Wildland Fire Protection—Barricade-Gel

Wildland/urban interface fires are a major concern to facilities or camps located where they are subject to any combination of dry conditions, high winds and abundant fuel load. Those in remote locations or having limited, winding or narrow access roads have even more reason for concern. A wildfire can race through an area faster than firefighters can battle it, perhaps even before they can arrive, quickly endangering the facility and the lives of those present. Wildfires have shown that they can completely raze a site and leave it a smoking wasteland, but they are very unpredictable. In October 2003 the fires that raged through Southern California spared San Diego’s Camp Marstan, burning up to, around and past it but doing no significant damage to the camp. Sadly, in late spring the previous year two separate fires less than three weeks apart landed a one-two punch on Pike’s Peaks’ Camp Shady Brook that nearly devastated it (though it is now restored and fully functional).

Fortunately, we are not left completely at the whim of the nature. Loss by wildland/urban interface fires can be reduced or prevented by proper planning and preparation. One of the tools available to those potentially threatened by wildfires is an easily applied, environmentally friendly surfactant named Barricade® Gel. It has been used since 1994 and to date no structure protected by it has been lost to fire.

The good news is that it is easy—you just use a common garden hose and a supplied applicator to spray a protective coating onto whatever you wish to protect—buildings, vegetation, etc. The bad news is that you cannot apply the product at your leisure and just forget about it—it must be applied shortly before the actual exposure to fire (it will last a couple of days, possibly weeks if the humidity is right and the product is sprayed with water to re-hydrate it, but it doesn’t last indefinitely). In some jurisdictions the fire department may apply it, and it does apply faster with fire hoses than with a garden hose, but you cannot count on them doing the application—they are under no duty to do so.

If you have the product at hand and have a water system with at least 30psi (most homes have at least 50psi), then application is pretty simple. You just hook up your hose, applicator and spray. The gel can be used to protect anything—buildings, decks, fences, LP and propane tanks, cars, even trees and shrubbery. The manufacturer advertises a three year shelf life but the product has been demonstrated viable after five years and it should be stable even longer if shaken every few months to keep the ingredients in suspension).

A case of product covers between 2,000 and 3,400 square feet of surface area, depending on the application rate. At the list price of $250 per case the following shows the approximate cost to protect the named structures:

  1. Cabin 20’x20’= $95-165
  2. Cabin 20’x30’= $125-220
  3. Dwelling 30’x60’= $280-495
  4. Hall/Lodge 50’x100’= $670-1,185

Although the cost is not inexpensive, it is nothing in comparison to the cost of replacing the building. At smaller camps where the Forest Service might not make a special effort, Barricade gel may be the only significant source of protection. Use of the product to protect certain more valuable structures may also be a viable option.

While no prudent insurance company would grant reduced premiums for such protection (because the product does no good in the container and there is no guarantee of its application—unlike a fire sprinkler system it is not passive; i.e., some work must be done near the time of the exposure). However, even though there is no requirement under the terms of the policy there may be the possibility of reimbursement for product used because its application goes beyond the insured’s normal duty to defend the property. Application of this product is in the best interests of both the camp and the insurance carrier so it may be considered reasonable for the carrier to reimburse the costs of product used to protect the facilities in case of a wildfire.

Barricade gel reportedly can protect against temperatures as high as 3,500 F—wildfires normally burn at around 1,500 F. For more detail about the science behind the product, articles from around the world relating its success, a Question & Answer forum and lots of technical information please see their website: