Could This Gel Help Tame the California Fires?

Question mark in middle of maze

Strong Water gel has the potential to help stave off blazes. Why isn’t it being used more?

November 28, 2018
Gordy Megroz - Bloomberg

In 2009, Jeff Denholm was making a living as an adventure athlete, competing in stand-up paddleboard races and riding giant waves at Mavericks, the famous surf break near his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. Denholm was sponsored by Patagonia Inc., but to generate extra cash—“Adventure athletes don’t make a ton of money,” he says—he had a side gig leasing a fire truck to state and county crews that had run out of equipment ­battling wildfires.

One firefighting tool that Denholm kept onboard was retardant, which helps tamp down existing fires and can prevent them; he used a type known as a foam suppressant. Last year the U.S. Forest Service spent about $72 million on retardants, but in researching them, Denholm discovered some discouraging information.


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