Fire blankets are effective protection for buildings against wildfires, according to research from Case Western Reserve University, NASA Glenn Research Center, the U.S. Forest Service, New Jersey Forest Service and Cuyahoga Community College found that fire blankets can be used to save buildings from wildfires.

Homes threatened by wild fires could one day be protected by fire blankets (Source: Unsplash)Homes threatened by wild fires could one day be protected by fire blankets (Source: Unsplash)

Wildfires are a growing concern, especially for people living in fire-prone areas. Fires like the 2018 Camp Fire are destroying homes and sometimes entire towns. With this growing threat, citizens and governments are searching for ways to protect homes and important buildings.

The research team found inspiration in a U.S. patent for conflagration-retardative curtains from World War II, also known as fire blankets. These blankets were devised to stop fires during the war. Forest rangers had also previously used fire blankets to save a historic cabin from wildfires.

The team tested four kinds of materials: aramid, fiberglass, amorphous silica and preoxidized cotton, with and without an aluminum surface. Fire exposure tests were done on items in various situations, from a birdhouse in a controlled environment to a shed in a real forest fire. The team measured the heat-insulation capabilities against direct flame contact and radiation heat. The results proved that fire blankets could properly protect a structure from short-term wildfire exposure. Fiberglass or amorphous silica fabrics laminated with an aluminum foil were the best at protecting structures, because they have high radiation reflection and emissions, and good thermal insulation.

Researchers also found that there are technical limitations in the fire blanket’s current form. Advancements need to be made in material consumption, deployment methods and multi-structure protection. Additionally, if towns start using fire blankets to protect buildings, the blankets need to protect from long-term exposure to wildfires. The research also states fire blankets would be more effective if they could protect dozens or hundreds of structures at the same time.

The study was published in Frontiers of Mechanical Engineering.