Ramona Man's Invention May Protect Homes From Wildfires
Physicist Joseph Mitchell Developed WEEDS System
11:59 PM, Sep 22, 2009
A Ramona physicist may have invented the last line of defense against wildfires, 10News reported.
Even after clearing brush from his home, Joseph Mitchell, Ph.D. said he did not feel safe if a fire were to happen.
Mitchell invented a sprinkler system that protects a home against embers, which are especially destructive when Santa Ana winds blow them under a house's eaves or onto fuel near a structure.
"They can get past the defensible space. You'd have tens of thousands of little matches and cigarette butts hitting the house," said Mitchell.
Mitchell calls his invention a Wind-Enabled Ember Dousing System, or WEEDS. It installs underneath the eaves of a house. When activated, it sprays water into the air. High winds then push the water back against the house, at the same time dousing any embers that could lead to a fire.
"The idea: spray water against the wind; let the wind blow it back on," said Mitchell.
Mitchell said the system is a supplement defense to other fire protection measures, including clearing brush. He said his system, which pumps about 30 gallons of water a minute, isn't strong enough to put out fire. However, it is strong enough to extinguish embers blown against a home.
Mitchell developed the idea earlier this decade and had it installed the day before the devastating Cedar Fire in 2003. The land around Mitchell's home was scorched but his home was untouched.
Mitchell conducted a scientific study of his invention, and his findings were later published in the Fire Safety Journal, the leading industry publication on fire safety.
"With a system like this it covers all the sins. If you have a crack here or a little bit of debris there, it's going to get soaked," said Mitchell.
The system consists of a 5,000-gallon tank, a propane-powered generator, a pump and 32 sprinkler heads. It's designed to operate in the worst-case scenario when power and water is shut off.
It cost Mitchell $20,000 to install, but he said it's worth the investment to protect your home.
So far, there are only four homes in the entire world with the WEEDS system.