Ethanol is a close cousin to the grain alcohol that's used to fuel various flaming beverages (e.g. the Forest Fire: 4/5 shot Everclear plus 1/5 shot Tabasco sauce--light and shoot). Perhaps unsurprisingly, ethanol fires are tricky. Water won't put them out, and neither will the foam that most fire departments have used since the 1960s.

Many fire departments around the country do not have the [ethanol-specific] foam, do not have enough of it, or are not well trained in how to apply it, firefighting specialists say. It is also more expensive than conventional foam.

While firefighters will eventually adapt, there have already been a few incidents:

In the last three months of 2007, three major fires highlighted the danger. In western Pennsylvania, nine ethanol tanker cars derailed and triggered a blaze that tied up a busy rail line.

In Missouri, a tanker truck carrying several thousand gallons of ethanol and gasoline crashed near the state Capitol, killing the driver.

And in Ohio, a train heading through the northeastern part of the state to Buffalo derailed and burned, forcing more than 1,000 people from their homes.

Just one more point for the "con" column on ethanol. For tons more skepticism about the great alcoholic hope, read reason articles on ethanol here.

Via Jacob Grier