Aluminum wrap used to protect homes in California wildfires

Wildfires-Aluminum Wrapped Homes

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Martin Diky said he panicked as a huge wildfire started racing down a slope toward his wooden house near Lake Tahoe.

The contractor had enough time to do some quick research and decided to wrap his mountain home with an aluminum protective covering. The material that can withstand intensive heat for short periods resembles tin foil from the kitchen drawer but is modeled after the tent-like shelters that wildland firefighters use as a last resort to protect themselves when trapped by flames.

Diky, who lives most of the time in the San Francisco Bay Area, bought $6,000 worth of wrapping from Firezat Inc. in San Diego, enough to cover his 1,400-square-foot (130-square-meter) second home on the edge of the small California community of Meyers.

“It’s pretty expensive, and you’d feel stupid if they stopped the fire before it got close,” he said. “But I’m really glad we did it. It was pretty nerve-wracking when the flames came down the slope.”

The flexible aluminum sheets that Diky affixed to his $700,000 home are not widely used because they are pricey and difficult to install, though they have saved some properties, including historic cabins managed by the U.S. government.

Fire crews even wrapped the base of the world’s largest tree this week to protect it from wildfires burning near a famous grove of gigantic old-growth sequoias in California's Sequoia National Park. The colossal General Sherman Tree, some of the other sequoias in the Giant Forest, a museum and some other buildings also were wrapped amid the possibility of intense flames.

It comes after another aluminum-wrapped home near Lake Tahoe survived the Caldor Fire, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of Diky’s home, while neighboring houses were destroyed.