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Minn. Church Survives Fire Thanks To Special ‘Gel’

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

BLAINE (WCCO) — It was just three days after Christmas when a fire nearly cost Pastor DelRoy Johnson his church in Blaine. Luckily, a new firefighting product helped save the church.

Delroy vividly recalls the evening of Dec. 28 when he rushed to the scene of the flames leaping from the roof of the Oak Park Community Church.

“A passerby had called me and they (the flames) were shooting up in the air,” said Johnson.

Not only did the wood-domed building present firefighters with a challenge due to some false ceiling spaces, but the deep snow cover made finding water hydrants more difficult.

After an initial assessment of the situation, District Chief Garrett Parten had little hope of saving the structure. Parten immediately ordered his crews into a defensive fight after determining that it was not worth the risk of sending firefighters inside.

“Based on my risk assessment of the fire — the extent, the building’s construction, the water supply, all of that — I determined the building was going to burn down,” said Parten.

However, there was a new firefighting product waiting to be used in this situation.

While crews were still laying lines and clearing access to hydrants, an engine with Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View’s fire department was carrying 750 gallons of a water and gel mixture that’s new on the market. Through a single one and three-quarter inch fire hose, they began spraying the fire with the new weapon.

“It’s similar to talcum powder,” said Parten.

The product, which is developed here in Minnesota, is called TetraKO. It’s a class A firefighting gel that, when mixed with water, creates a syrup-like gel. It’s completely non-toxic and biodegradable.

The gel can be pumped through fire engines and hose nozzles just like water, with the exception that it appears to be much more effective in knocking down fire.

According to Parten, that’s because, “it sticks to a surface and helps suffocate the fire.”

TetraKO doesn’t run off walls and ceilings like plain water does. Furthermore, when the gel comes into contact with intense heat, it puts out a dense steam which further suppresses open flames.

Johnson reflected on the quick action of the firefighters and the new product that saved the church and said, “it’s really amazing, very surprising!”

Because the fire was knocked down so quickly, there’s less damage from smoke, flames and water. It means church members and their insurance company will be paying for repairs and not total replacement.

“After seeing it, yes. I’m absolutely a believer in it,” said Parten.

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