Skip to main content

Developed and maintained by the NFCC

Control measure

Cool pressurised gas containers

Control measure knowledge

Responders should understand that as cylinders heat up in a fire the pressure inside them increases, direct flame contact will also weaken the cylinder wall. If heat continues to be applied then the maximum safe working pressure of the cylinder may be exceeded and eventually the cylinder will burst or fail in a violent manner, resulting in the release of a considerable amount of energy. Subsequent events will depend on the gas type. The most effective way to safely control the hazards at cylinder incidents is to stop the heat source and cool the cylinder shell. Water sprays are the most effective way of achieving this.

It should be noted that in the particular case of hydrogen, gas escaping under pressure can reignite so that consideration may have to be given to allowing the flame to burn or managing it with a narrow cone of water.

Any cylinder found to be physically damaged or heated by fire should be treated with caution after the fire has been extinguished as it may have been weakened, increasing the risk of cylinder failure.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Have procedures and support arrangements for the hazards that may be encountered and actions to take when dealing with incidents involving cylinders

  • Have procedures and support arrangements regarding the hazards that may be encountered and actions to take for a potential BLEVE

  • Ensure that all personnel can recognise the situations and indicators of a potential BLEVE situation

  • Provide appropriate means to enable the safe and effective delivery of firefighting media, without the requirement for physical resources

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Gather relevant information from all available sources regarding the substance involved and its potential for BLEVE 

  • Recognise potential BLEVE situations and exercise extreme caution when approaching them

  • Extinguish the fire and apply cooling sprays directly on to any affected cylinders 

  • Establish ground monitors and branch holding equipment to minimise the deployment of personnel in the risk area

  • Leave damaged or heated cylinders in situ and refer to specialist agencies for safe disposal 

  • Treat all fire affected cylinders as if they contain acetylene if their contents cannot be identified 

  • Approach potential BLEVE situations, where safe to do so, from an upwind direction and from the side of the tank (avoiding the 45-degree zones at each tank end)

  • Consider evacuating the potential blast zone and give evacuation or shelter-in-place guidance to those within range of projectiles

  • If a BLEVE is imminent, consider adopting defensive tactics where there is no risk to life. If there is a risk to life, defensive tactics may be the only option.

  • Consider ‘flame bending’ to prevent flame contact with pressurised tanks/containers

  • Consider using heavy, coarse sprays to afford protection to personnel

  • Consider positioning firefighting jets to prevent fire spread using branch holders and ground monitors