Teenager Invents New Fire Extinguisher To Save Homes from Wildfires

by Jennifer Shea

A California teenager has invented a fire extinguisher that operates even when you’re not there. His hope is that it can save some homes from wildfires, which are becoming increasingly common across the Western U.S.

Arul Mathur, a student at Monte Vista High School in Danville, California, calls his invention the Fire Activated Canister Extinguisher, or F.A.C.E. It’s a portable fire extinguisher that activates automatically. About 15 pounds when full and a foot long, the extinguishers are designed to be mounted around the perimeter of a house – say, on a fence or tree.

The teenager recommends pairing the devices with roof-mounted fire sprinklers, Mathur told radio station KSQD recently.

Teenager Nearly Lost His Home to a Wildfire

For the first eight years of his life, Mathur lived in New Jersey, where wildfires are not really a thing. Then he moved to Northern California in 2012 and learned about the wildfires that have increasingly menaced his new state. But the fires were still largely an abstract concept to him until 2019, he said.

“It wasn’t until 2019 that I found out that all of these wildfires could affect me personally,” Mathur told KSQD. “In the 2019 fire season, a wildfire actually got so close to my house that it threatened to evacuate me from my home. So I can never forget the day when my parents and I actually got an alert on our phones from the county saying that you need to be prepared to evacuate.”

They were ready to go, with their passports and all they could carry with them, when the firefighters managed to beat back the blaze. But the experience left a mark.

“Thank God, the firefighters in my area did a brilliant job and were able to contain the fire before it burned down my home,” Mathur said. “So after that whole experience, I thought, ‘Wow. I’m really not in control of my life anymore.’”

“The scary part was not really the evacuation, but it was more the thought of me leaving my home behind unprotected,” he added. “Because a lot of the time, firefighters don’t have the manpower to go around and save every house.”

Scary Experience Inspired F.A.C.E. Invention

Mathur decided he needed something to protect his home automatically, even after he’d had to flee. He knew that firefighters have to pick their battles, and once a wildfire overtakes a house, they are sometimes forced to let it burn (unlike a more contained house fire).

“So my fear was, if I did have to evacuate, who would be behind there to protect my house? What is stopping my house from just burning down, and when I get back, it’s just a pile of ash?” Mathur told KSQD. “And that’s kind of how the whole concept of F.A.C.E. was born.”

Mathur has developed a prototype and is ready to begin the production phase of development. He said the prototypes are available on Kickstarter now, and he hopes to make them commercially available in the future.

See a video of Mathur talking about wildfire prevention here: