Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Preparedness vs. Cluelessness: Works Every Time

Today's lesson:

There's always a number of these stories after every disaster.

Back a few decades, I looked into firefighting (until it became obvious that, being a white male, that option was unlikely to happen in less than 5-10 years).

Before that point, I regularly perused EMS and fire science magazines, and became aware that one can purchase the exact same type of fire monitor you see on lots of fire trucks driving down the street. And you still can.

For the unaware, a fire monitor is not a video camera, it's the directable water cannon nozzle assembly, used on water trucks and fireboats as well.

They can be mounted anywhere (I'd pick the center of the roof, personally) and rigged to run off of one's pool, pond, or well, provided you also have your own generator power.

The can put out over 1000gpm for a hundred feet or more, and they run a couple of grand@. As opposed to your house, which in the hills and canyons of fire areas, runs $300K-$1M.

That's a real economic poser there.

And it's one helluva lot smarter than trying to fight 100' flames with little vinyl garden hoses.

Trimming trees and brush well away from the house is even cheaper.

Especially because both ground and air fire crews triage houses in the path of these fires, and if they see one that's savable, they'll make the effort, but if yours is an overgrown tinder trap, they'll write it off mentally as a total waste of their finite resources, and after that, you're screwed.

But most of the dumbfucks in the fire-prone hillsides are in their cosmic bubbles more often than not, and don't do the legwork before hand, and then get burned out.

Except for the few smart guys, like the two in this video.


(And this sort of thing doesn't apply to entire small towns amidst fire country, where you have fewer options, nor to renter tenants within them, who effectively have none. When the entire town burns down, you're simply SOL. Have a "go" plan, and stick to it.)

But it astonishes me that people who do have a choice will purchase a home on acreage, and spend years of salary for the view, but not invest a couple of paychecks, and some forethought, to prevent an entirely avoidable loss of everything they own.

Their fire insurance premiums should be 10-20% of the cost of their house, annually.
Triple that for any nimrod who still has a wood shake roof.
Unless they take the steps these guys did.

Plan ahead.
Learn not to burn.


TiredPoorHuddled Masses said...

God helps those who help themselves.

MMinWA said...

Shake roofs in areas like these have got to be some sort of sign about the owner.

And it ain't good. Back when I lived the mountains in CO and saw homes with shake shingles, I mentally downgraded the owners to full retard. And with trees growing right over the roof, Lord.

It's a perfect picture of it won't happen here. Till it does.

Great video.

Anonymous said...

House fireproof foam spray:

Clear all deadwood within 150 yds of any structure.
Clear all trees within 150 ft of same.

Out here in the boonies, insurance companies sometimes will apply foam fireproofing as part of your policy. Check with them.

The tragedy in Paradise was an avoidable one. The sheer ignorance bordering on criminality of government officials and power company executives is unparalleled in history. It's a wonder people haven't strung them up yet.


Aesop said...

It's worse thasn that, Ned: TPTB among the Demotards here in Excremento are busily conniving to retroactively shield PG&E, whose lines probably started the Camp Fire, which wiped out whole towns, and killed 80+ people with no warning, from any civil liability for their criminal negligence.

One hopes a D.A. or two will prosecute their officers for manslaughter instead, but I'd settle for seeing them found dangling neck-first from their own power poles in lieu of sanctioned legal activity.

robins111 said...

In Northern Ontario (Boreal Forest) the fire crews will set up sprinkler systems around a structure. They are essentially the same sprinklers used on golf courses and can be set up and left forever. They hook a portable pump to the line and stand back. it would be cheaper than a ground mount monitor/deuge gun as in the pic, better coverage too.

Aesop said...

Ground sprinklers to a dedicated water source (not neighborhood supply) would also be a great idea, and a lot cheaper and easier than rebuilding your house and replacing all your possessions.

billrla said...

@Aesop: There is plenty of legal liability to spread around for the Camp Fire. Focusing on PG&E, which came first? The power lines, or the residential housing? Power lines to get built in remote terrain, and then, the houses move in. Not the other way around, because power companies don't build grid-level power lines through residential neighborhoods. Who sighted those houses? Who approved building in terrain criss-crossed with power lines? Who prohibited cutting-down of trees around power lines and houses? Who buys and/or resides in residential structures near power lines in fire country?

There is legal liability to spread around, but California needs an electrical grid. California does not "need" entire towns built in the rough terrain of in fire country. If individual residents chose to build, legally, in fire country, doing so is their choice. But, entire neighborhoods and towns? Some developers and politicians got wealthy.

P.S. I appreciate the opportunity to comment, here, but CAPTCHA has gotten out of hand, not only here, but also, at Silicon Greybeard's site. I have to mouse-click like a robot to verify that I'm not a robot (or am I?). How about the simple math equation technique: X + Y = Z?

Allen said...

There is one thing you can do that dramatically increases the probability of your structure surviving a wildfire. Maintain your fire clearances throughout the year. That's it, a couple of hours a month and your place has the highest probability of survival. Of course many people just can't bring themselves to do that.

Aesop said...


I'm not arguing PG&E is solely responsible, but they're being selected for special protection from liability for legitimate negligence.
That's bullshit.

So, how many forest fires and manslaughter deaths, in your opinion, is it reasonable to allow a utility company to accomplish before they've overstepped their license to operate?

You fuck up, and it burns my house down, or turns Uncle Jimmy into a charcoal briquette, and you don't get to claim special immunity to penalties for fucking up. If they fail, they fail. That merely opens up the marketplace for a more conscientious and circumspect provider. That's called capitalism; I'm a big fan.

That's the difference between the rule of law, and cronyism.
I'll take the former, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dedicated ground sprinklers are a great idea, but in rocky remote areas with possible below freezing temps, not practical. Also, most well pumps have a hard time keeping up with the demand. You need to throw a lot of water on a brush fire, even more on exploding timber.
I hope heads roll with this fiasco. I'm sure the lawsuits are being drawn up by the hundreds as we speak.


Mike M. said...

Good thought but wrong equipment. A 2.5” deck gun (monitor) uses a shat load of water which may not be available during a fire storm. Water systems can be low volume due to everybody using water for firefighting or collasping due to overuse.

Structure fires you need volume, brush fires you need pressure.

On some brush engines you can find the same type of monitor but reduced in size for use with 1.5” lines and can be used remotely. This would be the way to go.

During brush fires if we see people wasting water ( water shooting into the air, flooding streets and other properties while the fire is still 4 hills away) we will get law enforcement to shut them down and they will be escorted out or arrested. I understand the need to stay and fight but people tend to panic and don’t truly realize the power these fires have and how fast a fire can move until it’s to late. Honestly, you are on your own and it’s not because we won’t come to rescue you but because we might not have any units to perform the rescue.

Between your idea, adequate brush clearance, including all the flammable crap around your house, timing the fight correctly and having nomex, helmet, good googles (most important, you can’t fight what you can’t see ask me how I know) hydration pack and most importantly, a fire shelter your odds of you and your residence surviving will improve dramatically.

Aesop said...

Nota bene please one and all, the eleventy times I suggested the way to run a monitor is from your own dedicated water supply with generator power, and not off the residential water supply everyone else, including fire fighters, is using.

If I'm on my own land, running my own water from my own supply powered by my own generator, and anyone thinks to have me "shut down, escorted out, or arrested", I'll suggest that they'd better send SWAT, bring a lot of ammunition, and advise responding officers what 1000gpm in the face might do to retinas and their attachment to the rest of the eyeball.

Because they were trespassing when I used the non-lethal option available, or I thought they were seeking shelter at my location, and because I didn't want them to catch on fire in an emergency.
(Most cops I've met are brighter than that, however, and have better things to do under those circumstances.)

Just saying.

Anonymous said...

In interface areas (more correctly called Wildland/Urban Interface) we mandated 200 feet (or to the property line if closer) of non/low combustible landscaping (vegetation that does not support propagation), all trees "lollypopped", all brush removed, all debris removed. The authority for this was/is incorporated as enforceable ordinance(s), and homeowners were given diminishing time-frame notices with re-inspections for progress of the work that was provided in writing to the homeowner. Failure to comply obtained a court appearance for penalties, and the previously required clearances were then performed by a contract entity, with the costs added as a lien against the property owner. The largest percentage of these fire prevention duties was carried out at the jurisdictional engine company level by personnel who have intimate knowledge of that specific area.

One option for interface residential firefighting are the various gel and/or Class A foam systems that will exponentially increase the firefighting capability of an existing water supply. These act as both wetting agents (surfactants) and also a thermal barriers.

The reality is that someone who creates and maintains a defensible space, establishes and protects a robust water supply, and educates themselves in the rudiments of the skill and equipment needed, can prevail in even extremely dire conditions.

Mike M said...

Well that changes everything. If you are using your own dedicated pump / water no one will disturb your efforts. I was concentrated on public water supply and the general sheeple idiots.

Still think about protective gear, it goes along way to help continue firefighting efforts.

As far as the deck gun idea, 750-1500 gpm will drain a tank faster than you would think, still might be better off with the smaller deck guns, just my .02 cents. Your money, your show.

I have been a paramedic firefighter in so cal for 26 years, and emt for 11 years before that. I read your blog because you speak the truth and we see eye to eye on the same things.

Take care and have a quiet shift.

Anonymous said...


1000gpm is difficult to produce and maintain without fairly heavy duty pumping equipment (rated centrifugal pump) and a significant water supply such as a swimming pool, pond, cistern, etc. Even then it might not be your best course of action if operating by yourself.

Also remember to take suction limitations into account if your are performing a "drafting" operation. It is much better to have head pressure than it is to suck. (That is not entendre of any type.)

You might be better served with multiple pre-positioned 1.5/1.75 inch hose lines flowing 100-1215 gpm and utilizing a Class A type foam injection system. Also, remember that in intense over-burning situations, leave the pump(s) running and lines charged. Most good fire hose (since you are not humping it in a pack, get double-jacket hose) will not burn through even kept charged.

Anonymous said...

corrected to be 100-125gpm

Sherm said...

A guy outside of Julian, California built a 10,000 gallon water tank on a hill above his house with gravity fed sprinklers on his roof and under his eaves. The neighbors thought he was an idiot until the Cedar Fire fixed it so he had no more neighbors. A friend here in Montana built his house out of concrete with 18" walls and a copper roof. The fire crews set up camp in his front yard since it was the most defensible home in the valley. I believe he got a cracked window. Being prepared is asking, "what if," and then spending time and/or money to mitigate the answer. An optimist, in that scenario, hopes he wasted his money.

Anonymous said...

As I drive through the hills on the east side of the Sandia Mountains, east of Albuquerque, I am constantly amazed at how many houses are back there and how the owners allow the trees and brush to grow right up to the houses.

One day, a fire will sweep through and destroy it all. It came close a few years ago. I thought maybe folks would take notice and start clearing. Nope, still as overgrown as it ever was. The catastrophe is not an "if", it is a "when".

Aesop said...

Boys and girls, there are about 3000 ways to skin this cat.
Any of them may work. Kudos for the suggestions.
All of them work better than magic beans and rubbing a rabbit's foot, which was the point.

And Mike, back at ya.
I would no more advocate wasting community water than setting your own house on fire.
I know how much 1000gpm is. My masterplan for Camp Snoopy is a largish pond, and the draw pump to feed that sort of thing. I've seen vicariously on the tube for my whole life, as you probably have in person, what a wall of flame does to lesser hose efforts. Watching the heat turn your attempt into steam before it even hits rather defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

But I also won't be living in a wooden-sided house with wood shake roof and snuggled into combustible brush, either, nor atop a 30-year untended tinderbox of chaparral.

As Sherm noted, many have proven it already, including the two guys in the opening video.

A guy in Malibu (which was overburned again this time out) a few years back built himself an earth-sheltered house on the crest of a ridge with ocean views, a fire-rated front door, and triple paned patio glass. When that earlier year's fire came, he put the cars inside the garage, closed the door, turned off the air system, and sat inside and watched the fire on TV as it burned right over him, unscathed inside, and all the way to the ocean across PCH. And had no neighbors for years.

He said afterwards he understood somewhat what Noah must have felt like.

I also worked on a ranch in Malibu Canyon for a film shoot; the owner valued his investment, such that his water tank and pasture were always the designated base of operations inside the canyon, being big enough to accommodate multiple helo landing pads, and with a pool, a pond, and on-site water tanks, plural.

He noted to us that fire guys seemed to like being in the middle of a big green grassy field during the semi-annual brushfires, and tended not to let themselves or all that expensive equipment get burned up. Which kind of made his house's survival a done deal, even amidst fires that looked like hell.

An ounce of prevention, and all that.

Anonymous said...

Our well couldn't handle that sort of gpm, and our pond is too small, so I'm already looking into a massive water tank. Trees are already slated to be cut now (we had to wait on the arborists - HUGE trees), and there is no brush. Now what I want is a massive sprinkler system around my house to keep the area around it green as can be during the summer. (I'd pour concrete but I'm thinking a very short green lawn area in a circumference around the house and garage out to 300 feet might be better). I'm on 7 acres so trying to keep the green around the house and garage as much as possible, can't entirely green up 7 acres in an area where we have no rain for months and 2 months of 90+ degree heat in summer (a lot like Paradise).

If anyone has a suggestion for a roof mount system that uses less gpm and/or what size of water holding tank we'll need, that would be appreciated. 1500 square foot house, 900 square foot garage. We're already considering calling in the fire marshal as well... and I'm already thanking my lucky stars we're not stupid enough to have a shake roof (the Berkeley/Oakland fire back in 1991 was all I EVER needed to hear about shake roofs).

Firecapt said...

In White Pass, Washington, I remember seeing a large wood-framed public building that had open sprinkler heads (the kind used inside buildings) piped in arrays under the eaves and across the roof peak. A simple, and seemingly effective system that wouldn't break the bank. I would get old sprinkler heads from building salvage or other source. The fusible links are superfluous for the purpose

Anonymous said...

I don't live in serious fire country but we do get the occasional multi acre brush fire. I don't know of a single home lost to wildfire in my county but even I keep a firefighting kit I can toss on a trailer behind an atv or in the bed of a pickup. High pressure pump, the ability to pump from my pond and a couple of hoses and a 50 or 100 gallon tank depending on the vehicle. Also keep standard wildland tools on it.

I do a couple of controlled burns on grasslands and timber areas on my farm every year and it helps keep the gear in shape and works out any bugs in the system. I'm always a bit nervous doing them even having a burn plan and being prepared. It's not going to endanger anyone else's property or home but I really don't want to make the call of shame to the VFD to bring out the brush truck because my controlled burn got away from me.

waepnedmann said...

A suggestion: blow the leaves/debris out of your rain gutters regularly and if a fire is coming your way do it now.

The Gray Man said...

"Most cops".

But not enough.

The Gray Man said...

Good on the people who went into a profession that makes that kind of money. I went into the Registered Nurse field, so I'm not bringing in that kind of money. Luckily, I'm not in wildfire territory. I get a hurricane now and then, though I'm far outside of where the storm surge can affect me.