Other Than Single Family Homes
The above is the normal nonapartment scenario (including single family dwellings, and probably some duplexes and four-plexes). Apartment complexes—wherever located—would use similar Fire Blanket techniques, and when the structures are larger, larger blankets and cylinders would be used.
Options Other Than Fire Blankets
One could ask: Why not just make the siding (and fake-wood shakes) totally fireproof (or at least make everyone update to "one-hour" siding and "class A" roofs), like space shuttle tiles, or special-alloy metal siding? Because with these methods the fire will get too close to the house, melting inside-wall wiring (remember, metal is a great heat conductor) and siding-mounted (TV cable and telephone and electrical) cables as it bakes (and warps?) the siding and boils off all the paint, and ignites rafters and doors and decks as well as breaking windows because of the heat—and then the inside of the house will be vulnerable to flame, heat and embers and probably end up burned up anyway. Rewiring and repainting would be a huge burden to the homeowner, both economically and time-wise. Besides, since it's possible to keep the fire away from the house so it doesn't endanger property (except what's outside the blanket barrier) or people, then that's the better strategy to apply.
Homeowner Expense and Market Viability
Are people willing to pay an extra $3000 to $40,000 (estimate for simple and small to complex and large Fire Blanket systems) for $150,000 to $15,000,000 homes to be protected from fire? The answer, in my opinion, is: Only if they were sure they'd work. In fact, they'd want it guaranteed. And since these things would work nicely, the guarantees would be safe to give, and would consist of money-back guarantees if they didn't save the house from burning. (Part of the marketing would be TV spots showing a house threatened by an approaching fire. Case A [fire dept.] and case B [Fire Blankets] are compared. People could get free 10-minute videos from an 800 number; and, of course, CNN would show the world this new invention.) So people, therefore, would buy these things, as long as they were in a vulnerable area, or in a nonvulnerable area but, because of the Joe Blow scenario above, worried about losing their home to fire because of other homes' smokers, bad wiring, space heaters, barbecue pits, leaf burning, or whatever. They'd have to really like their homes a lot to spend the money. How many people are like that? According to The Popcorn Report and other trend analysis books, cocooning in homes and making a home the beloved center of one's world is not only "on-trend," it's also going to increase because of crime, fear, cottage industry increase, telecommuting, and the aging of the baby boom. (See such books as Age Wave.) In addition, the 9/11/2001 attack and subsequent terrorism alerts have people primed to not only "cocoon" in their homes, but also add a "secure and defensible fort" context—a context with which Fire Blankets dovetail.
People have known for a long time that shakes and other class C roofs were a fire hazard, but they look great, so people want them and select them when they build or reroof. So the idea that they'll suddenly change their attitudes out of public spiritedness is silly. If they buy roofs and sidings they don't like the looks of and spend extra money doing so, they'll feel ripped off or oppressed. But if they use whatever materials they like and add Fire Blankets to protect everything, they'll feel great about how the house looks and still be a lot safer than houses with class A roofs and sidings. They can have their cake and eat it too.
Solar had trouble catching on because of the weird, large structures that ended up on people's roofs. But there are millions of units out there now. Fire Blankets look better than solar units (they'll look like modified ridges and modified rain gutters, rather than strange and ugly plastic pipes and collectors all over a roof like solar units) and may be an improvement over some aging rain gutter structures, especially older ones or rusty ones.
Finally, the shakes on roofs surely have lower toxin levels if they finally do end up burning than do asphalt shingles, so the overall fire pollution considerations favor shakes over other materials if one can protect them adequately with Fire Blankets. Preventing the vast majority of fires is best, but having the few that burn be relatively nonpolluting is a good overall strategy.
A New Industry
Wait until the ex-employees of one of those closed Detroit auto plants find out that it will soon be retooled to be the main maker of Fire Blankets in the world, and that thousands of workers are sought! George Bush senior and Ronald Reagan used to use the rags-to-riches story of Jobs and Wozniac (Apple Computer) to show what American ingenuity was all about; perhaps in a few years the President will cite the Fire Blanket Corporation of America in the same way.
Other Uses For Fire Blankets
Blankets By Air
There's another way to use Fire Blanket technology that will also work, and may be the only way to use the technology on wildland/urban interface forest fires and other types of wildland/urban interface fires where people are unable or unwilling to use the structure-mounted Fire Blanket technology described above. It requires 2 helicopters and the use of very large rolled Fire Blankets (with no metal-cylinder container needed, so it's cheaper and more convenient to use). Two choppers hoist a rolled (on a strong pipe or beam) Fire Blanket over the burning area and unroll it over the area in front of the leading edge of the fire in such a way as to cut off the fuel supply to the trees or houses it's headed towards because the fire can't get through the blanket. You'd still need people to do mop-up and patrol for descending sparks and ashes on the nonburning side of the blanket, but no wall of flame would get through to this area.
There are several ways to use this strategy: (1) unroll t blanket with the roller situated vertically and put it with one (weighted) edge down, the long way, on the ground as an actual wall stopping the flame's progression; (2) unroll it with the roller situated horizontally and use the blankets to drape the area the fire's about to reach; (3) like 2 but smother existing fires. Such things as weights on the ground edges of blankets to combat wind interference (or firefighters on the ground staking in edges—as in tent staking) may be necessary. Also a third chopper may be needed to be the unroller while the other two hold the roll's ends or perhaps you'd just have weights, stake-downs by hand or harpoon, or firefighters on the ground to hold the starting edge down (before it got kite ideas) prior to unrolling.
The width of a 'copter-delivered roll might vary from 50' to 200', I'd imagine, depending on weight and manageability. The length would probably be many times longer than the width. The 'copters would lay one down until the roll was empty and then go back for another roll.
The strengths of this method are: (1) It can stop flame and embers better and more accurately than water and chemical fire suppressants. (2) It can address flame directly and swiftly by smothering it or cutting off the fuel supply a fire is heading for. (3) It can be reused, unlike the water and chemicals and foam-smother one area and then go to the next burning area while crews mop up.
The weaknesses of this method are: (1) Danger to helicopter crews. (2) It can only apply to fires where the wind is insignificant enough so that 'copters can safely operate, since the blanket will catch the wind like a kite. (3) It assumes that a couple of 'copters can operate together safely as a team without winds blowing them into each other (theoretically, the ends of the Fire Blanket roller are slung by cables well beneath the 'copters, giving them room to get nearer and farther from each other, but not giving them enough slack so that the rotating blades will clash). (4) It assumes that a blanket material can be found that can smother a fire and yet not burn or melt, so it can be used for the next burning area.
Further Thoughts and Other Uses
There's a chance the above idea can only be applied to field fires and not tree fires—at least, not tall trees. There's a chance that only one helicopter at a time can do this, so the rolled Fire Blanket must be carried by a pair of helium (hydrogen is flammable) balloons—one at each end. The 'copter would merely tow the roll to the fire, rather than carry it, so the major strength needed by the 'copter would be stable hovering against winds rather than load-carrying capacity. The weights on the blanket edge would be released and the entire roller would be released once the blanket was unrolled. I'd imagine that shooting an anchor (with a line) into the ground (harpoon-like) from a 50' height would be a way to pick an anchored starting spot, and the unrolling would only work good if the wind was used as the blanket spreading force (the weights are the unrolling force but once the unrolling began, the wind would do that too). It seems to me that if two 'copters were available, one at each end, they could unroll a harpoon-anchored blanket easily and precisely by flying forward with the roll—perhaps this is the way to go after all. It may be that the blanket-by-air operation would be either too dangerous or too much of a challenging art to learn. Only tests would show the true workability of the idea. A nonworkable element in the 'copter-carried Fire Blanket scenario would in no way diminish the viability of the structurally-mounted application of Fire Blankets, of course.
One other possible method is to have a 'copter deliver the roll (carried vertically dangling by one end, and restrained from unrolling by a fastener of some type) to the site and lay it down on the ground, and the flight crew could operate it by radio-controlled helium-tank-opening devices at each end that filled balloons that rose quickly and unrolled the blanket straight into the air until it was completely unrolled, after which the balloons would be swiftly deflated by yanking lines from tabs (zippers? Velcro? Tape?) which would create long slits at the top of the bags and release the gas. The leading edge of the blanket may need weights so that it would not try to play kite. Obviously, the blanket would unroll and extend over the ground horizontally in the direction that was the same as the prevailing wind direction, so that would need to be considered when placing the roll. Twenty roll-carrying 'copters in a row—laying parallel blankets—could make a great dent in the prospective fuel sources of a vegetation fire-probably many times the fuel-nullifying effect of water and chemicals and foam. And such air power could make quick work of brush and field fires.
Carbon Dioxide and Foam Use
Perhaps Carbon Dioxide alone or in the form of foam would work well in conjunction with the blankets because things can't burn in Carbon Dioxide—but only in oxygen. Fire Blankets will make sure that most of the Carbon Dioxide will stay captive of the blanket and not blow away. For most uses, however, the need for Carbon Dioxide is not predicted to be needed. The fire retardants dumped from planes, like the water, is surely helpful, but perhaps in conjunction with Fire Blankets each would be more effective.
Class A foam-spreading devices for home protection before or during fires has recently been introduced and recommended as a viable protection and suppression system.