How Tech Could Stop Wildfires

The US West Coast wildfire season used to be 4 months long.

Now it’s 8, running from May to January. 2.5 million acres of land have burned in California alone this year.

But for desperate homeowners in fire prone regions, there may be hope. Several new technologies have been developed recently that may protect homes from these terrifying fires.

Long-Acting Chemical Sprays

Just today, the US Forest Service approved a new fire retardant chemical. It can be sprayed on houses and critical infrastructure and last for months.

It may even last an entire fire season.

The chemical is called PHOS-CHEK FORTIFY®. Developed by Perimeter Solutions in Missouri, it is the first fire retardant that can protect structures for the long term.

I could see every house in the West being coated in this material or something like it each spring.

Fire Blankets

Giant foil blankets have saved some homes from wildfires.

However, a study by Case Western Reserve University Prof. Fumiaki Takahashi found that fire blankets are usually only effective for short periods. In a prolonged fire, they may fail.

Dry Ice

An intriguing possibility I first heard about on a recent episode of This Week in Startups. The idea is that CO2 from the dry ice would suffocate the fire, which needs oxygen to burn.

Unfortunately, this approach does not seem very effective for forest fires. From a study presented at the International Symposium on Fire Investigation Science and Technology:

To be effective against class A fires, the solid state CO2 tends to need to be in direct contact with the fuel material. As many forest fires travel through the canopy, this is not a feasible extinguishment method.

Wrap Up

The best candidate looks like a long term fire retardant chemical. Coupled with advanced satellite imaging to track fires just seconds after they begin, it could be a powerful tool to stop these fires.

Best of luck to the innovative companies and researchers tackling this huge challenge!

More on tech:

What if Everyone on Earth Had Super Fast Internet for $1?

Male Contraception With an Ultrasound Device?

Robot Hands, Vertical Farms, and the Future of Food

Why I Just Invested in Capbase, The Startup in a Box

Photo: “Wildfire” by USFWS/Southeast is marked with CC PDM 1.0

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