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Latest fire extinguisher technology saves lives in mortar attack

January 18, 2019

Innovative British fire technology prevented serious injury and a “catastrophic explosion” when three people were wounded in a mortar attack on a military compound in Somalia.

Shrapnel pierced two of the world’s first composite fire extinguishers– which have inner cylinders wrapped in Kevlar thread used to make bullet-proof vests – when a barrage of mortars was fired by gunmen at the base in capital Mogadishu on New Year’s Day.

The cylinders remained intact because of their innovative technology designed to resist explosion.

Britannia Fire, inventors and manufacturers of the P50 extinguisher at its Norfolk factory, said traditional steel extinguishers would have burst after shrapnel impact, risking serious injury.

Sales director Andy Spence said metal extinguishers would have “catastrophically exploded” in the attack by Islamist group al-Shabaab.

“It was the first – and hopefully the only time – a P50 has come under fire in such an attack and it performed as it was designed to do, to withstand the attack and remain intact. We know the P50’s resilience but our client was so impressed.

“If those cylinders had been metal extinguishers, installed just two metres from the compound wall, there would have been a catastrophic explosion and lives could have been lost.”

The P50 is currently exported to 20 countries and is installed on many military operation sites worldwide and British embassies.

“The P50’s inner cylinder is wrapped in aramid Kevlar thread, used to make bullet-proof vests, so it is as strong as it can possibly be. Its fire-fighting capability is second to none, but also its safety features. The photo is clear proof the P50 does what it is supposed to and can save lives in other ways other than fire-fighting,” Mr Spence said.

The P50 took three years to develop. It can be recycled and is corrosion-resistant. As well as its sustainability, the P50 offers customers big savings because they need no external service contracts, just simple in-house on-site annual checks.

Last year, the distance of its exports totalled more than 250,000 miles worldwide.

The multi-use P50 was last year chosen to protect terminals at Heathrow Airport and is installed in universities, public buildings, national chains, finance houses and banks and large organisations in the UK and across the world.

“We are planning demonstrations in a military environment to demonstrate the resilience of the P50 compared to traditional steel extinguishers, which is part of their unique safety feature,” Mr Spence said.

“This feature is another big plus for this sort of location in a volatile area. No engineer needs to go on site reducing risk as well as cost.”

The three people wounded escaped life-threatening injuries. Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is fighting to overthrow the internationally-based Somali government in Mogadishu and deliberately targets organisations supporting the consolidation of peace and strengthening of governing institutions in Somalia.