Could A New Gel Prevent California’s Deadly Wildfires?

Image taken by Miro this past summer at Mt. Tamalpais State Park, CA.

Working to prevent wildfires in California has come with its own set of challenges. This year, California’s largest utility, PG&E, announced that it will cut off power on high-wind days to prevent sparks from turning into fires, which is a good safety precaution but has also proved cumbersome for residents and businesses:

The Good News: Preventing wildfires from happening in the first place is the end goal, but it’s a complicated one. While many land managers (as well as President Trump) have called for thinning forests, most experts agree that doing so doesn’t significantly prevent fires. However, a newly-developed spray-on sticky gel might soon provide long-term protection against wildfires–something that other flame retardants haven’t been able to do effectively. 

What’s Different about this gel? According to Cosmos Magazine

  • This gel carrier for ammonium polyphosphate (APP), the most common fire retardant used against forest blazes in the US, however unlike previous versions it allows the APP to last for up to 30 days on vegetation making it suitable to be used proactively during high fire-risk months.
  • It’s environmentally benign and has been shown to leave plant respiration and microbial activity unchanged.
  • The ingredients for the gel are readily available, non-toxic, and are generally used in food, drug, cosmetic, and agricultural formulations.

Also worth noting is that clearing trees out of power lines is a dangerous and expensive process, a non-toxic retardant gel can likely be more effective.

Why This Matters: In California, about 70% of wildfires break out near known ignition hazards, such as roads which means that scientists and officials have a decent idea of the zones that can be blanket sprayed with flame retardants to prevent outbreaks of wildfires. Wildfire prevention is a multi-pronged approach but scientific advancements that stop sparks from turning into infernos can lessen panic and anxiety that residents of wildfire-prone states experience each fire season.

Up Next

The President’s and Republicans’ Climate Plans Are All About Trees

The President’s and Republicans’ Climate Plans Are All About Trees

Yesterday, President Trump announced at Davos that the U.S. will join the “Trillion Tree Initiative” that is being promoted there as a way for world leaders to commit to combatting climate change.  The President said yesterday that, “We’re committed to conserving the majesty of God’s creation and the natural beauty of our world.”

Why This Matters:  Chanelling our inner Lorax here – the Republicans MAY have brought the President along on planting trees — but it would be really great if they could get him to stop cutting them down.

Continue Reading 537 words
Australia’s Burned Forests Pose Immense Economic Risk

Australia’s Burned Forests Pose Immense Economic Risk

Australia’s wildfires have been devastating for wildlife and people alike but there’s another casualty that’s been largely overlooked in media coverage: its forests.

Why This Matters: Forestry groups worry about the immense economic/ecological impact of the burned forests.

Continue Reading 509 words
Top Stories of 2019: Forests on Fire All Over the World

Top Stories of 2019: Forests on Fire All Over the World

This year will be remembered for searing images of the Amazon burning at an unprecedented rate (there were so many fires you could see them from space), with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro alternating between downplaying the severity of them and then sending in Brazilian military troops to fight the tens of thousands of fires burning thereAs we reported, world leaders and environmental organizations — even the Pope — pushed Brazil to take action — and the worst part was most of the fires were started by people who wanted to clear land for agriculture and other development.  But fires were bad all over the planet — from the Arctic tundra in Greenland, Alaska, and Siberia, to Australia, and of course, California.

Continue Reading 511 words