Fire system covers home with retardant | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Fire system covers home with retardant

Gregory Crofton

There could be one more thing homeowners need if they live near a forest.

It’s called Firebreak Spray Systems and the guy who invented it, Jim Aamodt, also came up with the system that sprays mists of water over produce.

He created Firebreak after he moved to an area of Oregon filled with gorges where wildfire danger, as in Tahoe, is by no means remote.

“It’s the same technology, just a heavier mist,” Aamodt, 45, said. “After a couple fires knocked out power, we devised a more advanced system with nitrogen gas as the propellant.”

The Firebreak system reaches 75 to 150 feet, spreading fire retardant on surrounding landscape with exterior sprinkler heads. The high-powered sprinklers, which can be activated by phone, are also used to cover a house with retardant, especially if it is a log home or has a wood-shake roof.

“It’s like having your own aerial bomber on call,” said Anton “Eddie” Hosch, of Fire Veil. Fire Veil stopped at South Lake Tahoe on Thursday to conduct a demonstration of Firebreak for the Tahoe Basin Firesafe Council.

The retardant used in a Firebreak system, however, does not contain the gum, resin or red dye that the retardant of a bomber does. Firebreak retardant is clear-liquid made of monoammonium phosphate, which, other than deterring the spread of fire, acts as a low-grade fertilizer.

The retardant is diluted before it is spread and does not damage foliage even though it can remain effective for weeks or even months. Aamodt said the state of Colorado spreads fire retardant along its highway at the start of every fire season.

“The retardant itself is well-tested,” Aamodt said. “(But) it’s not the end-all. Homeowners still must follow fire-wise practices and reduce the fuel load around houses. This tool is one other tool to try and protect the home.”

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which regulates land use and environmental protection at the Lake Tahoe Basin, said it does not see a problem with a homeowner in the basin installing a Firebreak system.

“Certainly we are concerned about fertilizer use with phosphorous, but as we understand it, its use would be limited to emergency situations,” said Julie Regan, TRPA communications director.

The starting cost to have a Firebreak system installed for a 3,000 square foot home is $3,700. Costs can escalate to more than $20,000 for a larger home.

“I think the level of protection it can add for the cost is well worth it considering a lot of homes (in the basin) cost $250,000 to millions of dollars,” said Jennifer Arrowsmith, administrator of the Tahoe Basin Firesafe Council. “It’s a small price to pay to protect your home and belongings.”

Don Rue, vice president of sales for Fire Veil, said insurance companies aren’t sold on Firebreak Spray Systems yet. The product has been on the market for about two years. But, Rue said, insurance companies are taking a close look at the product and someday soon homeowners may be offered cheaper insurance rates if they have a Firebreak system.

Andy Ternullo, who lives on Angora ridge and is a member of the technical advisory committee of the Tahoe Basin Firesafe Council, was impressed with the Firebreak demonstration. Ternullo recently spent more than $3,500 to have trees removed from his property in an effort to reduce the fire threat around his home.

“I’m going to talk about it tonight with my wife,” Ternullo said Thursday, comparing Firebreak’s cost to that of an ongoing remodel of a bathroom at his home. “If the house burns down, we’re not going to recoup the cost of the new bathroom.”

The Western States Fire Protection Company has secured the rights to sell and install Firebreak Spray Systems. The company can be reached at 800-521-2047 or http://www.wsfp.com.


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