Climate Change

This tech could protect your home from wildfires

the Jones Fire in Big Fall Creek Road, Lowell, United States.

Creating a buffer between your home and flammable grass, trees, shrubs – a gap known as ‘defensible space’ – improves a home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. Image: Unsplash/Marcus Kauffman

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Climate Change

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate
  • Climate technology attracted more than $34 billion VC investment in 2021, according to PitchBook.
  • Extreme weather events like forest fires are fuelling demand for better ways to protect our homes.
  • Gels, foams, foil wraps and drones are some of the wildfire fighting innovations currently in use.

How can we protect our homes against extreme weather events like floods and forest fires?

As the Earth warms, disasters like these are becoming more frequent and intense – and technology is starting to rise to the challenge.

By the end of November, after the UN’s climate change conference COP26, $34.2 billion of venture capital (VC) had been invested in climate tech in 2021, according to financial data company PitchBook.

“Climate change mitigation is turning into a mainstream investment strategy that attracted record amounts of capital in 2021,” according to PitchBook’s December Archetypal Investing into Climate Tech report.

How investment into some mature climate technologies could look up to 2050.
How investment into some mature climate technologies could look up to 2050. Image: PitchBook

For the state of California in the western United States, for example, wildfire protection is a priority. It suffered the second-biggest wildfire in its history in 2021. Called Dixie, the fire destroyed almost one million acres of land and more than 1,300 structures.

Hotter and drier conditions have also fuelled forest fires elsewhere.

By early August 2021, Europe had already experienced around two and a half times its annual average number of wildfires, according to the European Forest Fire Information System. And Australia’s 2019-2020 bushfire season was one of the worst in its history.

Here are some of the innovative wildfire protection systems being used.

Foil the fire

Based in San Diego, California, Firezat sells a reusable aluminium wrap used to protect buildings and structures, including homes, from burning embers and approaching heat. The company says the shields, which look like supersized sheets of aluminium foil, deflect more than 90% of a fire’s heat away from a home. Burning embers also slide off their shiny surface. Firezat has supplied customers including the United States Forest Service.

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Spray and slow

A gel that is sprayed on trees and other vegetation to slow the approach of wildfires towards high-risk buildings and infrastructure has recently been approved for use on United States government land. The technology was originally developed by Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is now marketed as a long-term fire retardant called Phos-Chek Fortify by Perimeter Solutions, a firefighting products specialist based in the US state of Missouri.

Firefighting foam

Embers flying miles ahead of wildfires can set alight up to 90% of burned homes and businesses, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, a property insurance initiative. To combat this, a San Francisco-based start-up has developed a sprinkler system that coats homes with a mix of foam and water. Frontline Wildfire Defense says its biodegradable firefighting foam stops embers from catching fire. The system can be activated and monitored remotely using an app.

Aerial assault

Firefighters are using increasingly sophisticated technology to detect and predict wildfires. Systems deployed in California include drones equipped with infrared detection equipment, mapping software to predict how fires will behave, and remote cameras that use artificial intelligence to tell the difference between smoke and fog.

Garden gap

Creating a buffer between your home and flammable grass, trees, shrubs – a gap known as ‘defensible space’ – improves a home’s chance of surviving a wildfire. California has its own laws on defensible space. Steps include removing vegetation from around the property and ensuring trees and shrubs are spaced apart.

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