US approves fire retardant that could ‘game-change’ wildland firefighting
U.S. officials this week approved a long-lasting flame retardant that could significantly help tackle increasingly destructive wildfires by stopping them before they even start.
Perimeter Solutions’ fire retardant approved by the US Forest Service is intended for preventative use and can last for months.
It’s similar to the company’s red-dyed retarder dropped from a plane when fighting active forest fires, but it’s clear and sprayed by workers and equipment on the ground.
“The real game changer here is that once you process it, you can forget about it,” said Edward Goldberg, general manager of Perimeter Solutions, based in St. Louis, Missouri. “He’s there for the whole year.
The company said its primary use would be by industrial customers such as utility companies and railroads, but it can also be used to protect residential and commercial properties. It is intended to be sprayed on vegetation, not on the houses themselves, but can be sprayed on items such as wooden fences.
The company’s existing retarder is also used for this purpose, but can be problematic as it is only effective until the rain takes over. Goldberg said the new product would remain effective even after a few inches of rain, making the one-time application less expensive.
The cost, Goldberg said, depends on the topography and ranges from $ 7,000 to $ 15,000 per mile (1.6 kilometers) covering a strip 20 feet (6 meters) wide.
Goldberg said the product would likely be most effective in the drier climate of the western United States and could be applied in the spring to provide fire protection throughout the wildfire season. In July, it was applied to the grounds of former President Ronald Reagan’s coastal ranch in the Santa Ynez Mountains of California, near Santa Barbara.
The company also said the new fire retardant was applied early in the wildfire season along a 4-mile (6.5-kilometer) fire-prone stretch of California’s Highway 118. It did not result in any fires that season, the company said. after the previous fire season, 37 fires broke out along the same stretch of road.
Stanton Florea, a spokesperson for the US Forest Service based at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, said the agency had not commented on its approval of the fire retardant from Perimeter Solutions.
Goldberg said the new retarder has the potential to reduce the total number of wildfires, freeing firefighters who have been in short supply in recent years.
The fire center on its website said that so far this year, about 46,500 wildfires have burned 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers). These figures roughly correspond to the 10-year average of the number of forest fires and the area burned.
Currently there are 52 major wildfires, including 18 in Idaho, nine in California, and nine in Montana.
The center is currently at National Readiness Level 3, having dropped from maximum Level 5 earlier this year, when resources to fight forest fires were hard to come by.
The center said cooler, more favorable weather will sweep through much of the western United States over the next few days, but drought conditions still leave the region open to continued potential for fires of Forest.
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