An innovative new wildfire prevention treatment has been developed by researchers at Stanford University. The project leader is Eric Appel, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the university.
The new treatment is a fire-retardant hydrogel called Fortify that lasts for a significant amount of time on vegetation after it has been applied. The hydrogel does not harm the plants it comes into contact with because it is made using only non-toxic materials, such as cellulose and silica, often found in agricultural products.
What makes Fortify different from other fire retardants is the fact that it lasts longer on vegetation. Other plant-safe fire retardants will either wash or blow off easily, while this treatment protects vegetation for months at a time before it eventually washes away. Fortify-treated plantlife remains fully protected from fire after being exposed to half an inch of rain, which would completely wash away other retardants.
Wildfires often spring up in the same locations year after year, so it would be simple to determine where to apply the hydrogel to prevent fire in well-known hotspots. The substance can be applied to a given area via aircraft or using conventional agricultural spraying equipment.
This is especially important now because the past few years have seen an increase in wildfires globally due to drier, hotter weather. The hydrogel is still going through the necessary safety tests, but it appears to be an important step forward in the way we deal with forest fire prevention.
The development of the new hydrogel is a major breakthrough in the world of wildfire control because it focuses on proactive as opposed to reactive firefighting. An effective fire-prevention technique like this could be a major game changer, according to San Luis Obispo Calfire division chief, who says about Fortify: “we don’t have a tool that’s comparable to this.”
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