There’s a new tool to prevent wildfires and for the first time, it’s being used in San Luis Obispo County.
Several miles of roadsides around Heritage Ranch near Lake Nacimiento are now coated with a long-term fire retardant.
“It's designed to spray alongside the road to keep fires from occurring, to stop ignitions and then if they do get ignition, reduce the spread to buy time to get the fire engines to arrive and put the fire out,” said Dan Turner, San Luis Obispo County Fire Safe Council Manger.
Phos-Chek Fortify is sprayed onto vegetation and other fuel sources that are vulnerable to fire.
“What the fortify product can do is adhere or coat the vegetation,” said Wes Bolsen, Perimeter Solutions Global Wildfire Prevention and Protection Business Director. “It helps to render it nonflammable so the vegetation chars and then if there were heat coming in, it releases H20.”
Year after year, Nacimiento Lake Drive is a hot spot for flames.
“Roadside ignitions is a very, very common problem. It's probably one of the highest ignition sources,” Turner said.
The 2016 Chimney Fire, which burned more than 46,000 acres in the area and destroyed 70 structures, was started by a car that ignited dry grasses.
This new fire prevention tool is being utilized up and down California. It was applied to roadsides in Temecula last week.
While red retardant is dropped from planes to stop the spread of active wildfires, this white solution is applied from the ground as a preventative measure before a fire starts.
“Many times a red tanker is dropping stuff half in, half out,” Bolsen explained. “So half of it on top of where the fire is now and half of it for where it's going so you help stop that fire. What we're doing is clearly just putting it on vegetation that is at high risk of burning.”
The company says one application of the retardant will protect surfaces until roughly two inches of rainfall when peak fire season comes to a close.
Cal Poly and Stanford researchers developed the long-term fire retardant along with help from Perimeter Solutions and the San Luis Obispo Fire Safe Council.
They’re hoping to apply it on the Cuesta Grade next but need approval from Caltrans first.
It’s being paid for from California Climate Investment Greenhouse Gas Funds.
Meanwhile, the long-term fire retardant has proven to be effective in other spots around the state.
According to Perimeter Solutions, Phos-Chek Fortify was applied to Route 118 in Ventura County which had 37 fire starts in a single year, taking it down to zero in 2019.
In San Diego, the solution had a confirmed fire stop in Wildcat Canyon where people died a number of years ago.
AAA of California preventatively protected 100 homes as part of a pilot program last year and no assets were lost to fire.