The Guardian: A New Way To Quench Wildfires
Fighting wildfires is exhausting work: hot, dirty, and sometimes dangerous. Most of it is still done the old-fashioned way with shovels, axes, dozers and hose.
That won’t change, but technology is increasingly a part of the firefighting environment, with new systems coming online all the time.
One new technology, engineered by a Fresno-based company called Caylym, has been adopted by places worldwide, including in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. But it hasn’t yet in fire-prone California.
Rick Goddard, the managing director for Caylym Technologies International, said the Guardian could be a valuable addition to the state’s fire suppression arsenal.
“Essentially, it’s a large cardboard container with 250 to 260 gallons of material that goes on the airplane just like regular cargo, rolls off like cargo in mid-air, opens up and makes it rain,” Goddard said.
These biodegradable and recyclable boxes are usually deployed in multiples, called “sticks,” which disperse a diffuse plume of water or retardant over a drop area that can stretch a quarter-mile or more.
Goddard said the system’s most significant advantage is that existing military and other rear-loading cargo planes can drop the boxes, which multiplies the aerial resources available to firefighters.
He said this delivery mode is safer for ground crews than tanker drops.
“So if you’re looking at the total impact zone where you’re trying to lay down this material, with the very large air tankers 100% of that area is considered a risk area because it can snap limbs and trees and you can be hit by a lot of stuff,” he said. “ With our system, across the entire target area, it’s less than one-half of one percent.”
The Guardian system has other advantages. Air National Guard and other military units that might be deployed in a large fire are already trained to make aerial cargo drops and don’t need additional training. These units can operate at night, which can fill a huge void in air operations. Cal Fire planes, for example, are restricted to daylight operations.
The Guardian system became operational in Europe in 2012. Goddard said Caylym is currently in discussions with California agencies about adopting the system.