Stanford-Developed Technology Could Help Prevent Wildfires

Stanford-Developed Technology Could Help Prevent Wildfires


Wildfires in the
United States burn roughly 10 million acres a year, and cost over two billion
dollars annually just to fight. That’s not even considering the implications
for lives lost and property lost. Moreover, there’s enormous health
concerns. California’s campfire this past November
was the most deadly and destructive in the state’s history. There were 86
fatalities and 19,000 structures were burned, including 14,000 homes. The only
way to fight wildfires currently is reactively. We wait for them to start and
then we go out and we use fire retardants in order to try to put them
out. The majority of the research in my lab is focused on developing injectable
hydrogels as carriers for pharmaceuticals. My brother in law used to
be the fire prevention forester for the state of Hawaii. He asked me – would it
be possible to put fire retardants into these gels and use them to
preventatively treat high-risk areas. And immediately the lightbulb went on. We have
developed an environmentally benign hydrogel that can be used to prevent
fire from starting. We’ve now done a number of field tests in wildfire-prone
vegetation types, including grass and greasewood, which is also called chamise. We found that these treatments can persist throughout the entirety of the
season including through weathering events and completely prevent fires from
starting. This technology and the approach to prophylactically treating
high-risk areas has the potential to stop a number of fires from starting in
the first place, saving the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in
fire-prone areas worldwide.

Danny Hutson

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