For many ecosystems, naturally occurring fire has always played a vital role in helping them revitalise and renew. Grasslands, for instance, often rely on fire to aid decomposition, and some forests benefit by fire thinning their canopies and clearing ground cover, which allows certain species to thrive. Many plants have also evolved to withstand, and even benefit from, natural wildfires. Take the Longpole Pine, for example. Found in North-Western America, many of its species produce pinecones which lay dormant on the forest floor, with their seeds sealed inside. It is only when they face the high temperatures that a forest fire creates, that they open and release their seeds into an environment that fire has cleared of competition, giving them the best possible chance of new growth.
Wildfires: An increasingly common occurance
However, whilst wildfires have long been part of many landscapes, the climate crisis and increased drought and higher temperatures, is linked with their increasing frequency, intensity and spread, which is having a devastating impact on the environment, ecosystems, and human life.[i]
In the United States of America, the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service once had what it called the “fire season”; a four-month period in late summer and early fall (autumn) when fires would occur in landscapes parched from the heat and dryness of the summer months. This “season” now appears to last six to eight months and it is increasingly common for some areas to experience fires during the winter. [ii]
The USA is not alone though. Who can forget the haunting pictures earlier this year of people fleeing a Greek island engulfed in flames? Fire ripped through Greece’s arid landscape on a scale never seen before[iii] and by mid-August 2021, the European Forest Fire Information System had registered 1,877 fires across Europe, burning almost 2,500 square miles of land; 2.5 times the number of fires and affected area than the annual average for the previous 12 years.[iv]
Then there was the “record breaking” 2019-20 bushfire season in Australia. It started in September 2019 following the country’s hottest and driest year on record. By February 2020, fire had swept through more than 46,000 square miles, killed more than 1 billion animals, at least 33 people lost their lives and thousands of people lost their homes, businesses and livelihoods.[v]
CO2 from wildfires may be accelerating climate change
Wildfires are clearly something which are impacting millions of people around the globe and, according to the European Space Agency, affects an estimated 1.5 million square miles of the Earth each year[vi]; an area bigger than India! The problem is also likely to increase as the climate crisis changes weather patterns further. If you also consider that the Australian bushfires in 2019-20 emitted an estimated 715 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (equivalent to the annual emissions for the whole of Germany[vii]), and that CO2 emissions are driving climate change, then wildfires is likely to be contributing to a process that results in more wildfires. This is something that scientists ominously refer to as “a feedback loop”.
It would be wrong of us to suggest that Zenova can solve the entire wildfire ‘phenomena’. However, action and innovation are needed to tackle this growing issue which many parts of the world are facing. That is why we have developed a product which, we believe, will play a crucial role in helping to suppress wildfire outbreaks, and protect areas of particularly high risk through pre-emptive treatment.
Called Zenova WB, our wildfire barrier fluid can be applied via spray wands or aerial drops without damaging the environment, to create a virtual barrier where fire simply will not burn. Repeated tests on a variety of extremely dry grasses, hays, and brush; the sort of materials which fuel many wildfires, showed Zenova WB provides incredible fire resistance for more than 30 days after application. This means it is possible to use Zenova WB to create fire stop zones to protect homes, businesses, people, and ecosystems that would otherwise be devastated by rampaging wildfires.
Zenova WB: a new part of the wildfire fighting toolkit
In tests recently carried out by Professor Claire Belcher, a world-renowned expert[viii] in the transmission and causes of wildfires, and her team at the WildFIRE Laboratory, University of Exeter, UK, they found that dry grass fuel that had previously been treated with Zenova WB would not ignite or flame. They also found that treated dry grass did not emit heat or smoulder despite being exposed to temperatures of approximately 750°C.
Professor Belcher said she was “amazed” by Zenova WBs ability to prevent the ignition and spread of fire in dry grassy fuels, which are typically the most ignitable fuel across many landscapes, and said she believes that “Zenova WB is clearly an effective product for use as part of wildland firefighting toolkits”. Professor Belcher and her colleagues at the WildFIRE Laboratory will be undertaking further trials of Zenova WB on multiple vegetation substrates, in both laboratory conditions and at scale in real landscape wildfire settings.
Wildfires may have existed since the dawn of time but there is little doubt that the climate crisis and global warming are changing how, where and when they occur. An increasing number of us are likely to be impacted by them in the future and without dramatic and rapid action to address global emissions and slow global warming, their frequency, intensity, and locations are likely to increase. We believe that Zenova WB can play an important role in helping to prevent and tackle them.
A short video of Zenova WB in action can be viewed here: