A PARTNERSHIP between Australia-based wholesaler ITI and Wood Modifications Technologies in Auckland, NZ, has described acceptance of a durable wood solution for bushfire protection up to BAL-40 as a “Eureka moment” for the timber treatment industry.

Launched two years ago in Australia, FLAMEfixx is a globally-patented process for treating sustainably-grown radiata pine that combines industry-leading fire-retardant technology with protection to H3 against fungal decay and insect (termite) attack.

Instead of relying on a traditional fire-retarding coating, the product is a working solution impregnated into the wood substrate under a pressure and vacuum process that treats the timber.

“The aim was always to push beyond the BAL-29 rating, something many in the industry might have believed would turn out to be a futile exercise in trying to defy the odds,” principal scientist at WMT Ron Moon said.

“But a scientist thinking outside the square can change the world, or at the very least, alter our perception of what’s possible,” he said.

Warringtonfire, a Melbourne product compliance authority for more than 30 years and an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory, approved FLAMEfixx as the first combustible product – this time for  radiata pine – to achieve a fire rating to BAL-40.

This is the first time a combustible product – in this instance FLAMEfixx dFx treated radiata pine – has achieved a fire rating to BAL-40. The testing regime involved exposing the product to 40 kW of radiant heat under stringently controlled settings, a measure of the energy involved in the combustion.

The BAL-40 rating is therefore a precise measure of the flame resistance properties of FLAMEfixx treated timber.

“Interestingly, the patented FLAMEfixx dFx formulation for BAL-40 is the same as that for BAL-29, the only difference being an improvement in the compliance control of penetration and retention of the product,” Ron Moon said.

Under AS3959:2018 (Australian standard for construction of buildings in bushfire-prone areas), BAL-40 can be achieved via AS1530.8.1:2018 (Australian standard for methods for fire tests on building materials, components and structures).

In the test (AS1530.8.1:2018), when was exposed to BAL-40 conditions, and as the 40 kW of radiant heat dropped, the inherent properties of FLAMEfixx caused the flame to extinguish. What remains is a slightly blackened surface, with the structural integrity of the timber still intact.

By reducing the spread of flame and smoke development it reduces smoke inhalation – a leading cause of bushfire fatalities – is minimised.

“The reason BAL-40 is the ‘holy grail’ as a combustible wood product is that to achieve this rating the testing needed to simulate an actual bushfire,” said Craig Davies of ITI, which is distributor of the product.

“Not only is the wood subjected to a heat flux of 40 kW/m2, it also involves the placement of cribs that produce and replicate ember attack – the most potent and lethal feature of a bushfire environment,” Mr Davies said.

“Achieving the BAL-40 rating is a scientific breakthrough of global significance.”

Mr Davies said the rating was also particularly timely, given the increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as the ‘heat dome’ in western Canada and north-western USA that saw temperatures climb well above 40°C and remain there for days, affecting millions of people and causing hundreds of fatalities in each country.

“The ability to offer H3-treated pine timber rated to BAL-40 is a major milestone for the Australian timber industry,” Mr Davies said.

“This has come about through diligence, persistence and innovative thinking, all of which our company values highly.”

BAL-40 is already approved for FLAMEfixx dFx sub-flooring (joists and bearers) and FLAMEfixx dFx weatherboard (cladding) systems. Approval for decking systems is expected in August.

FLAMEfixx product inquiries to Dane Kearns email [email protected]