Stay and defend your home from a wildfire?

Posted by: Susan

Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 04:44 AM

A comment on another thread: "Although an evacuation-only policy has been spectacularly successful historically in terms of lives saved, considering the utter devastation of rather large swaths of some communities as we recently saw, authorities are considering ways that residents can help protect their homes."

In a wildfire or firestorm??? That is outrageously insane.

What on earth could your average homeowner do? What could a superhuman homeowner do?

In Canberra, Australia in 2003, there was a firestorm. Readings taken by CSIRO scientists indicated the temperature in the center of the blast was about 1832F. Water boils at 212F degrees, and I would imagine people would, too. So, what would homeowners do, stand on their roof with their little 1/2" hoses, spraying water that would evaporate before it hit the surface?

And when a person decided to run, how long would the tires and brakelines and gas tanks survive, running just ahead of a fire that was moving 60 mph.

Big fires create their own wind to the point that trees can be ripped from the ground or snapped at the trunk.

Wishful thinking will not stop a fire from destroying your home or you. Get out, collect your insurance, and start over. Unless you're dead, of course.

Sue
Posted by: Todd W

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 04:57 AM

What's a "Firestorm" ?

Also, the point behind using water on your house is not to prevent it from direct fire it's to prevent it from heating up to the point that tossing a match at the house would ignite it instantly.

The fires are around your house making your home hotter and hotter and hotter until the wood is so hot a small spark will ignite it. MOST homes don't ignite and burn down from flames that just happen upon the house... the house is super heated first then BAM it ignites.

SO, while a 1/2" hose is not much if you've been wetting it down to prevent it from heating it does work. It's HIGHLY unsafe to stay, and VERY risky... but it can keep your house cool which COULD protect the fire from igniting your home, especially if you have a large fire break around your house.

The larger the clearing around your house the better, and then the wetter and colder the better.

Staying can be stupid too.
To each their own.
Posted by: Arney

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 05:16 AM

Originally Posted By: Susan
What on earth could your average homeowner do? What could a superhuman homeowner do?

Quite a lot, actually. We're not talking about surviving the firebombing of Dresden or Tokyo or the great fire after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Those were firestorms.

Many of the homes that burned in the latest batch of wildfires in Southern California were not overrun by some massive wall of flame that instantly incinerates everything in its path. The house fires often start as tiny embers that the wind blows, up to a mile from the fire, through vents into people's attic spaces or get caught up under the eaves of a roof and start a small spot fire. Unless the small fire is put out, the house eventually catches on fire. You could watch it live on TV during the latest fires--a lone house in the middle of a neighborhood suddenly starts to smoke and eventually starts to burn, and that starts a chain reaction that spreads to the neighboring homes. There might have been plenty of fire fighters around the edge of the fire, but the winds carry the embers right over everyone's heads.

Granted, in those situations where the main fire line passes over your house, it's going to take kahones to stand your ground as the air fills with smoke and gets really hot, but even in that case, most homes will protect their occupants until the fire line passes. Then the occupants need to get back outside and put out any fires.

As background, you can read this series of good articles that the LA Times published last summer. In particular, Part Five: Stay and Fight.

LA Times California wildfire series

And after the latest wildfires, some Southern California authorities were actually publicly debating whether letting residents stay and defend their homes is a viable option. That's a HUGE shift in thinking since it actually puts civillians in harm's way but could potentially save many, many homes that would otherwise burn to the ground.

Again, an LA Times article, Southern California chiefs debate stay-and-defend program.

Posted by: scafool

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 07:10 AM

Originally Posted By: Arney
....
And after the latest wildfires, some Southern California authorities were actually publicly debating whether letting residents stay and defend their homes is a viable option. That's a HUGE shift in thinking since it actually puts civillians in harm's way but could potentially save many, many homes that would otherwise burn to the ground.

Again, an LA Times article, Southern California chiefs debate stay-and-defend program.


Yup, and after a few of the brave citizens who stayed in harm's way to save a building get burned to death are those politicians going to be held accountable?

I sincerely doubt it.

I doubt if the insurance companies will pony up for them either, even though it is all about saving the insurance companies a few dollars.

Life should always come before property or profits.
Posted by: quick_joey_small

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 08:38 AM

An excellent idea! I'd like to borrow some money off you first and i'll repay you double after the fire as long as you collect it in person :-)
QJS
Posted by: adam2

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 12:59 PM

IMHO it depends on how much flammable material is near the home, if a raging fire could approach, then evacuation is the only sensible option.
On the other hand if the surroundings have been kept clear of any build up of flammable junk, then as others point out, the risk is from radiant heat and burning embers.
If the radiant heat is not close, then it is survivable, and small fires started by embers can be extinguished.

A garden hose fed from a well or city water supply is better than nothing, but not IMHO realy sufficient.
Consider the risks of the water supply failing, or the power to a well pump failing.
A portable engine driven pump, and a large water source such as a swiming pool would be better.

Proper planning should consist of clearing away flammable rubbish, shrubs, trees, outbuildings etc.
This will limit the heat produced in the imediate area, both reducing the risk of fire spread, and making staying for firefighting less risky.
Posted by: Arney

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 01:40 PM

Originally Posted By: adam2
IMHO it depends on how much flammable material is near the home, if a raging fire could approach, then evacuation is the only sensible option.

That's an excellent point. Stay-and-defend doesn't make sense for all situations, and it will obviously work best in cases where some thought and preps have gone into the problem well before the fire approaches. Another primary factor is your personality. If you don't have the appropriate temperament for stay-and-defend, then you're safer (and you won't be putting fire fighters in danger) by getting out early.

Actually, another option that hasn't gotten much press is shelter-in-place. In 2007, my friends living in a new housing development on the edge of Irvine in Orange County were basically given a shelter-in-place order rather than the evacuation orders that most nearby communities were announcing. Tougher fire/building codes and homes/communities built more fire resistant from the start make shelter-in-place an option. (In this case, shelter-in-place basically means stay-at-home, not really the use-plastic-sheeting-and-tape-up-all-cracks activity that most people think of when they hear the term "shelter-in-place"). In my friends' case, the fire scorched the grassy hills right up to the edge of their housing development, but no homes burned.
Posted by: Lono

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 04:07 PM

I tend to agree with the fire chiefs who are waiting for actual data on whether the strategy would *save lives*. In evaluating whether to stay and fight your own fire, you are dealing with so many uncertainties, chief among them variability in fires (the last fire experience may not indicate the strength of the current fire experience), self-assessment variability (are you essentially now making all evacuations non-mandatory, for those who choose to self-assess the fire and their capability to fight it), and also capacity - for a movement to have a meaningful impact, alot of folks have to stay behind to fight the fires, not just pockets of folks: success should be measured not in keeping your own property from burning, but from keeping properties in general from burning, and not dying in the process. There's alot of ifs to consider there, and as I'm not a fire fighter, have zero experience with wild fires, I'm sure I'm missing alot of them, and probably talking out of an alternate orifice...

Without additional data evaluated by fire professionals, and not by a party interested in one strategy or another, I would opt for the best fire prevention I could handle, and not try to fight fires myself. I have in mind an image on the TV screen a couple years ago of a couple putting a bit of water on their root, and while the camera showed the flow from the hose dwindling to a trickle, the fire was racing up a hillside beneath their home, and consumed it in no time. I'll be glib, but anyone planning an extensive stay and fight the fire program should also plan for a good supply of body bags to go along with it.

I heard the other day of an interesting service used around the hills outside Spokane, WA, which tend to flame up every fire season: there's a company that can go around spraying a protective foam on the side of your cabin or dwelling in the event of a fire season, to mitigate the effects of fire coming through your particular arroyo. I have no idea of the properties of this foam, or how long an application would last, but I gather it can provide heat protection to siding such that it won't easily ignite, and still clean off after the fire threat has moved on. Does anyone know about this, is it fire fighting snake oil?
Posted by: scafool

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 04:59 PM

In Northern Ontario they evacuate isolated communities when there are forest fires in their area. Usually the place they are evacuated to is Geraldton.

The Government of Ontario figured out a long time ago that it was safer simply to round up the people and move them than to depend on their ability to fight a fire around them.

They also figured out it was cheaper to let a village burn and pay the cost of rebuilding it than fighting to save it.

This next bit might sound like I really hate insurance companies, but it is not just simple hate.
It is more like cynicism.

Insurance companies seriously distort reality in the case of wildfires or forest fires, and they have enough money to influence politicians. The insurance industry is not afraid to spend on propaganda if it increases profits.

The insurance companies lose money when property is lost, but they do not pay for people who lose their lives trying to defend their property.
Insurance companies do not pay the cost of fighting the fires either.
When the Gov starts saying that people should remain in harm's way, to defend their homes from a fire, they are really saying that people should be risking their lives to protect the insurance industry's profits.

If the cost of fighting the fires was being born by the insurance, and if insurance executives were the ones risking their lives, they would likely be singing a far different tune to the politicians.

If you are in a fire zone and it is coming your way, bug out.
Houses can be rebuilt, you can't be rebuilt.

Let the firefighters who are trained in dealing with fires deal with it.
Even the Firefighters sometimes get caught by the fire (even with all their skills, training and experience).
You can bet Joe Household (with no experience, no training and no equipment) does not stand much of a chance if it turns bad.

What you can do is lobby your politicians to put more into fire protection.
Having a couple of good water bombers can make a huge difference.
Putting people to work brush clearing and creating fire breaks can make an incredible difference.

Posted by: JohnE

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 05:28 PM

As always, it depends. I live in fire prone SoCal, have been in and around wildfires in the past. Photographed quite a few of them. Once had a blast blow right over the fire truck I was hunkering under, good times.

There are things homeowners can do to help protect their property and some of them will stay if they can to try and save their homes. Given that manpower is often a real problem, having dozens or even hundreds of extra bodies helping out could be a real help. Or not.

It's being studied, that's cause it's never been done and the folks who fight the fires want to know if it is feasible for more homeowners to stay and fight the fire as well.

There are also the legal concerns, does a homeowner have the right to stay and protect their own property or not?

As for the fire retardant stuff, there's Phoscheck which is the stuff you see being dropped from the air and there's the stuff that some private companies are using. Most of them are in the form of a gel that is sprayed onto the structure from the ground, not only does it work, but there are insurance companies that are offering the service for free to their policyholders in times of danger. It's much cheaper than replacing an entire home. Like the "stay and defend" plan, the fire retardant issue is also drawing controversy as some firefighters claim that allowing more personnel, ie, the private crews spraying the retardant, into a fire area is a bad idea.

JohnE
Posted by: Stu

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 05:29 PM

As a former firefighter, I'd leave. If I'd stayed and lost water pressure, it would be usually too late to leave. my properties are well insured and can be rebuilt, my life can't.
Posted by: KG2V

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 06:05 PM

I've always wondered - if I lived in a wildfire prone area, could you build a true "shelter" - say (off my head) a fully underground concrete (say 6" walls and roof) room detactched from the house. Say the roof is 12" below grade, and you have steps down, door, corridor, door, room.

I would think with a facility like that (and saw water haze in the corridor), you could stay and defend pretty much till the end, and worst comes to worst, it burns over the top
Posted by: el_diabl0

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 06:58 PM

Just buy fire insurance and evacuate. No way I'm sticking around for that.

Isn't there some kind of foam that can be sprayed on that does a decent job of protecting the house? Spray it on and get the heck out!
Posted by: scafool

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 07:00 PM

Originally Posted By: KG2V_was_kc2ixe
I've always wondered - if I lived in a wildfire prone area, could you build a true "shelter"...

I would think with a facility like that (and saw water haze in the corridor), you could stay and defend pretty much till the end, and worst comes to worst, it burns over the top


OK, I am going sideways a bit here, but not much.
Kurt Vonnegut was an American soldier in WWII. He was captured by the Germans. As a POW he was put to work in a slaughterhouse in Dresden. Kurt and the other POWs survived the bombing of Dresden and the firestorm that followed because their guards locked them into the underground meat cooler or cellar of the slaughterhouse.

He was a strange author, but Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death deals a bit with the aftermath of the Dresden firestorm. It deals a bit with the mental effect of it too.


Your idea of a fire bunker would likely work, but for the cost involved you could just build it above ground and call it your home more easily.
Posted by: Susan

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 07:28 PM

First off, I am talking about a wildfire firestorm, not a wartime bombing-type firestorm.

Do you remember a very recent thread about the evacuations of large cities, and some of the reasons why it doesn't work well? The idiots causing the problems are the same kinds of people who try to stay and fight a wildfire, and then scream for help when they're surrounded. No training, no preparation, no brains, no forethought, no plan, but they suddenly want to stay and fight a huge fire.

Insurance companies are in the premium-collecting business, NOT the claim-paying business. Insurance is nothing but a contract, and if they aren't bound by a contract to pay your survivors for the loss of their breadwinner, tough.

"There are also the legal concerns, does a homeowner have the right to stay and protect their own property or not?"

Sure, let them stay if they want, but DON'T allow them to suck firefighters into saving them when they're caught in a bad spot. You make the decision to stay, its yours to deal with all the way to the end. Do it without your cell phone.

"I would think with a facility like that ... you could stay and defend pretty much till the end, and worst comes to worst, it burns over the top"

So what is the point of staying? If the fire is large enough, it will use all the oxygen in the area, and you'll pass out on the floor of your bunker or cave. Okay, what then? You eventually get air back after the fire passes, you wake up, and... what? What have you actually accomplished? Nothing. Staying just doesn't seem to accomplish anything.

It's just hubris, testosterone poisoning. You're just a puny, fragile human being, not the god your dog thinks you are.

Sue

Posted by: Mike_in_NKY

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 07:50 PM

Our summer home was in the area of a very large forest fire in N. Ontario a few years ago. We were given a notice that evacuation was pending. Later we got a 2hr notice to leave. Most used the time between the original notice and the evacuation notice to get things ready to leave. We left.

Spent a week in my wife's cousin's basement and that was much better than staying in the house with light smoke present. Did not really want to find out what it would be like with heavy smoke or fire there.

When we came back we noticed that the MNR had put a sprinkler on each roof and connected them to 1 1/2 hose lines that were attached to gas powered pumps on the docks with inlet hoses into the lake. Guess it was to try and save some of the areas or maybe provide less fuel to the fire? Glad I didn't have the job to set those up! (and take them down!).
Posted by: scafool

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 08:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Susan
First off, I am talking about a wildfire firestorm, not a wartime bombing-type firestorm....

....So what is the point of staying? If the fire is large enough, it will use all the oxygen in the area, and you'll pass out on the floor of your bunker or cave. Okay, what then? You eventually get air back after the fire passes, you wake up, and... what? What have you actually accomplished? Nothing. Staying just doesn't seem to accomplish anything....



Sue


I think a lot of the people are under estimating a wild fire and overestimating a city fire.
It might help if they thought about the available fuel for the fire.
Forest fires are big because they have a lot of fuel, but people usually discount prairie fires because they just have grass to burn.

I have seen a prairie fire (after, not during) where the wires and glass insulators were melted off the telephone poles.

California has brush cover about half way between a forest and a prairie for fuel, all bone dry and any fire usually has a dry warm wind to start pushing it.

Dresden was a city with a lot of wood buildings.
The fuel density might have matched a small forest fire, but it was likely quite a bit lower.
When you count stone buildings, streets and parks then Dresden likely matches the California Canyon brush fires..

Now what was that temperature you quoted in your comment about the Australian bush fires and them qualifying as fire storms?
I will go get it and add it to my comment.

Edit: This part.
Originally Posted By: Susan
In Canberra, Australia in 2003, there was a firestorm. Readings taken by CSIRO scientists indicated the temperature in the center of the blast was about 1832F. Water boils at 212F degrees, and I would imagine people would, too. So, what would homeowners do, stand on their roof with their little 1/2" hoses, spraying water that would evaporate before it hit the surface?


The parts of Canberra that fire burned through were a lot like California suburbs if I remember the news clips right.
Posted by: greeneyetech

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 08:46 PM

Originally Posted By: KG2V_was_kc2ixe
I've always wondered - if I lived in a wildfire prone area, could you build a true "shelter" - say (off my head) a fully underground concrete (say 6" walls and roof) room detactched from the house. Say the roof is 12" below grade, and you have steps down, door, corridor, door, room.

I would think with a facility like that (and saw water haze in the corridor), you could stay and defend pretty much till the end, and worst comes to worst, it burns over the top


You'd have to include proper ventilation that would not be affected by the fire or its debris. Otherwise you won't have enough air.

Posted by: OldBaldGuy

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 09:59 PM

Firestorm defined...
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 10:12 PM

As a former fighter who has worked more then enough house and wildland - urban interface fires, I really think it is foolish to stay and save your home if it is threatened. Too many times we experienced where the home-owner attempted to make his stand and we ended risking our lives saving the person from what could of truly been his last stand.

A fully involved wildland fire that can have temperatures in the 1000's of degrees and creates its own wind systems is beyond a homeowners ability to protect against. Those who do live through it, it was not because of their skill in holding back the fire, rather it was a four letter word called luck. All too often we see pictures where a wildland - urban interface fire has completely devastated a community and left one or two houses unscathed....that is also pure luck, nothing more, nothing less.

I would rather see the homeowner leave with his family and say "Its ok, we can rebuild." instead of a policeman having to tell his family something a whole lot worse...
Posted by: JCWohlschlag

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 10:21 PM

Originally Posted By: el_diabl0
Isn't there some kind of foam that can be sprayed on that does a decent job of protecting the house? Spray it on and get the heck out!

Two that I know of:
Posted by: Russ

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 10:40 PM

Living in SOCAL I get to do triage of my stuff every time wildfires start in the eastern end of the county. I load the truck early -- waaayy before it threatens our neighborhood. Anything that doesn't fit in the truck is expendable by definition -- it didn't make the cut or is so unimportant that I forgot all about it. What's left is documented on my camera which goes in the truck. It's a nice house, but if it burned to the ground there's some changes I could make. . .

Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 10:57 PM

These foams/gels work good on paper, however you to have to keep in mind that the average homeowner may be applying these types of products. If they miss spots...which they will or do not apply sufficiently, all it takes is one spark in a crucial missed spot for a fire to take off.

Also those houses, especially with vinyl siding will still be vulnerable from the intense heat as once the siding melts to the ground into a puddle, this will expose the house structure to the flames.
Posted by: Desperado

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 11:09 PM

Originally Posted By: Sherpadog
These foams/gels work good on paper, however you to have to keep in mind that the average homeowner may be applying these types of products. If they miss spots...which they will or do not apply sufficiently, all it takes is one spark in a crucial missed spot for a fire to take off.

Also those houses, especially with vinyl siding will still be vulnerable from the intense heat as once the siding melts to the ground into a puddle, this will expose the house structure to the flames.


Somewhere on the Discovery Science Network is a show called "Beyond Tomorrow". Said program has a episode on the foam. It seemed to work quite well. Maybe an internet search will find it for those interested.

I am lucky in two respects:

1) I don't really live in a wildfire area.
2) I own a construction meter for fire hydrants, the proper wrench, 1900 foot of 2 inch construction grade hose and an adjustable FD hand nozzle.
Meter, wrench, hose and nozzle are almost the only "work" tools stored at the house.
Posted by: JohnE

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 11:20 PM

From what I've read/seen, most of the fire protectants are actually being applied by professionals. Literally while the fires are burning nearby. It apparently works very well. Well enough that the bulk of it's use is thru insurance companies, which aren't normally known for giving stuff away.

YMMV

JohnE
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/23/09 11:38 PM

Originally Posted By: JohnE
From what I've read/seen, most of the fire protectants are actually being applied by professionals. Literally while the fires are burning nearby. It apparently works very well. Well enough that the bulk of it's use is thru insurance companies, which aren't normally known for giving stuff away.

YMMV

JohnE


You hit the key word: professionals. As you see on the one manufacturers website, the product is also being marketed to the homeowner....that is one of the points I was making in my last post.
Posted by: KG2V

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/24/09 12:29 AM

Originally Posted By: Desperado
...snip...2)

I own a construction meter for fire hydrants, the proper wrench, 1900 foot of 2 inch construction grade hose and an adjustable FD hand nozzle.
Meter, wrench, hose and nozzle are almost the only "work" tools stored at the house.


After the NYC blackout of what, 2002, I ended up with a hydrant wrench in my truck. I was working doing Comms support for the Red Cross when they ran out of water on the ERV - it took 45 minutes for us to get a wrench to refill the water tanks. I talked to a friend, and he got me the propper wrench. The thing I don't have is the magnetic adaptor for the hydrants that have been changed to "tamper proof"
Posted by: JCWohlschlag

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/24/09 12:35 AM

Originally Posted By: Desperado
Somewhere on the Discovery Science Network is a show called "Beyond Tomorrow". Said program has a episode on the foam. It seemed to work quite well. Maybe an internet search will find it for those interested.

The Thermo-Gel I linked to earlier was the product on that Beyond Tomorrow episode. The clip is available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBA1mdSeg0A.
Posted by: Desperado

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/24/09 12:37 AM

I have not run into tamper proof hydrants, but then we don't see kids wanting to play in the water from a hydrant much here.

I did run into an issue with a "quick connect" type fitting, but that problem has been solved also.

Sons #1&2 hate the set-up. I usually use them as labor when we have to go wet down a site before/during/after excavation. They get the leg work laying line, I get to squirt them when they walk up!

One must look for the small treats in life....
Posted by: Art_in_FL

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/24/09 08:03 AM

First thing to consider when deciding to stay and fight or leave is how well prepared your house is.

If you have cut the brush and trees back so you have a large space between the house free of any vegetation likely to support a fire (recommendation vary so check with your local FD, but 75' to 120' comes up a lot) and your roof is highly fire resistant, tile or metal, and you have fire resistant shutters over the windows, and you have a plentiful supply of water, and have invested in a proper equipment then you have a shot.

If not, then your best bet is to have good fire insurance and to evacuate when they tell you and take you important papers and small heirloom items with you as you go.

Staying and fighting isn't for everyone. Unless the property has been prepared well ahead of time, most local FDs have advice for what needs to be cut and how far back, your wasting your time. If your serious they can also advise you as to what can be safely planted nearer the house. There are pants that don't burn well so you needn't live in a dead zone.

Be aware that standing off a fire is tough, dirty, tiring and nasty work that, if things go bad, can get you killed. You have to be prepared to spend up to 72 hours on alert breathing smoke and near exhaustion. You need to be in at least moderate shape, strong enough to haul gear and climb ladders, and essentially free of lung or heart problems.

If your preparing to stay these people will sell you some equipment that might work:
http://www.homefirefightingsystems.com/home.html

There are other, possibly better and cheaper, organizations that can sell you what you need but this site will give you some idea as to what is available and has some good advice on it.

Posted by: Susan

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/25/09 03:52 AM

It seems to me that if you want make an effort to protect your home, the best thing to do would be to try to fireproof the area long before any fire approaches. Eliminate foundation plantings, trim branches to heights recommended by fire officials, maybe plant outer areas with iceplants or other juicy varieties, cover all vents with fine metal screens (not vinyl), try to eliminate any roof pockets that can catch and harbor burning debris, plan on quickly removing combustible doormats, etc.

Do these things when you have time, rather than in a last-minute panic.

Sue
Posted by: Art_in_FL

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/25/09 07:24 AM

Originally Posted By: IzzyJG99
I've actually stayed and defended my home during the Wildfires in Florida in the summer of 1998. That, my friends, is not an enjoyable experience. Probably the closest thing to combat I'll ever see.


One thing I didn't mention, and another reason it can resemble combat, is that once your engaged your committed. You can't get into the thick of it and then decide that your in over your head and call for help. Odds are the FDs have allocated their men so there isn't likely to be anyone there to, quite literally, pull your bacon out of the fire. It may even be useless to run once the fire is on top of you.

If your planning to stay and defend your property you need to double and triple check your planning, calculations and preparations. It is critical to have enough water so you don't run out at the height of the action. You need fuel to run pumps and a way to quickly and safely refuel while firebrands are landing all around.

Talk to your local FD for advice on how to prepare your site, what you need in manpower and equipment and guidelines for how much water, fuel, and chemicals to have on hand.

Talk to firemen. Go to bulletin boards and forums that cater to firefighters. Read and ask questions of those who fight wildfires for a living. Dig around the web for ideas, information and advice. Read all the horror stories about crews overrun so you have some idea what your up against. Carefully consider if better insurance and being mobile isn't the better way to go.

If you decide to stay your going to need all the good information and sound preparation you can muster. If things get serious your on your own. Don't screw up.
Posted by: Desperado

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/25/09 07:31 AM

Or maybe become a volunteer fire fighter. If not all the time, maybe when you can. I have been in two burning buildings. Once when the hotel I was in "overheated", and the other when I was suckered into going to training with my brother-in-law's fire company. If I have ANYTHING to do with it, the total will stay at two.
Posted by: Muleskinner

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/26/09 02:25 PM

I was a Fire Chief and Firefighter for quite a few years. Enjoyed every minute of it. In 96 or so, I went to Fire school "Wildland Firefighting" In the two phase course, we were taught all kinds of interesting things.

To Defend your home from wildfire starts YEARS before you smell smoke.

The construction of your home, landscaping, terrain all depend on the choices you make, and weather or not your home can be defended.

Defending your home from wildfire is something you do before the wildfire gets there, not STANDING IN YOUR YARD WITH A GARDEN HOSE.

Do that and you will die a most horrible death.

Muleskinner
Posted by: Susan

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/26/09 08:32 PM

I remember during the Malibu wildfire in the early 90s, a guy had built his house of concrete, with a terra cotta tile or metal roof. The firefighters took a good look at it and said, "We'll make a stand here". The aerial photos showed his home intact, surrounded by burned rubble.

I'm sure he wasn't lamenting not using shake shingles at all.

Sue
Posted by: KG2V

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/26/09 11:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Susan
I remember during the Malibu wildfire in the early 90s, a guy had built his house of concrete, with a terra cotta tile or metal roof. The firefighters took a good look at it and said, "We'll make a stand here". The aerial photos showed his home intact, surrounded by burned rubble.

I'm sure he wasn't lamenting not using shake shingles at all.

Sue


Which is how I've always said if I was going to build in in a fire zone, that is how I would do it - concrete, tile, fire shutters, and some sort of built in hose down system - picture a copper pipe running the lenght of the ridgeline of the house with auto water feed - turn it on, keeps the roof wet - ditto other areas
Posted by: scafool

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/27/09 06:53 AM

Nah, houses burn much easier than the wood I get for my fireplace.
The last load of wood I got you would have to run through a wringer just to get some of the water out.
Posted by: ki4buc

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/27/09 10:17 PM

Originally Posted By: KG2V_was_kc2ixe

Which is how I've always said if I was going to build in in a fire zone, that is how I would do it - concrete, tile, fire shutters, and some sort of built in hose down system - picture a copper pipe running the lenght of the ridgeline of the house with auto water feed - turn it on, keeps the roof wet - ditto other areas


Maybe having your own fire pump and 5 1/2 fire department connection would be good too. If you're living in a wildfire area, a swimming pool is always a good investment. Provides a nice water source for the fire pump you had installed. smile
Posted by: OldBaldGuy

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/29/09 05:43 AM

"...a swimming pool..."

I used to work a part of Los Angeles County where the county would let you fill your pool for free (water was on a meter), but the fire dept got to suck it dry as needed in fire season. Not necessarily to squirt on your property...
Posted by: Art_in_FL

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/29/09 06:39 PM

Swimming pools are good to have, generally, and are handy for keeping water on hand but most home pools are relatively small.

A pool 30' by 20' by 5' is about 22,500 gallons. Sounds like a lot until you figure a 1-1/2" hose line eats up 90 to 120 gallons a minute. Giving yourself a safety factor figure 120gpm, or 2 gallons a second.

Out of that pool you are only going to get 187.5 minutes, 3 hours and 7.5 minutes of water at that rate. And that is just one hose line. Use a second line or run a roof watering system on it and it won't last long. A fire may be dropping large embers on your house for a day or more before the fire gets to you.

You may be able to husband your water supply by using lower pressures on your pumps and/or smaller lines while your just smothering sparks. You can also make every gallon work harder for you by using chemical additives, like class-A foam or gel to cover your exposures, but once the water is gone your done.

Plan well. Know how much water you have on hand and how much your pumping systems consume per minute.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/29/09 10:49 PM

When I lived in New Mexico, the feds or state offered a program where they would pay, if I recall, 70% of the cost of having guys come in (their selected contractors)and create a defensible space around your dwellings. You had to sign up and they determined if you lived in the risk areas and qualified- I did, so they approved my property for the program.

I forget the term, I want to say "establish a basal rate", but essentially, these guys would come in, make suggestions about what and where your trees/foliage should be cut or removed, then cut it up into firewood sized chunks and mulched the rest. You got to keep it all if you wanted, I think it cost me $200 and I got 11 cords of wood (scrub oak, pine and pinon) and a ridiculous amount of mulch for which everyone within 20 miles was grateful (I put up a sign and gave it away).

The TV also had these companies advertising day and night-

http://wildfiresfoamsuppressionsystem.com/

Never heard of anyone buying in, but always intrigued me.
Posted by: adam2

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 01/30/09 11:07 AM

Originally Posted By: Art_in_FL
Swimming pools are good to have, generally, and are handy for keeping water on hand but most home pools are relatively small.

A pool 30' by 20' by 5' is about 22,500 gallons. Sounds like a lot until you figure a 1-1/2" hose line eats up 90 to 120 gallons a minute. Giving yourself a safety factor figure 120gpm, or 2 gallons a second.

Out of that pool you are only going to get 187.5 minutes, 3 hours and 7.5 minutes of water at that rate. And that is just one hose line. Use a second line or run a roof watering system on it and it won't last long. A fire may be dropping large embers on your house for a day or more before the fire gets to you.

You may be able to husband your water supply by using lower pressures on your pumps and/or smaller lines while your just smothering sparks. You can also make every gallon work harder for you by using chemical additives, like class-A foam or gel to cover your exposures, but once the water is gone your done.

Plan well. Know how much water you have on hand and how much your pumping systems consume per minute.


Indeed, though remember that it should be possible to suplement the swiming pool water with well water or city water supply.
If fire threatens and you intend to stay and defend, the swiming pool should filled to the overflow level, and any other large containers filled also.
Another possibility would be to connect the rain water drains from the house roof to a water tank rather than a drain or sewer. Then most of the water directed to the roof for firefighting would end up in the tank and could be re used.
This might best be done by running a large bore pipe from the tank to the swimming pool, install a valve on this pipe, which normaly should be shut to keep dirty roof water out of the clean pool. In case of fire, open the valve in order that fire fighting water running off the roof can be re used.
Prior to the fire, the tank should fill with rainwater which will suplement the pool contents.
Posted by: quick_joey_small

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/09/09 09:18 AM

Quotes from the BBC News website on the current Australian fires:

'The number of deaths from wildfires that have already claimed 131 lives in the Australian state of Victoria is likely to rise, officials have warned.'

'Survivors have recounted how they fled walls of flames. Some people died in their cars trying to escape the fires.'

'Some rural towns have been almost completely destroyed.'

'there are around 30 fires still burning in Victoria state with several communities at risk, officials said.'

'Furnace-like heat'

'Pretty certain my house has gone'

'people thought they had hours when in fact they only had minutes to escape the fast advancing flames.'

Some described escaping down roads lined with burning trees, while their cars caught fire in the furnace-like heat.

Another man said he siphoned off the water from his vehicle's radiator to try to save the life of a neighbour who had been set alight.

"Balls of fire would rain out of the sky long before we actually saw the wall of flames coming through the trees," Christopher Barnes, of Kinglake, said.

"The sounds are incredible. I thought at the start that it was thunder and it was actually the sounds of the fire coming through the bush."

'roads were blocked and trees had fallen.'

'The bodies of people have already been found trapped in the burnt-out wreckage of cars and homes, and investigators fear more will be found when a full search of the charred settlements can be carried out.'

QJS


Posted by: Russ

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/09/09 01:19 PM

This is why I pack my truck early (my neighbor left early) -- and we live in the suburbs. If I lived at the other end of the county, home construction (concrete, steel shutters, we already have a steel roof) and vegetation set-backs would be taken much more seriously.

We have the same Eucalyptus trees here in SD that they have in Oz and when fed by Santa Ana winds the fire can travel a good distance and easily jump a 10 lane interstate. The "Balls of fire would rain out of the sky" comments describes what happens when Eucalyptus trees catch fire and explode. The fire travels downwind where it starts more fires. Those are the fires that concern our neighborhood.
Posted by: adam2

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/09/09 02:53 PM

Fire resistant housing construction would appear to be desirable, and should perhaps be a legal requirement in high risk areas.

Some aerial views of the disaster show piles of ashes that were homes, surrounded by almost intact vegatation.
This suggests that in some areas at least, the main fuel feeding the fires was not vegetation, but houses.

It would appear that perhaps, one house ignites from a wind blowm ember, and the fire then spreads from house to house, with little contribution from the vegetation, which in some areas was sparse.

It must be remembered that the heat produced by a burning wooden house is sufficient to ignite neighbouring houses.
Reducing the fuel load by removal of vegetion etc. certainly helps, but what about reducing the fuel load by replacing timber houses with brick or stone?



Posted by: Arney

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/09/09 07:02 PM

Originally Posted By: adam2
Reducing the fuel load by removal of vegetion etc. certainly helps...

Speaking of fuel load, going off on a bit of a different tangent here, but I was recently reading that the fuel loads in southeastern Australia were extremely high from decades of growth with no systematic thinning or back burning. Add in years of serious drought. Unfortunately, such abundant fuel means unnaturally hot and dangerous wildfires.

Sounds like a truly horrific situation Down Under.
Posted by: Arney

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/09/09 07:13 PM

Although I think no one is surprised that many of these wildfires raging in Australia now are likely arson, I felt a bit sick to my stomach when I read that there are indications that some of these recent fires were reignited by arsonists after being brought under control by fire fighters. That is so... mad
Posted by: scafool

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/10/09 02:13 AM

They are also going through a record drought in that part of Australia.
It is so dry Koala Bears are approaching humans for water, and that is a very unusual thing.
Posted by: yelp

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/10/09 05:37 PM

Originally Posted By: KG2V_was_kc2ixe
I've always wondered - if I lived in a wildfire prone area, could you build a true "shelter" - say (off my head) a fully underground concrete (say 6" walls and roof) room detactched from the house. Say the roof is 12" below grade, and you have steps down, door, corridor, door, room.

I would think with a facility like that (and saw water haze in the corridor), you could stay and defend pretty much till the end, and worst comes to worst, it burns over the top


A "fire bunker," field proven:

http://www.babble.com.au/2009/02/09/nagging-wife-saves-family-from-bushfire/
Posted by: Arney

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/10/09 11:36 PM

Originally Posted By: yelp
A "fire bunker," field proven...

Egads, you read the little quote in that link and the owners are saying that the "fireproof" door to the bunker was already warped and buckled from heat and wouldn't close properly in the time it took for them to realize that they needed to seek shelter? That's a lot of heat!

Actually, one of the points that I've read a number of times is just how fast these wildfires spread--much, much faster than is typical. That seems to be a primary reason why so many people were overcome by flames in their vehicles. These weren't necessarily people who waited "too late" or were trying to fight the fire and then fled at the last second. They could have been people who usually leave early and who are accustomed to living with the danger of fire but the flames were there before anyone knew what was happening.

I read one interview where the person was saying that initially, they saw a fire burning in the distance that would normally take a day to reach their position. However, in this case, it took less than an hour to be at their doorstep. Can you imagine? One minute, you see a distant fire and then you could be on the other side of your house, loading up the car, getting ready to bug out with plenty of time to spare, and next thing you know, there's a huge wall of flame roaring towards you from different sides. eek

That's frightening stuff. Actually, every wildfire here in Southern California, you always see people interviewed on TV who aren't planning on fighting the fire and have their car all loaded up, ready to go, but they insist on staying until the last second before evacuating. I'm a homeowner, too, and I could never understand that thinking.
Posted by: Susan

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/11/09 04:55 AM

It is said that firestorms create their own wind, and even their own tornados.

Australian Bill Mollison ('father' of the permaculture movement), said every homestead should have an underground bunker for these fires. He recommended an adobe-type dogleg wall in front of the door to help reflect the severe radiant heat from the fire.

Sue
Posted by: Russ

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/11/09 11:51 AM

Yep,and put a heat reflector in front of your $1000 fireproof door so that it doesn't take a direct blast. That was a nice design otherwise, having it attached to a water tank probably kept the inside temp a bit lower.
Posted by: James_Van_Artsdalen

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/11/09 01:00 PM

Originally Posted By: Susan

Readings taken by CSIRO scientists indicated the temperature in the center of the blast was about 1832F.

I'd like to hear comments from the people with firefighting experience on this temperature question.

I recall reading that human lungs are extremely fragile with respect to hot air - temperatures that are readily survivable on other parts of the body are fatal if air at that temperature is inhaled for even a single breath.

I'm wondering about the usefulness of a "wildfire shelter" that doesn't keep the interior air "cool" as the fire passes by. If the air is heated to 1832F that it's going to expand (create a wind) and try to enter through cracks and such in any shelter.

I've ridden out several hurricanes on the waterfront and think most (not all) hurricane evacuations are unnecessary, but I'm not sticking around for any fire of any size.

PS. I prefer to reserve the word "luck" to mean "opportunity meets preparation". When someone survives in spite of themselves that's not luck, that's an accident: "Joe defended his home from the inferno with a garden hose but survived by accident"
Posted by: yelp

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/11/09 04:04 PM

Originally Posted By: Susan
It is said that firestorms create their own wind, and even their own tornados.


Wildland fires can and do get large enough to create their own localized weather systems (as the Australian fires are certainly large enough to do). There can be enough heat to generate updrafts that can take a flaming pine cone aloft and carry it several kilometers downwind. Wildland firefighters during entrapments have said that the flame front sounded like an oncoming train - that's a lot of air movement.

"When the first fire front came across us, I would estimate that the winds were probably in excess of 70 miles per hour.The sense of power that you had around you, that energy release that we had around us was just absolutely incredible. It was a very humbling experience. I mean you felt very small and very insignificant at that point.
- Entrapment survivor

"Tornado" is a little misleading...think "firewhirl" which is like a dust devil, but with flame instead of dust. Firewhirls demonstrate atmospheric instability and the potential for extreme fire behavior but are typically small (maybe 10 meters high?), short lived (a few seconds) and their associated danger is their potential for blowing a control line.
Posted by: yelp

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/11/09 04:23 PM

Originally Posted By: James_Van_Artsdalen
Originally Posted By: Susan

Readings taken by CSIRO scientists indicated the temperature in the center of the blast was about 1832F.

I'd like to hear comments from the people with firefighting experience on this temperature question.

I recall reading that human lungs are extremely fragile with respect to hot air - temperatures that are readily survivable on other parts of the body are fatal if air at that temperature is inhaled for even a single breath.

I'm wondering about the usefulness of a "wildfire shelter" that doesn't keep the interior air "cool" as the fire passes by. If the air is heated to 1832F that it's going to expand (create a wind) and try to enter through cracks and such in any shelter.


Hmmm...I can only answer this qualitatively, but the fire shelters that wildland firefighters carry are designed to reflect radiant heat and create a cooler air space to help protect the lung tissues. This refers to the portable shake-and-bake fire shelter, not the fire bunker in the previous post. Fire guys (and gals) are trained to lay in the shelter face down with their face in cooler earth.

"They found in testing fire shelters set up in prescribed burns that air temperatures increase at a rate of 9F. per inch rise above the floor of the shelter." (link below, and please note that was for a prescribed burn, not a firestorm)

A dry bandana may be used to help screen out smoke, dust, etc...but it has to be dry since steam carries a lot more heat than dry air. What is stressed over and over again in training is that the fire shelter's only purpose is to create a cooler air space to protect the lung tissues. Yes, I repeat myself. Yes, it's that important.


"If you go into a steam room, 130 degrees is about as hot as you can stand it," says Putnam. "In a dry sauna, though, you can take 180 degrees. You can tolerate hot dry air better than moist air." (not talking about lung tissues though)

The single breath deal is when you get a gasp of something not-nice (smoke, superheated air, whatever), that's going to trigger a gag reflex...and so you inhale again...and again...

There's a fair amount of literature out there about the environmental and physiological effects of wild land fire. Google "fire shelter" and pay attention to any research coming out of Missoula.

http://wildfirenews.com/fire/articles/ted.html

Found the fire shelter instructions:

http://www.nwcg.gov/pms/pubs/fireshelt01.pdf
Posted by: Susan

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/11/09 05:58 PM

"I'm wondering about the usefulness of a "wildfire shelter" that doesn't keep the interior air "cool" as the fire passes by. If the air is heated to 1832F that it's going to expand (create a wind) and try to enter through cracks and such in any shelter."

The shelter that Mollison advised is like an underground bunker. It is at least halfway dug into the ground, with a non-wood structure over it (filled sandbags would be good, forming a dome over the hole). Then the structure is covered with a foot or two of soil (preferably planted to something with a good root system, like white clover).

With a shelter like this, it will help you to survive a moving firestorm. Only the temps outside are that high. It would take quite a while of sustained heat to heat up the soil around the shelter to the point that it would be a real oven. The moving flames might also use all the oxygen in the area, which I understand can cause you to pass out for a while. (This is why you are advised, when wading into a watersource from a local fire, that you may pass out and drown when the oxygen in the air is depleted.)

I had also read somewhere that someone built an underground shelter and had an open pipe extending from the shelter down into a hand-dug well (above water level). Since heat, by its very nature, must rise, the air inside the well would be cooler, and would/might provide oxygen for the shelter. I don't remember if this was actually done, actually tested, or was just theory. I'm just tossing it out here as an idea to consider. Maybe someone else here can say if it's a viable plan.

Sue
Posted by: yelp

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/12/09 05:49 AM

Originally Posted By: Susan
The moving flames might also use all the oxygen in the area, which I understand can cause you to pass out for a while. (This is why you are advised, when wading into a watersource from a local fire, that you may pass out and drown when the oxygen in the air is depleted.)


Can you cite a source (sources)? I'm not trying to be antagonistic, but this is something I'd really like to learn more about. Your first safety zone in a wildland fire really is a body of water.
Posted by: Arney

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/12/09 03:10 PM

Well, it's official now. The Orange County Fire Authority, which had said last year that it was reviewing the appropriateness of stay-and-defend for Orange County, California, decided against endorsing the policy or providing any formal training for home owners. They've had a couple public meetings in communities, like hard hit Yorba Linda yesterday, and announced the decision.

I believe that OCFA already came to this conclusion even before the recent disaster in Australia, but I'm sure that the loss of life there only reinforces their decision.

I have yet to run across any news articles about folks who did stay-and-defend and came out OK in this latest round of Australian fires. It's possible that the fires this time were just too much even for a well-prepped, well-equipped homeowner and homestead. Well, or maybe the media is focussing elsewhere, like on the tragic loss of life.
Posted by: PeterR

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/13/09 01:23 AM

I have followed the discussion with interest. I am genuinely puzzled as to why fire bunkers, shelters, call 'em what you will, are not employed more widely in the bush/suburban interface.

Susan, you are in Australia, as I am? Well, you know the scale of the disaster and the cumulative factors that triggered the firestorms.

Four years of drought, a huge fuel load, drying winds all conspired to produce the Perfect Firestorm.

Cost as at five days after Black Saturday:

181 lives lost. Many others seriously burned.

1100 homes destroyed.

200,000 hectares burnt, uncounted numbers of stock lost and farms destroyed.

There will be a Royal Commission and Coroners Courts, but there's no doubt this mega-fire was way beyond any human agency to combat. There is no sight more pitiful than someone standing on their roof [ usually in shorts and T shirt ] spraying water around with a half inch hose.

Which brings me back to the bunker/shelter. One or two canny people had shelters, and they survived. These weren't even professionally designed. But they gave that vital protection, just for that 15 or so minutes that it take for a firefront to pass.

There's a guy who lives a few miles from me [south of Sydney ] who has built two reinforced concrete dome shelters on his rural property. He's a Rural Fire Service veteran and says he would obviously trust his shelters with his life.

Simple, proved fire protection, which gives him the option to fight the ember attack against his home until the last minute before retreating into shelter.
Posted by: Susan

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/14/09 01:05 AM

Hello, Peter! No, I'm not in Oz, just in western Washington State, USA.

I am a great fan of Bill Mollison, and while I don't agree with a few of his opinions and ideas, he has provided much incredibly good information.

Some people don't realize that earth-sheltered homes or survival bunkers take a long time to heat up, and if they're all or partly underground, the cooler soil temperatures will help to mitigate above-ground temperatures, even if they are extreme.

The simple half-underground survival domes that architect Nader Khalili came up with over 40 years ago, created with just a shovel, sandbags and a roll of barbed wire would be workable structures for most of the households in the entire world. They are fireproof and earthquake-stable. I haven't been able to find photos of those first shelters, just his current crop of above-ground shelters shown at his website http://calearth.org/.

But the premise is simple: mark a 10-ft circle on flat ground. Start digging straight down within the circle, filling the sandbags with the soil from the circle. Stack the sandbags alternating brick-style just outside the marked circle. Allow for a doorway. Lay two strands of barbed wire between each layer of sandbags to prevent shifting. Gradually move the sandbags inward to form a dome. Frame the doorway and add a door. In fire areas, I would use ferro-concrete 'timbers' with door hardware built into it. In areas of heavy rain, I would cover the dome with heavy plastic or a layer of concrete, then cover the entire thing (not the door) with a thick layer of soil, one to two feet thick. Plant it with something with a good root system like clover to keep it cool and keep the soil in place.

Sue
Posted by: Dagny

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/14/09 02:31 PM

Originally Posted By: Susan
current crop of above-ground shelters shown at his website http://calearth.org/.


That website is fascinating!

Thanks for posting the link.

Posted by: James_Van_Artsdalen

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/14/09 06:59 PM

Originally Posted By: Susan
It would take quite a while of sustained heat to heat up the soil around the shelter to the point that it would be a real oven.

I'm concerned with having air cool enough to breath. Keeping the soil cool is a different problem.

Quote:

Since heat, by its very nature, must rise...

Melting ice is an exception. Convection normally rises but I don't think any other form of heat transfer prefers up or down.
Posted by: Art_in_FL

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/14/09 09:04 PM

If you were determined to build a shelter to protect you from wildfire I would stat with the simple bermed or underground shelters designed against aerial bombing, gas attack and firestorms.

The walls and ceiling are thick enough to stop blast and splinters should go a long way to being insulated and impervious to the forces fire bring. The ventilation systems of most shelters lacked filters because experience in WWI showed simple isolation was sufficient, far more reliable and cost effective than filters when facing an unknown contaminate. The external vents and doors were made to be gas-tight when shut down. The internal volume inside was calculated to be sufficient for the occupants for a few hours. Enough time for any agents to settle or dissipate.

This basic design concept, as shown by the military run shelters in Hamburg and Dresden, was sufficient even as a firestorm raged overhead. Unsealed shelters, typically basements, didn't fare as well. They provided good protection against bomb blast and splinters and fair protection against actual fire, they provided multiple escape routes and generally burned slow enough to allow sufficient time to evacuate, they were vulnerable to carbon monoxide and toxic gas buildup. Thousands of 'sleeping' bodies were recovered.

Further protection could be had by just keeping the shelter away from stands of trees and buildings that might burn and radiate heat, or potentially block the entrance, and limiting the amounts of flammable materials that reside on top of or near your shelter. Short grass or clover shouldn't be a problem as they would burn off quickly.
Posted by: PeterR

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/15/09 09:01 PM

Yes, thank you Susan for that link. Those adobe shelters look great. Victoria's fire commissioner made a statement over the weekend suggesting country communities may have to look at building emergency bunkers.

Here's a link to the local effort at fire bunkers, mentioned in my earlier post:

http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/news/...es/1428913.aspx



It is all too late, and sadly, there is is bound to be opposition. But it seems ludicrous that there are no subsidies for bunkers in a country where the Federal government provides cashback rebates for solar hot water systems and home insulation.

I can understand the reluctance of fire and other authorities to sanction the use of bunkers when there is no building code to cover them. Unfortunately, even if authorities published a 'recommended' minimum standard of bunker they would, no doubt, be liable, should there be deaths.

Fire authorities point out that smoke inhalation has been a killer in some of the more amateurish bunker/shelters.

As of Monday, 16 Feb, the death toll remains at 181 with many still seriously and critically ill with burns and other injuries.

I think it is important to remember that these were firestorms, where 'ordinary' fire precautions were overwhelmed. Many deaths occurred when people stayed to fight the fires. These fires were spotting hundreds of metres in front of the main blaze; the temperatures were so high, 40-45C plus, before the fires even began, that homes simply blew up as the fires swept over them.
Posted by: Susan

Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? - 02/16/09 03:31 AM

Peter, depending on government tends to be a waste of time and energy. The shelter I described is cheap. I just looked at one site that sells 250 sandbags for $123 USD. A roll of barbed wire, maybe $75 USD. With a shovel that most people have, $200 USD would probably build three 3.3 meter (10') shelters. Three families in a local area could share the expenses and the labor and build three shelters in a week.

People need to start working together. Governments are too stupid to depend on.

Sue