ArmorBuiltTM Wildfire Shield Proven Protection for Utility Poles


In November of 2018, the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in California history burned a total of 240 square miles, destroyed 18,804 structures and resulted in 85 civilian fatalities. Known as the Camp Fire, it devastated several communities including the towns of Paradise and Concow, California.
As a result of this fire, California policy makers began looking for options to harden electrical grid infrastructure in areas that are prone to wildfire. One option was moving electrical transmission materials below ground, which is extremely expensive. The cost for one mile of underground utilities is approximately $5 million, 10 times the cost of overhead utilities per mile. Other options included replacing wood poles with steel, fiberglass or concrete poles, which would cost a minimum of two to three times more than wood poles and require an enormous carbon footprint. A different solution was needed that was effective, reliable, cost-efficient and sustainable.

Development of ArmorBuilt Wildfire Shield
Wood poles are considered by many to be the most sustainable option for utility infrastructure. Trees are renewable, recyclable and solar powered, plus they sequester carbon. In addition, a wood pole will last until a replacement grows. However, in the wake of the Camp Fire, wood poles were considered a liability, especially in fire-prone regions.
Shortly after the Camp Fire, scientists at Hexion began working on a solution that would enable the continued use of sustainable wood poles and protect them from wildfire. The result is ArmorBuilt wildfire shield. This pole wrap is a smart material that intumesces in the presence of elevated temperatures, creating a protective insulation. ArmorBuilt wildfire shield can withstand flames of up to 2,100°F for 30 minutes or longer. ArmorBuilt wrap can be applied to new poles or poles that are already in service, eliminating the need to replace poles that are already in the vertical.

Read full article in T&D Consulting, Engineering & Construction Special Edition 2023
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