MEYERS, California: Contractor Martin Diky said that he panicked when a wildfire began advancing toward his mountain house in Meyers, California, near Lake Tahoe. But he was able to perform some quick research and decided to wrap his wooden home with a protective aluminum covering.
The covering, which can withstand intense heat for short periods, resembles tin foil, but is modeled after the tent-like shelters used by forest firefighters as a last resort to protect themselves from flames.
Diky bought wrapping at a cost of $6,000 from Firezat in San Diego to cover his 1,400-square-foot second home.
The wrapping deflects heat away from buildings and stops flammable materials from catching fire. It also prevents airborne embers from entering vents and other openings.
The sheets can withstand heat of up to 1,022 degrees Fahrenheit, when combined with with a fiberglass backing and acrylic adhesive.
Fire crews even wrapped the base of the world's largest tree in aluminum this week in California's Sequoia National Park, the "General Sherman Tree," as well as other sequoias, a museum and a number of buildings.
The U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service account for 95 percent of Firezat's sales, and the company's founding president, Dan Hirning, noted the Forest Service has wrapped 600 to 700 buildings, bridges, communication towers and other structures this year.
Firefighters described the wrappings as a "big baked potato" on social media, and Forest Service officials said they have used the wraps for several years to protect sensitive structures in the western U.S.
The fire shield rolls sold by Firezat are 5 feet wide by 200 feet long and cost about $700 each, with instillation by a contractor costing additional thousands of dollars.
"People think we should be selling tons of these things, but it is not as much as everybody thinks," Hirning said, as quoted by Associated Press, adding that most of his individual clients are looking to protect "really expensive cabins, really expensive homes and resorts."
Fumiaki Takahashi, a mechanical engineering professor at Ohio's Case Western Reserve University, published 10 years of research on protective wraps in the Frontiers in Mechanical Engineering journal in 2019.
The wrap's aluminized surface blocked up to 92 percent of convective heat and up to 96 percent of radiation, he said, adding further research is needed.