Major U.S. Airport Covered in Foam After Fire Suppression System Mishap

Fire suppression systems are crucial components of any public building, especially busy facilities like airports. But if they malfunction or are set off at the wrong time, it can lead to a massive mess to clean up.

Officials at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston are dealing with this firsthand. A United Airlines hangar on the premises was filled with fire suppression foam after a mishap with the system in the early morning hours of Feb. 1. It's taken more than 24 hours to clean up the mountain of foam.

"Because of its high expansion properties, it was [as] high as 30 feet," Houston Fire Department operations chief Michael Mire told FOX 26 Houston of the mess. "This stop sign behind us was covered with the foam. All of the vehicles were covered as well." News video from KHOU showed just how much foam leaked out of the building and covered nearby parked cars and other tarmac equipment.

Thankfully, the foam shouldn't present a hazard to the health of humans or the surrounding area. "The good news is this is the newer foam. This is what we call the PFAS-free [foam], so it’s safer for the environment and is not cancer-causing," Mire said Feb. 2, per The Associated Press.

United Airlines, which maintains Houston as a hub airport, told the AP that there were no planes or people inside the hanger when the fire suppression system went off. Because it was in a part of the airport with no commercial flights and passengers, travel at the airport wasn't affected. "United Airlines Environmental Team has been working around the clock," an airline spokesperson said as the cleanup process continued Feb. 2.

The incident is probably the closest that Houston will ever come to looking like a winter wonderland.