How to kill zombie fire
Because filing a zombie doesn’t guarantee a quick kill. Say you’re pumping massive amounts into the peat bogs, as firefighters did in North Carolina. This does not mean that the water is reaching the right places while it is slipping from the ground. “It creates a channel, and the fire in that channel is eliminated, but then the water doesn’t go anywhere else,” Rein says. Other parts of the fire may occur untouched. And that’s how the zombie lives.
If firefighters do not have enough water available, they can try to compact the ground with heavy machinery, trying to cut off the fire’s oxygen supply. But this equipment is not always available to the crew. Even then, this maneuver is a dangerous job, as it requires driving over an active fire. In addition, there may be such fires huge, and heavy machinery can cover so much ground.
So in the lab, Rein and his colleagues experimented with a new anti-zombie weapon: water mixed with a non-toxic fire extinguisher. surfactant, also known as a wetting agent or remover. “It’s like soap; it reduces the surface tension of the water and the water penetrates better into the porous support,” says Rein. “Peat is a porous medium.”
Using a small, custom-made “peat reactor” filled with plant material and covered with ceramic insulators, they could track what could have ignited and burned the zombie fire. A nozzle was placed on top of the box to pour regular water or a special mixture over different fires. Compared to the same amount of ordinary water, the surfactant water reduced the time required to extinguish the fire by 40%. This lower surface tension allowed the mixture to form evenly into the ground instead of creating channels, so that small parts of the zombie fire had nowhere to hide.
There was no chemical effect of the surfactant on the fire — such as lowering oxygen levels. Instead, it was one more thermal the effect, “in the sense that the surfactant allows water to reach warmer places and reach faster,” Rein says.