Firefighters say gel works, but don't expect rush to buy


The Bismarck Tribune

TUCSON, Ariz. — Wildland firefighters are generally encouraged at the prospect of another tool to keep houses tucked in forest settings from burning: a sticky goop, or gel, that holds many times its weight in water.

But they don't expect to see an immediate rush among many municipal fire departments in the so-called urban-wildland interface to stockpile the stuff.

"I think it's a valuable product," said Paul Summerfelt, field management officer for the Flagstaff Fire Department. "It's very effective. There's no question about its effectiveness."

The gel is an absorbent polymer capable of retaining moisture for several hours, and can be sprayed on structures like homes or cabins from a truck, garden hose, backpack or even from an airplane.

It will adhere to vertical surfaces and — depending on the mix — can have a building-sticking consistency almost like petroleum jelly.

Its effectiveness has been shown on houses and structures in forest fires in such locations as South Dakota's Black Hills National Forest, Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park and in California.

At least a half-dozen gel products approved after testing by the U.S. Forest Service's Missoula Technology and Development Center in Montana are being sold commercially. Firefighters say gel works, but don't expect rush to stockpile it 

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