Fire suppressant provider targets biomass industry

By Katie Fletcher | February 02, 2015

GelTech Solutions Inc., the creator of the patent-pending fire suppressant compound called FireIce, has begun working in the agriculture industry with hay growers and almond hullers in California, over the past six months, to suppress combustible substrate fires. This effort extends as the company initiates outreach to some biomass producers who have the similar problem of spontaneous combustion starting fires.

The company is targeting the biomass industry to provide an alternative way for producers to suppress and protect plants and inventory against fires. “We’ve started to reach out to some biomass plants within the industry, and the next step is going to be working with them directly to figure out exactly what their procedures are in the event of a fire, what type of equipment they have on hand and what they’re looking to do in response to a fire,” said Matt Struzziero, director of sales and strategic operations with GelTech.

GelTech’s traditional customers of its FireIce product have been firefighters and homeowners for use against wildland fires, utility electrical fires and more. “It’s kind of a natural progression to go from fighting wildfires to fighting biomass fires and protecting inventory at biomass plants,” Struzziero said. “While they are not the same industries, there are a lot of similarities between forest fires and biomass fires, starting with the fuel source.”

The FireIce product is a powder, when mixed with water, creates a homogeneous water-enhancing gel for both direct fire suppression and exposure or structure protection. According to Struzziero, the polymer is a very fine powder, with each granule acting like a sponge and absorbing over 400 times its weight in water. For example, when compared to traditional firefighting foams (Class A foam) FireIce produces a bubble of water instead of a bubble of air. “With this you now have the ability to “stack” a thick blanket of water on whatever you are trying to protect,” Struzziero said.

The gel’s sustainability depends on how thick it is applied and ambient weather conditions. FireIce can last 72 hours with a thick layer of gel in cooler conditions, and a few hours with a thin layer in hot, dry and windy conditions, according to Struzziero. The product is sold in 25-pound, weather-proof buckets with a 15-year shelf life. Each bucket can be mixed with approximately 300 to 500 gallons of water depending on the thickness of solution desired.

There are a number of other firefighting gels on the market. GelTech is working to tap into the biomass industry, because the company feels the industry needs an effective solution to fight fires. “We’re looking to get the ball rolling with some specific plants that might be interested in finding a new solution to one of their oldest problems, and willing to look outside of the box to traditional methods of how they have dealt with these emergences in the past,” Struzziero said.

GelTech envisions FireIce being stored at multiple facilities within a similar area. “We’re trying to work it as an association or an agreement amongst multiple companies within the industry within that geographic area,” Struzziero said.

Struzziero adds that every facility and company is different, and GelTech plans to approach the biomass industry with that knowledge. ”FireIce is a tool in the toolbox; it is not a one-size solution for everything, but for specific fires and for fires where inventory must be protected from damage, it is an outstanding tool that can be implemented at a low cost for the end users,” Struzziero said.