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Crews use foil material to protect historic log cabin from the Crooks Fire

Wrapping buildings like this can be rare, Welsh says, but the technique was recently used to protect the structure which was built in the 1870s.
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 7:24 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s a registered historic landmark once used as a stagecoach station. As smoke from the Crooks Fire looms in the distance, the Palace Station cabin looks like it’s covered in shiny, reflective foil.

“It’s made of aluminum foil on one side, and on the other side it is a Kevlar fiber, and it’s woven together,” said Jacob Welsh, a public information officer for the Crooks Fire. He tells Arizona’s Family the material plastered on the cabin is similar to the fire shelters crews are required to carry on the line.

Wrapping buildings like this can be rare, Welsh says, but the technique was recently used to protect the structure which was built in the 1870s. He says when the foil is used, it’s in areas where the department doesn’t want to, or can’t, commit firefighters. “You know we don’t actually carry this on our fire trucks,” Welsh said. “This is something that we order especially when we’re on large fires, and we think we can use it for some remote locations.”

He says the tactic is helpful in fires burning in timber when they have time to staple it to wood buildings, but not in a fast-moving brush fire. Welsh says it took crews about two days to fully wrap the Palace Station. According to him, it protects against radiant heat--the warmth from the flames--but not a direct flame, and it’s not 100% effective.

Similar foil made headlines when it was wrapped around the base of the world’s biggest tree, General Sherman, as a wildfire burned nearby in the Sequoia National Park in California last year. Back in Arizona, experts say the best thing you can do is clean your property.

“Go research what it takes to be fire-wise--what defensible space is. So, really cleaning your property,” he said. “And not having an overgrowth of vegetation near your property is going to be the most effective way.”

Firefighters also cleared the area around the cabin. For decades, Phoenix Troop 109, a Boy Scout troop based in the Valley, has done numerous service projects in the area. Welsh says it will be used for cabin rentals in the future.