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They'll Try to Pamper Fires

May 04, 1999|JOSE CARDENAS

What do the Santa Ana winds and baby diapers have in common?

One traditionally aids the devastating brush fires in Southern California, and the other may just help the Los Angeles Fire Department be more effective against them.

Last fall, the L.A. Fire Department acquired Barricade Gel--made from the same super-absorbent polymers found in disposable baby diapers.

The gel has not yet been used here because there have not been significant brush fires since then, said Cap. Don Frazeur, in charge of the Fire Department's equipment engineering unit. Nevertheless, so far, 20 of the 100 engine companies have been equipped.

The gel was developed by John Bartlett, a Palm Beach County, Fla., firefighter who founded Barricade International. He developed the gel after noticing that the only thing that didn't burn in a house fire was a soggy baby diaper. Later he consulted with a chemist and came up with the gel.

The U.S. military and Florida's Power & Light Co. also use it. Fire officials in Florida say it was critical in fighting last year's brush fires.

In Southern California, where the wind often allows crews to predict the course of fires, the gel may be sprayed on structures in the path of the flames, Frazeur said.

The shaving cream-like gel is added to water and sprayed on structures. It can stay in place for up to eight hours and be reactivated with a light mist, Frazeur said.

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