APTP Articles

Fire Hardening Wood Pole Assets

Genics Inc is a renowned wood science company with a dedicated focus on all aspects of utility asset pole including test and treat, pole asset management software and Fire Mesh™ (patent pending).

Two brothers Wesley and Calvin Wall have been working with utility asset poles for 40 years, now their passion for innovative products with safe chemical profiles translates into a strong competitive advantage for Genics Inc. 

The unprecedented scale of bushfires in recent fire seasons across Australia, Canada and the West Coast of the USA, has highlighted the need for proactive wood pole life management in fire prone areas. Ultimately, preservation is key. Maintaining a functioning network in the midst of a natural disaster is critical. Genics Inc sought to develop a pole protection product that was easy to apply, required no ongoing maintenance, would not contribute to pole degradation over its life, and that provided superior fire mitigation performance. Driven by science and a passion to innovate in this space, Genics Inc worked closely with many utilities and research facilities to bring Fire Mesh™ to the market. 

High performing Intumescent Mesh by Genics Inc

Optimum Design, Maximum Protection 

The increased threat of fires brings into question the use of wooden assets for electricity transmission and distribution in fire prone areas despite being made from a plentiful and renewable resource that sequesters carbon. After more than a decade of research and development, the evolution of fire-retardant products designed to protect wood poles led to “paint on” and wrap products that are applied to the surface of the pole. Whilst effective in mitigating the risk of fire catching, these products introduced new risks to pole management through moisture retention and inadvertent coating damage that reduced effectiveness. 

Genics Fire Mesh™ is a protective barrier designed to protect structures from wood burning and scorching. It is vital for a wood pole to achieve equilibrium and homeostasis with the climatic conditions associated with its placement, therefore, the best product solution is one that promotes air exchange and allows the pole to breathe. The Fire Mesh™ is designed with an open grid that allows visibility of the timber behind it, and most importantly, allows the pole to breathe. Combining state of the art polymers with innovative fire-resistant compounds, Genics Inc was able to create a very durable and high performing intumescent grid that has achieved excellent fire resistance in many standardized tests and controlled burns. The mesh is extremely durable and can be applied to new poles before transport to fire prone areas. There is also a favourable environmental and safety profile, the product is animal safe, there is no leaching of chemicals and it is safe to handle. 

Extensive Testing

Timber power poles are exposed to three heat/fire conditions in the event of a fire. Firstly, an intense heat and winds ahead of a fire front that primes timber to burn by raising temperature and evaporating moisture, then the fire itself which is a function of prevailing conditions and vegetation fuel loads in proximity, followed by the smouldering and heat profile that remains once the fire passes. Any assessment of a product must be considered in respect to the response and impact during these stages.

The Western Fire Center is a testing facility located in Kelso, Washington, USA. They have a draft ASTM standardised test that is developed to simulate wildfire conditions and it is one of the toughest fire tests for materials to pass. A 2.1m pole sample is exposed to a radiant heat panel (See image 2) set at 980°C (Heat flux of 50 kW/ m2) for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes, a ring burner set at the base of the pole is ignited for an additional 5 minutes along with the heat panel.

TEN Group