Wildfire innovation to save lives/environment

26 January 2020

Published by https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/

AUSTRALIA – We are an international team of subject matter experts who have combined our collective wildfire, aerospace and engineering experience in order to innovate and seek alternative ways to address the growing and increasingly out of control wildfires reported across TV and social media.

We cannot rely on water – which in rural and densely forested locations is often in scarce supply – to contain and put out vegetation fires, especially when the first responders to a fire might be able to quickly and immediately contain or suppress it if equipped with the most appropriate fire fighting tractor attachments.

In recent years wildfires have been responsible for fatally injuring hundreds of people and killing an untold number of animals. In addition they have destroyed tens of thousands of buildings, scorched over 50 million acres and released a whopping 2 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. This, along with with the soot and black carbon particles that end up on the polar ice caps, in turn creates exacerbated warming of the ice sheet and accelerates all of the current climate issues we are seeing first hand.

Wildfires typically start from one of several ways:

  • Lightning strike – mother nature… (not much we can do about that)
  • Broken overhead power cable (maintenance fault or impact damage)
  • Carelessness – (flicking a cigarette out of a moving vehicle)
  • Intentional (arson)
  • Accidental (embers from a domestic controlled fire igniting a nearby field etc.)

The ‘initial attack’ and the first 30 minutes of a vegetation fire being identified/found are the most critical. Those early minutes are the catalyst for containment before it potentially gets out of control and becomes a wildfire.

In the UK the accepted definition of a wildfire is the following:

An uncontrolled vegetation fire that requires a decision, or action, to suppress it and typically:

  • Involves a geographical area of >1 hectare
  • Has a sustained flame length of >1.5 metres
  • Requires a committed resource of ≥ 4 fire-engine appliances
  • Requires resources to be committed for ≥ 6 hours
  • Presents a serious threat to life, environment, property and infrastructure

99.9% of wildfires require all-terrain vehicles such as the tractor in the opening animation sequence, along with equipment specific to containing and reducing the rate of spread but in the UK and many other countries around Europe and the world the primary fire engine appliances you see are built to deal with house fires, industrial fires and road traffic accidents with water – they are not built to drive across fields and land.

This fire engine in Luxembourg attended a vegetation fire and had to drive across the field to get to the seat of the fire. When they stopped near the fire and increased the engine revs to work the fire pumps, the hot exhaust underneath the fire engine set fire to the field underneath the fire engine. The crew thankfully all safely walked out of the field with no injuries, just a bit of embarrassment.

Now look at the picture below of the same incident, and see how many tractors were there and think about where you traditionally see wildfires and the vehicles that are able to react and get to the fire quickest.

It is nearly always tractors from local farmyards/landowners.

Farmhands and landowners hold the key to turning the tide on the severity of wildfires experienced in every country.

We are not, under any circumstances wanting to or promoting the idea that farmworkers should suddenly become firefighters and undertake heroic acts that could endanger themselves, or take any unnecessary risks.

However, by default due to the nature of their work, their location and the equipment they operate they are often best equipped and typically first on the scene of a vegetation fire long before the fire brigade arrives.

Farms do not have a normal requirement for a water tanker or fire engine to be part of the equipment they use – so we have designed the blower as a tractor attachment that can be attached in less than a minute and could be shared between a group of farms in the same area. No water required, a universal tractor attachment and simple operation.

The team at Arcus Fire has designed what can be best described as a powerful turbine leaf blower that we want to modify and test in a controlled environment.

We need to test the blower in various wind strengths, fuel (vegetation) sources, as well as using different nozzle attachments and invite professional/academic wildfire experts from Australia / USA / Europe / Canada to also test it and provide feedback.

The blower is designed to be mounted on a skid-frame and can be picked up with ANY tractor that has the front or rear linkage attachment. (There are not many tractors in the world that don’t have one or both).

The blower we have designed has huge blowing capacity and can blow in excess of 25,000 cubic feet per minute of air out of a wide nozzle at over 200 mph at a distance of approximately three metres from the side of vehicle driving along the fire line at right angles

(The picture below shows a small trial version blowing 14,000 CFM and approx 150 mph without the nozzle extensions and attachments)

Leaf blowers like in the photo below are often used by fire services and farmers in what is called ‘prescribed burns’ or ‘hazard reduction burns’.

Now imagine you want to blow out a candle at home – you get close to the flame and blow fairly hard – this starves the wick (fuel) of heat and it can no longer vaporise the oxygen around it – so the flame goes out.

Remember the fire triangle. Oxygen / Fuel / Heat

If we can take away the heat of the vegetation fire by ONLY using air by blowing the fire ‘back to black’ – meaning back to where it has already burnt the fuel source, then we will be able to quickly contain the fire and reduce the rate of spread.

By developing a low cost tractor-mounted blower that is very high volume with a high outlet speed, able to sit in a farmer’s shed all year and requiring no maintenance with minimal safety training and briefings, enables immediate fire suppression and containment without water.

Many farmers and landowners know and work with each other and this is a critical piece of equipment that is perfect for shared use to enable instant containment no matter whose local farm, field or forest is on fire.

By modifying, adapting and testing a unit similar to the above photo but with much more power we are confident of being able to make a significant impact on the success of tackling and containing vegetation fires in the initial attack phase prior to them becoming wildfires.

Many areas of the world that suffer from wildfires have a shortage of water and very little aircraft support or firefighting air tankers.

Developing a ‘dry’ fire engine that can provide immediate containment to any vegetation fire is our mission.

Please help us achieve it quickly by donating now and sharing this crowdfunding appeal.

*All photos copyright of the original photographer

*All video’s copyright Arcus Fire & BBC

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