Researchers test wildfire suppressant - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Researchers test wildfire suppressant

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Researchers with Texas A&M tested a slimy green gel Wednesday in Bastrop County. They are trying to determine if the substance may help save homes and lives in the next big wildfire.

Signs of life continue to spring up in the lost pines. New homes are also rising up out of the ash from the Bastrop Complex Fire. Few here have forgotten the flames that took so much.

Olen Wardlaw and others who have returned are rebuilding with fire prevention in mind.

"It's a more conscious effort to keep the fire potential to a minimum," said Wardlaw.

The green slime called TetraKO, may provide a new level of protection and prevention. It's made mostly from starch and is bio degradable.

Not only can it put the fire out prevent the fire from spreading but it's environmentally friendly and also very good for water conservation," said Scott Bocklund, President of the Minnesota based company EarthClean which makes the TetraKO gel.

FOX 7 first saw a demonstration of the product in 2012. At that time it was for fighting structural fires. Researchers with Texas A&M now want to know if it can make a difference in stopping an event like the 2011 Bastrop Complex fire.

State Forest service crews set small fires Wednesday afternoon in a field near Smithville. Different sections had been pre-treated with different concentrations of the gel. The fire was monitored by an aerial camera operated by RT Aerostat Systems. Moments after the flames ignited a strong wind pushed the growing blaze forward. The fire was stopped in some spots but the gel did not perform as well as expected in areas soaked 24 hours earlier. It was determined the longer the gel is on the ground the less effective it appears to be in stopping a grass fire.

"What we did see was when the fire burned we actually saw a cooler surface under the product application what that means is you wouldn't have back build the fire as embers and things of that nature that are going to cause the fire to reignite at a later time," said Caleb Holt, who manages the product development center at the Texas A&M Engineering – Extension Service.

Several structures that were coated with the gel before the test fires were set did survive.

More tests will be done to set a base line for the use of the gel. Its immediate use may be with air drops, and to combat approaching flames as they a threatened area.

"If you put this on your house and you evacuated are the chances or odds of coming back to a house still standing better and we feel the answer would be yes to that," said Holt.

The goal is to have standards set and the gel issued to state forest service units by this summer.

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