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Supposedly fire-resistant homes being built in Northern California could offer a model for resilience in the fire-plagued state.
The homes, built in Calaveras County, near Stockton, are being built with magnesium sourced from Canada. Building materials made with magnesium were shown to stay intact through more than five minutes of exposure to direct heat. The materials are is also resistant to mold, insects, and water, builders say.
“Magnesium is a critical mineral. We take it as a supplement. It supplies higher value industries, like steel refractory bricks, and thinking about refractory bricks, those are the molten molds for molten metals that we pour,” Doug Brown of ZS2 Technologies told ABC 10 news. “What better material to look at building some of the homes that we live in out of?”
With wildfires intensifying due to climate change, many home insurers are pulling out of California, and other natural disaster-plagued states such as Florida. Fire-resistant homes could offer a buffer to fire damage and reduce costs and risks to life for homeowners affected by fire.
“We have a fire-resistant material. Fireproof? Who’s to say? But definitely, fire resistance is the big key to this equation,” Bill Soest of Evergreen Performance Inc. told the outlet. “We know that if we’re building homes that are engineered right from the start to be fire resistant, we have a better chance of surviving a horrible situation of a wildfire.”
Brown said a fire-resistant home will prove slightly more expensive on average than a typical newly built home.
“We are a slight cost premium, but you’re getting the resiliency of a material that can be submerged in water, or flame can be applied to it and it’s not going to catch on fire,” he said.
California saw 275,058 acres burn in 2023, well below the state’s five-year average of 1,158,028 acres, after an unusually rainy winter spared the state from overly destructive burns this year.
Gregg Smith, with Calaveras County Habitat for Humanity, told ABC 10 he was blown away by the “ease” of constructing the fire-resistant house, and hopes many more will be constructed throughout the state.
“We’re completely blown away about the material, the ease of construction, and everything else,” he said.