Researchers test using explosions to put out wildfires

Created: 05/22/2014 10:25 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Dr. Graham Doig and other researchers from the University of New South Wales, funded in part by the Australian American Association, is testing whether explosions could help put out fires – and they’re doing their tests at New Mexico Tech in Socorro.

Tech is one of very few places in the world that could facilitate the kinds of tests that researchers needed done.

The technique is a little like blowing out a candle, but in this case they use a steel tube that looks like a cannon. When there’s a wildfire, responders could try to get to it with their device and literally blow it out.

“The biggest thing that's behind the shockwave theory is what we call blast wind. That breeze actually blows the flame out and so it's almost like blowing out a candle on a cake - the air pushes the flame off the fuel source, and without being connected to a fuel source, the flame goes out,” NMT Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Michael Hargather said.

One blow may not be able to put out a gigantic fire, but it could help stop it from spreading.

“People, animals or structures near where the explosion would go off would be a problem. But in a forest fire scenario you would expect that most of the wildlife and people are evacuated and you're really using this to set up a fire break,” Hargather said.

This is one of the first tests of its kind. More research will be needed before it can actually be used to fight a wildfire.

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