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California Wildfires Spark Interest In DIY Home Protection

As California struggles through a wildfire season that has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee and burned hundreds of homes, researchers are seeking ways to protect buildings including by wrapping them in “fire blankets.” Reuters reports: Last month, Fumiaki Takahashi, a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, published the findings of 10 years of research on the potential for sheets of fire-resistant material to preserve homes. The blankets work but only in certain conditions, he said. “Each fire is different and each house is different,” he noted. The blankets can withstand intensive fire exposure for little more than 10 minutes and take hours or days to apply.

Dan Hirning, CEO of California-based FireZat Inc, which supplies fire “shields” made from one of the materials tested by Takahashi, said people could wrap their homes in the blankets independent of fire officials. Applying a fire blanket to an average home would take four to five hours, with four people working on it, he noted. One reusable roll of FireZat’s material can cover 1,500 square feet (about 140 square meters) and costs close to $900. The shields are made of a flexible aluminum sheet and a fiberglass backing held together by an acrylic adhesive to form a fire barrier built to withstand heat of up to 550 degrees Celsius (1,022 degrees Fahrenheit). The National Fire Protection Association’s “Firewise” program can also help communities by helping people stop fire from spreading to their homes by encouraging them to clear flammable materials from around the structure. Unfortunately, it’s really only effective when an entire neighborhood participates.

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