When our crew arrived at John Bartlett's factory, the place was buzzing. Hundreds of gallons of his product, Barricade Fire Gel, were being poured, packaged and sent to Southern California.
"When fires are burning, that is how we do it. We've got pallets going to the San Diego area, we have some going to the LA City area...Everybody from the individual home owner who is panicked that they are about to lose their home to FD members that have used it before that need resupply."
His product is a polymer gel that holds water so well, its like spraying a wet blanket over your home. It blocks heat and flames. It can be applied hours before a fire strikes and can last for days.
His is not the only fire blocking gel on the market. At least half a dozen are available on-line. What's so surprising is that more people aren't using it. Firefighters attest to its remarkable effectiveness, and a handful of small departments in California are incorporating it into their fire arsenal. But it's expensive. Retrofitting a truck can cost anywhere from 12 to 20 thousand dollars, plus the cost of the gel. Bartlett's Barricade Fire Gel runs about 65 dollars a gallon, and we all know water is free- for now. What's more, it takes a half hour for a fire crew to apply it to one home, time fireifghters don't have when the flames are closing in
Still, for the average homeowner it a bargain. A gallon covers about 500 square feet. Bartlett estimates the average homeowner would have to spend $500 for a coating. And you can apply it yourself using a garden hose.
The only downside I could find aside from cost, was the mess. Bartlett says his gel is environmentally safe and it has been approved for use. Once the fire threat passes, you have to hose down your home thoroughly. But at least you'd still have a home to clean.