Choosing the Right Fire Suppression System

There is no one size fits all solution for fire protection. When choosing your fire suppression system, consider the unique hazards of your machine. AFEX offers dry chemical, liquid agent, and dual agent fire suppression systems in a variety of sizes and configurations to meet your needs. To determine the appropriate type of system to utilize, the first step is to conduct a "Fire Risk Assessment" of the machine to be protected and the environment in which it will be operating. This evaluation should include such considerations as the physical size of the machine, the engine horsepower and the volume of hydraulics. The potential for debris to accumulate also is a key factor when it comes to designing a system. Whether the engine is a TIER 4 or not can also impact the choice of protection type and system size.

Overall, AFEX has found that dual agent systems, combining the benefits of dry chemical with the benefits of liquid agent, are the most effective way to address most risks. Dual agent systems are so effective that the National Fire Protection Agency requires them for large hydraulic shovels. Not only are they more effective, dual agent systems require less space and are more economical than a comparable liquid-only system for the same machine.

To learn more, or to get the help of an AFEX Specialist to determine a specific system configuration, call us at (919) 781-6610 or use the contact form below.



Yes. AFEX offers liquid-only fire suppression systems that have been tested and approved by Factory
Mutual (FM) and provide Australian Standard 5062 (AS 5062) compliant fire suppression abilities.


It depends. Dry chemical and liquid agent should each be considered for their unique benefits. Dry chemical floods an entire enclosure, is effective against debris, fuel, and electrical fires, and provides unparalleled fire knockdown speed, making it especially well suited for protecting vehicle engine, transmission, and hydraulic pump compartments. Liquid agent provides an extended, cooling, discharge for a targeted area, making it the top choice for protecting specific high risk vehicle components such as turbochargers, exhaust components, and Tier 4 aftertreatment components or for penetrating areas with debris build up. Dual agent systems combine the most desirable qualities of both dry chemical and liquid agent and will provide the best overall protection for most applications.


They can be, if you use enough agent. However, it is a common misconception that they are also more efficient than dry chemical systems. Because liquid agent does not flood an enclosed space, more nozzles are required to protect a similar size compartment, and even then the overall coverage cannot accurately be compared to the total-flooding of a dry chemical system. These additional nozzles result in a more complex distribution network, which adds to the required system installation time.
liquid-only dimensions dual agent dimensions
Liquid agent tanks also provide fewer nozzles per tank than a dry chemical tank of the same size. For example, a 60 pound dry chemical tank provides up to 12 nozzles, whereas a 5 gallon liquid agent tank (which has the same physical dimensions) only provides 4 nozzles. Therefore, in order to provide the same coverage as dry chemical or dual agent systems, liquid-only systems would require more and/or larger tanks, increasing the required space on the machine. Ultimately this results in liquid-only systems that are heavier, occupy a larger footprint, require greater installation times, and cost more than a comparable dry chemical or dual agent system.

Hey Grinder Guy, Are These Fire Suppression Systems Worth The Money?

As printed in the December 2013 issue of WHEN (Waste Handling Equipment News)

By Dave Whitelaw
Well, it’s not like you are putting a sprinkler system in your house to protect your family, but for most guys, your grinder is your lifeline. If it doesn’t work, neither do you. I personally have not had any installed on my equipment, but the comments I have heard through the years are:  They are expensive…..They leak…… They are in the way.

Fire Suppression systems are becoming more and more common due to the mandates in mines, above ground and below, along with some insurance companies requiring systems on insured machinery. In addition, with the increased pressures and complexity of hydraulics and the advent of Tier IV engines and their associated excess heat, fires could potentially increase.

So for real facts, I spoke with Kenneth Daniels of AFEX Fire Suppression Systems. AFEX call themselves the heavy equipment experts because that it is all they service, heavy equipment. AFEX is in most major mines in the world, have CAT® endorsed products and have their systems engineered into some John Deere® products. Without giving me the AFEX sales pitch, he explained why I had heard the complaints I have heard in the past-

Price- A sufficiently sized and installed system depends on the size, horsepower and hydraulics of the machine. The more of each, the larger the system. This is not a one size fits all industry. Stationary, not just mobile equipment can also catch fire. While the machine loss may be an issue, the building it is inside, the mulch pile it is next to, and the landfill that is on, can be the greater issue that can cost you your business. Think about what equipment is the most critical to your business and what would happen if it caught fire and what would be the collateral damage associated with it. It is possible that your insurance rates can be reduced with this type of protection. Check with your carrier.

They Leak- Some systems are pressurized, which means the tanks contain both the propellant and the agent, like the fire extinguisher that hangs on the wall in your office. Over time they have the possibility for pressure to leak out because of the significant vibrations these machines have, which can keep the system from discharging fully or at all. This is a maintenance item that needs to be monitored on a daily basis. Concerned? Look at a differently designed side cartridge operated system that uses a sealed, pressurized nitrogen cylinders separate from the agent tanks so that leaking won't be an issue. Get a more detailed description from your Fire Suppression Supply Company.

They are in the way- Some manufacturers have predesigned systems, such as the John Deere® Feller Bunchers, but most systems are designed in the office and installed on site. Because these are aftermarket installations, the sensors and the spray nozzles need to be where the potential fire hazard could be. It’s rather easy to remove some stainless steel tubing, like AFEX uses, and make your repairs or do your service.

What does a basic system consist of and how does it work?
•  Dealer sends machine drawings to Manufacturer or Distributor for a “Fire Risk Assessment” to determine Protection, Distribution and Discharge configuration. They also determine the type of agent required for the risk.
•  Size, the amount of agent required, is determined by the size of the machine, the horsepower and hydraulic system size and pressures. Dealer installs engineered routing of steel tubing or hydraulic hoses, sensors and spray nozzles and storage tanks. Agent storage tanks are installed in an area with enough space and away from potential damage. Space for these tanks can be an issue.
•  Then manual switches are installed so an operator can activate the system at the first sign of trouble.
•  Sensors, set at approximately 300 degrees, are activated by heat or fire. The sensors trigger the tanks to open. The spray nozzles send the agent to the predetermined areas and continually spray until the tanks are empty. Liquid systems take much more material to cover compared to dry chemical. So you need much more space for storage tanks of liquid than dry chemical.

What you need to know:
•  With all the electronics and hybrid machines today, “Liquid Only” is not a good option in most cases. Dry chemical will cover class A, B and C  fires. Combustables, Fuel and Electrical respectively. Dual  systems are possible also and perform to the strengths of each agent.
•  A Side Cartridge System has a nitrogen tank which is activated by the temperature sensors, which then activates the agent tanks. In AFEX systems, they use of stainless steel tubing which adds to the strength, rigidity and  longevity of the overall system. This makes the system much more user friendly because the lines are much easier to remove for maintenance and repair.

A Fire Suppression System does not mean daily housekeeping is not necessary. Most fires start within an hour of being shut down and most are from the lack of housekeeping . These systems can only go off once and making sure they can takes a little maintenance. To reiterate, with all the vibration, dust and dirt these systems need quarterly service to make sure they can do what they were made to do.

This is one major cost you don’t want to have, but one major disaster that can be avoided. Next equipment purchase check out a system and start protecting yourself.

For more information, contact Kenneth Daniels at AFEX Fire Suppression Systems at 919-781-6610.

Questions? Dave Whitelaw, The Grinder Guy, [email protected]

AFEX Featured in WHEN Magazine

AFEX would like to thank Mr. Dave Whitelaw, a.k.a. The Grinder Guy, for discussing fire suppression systems with us. His article is a regular feature in the Waste Handling Equipment News magazine, and he spoke with our Marketing Director, Ken Daniels, about the in's and out's of protecting chippers and grinders from the threat of fire. "We've heard the horror stories of the ravages of fire from across a wide range of industries. As always, AFEX appreciates the opportunity to address such a wide audience about how they can protect their investment, which is really the heart of many operations, and get folks thinking about protecting their company's productivity at the same time." said Daniels.

Read the article here.

Landfill Trash Compactor Fire Prevention and Suppression Best Practices

When it comes to preventing fires on the heavy equipment at landfills, the first line of defense will always be keeping machines clean and well maintained. Using compressed air to clear out the radiator and other areas that tend to gather debris is a common way to do this, and doing it frequently is the easiest way to stay ahead of a problem. This is always time well spent. After all, failure to follow this best practice can result in a build up of flammable fluids and materials, which sets the stage for a fire.

On top of keeping the machine clean, a good fire prevention technique is installing fire wraps on turbochargers and exhaust manifolds. The difference between the surface temperatures on treated and untreated surfaces is significant and can mean the difference between a fire starting upon contact or not. Newer models often will have this material in place, but there is a good chance that it has not been retrofitted onto older equipment.

But let’s be realistic, in an environment where day in and day out literally tons of potential fuel meets very hot surfaces, the occasional fire is unavoidable, which is why automatic waste fire suppression systems are so critical.

Waste Fire Suppression System Overview

A waste fire suppression system is an after-market safety accessory that is attached directly to the machine it is protecting. It is made up of tanks holding the fire-fighting agent (some canisters also hold nitrogen to power a discharge, other “side-cartridge operated” set ups keep the propellant in a separate bottle); a series of fire detection sensors; and a network of distribution tubing and nozzles. The systems can be activated either automatically when a fire triggers the actuation mechanism, or manually by an operator. The size of the system is determined by a “fire risk assessment” which evaluates how much agent would be needed to combat a fire given a number of factors, including the size of the machine’s engine, the volume of hydraulic fluids, the presence of other fuel sources, and other sources of intense heat such as turbochargers. The type of agent used to suppress a fire (dry chemical, liquid-only or dual agent) varies according to circumstances as well.

Choosing the Right Type of Fire Suppression System

The first consideration when choosing a fire suppression system type is the machine’s environment. For the landfill setting, dual agent systems are often recommended to take advantage of the strengths of each agent: the fast knockdown of a dry chemical agent and the cooling properties and extended discharge of a liquid agent. In enclosed areas, such as engine and transmission compartments, a dry chemical agent is an excellent option because it floods the space and smothers flames. When it comes to hot surfaces, such as turbochargers and exhaust manifolds, the targeted approach of a liquid agent is well suited for fire suppression, plus it has the added benefit of reducing their temperatures dramatically, which lowers the risk of reignition.

This combination approach will become even more appropriate as TIER 4 engines become more common on site. This is because these machines run hotter and are more likely to suffer from a reflash if a hydraulic hose has ruptured. At the end of the day, knowing when and where to use each type of protection is crucial, which is why systems should be installed and regularly serviced by heavy equipment fire suppression experts.

Proper Suppression Requires Proper Installation

In many ways, a waste fire suppression system’s effectiveness begins on Day 1 with proper installation. The highest risk components need particularly close attention since they are the most common starting points for fire. The most important of the areas to be addressed are the starter, the alternator, turbochargers and exhaust manifolds. Another area of major concern is the belly pan. This area is notorious for debris accumulation and needs to be protected, but a nozzle that is obstructed cannot effectively do its job of distributing the fire fighting agent. For this reason it is important that all nozzles protecting this area be installed above the debris line.

Maintaining a System is Everyone’s Job

Proper maintenance of the suppression system begins with monitoring it, and there is no substitute for an operator understanding the way a system works and taking an active role in the effort. A pre-shift inspection of the key components takes moments and provides the best defense against any potential operational issues. This is a wise process to have in place because there is no way of knowing when equipment damage might occur when working under such demanding conditions.

The condition of fire suppression system components should also be checked when machines are in for regular service. It is important to evaluate wear points if hydraulic hose is being used for the distribution network, especially on older machines since their rubber will begin to break down. Any worn material should be replaced as needed, as should any missing blow-off nozzle caps. If using a manifold type system with stainless steel tubing, then mechanics should be sure the compression fittings are tight and that the nozzles are properly aimed once reattached after service.

And finally, having regular service calls by a licensed and trained technician is the optimum way to ensure that your fire suppression system continues to protect your operators, your vehicles and your landfill.

Reducing Fire Suppression System Maintenance Costs

AFEX dry chemical and liquid agent fire suppression systems are built for heavy equipment. This rugged, purpose built, design can help you save money on your ongoing fire suppression system maintenance costs.


All dry chemical agent suppression systems must be serviced at least semiannually per National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Standard 17, however your maintenance costs can vary greatly based on the system you choose. The maintenance costs below reflect the actual part replacement costs incurred during a semiannual inspection for a mining customer that has both AFEX and non-AFEX systems installed on site.

AFEX (18 systems)

Fittings and connectors $289.98
Hose $172.90 Nozzles $107.46
Stainless steel tubing $48.60

Total Cost of Replacement Parts $618.94
Average Cost Per Machine $34.39


Non-AFEX (10 systems)

Fittings and connectors $643.20
Hose $1,376.50
Nozzles and nozzle caps $204.00
Batteries $1,410.00

Total Cost of Replacement Parts $3,633.70
Average Cost Per Machine $363.37


Because AFEX has dedicated over 45 years of research, design, and development to heavy equipment fire suppression systems, we are able to bring the best solutions to the market. Whereas other manufacturers must divide their resources amongst their other product lines, such as restaurant or industrial applications, AFEX is 100% focused on heavy equipment, enabling us to build the most reliable, most effective, and most durable heavy equipment fire suppression systems available.