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CFA leading research into fire suppressants
CFA’s bushfire research team is leading an Australian-first research project into the effectiveness of water-enhancing polymer gel technology as a fire suppressant and its ability to help protect the community.
The CFA research team worked closely with CSIRO to complete a project that tested polymer gels in grassfire behaviour conditions that have not been tested in Australia.
The research project aims to deliver a better understanding of how polymer gel technology can assist homeowners with bushfire safety preparations and how it may help to limit fire spread to protect local vegetation and wildlife.
CFA Manager of Research and Development David Nichols said the research objective was to determine the ability of polymer gels to limit the rate of grassfire spread and how effective gels were for the suppression of fires.
“We’ve been working for a number of years with CSIRO to better understand fire behaviour in grassland areas and in bush areas," David said.
“It’s been a very cooperative arrangement between the two organisations, working toward the common goal of better understanding grassland fire behaviour conditions and the role of fire suppressants in benefiting fire agencies and communities in Victoria as well as other states.”
As part of the recent study, the CFA research team built a prototype gel tanker that was used to apply gels in a number of large scale grass experimental burns conducted in a controlled and repeatable test environment.
Dr Matt Plucinski from CSIRO said, “We applied the gel in two different roles. For the first role we applied it directly to structures that were exposed to fire and examined how it changed the vulnerability of that structure.”
“The second role looked at making control lines, so we applied a gel wetted area in front of a grassfire to see how it would stop the fire after pre-determined specific periods of time.”
The tests resulted in a new understanding of the effectiveness of polymer gels on grassfire containment and the effect of gels in structural protection.
The tests also demonstrated the potential difficulties with field experimental fires. With proper planning, procedures and personnel instructions, field experimental difficulties can be controlled and successful outcomes can be obtained.
As a result, the next stage of the gel research will be looking to complete further testing in a controlled laboratory setting.
The project was funded by the CFA Summer Fire Safety Initiative grant, furthering the team’s research into improving community safety.
The research to date was conducted with the participation of community members with an interest in understanding the risk and mitigation in protecting their property from bushfire.
Research is expected to continue next year.
Applications are now open for the 2017-18 Summer Local Initiatives Grants Program, for more information click here.