New Ways to Fight Wildfires

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Wildfires seem to be getting worse in recent years, and improved methods are needed to help control them. Wildfires are driven by wind, and large ones can even create their own windstorm. I will present two novel ideas here that should help control wildfires by locally disrupting their wind.

#1. Jet Engines Mounted On Flatbed Trucks
After the First Gulf War, jet engines were found to be extremely effective in extinguishing oil well fires. For all practical purposes, the jet engine serves as a giant CO2 fire extinguisher. In addition, the velocity of the jet blast is so high that it blows the flame front back faster than it can advance.

Obviously, large areas of forestland are inaccessible by trucks. But wherever there are roads, a convoy of “Jet Trucks” could line up along the road ahead of the advancing fire front and blow it back to prevent it from jumping across the road. This technique would be especially helpful in protecting homes and other buildings threatened by wildfires. The jets should be able to swivel back and forth, and should be able to tilt upward to blow back high-flying embers.

There are probably used surplus military jet engines available at reasonable cost. Older B-52 engines that used water injection to increase thrust might be especially effective because the added water vapor would also help smother the flames.

The powerful thrust pushing back against the truck might be strong enough to tip it over unless outrigger struts were installed. Cables and winches could also be used to anchor the truck to nearby trees.

#2. Airdrop clouds of coal dust behind the fire line above previously burned areas.
As the coal dust cloud approached the burning embers on the ground, it would ignite in a low-pressure dust explosion, causing an intensely hot fireball above the ground. This would do two things. First, it would consume all the oxygen in the wind that was feeding the fire, converting it to CO2. Second, it would create a powerful updraft that would disrupt the prevailing wind, sucking air back from the fire line to fill the vacuum caused by the updraft. Granted, oil mist could perhaps be used instead, but would be more dangerous to the plane, and if it failed to ignite, it would be more damaging on the ground. Coal dust grain size could also be selected to fall at a controlled rate from a safe altitude. Coal is also relatively cheap, plentiful, and light in weight.

I believe #1 is a sure thing, pretty much guaranteed to work effectively in most situations. #2 is riskier, and should certainly be modeled by computer simulation before it is actually tried on a real fire. Practice runs could even be flown in a non-fire situation to test the methods, since coal dust dropped in a forest would be relatively harmless.

Both methods deliberately produce CO2, but the amount would be miniscule compared to the amount produced by a larger longer-burning wildfire.


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  • Name:
    Chuck Bagg
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