Fire Defense would have three divisions:
(1) Residential: static defensive installations to defend individual homes.
(2) Forest Lines: pre-installed cross-country lines to protect neighborhoods and communities.
(3) Wallawater Tankers: Specialized large capacity trucks to actively fight forest fires.
Fire Defense would be a standalone company with three divisions:
Residential: static systems designed to save individual homes from brush or forest fires.
Forest Lines: pre-installed cross-country lines to protect communities and towns.
Wallawater Tankers: large three trailer water trucks with 25,000 gallon capacity for forest fire defense.
Fire Defense installations would save peoples' homes. Environmental savings would include the CO2 emissions prevented when saving homes from burning down, and also the carbon cost of building them again. At a larger scale, Fire Defense could be an important global warming prevention initiative. Forest Lines and Wallawater Tankers, by limiting forest fires, could keep huge quantities of carbon sequestered within our forests.
Residential: For residential applications lots of water would be required, either an installed tank or, optimally, a swimming pool. Several well insulated cameras would be installed to monitor the scene. The Fire Defense system could be controlled by either the homeowner or the Fire Department at a distance using a computer or a cell phone. If communication is unavailable or lost, the built-in AI-enabled control system would direct the defense.
As a fire approaches sparks and embers are usually preceding. Sprinklers would be activated to wet the roof and outside walls. The main defense would be a line of high-volume geyser heads installed along the residential / nature interface. These would throw up a wall of water spray, the WallaWater, to meet the oncoming wall of flame. For applications in tall forests, compressed air could be incorporated to throw the WallaWater up over a hundred feet high. After the main flame is suppressed, sprinkling would continue. Sparks could continue for days, so sprinkler flowrates would be adjusted to not run out.
Multiple cameras and roof, wall, and under-eave sprinklers would be installed. Necessary equipment would include the water supply tank or pool. A close line of high-volume geyser nozzles would be installed at the property boundary. Since external power might be lost, a large battery and a battery powered mega-pump would be central. A control and communication system would direct the cameras, survey the scene, and control all water flows. The control system would take orders from the house owner, the Fire Department, or its own built-in AI.
Individual homeowners might recruit their neighbors to build one defensive line around their total vulnerable periphery. Homeowner associations and insurance companies might want to participate. Off-duty firemen might be effective local consultants and salespeople.
Forest Lines: These would be installed first along community boundary roads and critical firebreaks. Large water tanks would be installed at high points along the alignment. These would be kept full. Along the fire defense line, water and compressed air lines would be buried side by side in steel pipes. Communication, power, and control lines would be installed inside the air lines to keep them safe from rodents.
All along the alignment, but off to one side, a series of geyser nozzles would be installed and connected to both air and water. Every valve would be individually controlled. Each valve would be designed, upon command, to discharge a billowing geyser, or to sprinkle a little or a lot. Watching from afar the Fire Department would match the water distribution to the fire dynamics.
Along the sides and the upwind edge of a fire, the Fire Defense sprinkler line might affect containment. However, in high winds, any defensive line on the downwind side may not stop the fire progression. The Fire Defense line might suppress the wall of flame, but additional fires ignited by sparks and burning embers may proliferate beyond the fire line. Conventional fire trucks, aerial tankers, drones carrying water or retardant, water cannons, manned helicopters, or air tankers might be necessary. With the advancing wall of flame suppressed, the fire crews could focus on the spot fires beyond the front line.
Forest fires send great quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Add to that, it takes years afterwards for the forest’s carbon fixing action to fully revive. Forest fires are tragic for the climate. So, with the worsening Climate Crisis, extra importance must be added to forest fire suppression.
Conventional fire trucks carry small amounts of water. Their use in fighting forest fires is limited. Aerial tankers carry many times more water and have proven effective. But aerial tankers are limited in number and are costly to build and operate. Flying low through smoke is dangerous.
The most destructive fires are propelled by wind. Suppressing wind driven fires is always problematic. Firefighters with hoses are often overmatched. To combat wind driven forest fires heavy water artillery is needed.
Visualize, if you will, the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Propelled by compressed air, curtains of water shoot over a hundred feet in the air. Could we adapt that technology so that an advancing wall of wind driven flame is met by an equally high wall of water and mist? We could call it WallaWater.
Here is the suggestion: Imagine a large tank truck configuration with a tractor, several large water tank trailers, and another tractor on the other end, all articulated together, like Australian road trains. It can’t back up, but it doesn’t have to; there’s a driver’s cab with a driver at each end. The trailers can be guided equally from either end (see Wallawater Fire Truck sketch above).
The whole rig is on multiple large earth mover type wheels to allow travel either on the highway, paved forest roads, or remnant logging roads. Each wheel is electrically powered and individually coordinated. The tractor on either end can guide the trailers. It is omnidirectional. It leaves by simply reversing. It can go wherever it needs to.
The whole unit is well insulated for direct confrontation up close with the advancing front of the fire. The front driver steers to meet the flame front. The back driver controls the water sprays. When the truck reverses the drivers reverse roles. The two tractor cabs would have life support aboard. Alternately, inside the battle zone, the truck could be remote controlled from a local command center.
The best part, the part that makes the rig a formidable fire fighter, would be two rows of special water dispersing modules full length on each side. With compressed air augmentation every module could send a jet stream a hundred and fifty feet straight up, or in any direction. All the modules could be individually controlled, either by the operator or using pre-programmed patterns.
Every module could direct a jet, a massive drenching spray, or a billowing soaking mist. The operator or the computer control system would vary the combination of high pressure water and high pressure air to optimize fire suppression. The WallaWater rigs would be designed to advance along the fire front greeting the advancing wall of flame with a dousing WallaWater.
But winning the immediately local battle doesn’t win the war. Water usage would be high. The lead WallaWater truck would, of course, quickly exhaust its water supply and need immediate reinforcement. The idea is that there would be many of these large multi-trailer trucks. As the lead rig is depleted, the second rig would pass and take over. The availability of many WallaWater rigs and the availability of water replenishment would be critical.
At the outbreak of any fire the available WallaWater rigs would head out in caravan, probably with police escort, to the water supply nearest the fire. A special rapid-set-up water filling rig would be helicoptered or trucked into position at the closest lake to the fire. High volume water filling stations could also have been pre-constructed. The WallaWater rigs would fill up, hit the fire, and return for fill-ups in a round-robin all day and all night.
In addition to squelching the fire’s advancing front, occasional reapplication would be required along the fire periphery for some additional time. A filled rig, laboring up the mountain could apply a light spray where needed. On its turn at the front, it would blast a drenching path until near empty, saving only enough to hit any likely smoldering possible re-ignition areas on its return for refill.
Let’s try some arbitrary math: Each axle 20,000 pounds maximum (CalDOT), times 5 axles per trailer equals 100,000 pounds gross weight. Aluminum tank, frame, and ten large earthmover electric wheels, say 30,000 pounds. Then weight of water 70,000 pounds (8390 gallons). A three tank WallaWater rig could then carry around 25,000 gallons, more than any air tanker. And it would cost much less.
Multiple groups of Wallawater rigs could be stationed near forest areas. They would reinforce each other as needed. Of course, there are no guarantees that any fire can be contained, particularly when wind-driven. But many WallaWater rigs working in concert could apply more water where it’s needed along a fire front than any previous system.
On the upwind side of the road the forest is in flame. An avalanche of sparks and flame is blowing across the road. But, at the road, an enormous water shower is added. Everything downwind is wet. The rig is insulated and every tire has its own sprinkler. The following rigs could quell the upwind fire, or they could let it burn up to the road and just keep everything downwind wet.
Parties that might develop this idea further: United States Forest Service, state forestry departments, National Association of State Foresters, U.S. Fire Administration, National Interagency Fire Center, International Assn. of Wildland Fire, CalFire.
Fire engine manufacturing companies: Pierce, Oshkosh, Seagrave, Spartan, Rosenbauer.
A sample Request for Proposals might solicit a Prototype Fire Suppression Vehicle Configuration, a WallaWater rig, with the following approximate specifications:
A 25,000 gallon minimum capacity.
Loaded uphill at 10% grade at 15 mph minimum.
10,000 pound max wheel load
Insulated for close flame encounters, integrated life support, radio and remote-control capacity.
13 steerable jet/spray/mist water application modules front to back on each side.
Pump + compressor capacity for 13 modules shooting 150 foot high simultaneously.
We could have detachments of these around the American and Canadian west. And, since carbon not into the atmosphere anywhere equals carbon not into the air anywhere else, USAID and other international organizations might donate these trucks to other forested countries.