Whatever happened to the idea of homeowner-applied flame retardants?

Written By: Kathy Price-Robinson - Oct• 24•07

Firefoam_2Isn’t technology supposed to make our lives better in ways our ancestors never thought possible? So why are we still simply fleeing from our unprotected homes as fire approaches, like people have done for eons, rather than fighting back in a high-tech manner?

Specifically, I’m talking about homeowner-applied flame-retardant foams and gels, which we sometimes hear about after fires devastate, but rarely before. Where are these products? Why does not every homeowner in a wildland area have a few gallons of this stuff in the garage along with a sprayer? Why are we not seeing images of homeowners spraying their homes with these foams and gels in advance of the fire? Unlike our other local danger, earthquakes, fires generally do announce themselves in advance.

From what I can tell, these flame retardants are nontoxic to people, pets and the environment.

But other than an ABC News story on how to protect your home as a fire approaches, there’s little mention of these foams.

Why is that? What am I missing here?

Photo of Yellowstone National Park entrance in 1988 by Jim Peaco

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2 Comments

  1. Foaming your house is an expensive prospect and very short duration protection. Barrier gel is better and can be put on in the hours before a fire approaches. Disadvantages- it is very time consuming and if the fire is approaching fast, you may not have time. It has to be complete coverage to be effective.
    I understand that a home kit is less than $1,000 and that it is possible to use just a hose for coverage- but a compressor is better.
    We are about to add a “goo kit” to our selection of garage accoutrements.

  2. Tim of Wildland says:

    The retardant is available for purchase, so are the equipment to spary them. There are two general types of “foam” available. One is a gel that keeps water in gel form using water as a shield. The other used Forest Service approved chemical retardant the covers the vegetation and building. The latter actually has toxicity concern in terms of salt in the soil. You have to study the MSDS to be dead sure it will not harm plants and animals afterward.
    Both require equipment and these can be expensive. Finally, they require either automatic application or manual application. For a large compound with multiple structures, automatic is the best. For a more concentrated compound, manual is passable if the owner is at home.
    Normal garden hose will not work in all cases especially when one has to draw water uphill. There is also the need to have a water source and suifficient pump lift power to spray quickly to cover everything.
    Yes, the state or counties can add this requirements but it means people will spend anywhere from $2000 to $20,000 depending on water sources and pump requirement. THose $1000 kit are meant for very small compound and well cleared perimeter.
    We happen to have the Gel and Foam protecting our place. The whole thing cost $7500 to buy and set up.

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