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New Treatment Helps Prevent Wildfires

a side by side comparison of a dry, grassy area on fire. The left side is black with flames, the right side has very little fire damage
Eric Appel
Sep 30 2019
Fellow, Research, Stanford

A preventive treatment developed by Stanford researchers could greatly reduce the incidence and severity of wildfires. The approach, outlined Sept. 30 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involves an environmentally benign gel-like fluid that helps common wildland fire retardants last longer on vegetation.

TApplied to ignition-prone areas, these materials retain their ability to prevent fires throughout the peak fire season, even after weathering that would sweep away conventional fire retardants. By stopping fires from starting, such treatments can be more effective and less expensive than current firefighting methods.

“This has the potential to make wildland firefighting much more proactive, rather than reactive,” said Eric Appel, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor of materials science and engineering. “What we do now is monitor wildfire-prone areas and wait with bated breath for fires to start, then rush to put them out.”

Co-author Lyndsay Stapleton is a 2015 EDGE-STEM Fellow and a 2018 Bio-X Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow.