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Developing blanket protection from wildfires
Date:3/31/2010

Case Western Reserve University and NASA researchers are looking for the right material, the right design, the right thickness and the right weight for a new fire-resistant blanket.

To protect houses.

"The overall objective is to help the safety of the public and firefighters from fire," said Fumiaki Takahashi, research professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

"If we can protect the house, firefighters can do other things and be much safer," said James T'ien, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

The professors, who specialize in combustion and fire science research, are working with Sandra L. Olson a spacecraft fire safety scientist at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. They believe blanket protection for vulnerable homes would be more effective and more environmentally-friendly than traditional wildfire measures.

The research is funded by a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.

In western states each summer, wildfires burn through neighborhoods built in the border between forests and towns, an area called the wildland-urban interface. Among the worst, 3000 homes and other buildings in the East Bay Hills of Oakland, CA. burned in 1991. The fire killed 25 people and cost nearly $1.2 billion in property losses.

The government estimates that 38 percent of new houses in the West are now in the interface.

Costs of fighting fires in the interface are also sky high. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that the total cost of fighting large fires to protect private homes adjacent to Forest Service lands has accounted for half to 95 percent of all costs - a range of $547 million to $1 billion in 2003 and 2004. Annual appropriations for wildland fire management on federal lands have risen from an average of $1.1 billion from 1996 to 2000 to $2.9 billion from 2001 to 2007, driven by drought, increased fuels in the forest understory and
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Contact: Kevin Mayhood
kevin.mayhood@case.edu
216-368-4442
Case Western Reserve University
Source:Eurekalert

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