Fire Breaks

Slowing fires with non-flammable crops.

What is the problem?

In 2020, California wildfires burned more than 4% of the state’s roughly 100 million acres of land. The fires destroyed over 10,000 structures and caused over 12 billion dollars in damages. With record breaking temperatures and dryness due to climate change, this problem will grow worse without a comprehensive and decisive strategy.

With more than four million homes at risk where fires regularly occur in California, the predicted increase in fires will push demand for firefighting resources beyond the breaking point. We need new strategies beyond simple fuel management such as mowing "defensible space".

To fight these fires, we will plant fire-resistant crops such as bananas as a green firebreak, creating a banana fire break. These crops will be placed strategically around the perimeter of urban areas to discourage the encroachment of fires into areas where people live.

Why will it work?

Fire managers consider the 3-5 hours of initial attack to be key for getting control of a fire. Suppression efforts at this stage traditionally include active measures such as air tankers and control line resources such as pumps, hoses, bulldozers, and shovels.

When firefighting resources arrive too late or are spread too thin, firefighters fail to contain the fire and an evacuation order is triggered in neighboring communities. Reducing the rate of fire spread during initial attack would dramatically mitigate fire risk to life and property and give firefighters time to successfully respond. Our fire-resistant crop buffers will slow the spread of fires to accomplish exactly this.

How will it work?

Fuel reduction is a key practice in fire risk management and creating firebreaks or fire buffers is a proven strategy. Unfortunately, the cost and complexity of fuel treatment makes it difficult for land managers to actually perform sustained fuel treatment. Our approach combines pre-constructed edible fire breaks with a model that is both ecologically and economically sustainable, one that generates revenue while increasing fire protection and producing crop yields.

We perform spatiotemporal risk analysis at high resolution by simulating fires given a range of hypothetical fuel treatment scenarios, including change in canopy cover, fuel maps, and plant growth. Integrating this risk analysis with a financial modeling component produces a comprehensive analysis of where, how, and when edible fire buffers, with which crop and groundcover types, should be planted to fortify fire protection within fiscal and physical constraints.

Who is doing this work?

We are a team of Computing and Agriculture experts with extensive experience designing, building, and deploying large-scale agricultural and computational systems. Contact us at info@ediblefirebreak.com.