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#164597 - 01/23/09 04:44 AM Stay and defend your home from a wildfire?
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
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

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#164598 - 01/23/09 04:57 AM Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? [Re: Susan]
Todd W Offline
Product Tester
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/14/04
Posts: 1928
Loc: Mountains of CA
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.
_________________________
Self Sufficient Home - Our journey to self sufficiency.

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#164603 - 01/23/09 05:16 AM Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? [Re: Susan]
Arney Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2485
Loc: California
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.


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#164608 - 01/23/09 07:10 AM Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? [Re: Arney]
scafool Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 1534
Loc: Muskoka
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.
_________________________
May set off to explore without any sense of direction or how to return.

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#164613 - 01/23/09 08:38 AM Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? [Re: scafool]
quick_joey_small Offline
Addict

Registered: 01/13/09
Posts: 412
Loc: UK
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

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#164624 - 01/23/09 12:59 PM Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? [Re: quick_joey_small]
adam2 Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 05/23/08
Posts: 389
Loc: Somerset UK
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.

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#164634 - 01/23/09 01:40 PM Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? [Re: adam2]
Arney Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2485
Loc: California
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.

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#164665 - 01/23/09 04:07 PM Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? [Re: Arney]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
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?

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#164674 - 01/23/09 04:59 PM Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? [Re: Lono]
scafool Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 1534
Loc: Muskoka
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.



Edited by scafool (01/23/09 05:08 PM)
Edit Reason: grammar
_________________________
May set off to explore without any sense of direction or how to return.

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#164678 - 01/23/09 05:28 PM Re: Stay and defend your home from a wildfire? [Re: scafool]
JohnE Offline
Addict

Registered: 06/10/08
Posts: 601
Loc: Southern Cal
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
_________________________
JohnE

"and all the lousy little poets
comin round
tryin' to sound like Charlie Manson"

The Future/Leonard Cohen


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