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San Diego Zoo Safari Park Fortifies Wildland Fire Defense with FireIce
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a world-class 1,800-acre zoo with over 2,600 animals and 3,500 plant species housed in a natural environment. The Safari Park is located in California’s San Pasqual Valley, an area highly susceptible to wildland fire. This creates a unique and significant challenge for SDZ staff to plan for. In 2007, a wildland fire burned more than 600 acres of habitat in the park and had a significant impact on the animals and park operations. Protecting valuable park resources, including numerous endangered species, the world-class Frozen Zoo and the veterinary hospital, is of the utmost importance in the event of a wildland fire.
The Safari Park’s operations team was tasked with finding a product that could effectively protect important park infrastructure in California’s challenging wildland fire conditions, but was completely safe environmentally for the animals, had a long shelf life for storage, and was easy to apply and clean up.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park had a response plan for wildland fire, but their existing supply of fire chemicals had expired. After a presentation, a demonstration, and a thorough independent review of environmental and toxicological data performed by Zoo scientists, GelTech Solutions and the San Diego Zoo agreed upon a multi-year implementation plan of FireIce.
The multi-year plan consisted of extensive mapping and physical site surveys of vegetation coverage, fire hydrant locations, and water handling equipment inspections, and hands-on site training to ensure all San Diego Zoo employees are safely and efficiently deploying FireIce. The FireIce Wildland Fire division designed specialized equipment that could be used with the park’s water system, and also installed professional mixing equipment on the park operated water tenders. This comprehensive approach provides the park with the best line of defense against the threat of wildland fire. Our strategy accommodated ecological sensitivity while expanding protection for high-value park assets where higher fire potential, higher expected rates of spread and higher probability ignition conditions exist.
As a non-toxic and environmentally friendly fire chemical, FireIce satisfied the single most important criteria for park staff; the product must be safe to use around the vast number of animal and plant species, including those that are critically endangered. In choosing FireIce, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is realizing the same benefits as many wildland firefighting agencies across North America; that FireIce is the safest, most advanced and most effective wildland fire retardant available today. The FireIce Wildland Fire Division continues to work with park staff on developing additional protections for the park.