Protecting Neighborhoods and Critical Infrastructure from Wildfires


    Protecting Neighborhoods -

Many new and existing homes have been built at the Wildland-Urban-Interface. Recent large wildfires have destroyed many of these homes.
New technology is available which can provide low cost neighborhood protection, and increased safety for the crews assigned to fight the fires.
Fire crews assigned to protect neighborhoods must leave when approaching fires arrive.  The proposed system can be operated by remote radio control.

The system shown is NOT designed for use by an individual homeowner. As shown, it should be deployed by a fire department.
The water supply can be a hydrant, a tanker truck, a cistern shared by the neighborhood, or a swimming pool.

IFFC LLC has developed technology to create an unmanned, low cost, hose-based system that can be quickly deployed by small trucks to surround a threatened neighborhood. The system components are available off-the-shelf.

The figure below shows an area that has been surrounded by a special fire hose. A truck has driven around the area and deployed the hose from a reel onto the ground. The truck also carries a pump which draws water from any available water source, and pumps the water into the full length of the hose.
At the top of the neighborhood figure is an approaching fire. The blue band along the hose near the fire represents a "spray curtain" that can slow/stop the flames. A spray curtain is a wall of spray that can wet an area with water or foam. Note the two small white valve-boxes at each end of the section of the hose with the blue spray. A third valve-box is shown on a section of the hose in the lower left corner of the figure.

These three valve boxes, and the pump, are linked together by wires embedded in the hoses. These wires support an Ethernet-like digital network which allows for remote control of valves in the valve-boxes that can control a substantial vertical spray from the hoses. This spray curtain can slow or stop a fire from reaching homes that are within the hose encirclement.

A demo of the system spraying a lot of water can be seen in the 7 minute video HERE
The demo has two 25 foot lengths of spray hose section. There are 5 nozzles in each section and 
at 50 psi, each nozzle is delivering 15 gpm. This yields 150 gpm for the 50 feet of spray hose.
The spray height at 50 psi is 40 ft.

The 40 ft height is used when there is a danger of embers blowing into the neighborhood.
In a grassfire, less height would be needed. 

The system will work best when deployed in grass. The goal would be to prevent a grassfire from reaching homes or large trees.

The digital network is LonWorks from Echelon Corp. Click HERE to see LonWorks.

The key feature of the system is that some hose sections can enable a "spray curtain" while other sections of hose do NOT have a spray curtain.
Since water or water/foam is delivered only where needed, less water or foam is used, and the size of the hose and pump can be reduced.
Each valve-box contains a battery, a digital network circuit board, and a remote control valve. The valve, when opened, allows water to enter a special chamber of the hose which has holes to create the spray curtain. The other chamber of the hose has no holes and is used to supply the water to the next section of hose.

The figure below is an image of this special hose.

On the left is the hose chamber with the holes for the "spray curtain". On the right is the supply hose. The two hoses are bonded together to ensure correct orientation when deployed.

After deploying the hose, the firefighter can place the pump on the ground and drive the truck to a safe location to avoid the loss of the truck if the fire cannot be controlled. From a high vantage point, or a plane or helicopter, a firefighter can send commands to the pump and each valve box via a radio link. There commands will enable or disable spray in selected segments of the hose. The pump flow can be adjusted by radio.

Remote control of the system allows firefighters to remain at a safe distance while enabling the spray curtain only where it is needed.

The proposed system can be built from off the shelf components.

A one mile spray hose system could protect a neighborhood of 20 homes on 1/2 acre lots. The system would sell in the range of several hundred thousand dollars. This is a fraction of the cost of the many homes that might be lost to a wildfire.

The image below is a MIL Spec Hose that is available from All American Hose. One of its uses is to deliver diesel fuel.
The hose has a single wire embedded in its walls. This wire is used to dissipate static electricity that might ignite the diesel fuel.

This embedded wire is used to support the digital network that runs along the entire length of a hose lay.
The hose pair shown above is made from two of the hoses from All American Hose that have been bonded together.

The large military vehicle shown below is deploying the hose shown in the photo above. 

The hose is deployed from a large reel as the truck moves forward.

The smaller reel, shown below, can be used to deploy the hose for the Neighborhood Protection Hose System.

The image below shows a second pickup truck that carries a pump. This second pump is a booster pump and the topology is called 
a "relay". A booster pump (or pumps) is needed when the a single pump cannot overcome the Friction Loss in a hose lay.
Since each hose has a risk of bursting, there is a maximum limit to the pressure that can be applied to the hose. That is,
even with a high pressure pumps, a relay may be needed because of hose pressure limitations.

Normally, a relay is coordinated by radio contact. It is important that each pump in the relay cooperates with all of the other pumps.
If there is imperfect coordination, "water hammer" can destroy hoses and pumps.

The same embedded wire in the hose, and the same digital networking technology can be used to create a Digitally Controlled
Relay Pumping System.

The Director of Engineering at Hale Products is Mike Laskaris.
He and the inventor of the Digital Hose System co-authored a paper titled "Restoring Water after an Earthquake".
The paper was published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers at a Homeland Security Conference.
The paper proposes that many digitally connected diesel pumps can be used to move water long distances.
The digital network removes the risk of "water hammer" that can be caused by poor radio communication between pump operators.

(Mr. Laskaris donated the electric ball valves that are shown in the demo video.)

For more information about Digital Relay Pumping, click HERE and read the section at the lower portion of the page that is titled
 "Hose System to Deliver Emergency Water".

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