulk-to-farm tank or often merely a 210 ℓ drum, which contains highly flammable liquids, especially in terms of refuelling; with the possibility of spillages.”
Leaking oil pipes or oil filters can also cause fires if a leak results in a fine spray or mist that is ignited by the hot exhaust manifold or a spark from the genset’s alternator.
Another issue is how and where the generator is stored. If a generator is stored outside, the possibility of vegetation growing within the generator enclosure is relatively high. Gensets are not always positioned properly to avoid radiating heat from igniting combustible surfaces or items in proximity to the generator.
“Very often, we will see vegetation encroaching on a genset, tucked away somewhere as an afterthought. We have even seen corporate clients piling office equipment onto, and around, a genset,” says Van Niekerk.
Owing to these possible scenarios, generators can become a potential source of fire ignition and, to avoid this, there are fire-prevention methods and products available to owners of gensets, Van Niekerk highlights.
“Sprinklers are the obvious choice, depending on whether such a system has been installed. If not, the cost of setting up sprinklers can be prohibitive; however, cheaper and more effective alternatives need to be investigated to ensure a sufficient hydraulic capacity is guaranteed.”
Another option would be to use a clean gas fire-suppression system, yet this option may not be ideal in certain scenarios, as generators are often located in rooms that are normally not well ventilated. The heat that the generators produce can compromise the integrity of the enclosure if a gas system is discharged in this environment. It is, therefore, not possible to maintain the concentration of that gas for a sufficient period to suppress the fire, explains Van Niekerk.
The third option is to use a water fire-suppression system. This option has the added environmental benefit of using only a minimal amount of water and is more cost effective, compared with the clean gas fire suppression system. This option can be used indoors, outdoors or in an enclosed generator.
Van Niekerk recommends using an electronic fire-detection system in conjunction with the aqueous fire-fighting foam (AFFF) water-mist fire-suppression system and the in-cabinet direct gaseous fire suppression system for the electrical components. “The AFFF additive will cover any fuel, oil spill or spray fire, while the gaseous suppression agent will avoid any water damage to the generator’s electronics.”
The fire-detection system enables the end-user to monitor the system in terms of any feedback when it is activated in the event of a fire, he adds.