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Old 05-09-2006, 04:09 PM   #10
Nothing Better To Do
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 6
The Operative Word Here Is...


Here's the skinny on brush fires. 1) Brush fires are relatively hard to extinguish because the are relatively hard to contain, and it's relatively difficult to do overhaul on them because of the magnitude of the task. The reason for that is that since the fire is out in the open with lots of fuel all around, it's difficult to ensure that an area that is burning doesn't continue to burn. Brush fires burn grass, brush, and trees for the most part. Early-ish in the Spring (or at any time in Spring when there is little rainfall) all of the deadfall from the previous Winter is just sitting there waiting to go up. That is one of the reasons why there tend to be more brush fires in the Spring in more places than later in the season, even though the ones later get most of the attention. Trees are just like the studs, joists, etc. in your house, except they're usually farther from the firefighting apparatus, which means that when we're trying to put them out we have to hand-carry the water/foam/whatever, along with the other tools necessary some distance from the rig. The other tools are typically axes and maybe saws. We have to break the wood apart to get at all the fire burning inside the tree, especially in old deadfall trees.

Now some of you might be asking yourself "Why not just let the stuff in the middle burn?" To a large degree we do. However, fire isn't an exact or an absolute thing. Not all of an area that is "burning" is actually burning. Some of it (usually most of it) won't burn at all. There will be swatches through the landscape where there is fire. The problem is that if you just let everything in the interior of the fireground burn, then the ajacent, unburned land is also at risk (since it hasn't burned...yet.

Structure fires are pretty easy - the structure contains the fire for the most part, and if it gets completely out of hand, we just "surround and drown". End of problem. We can park apparatus near the fire. We can overwhelm the fire with water (the usual approach). You can't do any of that with a brush fire.

2) Brush fires don't just burn down houses. Stupid people get thier houses burned down. There was a study done by I believe it was the US Fire Commission or the Forestry Service that stated that of houses lost to brush fires, the most obvious factors are shake roofs or a large combustible load in contact with the house, i.e. bushes that haven't been trimmed so that they don't touch the home. Mulch does not appear to be a significant contributing factor. If you are worried about your house making it through a firestorm, TRIM YOUR BUSHES. Get them off your house. The further away they are, the better. Bushes burning allow the contact time to get your house burning. The further away they are from your house the better. Obviously in the case of a fire approaching the first priority for you and your family is your personal safety, so don't be an idiot and die trying to cut the foliage down. Get the hell out so you dont.

3) If you want your house to still be standing when you get back, make it easy to defend. We aren't driving through neighborhoods looking to save every house. We are looking for the place where we're going to make a stand. Swimming pool with easy access: good. Clearing around the home: good. Not on a hillside: good. Brick or other non-combustible construction: good. Well-manicured property without lots of brush or other crap near the house: good. However, I have to tell you that there is one way to put your house on the "MUST SAVE" list: VOLUNTEER AT YOUR LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENT. You will learn how to save your own house, and you will get an "in" with the people who have to decide who's house they're going to save.
Damn, I need less time to put out posts this long
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