As wildfires get hotter and more common, these start-ups are helping people protect their homes


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In October 2017, Anil Arora sat helplessly in San Francisco as the Tubbs Fire approached his home in Calistoga, California.

Arora watched through a Ring camera as the fire worked its way through his yard before consuming the rest of his property. That night, Arora and his family could smell the smoke from the fire that had burned down their home, more than 70 miles away.

“It was just a shocking scene,” Arora said. “The day after, we just sat down and discussed it and said, ‘You know what? We’re going to rebuild.'”

Anil Arora watched through a Ring camera in October 2017 as the Tubbs Fire burned down his home in Calistoga, California.

Courtesy of Anil Arora

As the family planned their rebuild, Arora knew he wanted roof sprinklers for the home so it would never burn down again. After scouring Google for options, Arora came across Frontline Wildfire Defense, a start-up that had just created a sprinkler system that was exactly what he was looking for. Two years later, he had a new home with a dozen sprinklers on the roof, each capable of shooting water and foam up to 30 feet in every direction.

Arora is among a growing number of homeowners turning to climate tech start-ups to harden their properties against natural disasters that are increasing in frequency and potency as a result of global warming. 

California wildfires are “something that we would see anyway, regardless of climate change and regardless of population, but when you add climate change into the equation it increases the opportunity for fire,” said Harry Statter, CEO of Frontline, which has raised $3 million in funding. 

In August, the United Nations’ climate panel delivered a dire report calling for immediate action. The agency warned that limiting global warming to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius or even 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels “will be beyond reach” in the next two decades without rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The report said that at 2 degrees Celsius, heat extremes would often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health.

“We had a house burned down, so it’s very real for us. It’s not a conceptual thing,” Arora said.

As homeowners think about how they can defend their homes, entrepreneurs and investors are starting to pour their time and money into this largely untapped market. 

“What we have right now is an opportunity to get those best and brightest minds to go and work on something that is actually worthwhile,” said Greg Smithies, partner and head of climate tech at Fifth Wall, a venture capital firm. To date, Fifth Wall has raised more than $300 million for its climate tech fund. 

Through November, more venture capital money has been invested in climate technology in 2021 than any year prior, according to data provided by PitchBook. Nearly $26.7 billion has been invested in climate tech in 2021, up from $15.3 billion in 2020 and $11.8 billion in 2019, according to PitchBook.

With homes and buildings specifically, climate change poses a risk to as much as $35 trillion of real estate assets by 2070, Smithies noted, citing a 2016 report by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

“The opportunity here to have a start-up to make a whole whack of cash just given the size of the market is very easily much larger than any of the opportunities we saw instead,” Smithies said. 

The Frontline Wildfire Defense system uses sprinklers, each capable of shooting water and foam up to 30 feet in every direction, to help homeowners combat wildfires.

Courtesy of Frontline Wildfire Defense

Peace of mind against fires

Reducing the risk

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