By Tony Lopez

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Millions of Californians live in high-risk wildfire areas, but now, there are some new down-to-earth ideas at UC Davis that could help keep homes from burning.

Each year, hundreds of California homes are destroyed by wildfires. Researchers at UC Davis are looking into ways to help reduce the risk.

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“We are trying to make houses that are fireproof,” said Michele Barbato, a UC Davis engineering professor.

Mechanical engineers have designed these blocks made of mud – which could replace traditional wood and stucco homes that cannot withstand the intense heat of a wildfire. In the lab, the mud-made blocks were tested under extreme conditions – baked in a furnace for seven hours at more than 2,000 degrees.

“And as you can see, the brick is still there, it doesn’t burn,” Narnato said during a demonstration.

A side-by-side test shows wood easily igniting under a blowtorch, while the blocks built out of dirt show no visible damage.

“They can survive wildfire,” Barbato said.

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The goal is to keep costs down by designing interlocking earth-made blocks that won’t require mortar and machines that can travel to the homebuilding site to press the blocks there using locally sourced dirt.

“You have something that is sustainable, affordable, and safe if you design it correctly,” Barbato said.

It’s an idea that’s intriguing to the home construction industry.

“We applaud the people that are out there looking for new ways and new materials,” said Mike Stretch, CEO of the Northstate Building Industry Association. “We’re interested, always interested in building a safe home.”

But they say how you plan a home is just as important.

“The best way to prevent a fire from impacting a home is to make sure that the vegetation that the yard choices the landscaping is engineered in a way to keep the flames away from the home,” Stretch said.

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Digging up new ideas made from mud, it’s groundbreaking research that could one day help reduce the threat of wildfires. Researchers say the mud blocks also hold up well during tornados and hurricanes.