New Gel Could Help Stop Wildfires
By Bettina Meier
Travis County firefighters are testing a new gel made with cornstarch that could make firefighting much more efficient.
To test the gel, Travis County Emergency Services District 4 set a large wooden wall on fire today. They used a ventilator to help build up a wall of flames, and then quickly put out the blaze with what looked like a normal fire hose.
But instead of spraying water, the hose sprayed a thick transparent liquid onto the wood and extinguished the flames immediately. The new gel is about to come onto the market this year could save billions of dollars in firefighting expenses. Travis County is testing it for use against wildfires.
“I think it’s very effective,” said Capt. Von Beals with the Travis County ESD. “We burned a piece of pinewood. It was fully engulfed on one side. The other side was not burning. And even while it was burning you could touch the other side of the gel. This particular substance allows us to keep the fire from advancing on structures or if we know structures are going to be threatened we can actually coat the structures with this product and it will protect the structure for several hours from the threat of fire.”
When using water to fight fire on anything made out of wood, like a house or a tree, it could easily light up again within minutes. The maker of this new gel, called TetraKO, says it will absorb heat for at least six hours. It costs 70 cents a gallon but it allows firefighters to use ten times less water, which could save money in the long run.
Firefighters will continue to test the gel over the next two weeks before they decide whether to buy it.