Fire suppression foam 'inadvertently' released around one of United Airlines' hangars at IAH

Miya Shay Image
Friday, February 2, 2024
Fire suppression accidentally released at IAH hangar
A lenghty cleanup got underway Thursday after fire suppression foam was "inadvertently" released around one of the United Airlines hangars.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Cleanup is expected to last through Thursday night into Friday morning after fire suppression foam was "inadvertently" released at about 5:30 a.m. at one of the United Airlines hangars that dot a public service road at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

It happened just off Wright Road, in a hangar adjacent to the flight attendant training facility. Large amounts of fire suppression foam seeped onto nearby parking lots, around fences, posts, over cars, and eventually on a portion of the public Wright Road. It wasn't long before the Houston Fire Department was called in to assist.

"Because of its high expansion properties, it was as high as 30 feet," Houston Assistant Fire Chief Mike Mire, one of several HFD officials on the scene, said.

Work crews spent hours spraying the foam with a defoaming agent. The immediate concern for fire officials was just how dangerous this foam was to the general public. Both United and Houston Airport officials confirm this is a new, more environmentally friendly foam that does not contain PFAS, a class of chemicals known to be harmful to humans and previously often used in aviation fire suppression foam.

"The good news is this is the newer foam. This is what we call the PFAS free, so it's safer for the environment and is not cancer-causing," said Mire.

However, firefighters say they are still taking precautions to prevent as much foam as possible from entering Houston waterways. With many maintenance hangars surrounding the Bush Airport, firefighters say this is not the first time they've dealt with errant foam - and won't be the last.

"Most of them that do house airplanes they do have these types of systems," HFD Asst. Chief Terry Colburn said. "In case there is a fire that breaks out, they can rapidly put it out."

They added that no people or aircraft were inside the building at the time.

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