New fire-resistant paint Firecoat pushed to limits in live burn test

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The UC Berkeley disaster lab put together sheds to test the fire resistance of new acrylic paint.

Flame Security International created Firecoat. The fire-retardant coat can be applied over walls indoors and outdoors to protect the home from being burned down.

Firecoat began life in Sweden after FSI’s Tony Overstead and his founding partner discovered the paint being applied at Ikea locations.

“We decided to go to Sweden to conduct the due diligence to bring that product to Australia. We did and we went to the University of New South Wales were my co-founder and I did our degrees and we set up shop and six years later, we had given birth to 12 different fire-retardant and fire-protection coatings,” Overstead said.

The Disaster Lab is working with Flame Society International to help test the fire-resistant paint Firecoat, in a live burn test.

“In a lab setting, it’s a very controlled environment, which is a great way to the test and evaluation,” UC Berkeley Disaster Lab director Dr. Tom Azwell said. “But, if you want to facilitate actual adoption of innovation, especially with first responders like the fire service, it is very helpful for them to actually see it applied in the field and at field scale.”

Five sheds were made of timber found in the Humboldt and Del Norte areas to see how they could handle the heat.

The dry brush also surrounded the sheds, fueling the wildfire scenario as cal fire hit the sheds with two flamethrowers.

One shed was set as the control for an exterior blaze, meaning they had no firecoat applied to them while another was coated in the paint.

Two other sheds focused on interior walls, one without the firecoat on the walls.

The final shed dubbed the “Apocalypse Shed” was hit with three flamethrowers replicating a fast-moving wall of fire.

The paint itself is another way those across Humboldt and Del Norte counties can harden their homes against wildfire.

“Typical home hardening measures help to kind of mitigate the initial onset of a wildfire. But unless that wildfire passes through quickly, even if you mitigate it for some of those vulnerabilities, those basic home-hardening measures will not protect the structure,” Dr. Azwell said. This type of coating provides another layer of protection because it’s non-toxic, affordable, and accessible to more people.”