Thread: wildland urban interface
09-18-2000, 08:53 AM #1newtonbFirehouse.com Guest
wildland urban interface
I live in a wildland urban interface foothills neighborhood which was built in the early 1970's. Here's a brief rundown of my neighborhood: everyone is on individual wells (a few cisterns) and septic systems, the permits on most of the wells do not allow outside watering, 1 fire hydrant which is fed by a 6" line at the entrance of the neighborhood, power and phone lines are above ground - it is not uncommon to have power outages, one way in and out, paved road which is about 20' wide, about 2 miles to the top of the neighborhood, 5 cul-de-sacs with relatively small turn-around space, 100 homes all on about 1 acre lots, about 1/3 still have wood shake roofs (which are slowly being replaced because of code), most homes have little to no defensible space, and lots of ponderosa pines. We have a volunteer fire department with two very cool fire engines which carry both water and foam - one station is less than 5 miles from here.
So my question is what are the most effective remedies for my neighborhood to make it safer from fires?
Thanks for the input.
09-18-2000, 10:35 AM #2LHS*Firehouse.com Guest
What fire department protects your area? Lack of hydrants may not be an issue if they are pretty good at rural water supply.
I think I'd go to www.barricadegel.com and order a home defense kit or two. If all else fails you can save your own home and yard.
09-18-2000, 12:04 PM #3cbp3Firehouse.com Guest
Simple enough: Defensible Space! Give the firefighters a chance during structure triage. Don't get written off even before the fire arrives!
Any opportunity to develop a prescribed fire plan? Could be a lifesaver.
09-18-2000, 04:55 PM #4JAMESBENNETTFirehouse.com Guest
WHAT PART OF COLORADO ARE YOU FROM? I KNOW SEVERAL FIRE RESPONSE AGENCIES IN COLORADO AND WOULD BE HAPPY TO HOOK YOU UP WITH THEM. THEY ARE VERY WILLING TO HELP YOU AND YOUR NIEGHBORHOOD DEVELOPE A PREFIRE PLAN AND DO HAZARD ASSESSMENTS ON THE HOUSES. FROM THIS YOU WILL GET AN IDEAL WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AND WHAT THE INDIVIDUAL LAND OWNERS NEED TO DO TO MAKE THIS NIEGHBORHOOD SOMETHING BESIDES A RED X DURING TRIODGE IN THE CASE OF A MAJOR WILDLAND FIRE IN THIS AREA. I HATE TO SAY THIS WITH-OUT SEEING THE NIEGHBORHOOD, BUT YOUR DESCRIPTION IS PRETTY GLOOM ONE AND DOESN'T PAINT A VERY GOOD PICTURE. IF YOU WANT THE INFO JUST LET ME KNOW.
09-19-2000, 10:08 AM #5newtonbFirehouse.com Guest
Thanks very much for the input. I am not a firefighter, but am trying to
become educated on the issues. So far, what I have learned has come from
very informative websites, the newspaper and emails from fire professionals.
I have been in contact with the fire district,
the County, and plan on joining a county group whose purpose is wildfire
hazard mitigation. Both the County and the Fire District have been very
thanks again for the input.
A few additional questions relating to this:
1. In the Defensible Space, how effective is a mowed lawn area if it is not
irrigated? (our well permits do not allow outside watering) The
descriptions for defensible space frequently say to keep a lawn irrigated.
2. Why would the "lack of fire hydrants" not be an issue if there is a good
rural water supply? What is a rural water supply?
3. Have you used the barricade gel? Would this gel be useful if one
already had a pretty good defensible space? I thought I recall reading
somewhere that gels were *not* a good solution because they needed to be
applied at just the right time and right amount, and that might be difficult
for the homeowner to do.
4. In our neighborhood, some people store unused gasoline (from weed
wackers, etc) in their garage. In event of a wildfire, should the gas stay
in the garage or be put outside away from the house?
5. What benefit would mowing along the roadside have? Some areas have 3-4
feet of weeds growing alongside the paved road. (I'm trying to see if the
cost of having it mowed is worth the benefit)
6. What is a "prescribed fire plan" and how would it help us?
[This message has been edited by newtonb (edited 02-22-2001).]
09-19-2000, 11:26 AM #6cbp3Firehouse.com Guest
Wow, Newt. You've asked a mouthful, there...but let's see what I can say in a nutshell....
1)Mowed lawn is an effective firebreak, because it generally is very difficult to ignite if watered. How flammable does your lawn become if it isn't irrigated? (Have you also examined the plantings around your home: are THEY flammable, or flame-resistant?)
2)"Rural water supply" usually refers to the presence of large water tenders, and how near sources of water for drafting are. Bear in mind, a swimming pool holds an impressive amount of water. Tenders usually carry from 2000 to 7000 gal of water, and a 24' above ground pool may hold from 12,000 to 15,000gal.
3)Can't help you on the Barricade, however it sounds like you are referring to the limitations of class A foam as to the proper time to apply it.
4)As far as gasoline goes...if the fuel in your garage is igniting....you have a larger problem than a gas can, know what I mean? I doubt if your hom will be savable by the time the gas cans start burning!
5) Mowing is helpful, especially if a common cause of fire in your area are smokers along the roadway, or catalytic converters on cars pulled to the side. Your local fire officials would have data on fire origin location and cause.
6)A plan for prescribed fire is put together by an experienced wildland fire professional. It lays out in detail a program to use fire under controlled conditions to reduce and remove wildland fuel loads from critical areas of your community. We have used prescribed fire here in NJ for over 50 years...it has proven to be a highly cost-effective tool for managing fuel accumulations around our many wildland/urban interface areas, and has proven time and again to be effective at allowing the fire service to protect these people and their communities. You would need someone familiar with fire behavior and history, and your fuels and topography to advise you on this.
Hope this has proven helpful. Contact your state fire agency, I've dealt with several of them and found them to be helpful and knowledgable in the field. I am sure they will be more than willing to assist you, especially with the fire problems you are experiencing this year.
If I can be of further help, don't hesitate to contact me.
Good luck in your endeavour.
09-19-2000, 12:38 PM #7LHS*Firehouse.com Guest
///2. Why would the "lack of fire hydrants" not be an issue if there were a good
rural water supply? What is a rural water supply? //
The state of Colorado has two of the nations 3 best rural fire departments. Dolores and Rattlesnake, They also have #5 Loveland. In each of these departments by using hose and water trucks they have the same abilities as other departments with fire hydrants. Literally they move water bucket brigade style using portable reservoirs. In every instance they can move more water than the required fire flows they protect(3000 to 3500 gpm). All those departments cover 100 or more square miles.
Departments who are not held hostage by hydrants perform magnificently in the wildland areas. You’ve got FD’s with the ability to lay 2 miles of hose in 4 minutes and have an endless water supply.
//3. Have you used the barricade gel?
Yes I have protecting structures, making fire breaks, backfired and burned out off gel lines, and covering the landscape around homes.
/Would this gel be useful if one
already had a pretty good defensible space?
Yes, because the numbers thrown out for defensible space are nice round opinions. Do you use 30’ 100’ of something else? A 100-foot tree is totally different than brush 43 feet high but the numbers remain constant, only the exposure is greater.
//I thought I recall reading somewhere that gels were *not* a good solution because they needed to be applied at just the right time and right amount,
They were referring to Class A foam and CAFS. You can apply gel anytime and it will last for over 24 hours in 100 degree 3 percent humidity, after 24 hours spray it with water and it will rehydrate. You could make a fortune selling it up the road from you today to the evacuated.
//and that might be difficult for the homeowner to do.
Use a 1-gallon sprayer with a garden hose, nothing to it. No other product can do what it can do. It will resist 3000 degrees for 20 minutes. Not effected by wind, doesn’t evaporate, just turns water to Vaseline. Every homeowner should have the ability to protect their own property and leave, that is what the gels do.
As homeowners you should require your FD to have fire trucks that can pump and roll gel and CAF systems the ability to drive through heavy smoke, huge water trucks to support the fire trucks, cisterns that ISO will credit in the 30,000 to 180,000 gallon range, the ability to draft with one firefighter in less than 15 seconds from ponds, rivers, streams or cisterns one of your best Colorado FD’s. Like : http://www.geocities.com/Baja/Trails/7873/
If you really want to know your fire department capabilities, simply call your home insurance carrier. He will tell you that you are either a Class 9 or Class 10. 1 is the best and 10 is the worst. What that means at a Class 10 you pay $7.50 per $1000 of dollar value insured versus a Class 4 like Loveland paying $2.42 per $1000. The insurance industry is pretty good at predicting loss rates by examining fire department performance.
///4. In our neighborhood, some people store unused gasoline (from weed
wackers, etc) in their garage. In event of a wildfire, should the gas stay
in the garage or be put outside away from the house?
Once the garage starts it will probably go to ground no matter what is stored inside, limited water, other non involved risks will get the limited fire department attention
///5. What benefit would mowing along the roadside have? Some areas have 3-4
feet of weeds growing alongside the paved road. (I'm trying to see if the
cost of having it mowed is worth the benefit)
It could stop a small fire from crossing the road, allow the fire crews to use the road as a break, however a wind whipped or large fire will spot ¼ to ½ mile over the road.
///6. What is a "prescribed fire plan" and how would it help us?
In theory if you can keep the fire from getting up in the top if the trees by burning or racking up needles, clearing dead trees, etc you’ll have a slower easier to control fire, however your area is notorious for lightning strikes on the top of trees, Even the most ambitious plans only address 1% of the burnable matter. Rarely do you see people clear out trees for defensible space,
Overall you have a responsibility to protect your own home. Plus you need to make sure as a taxpayer that your FD is doing the right things. As a community or group of homeowners the easiest thing you can do to make sure your homes don’t burn is to have a subdivision plan to cover each other’s home with gel.
Over and over this year in your state we read about insufficient resources available to fight fires, fires getting away during shift changes of firefighters, erratic winds and extreme fire behavior, fire crews over run, aircraft running out of retardant, we see city departments out in the sticks helping cover homes, and the government conducting controlled burns getting away costing billions. There will never be enough fire trucks to cover all the homes. Protect yourself.
09-19-2000, 02:27 PM #8monteFirehouse.com Guest
I think we have become our own worst enemy by thinking we can improve on our existing capabilities to protect homes. After this summer in the great American west we saw in several geographic areas "landscape" fire we had not dealt with before. It covered so many thousands of acres there was no way to muster enough human and machine resources (what ever enough is). For a single structure, or a couple of structures close together, start hooking up those tenders/tankers; start shuttling water and laying a couple thousand feet of hose; then put 150 more homes in jepardy and compress the time to a few hours. Now how effective are all those beautiful looking fire engines? The answer in my mind is not what we think we can possibly provide, but what the individual homeowners can provide themselves in concert with a fire smart community. This includes the political machines and the public services. Let's include roads, transportation, electricity, water, sewer, ramifications of political boundry's, insurance companies, our ability to look beyound traditional firefighting tactics, and be willing to adjust our expectations of ourselves. We cannot do it all, nor should we think we are capable of improving our limited capabilities because we have gel or foam or 3" lines vs 1 1/2" lines. The problem is bigger than that and involves much more. As long as we ignore our limitations and profess an advantage to our communities, we will perpetuate this myth that we can save homes beyound what we are truely capable of doing safely. I would wager our capabilities fall short of the expectations of our communities. Look at Los Alamos where the fire department provided a valient effort, using state of the science equipment, moving incredible volumes of water, and still losing gaggles of homes. Is it our fault? Nope. We just cannot provide single structure protection to a landscape of fire. There has to be another way of getting it done. And there is.
09-19-2000, 03:26 PM #9LHS*Firehouse.com Guest
From Montana eh? Well I’ve never worked any fires larger than 250,000 acres, or ever been on a complex over 1.6 million acres, or had more than 4800 firefighters working one fire, or ever seen more than 5000 structures burn in one day or seen more than 28 die in one wildland fire or seen seen a fire travel at more than 7 acres per second, or seen a fire jump a 4 lane freeway with a front larger than 7 miles, but based upon my limited experence here are some observations.
I do know Montana held their first statewide mutual aid drill this year and to this day still doesn’t have a statewide plan nor does Colorado on New Mexico. I live in a state and a region where we do. I guess they can’t have fires there.
). //For a single structure, or a couple of structures close together, start hooking up those tenders/tankers; start shuttling water and laying a couple thousand feet of hose; then put 150 more homes in jeopardy and compress the time to a few hours
The reply was addressing hydrants in their subdivision. For one or two structure fires this approach works well in the low humidity west. It was not a suggested strategy to address wildland interface. Pump and roll engines thermal imager equipped using CAFS and preferably gel supplied by tenders filling drop tanks are very capable of protecting structures if they simply get to the event early. There in lies the problem, the planners don’t focus far enough in advance of the fire. Parking a fire truck at every home the way the wildland trainers teach is silly. Cover the home once, with something that can’t blow off or dry out and you’ll be successful. I also stated that you are responsible for your own protection of your own home.
//. Now how effective are all those beautiful looking fire engines?
Let me see one of our trucks will gel 60 homes per load of water or make a gel line 58 cat lines wide 4 miles long and fire out or back fire at a rate of 10 to 15 mph launching 62 fuses per minute. We have surrounded a 60,000 acre fire with one rig with four firefighters in a landscape fire in less than 4 hours. If your not afraid to give up acreage to stop the fire you’lll win more than you lose.
///look beyound traditional firefighting tactics, and be willing to adjust our expectations of ourselves. We cannot do it all, nor should we think we are capable of improving our limited capabilities because we have gel or foam or 3" lines vs 1 1/2" lines.
Of course you’ve never shot a drop of gel your life.
//Look at Los Alamos where the fire department provided a valient effort, using state of the science equipment,
Hardly state of the art. CAFs? No. Gel? No. Pump and roll? No. See through the smoke ability? No. Statewide master plan or mutual aid plan? NO!
///Is it our fault? Nope.
The heck it isn’t!!!! The fire service allowed this mess to occur, looks the other way with code requirements and enforcement. The ignition source was the firefighters who started the fire.
///We just cannot provide single structure protection to a landscape of fire.
It happens all the time, and very few fires are landscape fires. In my four county area last year we had 1.7 million acres burn, and we did protect single structures effectively. And have done so for years. Often 1 guy in a pickup truck has made all the difference in the word. Finding a highway, pole line road or similar and burning it out or back firing.
Fuel management is a nice dream kinda like requiring sprinklers for all new construction, you’ll still have a big problem forever. The silly practice of not using choppers or aircraft at night. Imaging systems will allow any aircraft to work 24/7. Limited numbers of air resources 50 ish aircraft is also a travesty.
When you all in the wildland business get serious, let us municipal firefighters know. You all certainly spend enough with these campaign fires. It is a nice jobs program but not the way to win the war.
09-19-2000, 04:33 PM #10newtonbFirehouse.com Guest
I composed this off-line, and by the time I got on, noticed there was more comments. I'll ask more questions if I have them on the last post......
Thanks so much for this discussion. I already logged onto the Rattlesnake website and was very impressed with the information. So much info that I can’t absorb it all since I’m still pretty new at this. Hopefully you all won’t mind my persistent questioning. Maybe I’ll become a fire professional at some point.....
Regarding my plantings around the house - other than the ponderosa pines which are quite abundant, I have no plantings because of the water restrictions. I also have a very brown thumb so couldn’t get things to grow if I tried... Some people in the neighborhood do have some plants/shrubs, but the majority of us do not have anything significant other than the pine trees - which I know are *very* flamable.
I forgot to mention about my neighborhood, that we do have 2 - 2000 gallon buried cisterns at the top of the neighborhood which were put in for fire protection. Is there any regular maintenance which should be performed on them to ensure that they are in working order?
I think our insurance rating is Class 9, but that depends on who you talk to. We do have the fire hydrant at the entrance of the neighborhood, so people close to that might be a lower rating. (?)
Regarding the “prescribed fire plan”, LHS said “by burning or racking up needles, clearing dead trees, etc “ while cpb3 said “a program to use fire under controlled conditions to reduce and remove wildland fuel “. Does it necessarily require prescribed fire or could it just be the clearing of wildland fuel by other methods? - such as me raking my pine needles. Some people (myslef included) do that already.
There are already communities starting to make real efforts at becoming Firewise or Fire Smart. A few websites talking about them are http://www.firewise.org/communities/ and http://www.firefree.org/firefree/firefreeindex.htm.
Regarding monte’s comment of “The answer in my mind is not what we think we can possibly provide, but what the individual homeowners can provide themselves in concert with a fire smart community. ..... Let's include roads, transportation, electricity, water, sewer, ramifications of political boundry's, insurance companies, ......” What would you suggest *existing* neighborhoods do, especially if the layout of the neighborhood is in such a way that current code would not allow it? I *am* trying to get a neighborhood group started which will educate people on these issues.
I also note that one of the wildland Urban interface “watchouts” is “limited water supply”. According to the I-Zone http://www.neotecinc.com/izone/kreview/wuiwo_main.html, it says”\
“Inadequate water supply - You need a mobile water supply. If you cannot defend the structure with the water that you carry on your apparatus, you will probably lose the structure. Structures can be lost because hydrants may not be able to supply people using their garden hoses to protect their homes.” Do you agree with this?
Thanks again for your input
09-19-2000, 06:46 PM #11LHS*Firehouse.com Guest
//which I know are *very* flamable.
You can gel them as needed to save your home ad trees.
//have 2 - 2000 gallon buried cisterns at the top of the neighborhood which were put in for fire protection.
Unfortunately they don’t count towards you insurance rating because they are too small.
//Is there any regular maintenance which should be performed on them to ensure that they are in working order?
a provide a written inspection record.
Yes, they are supposed to draft from them and back flush them twice yearly. Keep the weeds down
//I think our insurance rating is Class 9, but that depends on who you talk to. We do have the fire hydrant at the entrance of the neighborhood, so people close to that might be a lower rating.
If ou are within 1000 feet of a hydrant and within 5 road miles of a station you can get a lower rating if the FD earned one. Odds are Class 9 or 10
//or could it just be the clearing of wildland fuel by other methods
Either accomplish the same goal, remember out here you could have a major fire in November.
We have a 10 man handcrew that does fuels management 365 days a year.
// “Inadequate water supply - You need a mobile water supply. If you cannot defend the structure with the water that you carry on your apparatus, you will probably lose the structure. Structures can be lost because hydrants may not be able to supply people using their garden hoses to protect their homes.” Do you agree with this?
I guess that depends how much you carry most wildland agencies suggest not attacking homes burning and to simply skip them and try to save one that is saveable. NFPA says a 1500 sq ft home needs 4500 gallons of water, odds are the engine doesn’t carry that nor the tanker supporting it.
Once again an FD used to hauling their own water has a real advantage over hydrant dependant departments.
The end of the day with structure protection water is not a good agent, gel CAFS and class a foam are all better. In that order. Where gel will last over 24 hours, CAF might have a 10 to 20 minute life in fire conditions of wind and heat and Class A foam 3 to 5 minutes, and water could be less than a minute.
09-20-2000, 12:38 AM #12newtonbFirehouse.com Guest
OK - so here are a few more questions:
You said that “NFPA says a 1500 sq ft home needs 4500 gallons of water”. Is for a regular home in the city or can this also be used for a home nestled among pine trees in the wildland urban interface? The average house size in our neighborhood is probably between 2500-3000 feet - how much water would that require? Do you know what the water pressure for that would need to be?
We do have at least two fire engines which carry both water and foam, but I don’t know the specifics of them.
Do you know if there has been previous discussion on the barricadegel and whether or not other firefighters have found it useful? If there are none, I might start a discussion. I would really like to find out who all has used it and what they think of it.
In one email you said "Parking a fire truck at every home the way the wildland trainers teach is silly" Why is this done? It would not be possible in my subdivision because we have +100 homes...
09-20-2000, 06:14 AM #13ShaggerFirehouse.com Guest
G'day from Australia!!
I'd have to say we've had our own share of wildfires.
One of the approaches we are taking is that the resident should not expect the Fire Service to necessarily be in a position to defend your house. Yours might be just one of many threatened by the same fire. One approach has been to form "Community Fire Units" in the interface area. These are residents given some basic training, but equipped with a trailer loaded with several portable pumps, hose & a standpipe (most hydrants here are underground). To this end the local residents have the equipment to defend their homes from either a fixed or reticulated water supply. There has been a programme of markers "SWS" for "Static Water Source", where either the resident or fire crews can access water to help attack the fire. This was in an issue of "Fire Engineering" last year. This is also enhanced by a programme also put together where rather than deploy appliances, a team towing a trailer of their own similar to the CFU, are dropped off at the designated SWS properties & fight the fire from there.
My simple approach would be
1) Remove the fuel - mow, cut whatever to get the fire as far away from the properties as possible. Radiant heat rather than direct impingement is the problem. Remove the ground fuels if you cant remove the large trees. In today's ecological aware world, fire might not be an option available to you.
2) Equip yourself - if you've all got those tanks a 4 stroke Honda portable pump & enough hose to move around your whole house means you have the capacity to help yourself when others are unavailable. A lot of rural/interface residences here have rainwater tanks to store water. I've heard of the Barricade gel so I won't disagree with the suggestion to grab that 1 gallon handy pack, especially if your ready supply of water isn't as much as I hope it is.
Feel free to have a look at our Service page at http://www.bushfire.nsw.gov.au
all the best
09-20-2000, 09:57 AM #14LHS*Firehouse.com Guest
//The average house size in our neighborhood is probably between 2500-3000 feet - how much water would that require? Do you know what the water pressure for that would need to be?
5571 gallons to 6428 gallons. Th standard does no call out a pressure requirement.
09-20-2000, 12:03 PM #15monteFirehouse.com Guest
Here is what I saw going on this summer. LHS I am certain you have been a part of some very successful suppression assignments. Your resume' shows that. What I am referring to is we have not in recent memory gone through a fire season that involved so much of the country at one time. We do experience several fires throughout the US simultaneously, and we do experience a couple of regions with multiple large fires simultaneously, but I don't think we have experienced a fire season where 7 of the 8 geographic areas were having multiple large fires simultaneously. That in itself equates to the physical problems of mobilizing enough human and equipment resources in a timely fashion to implement the tactcs we commonly use, by region. I certainly will not defend all the tactics used in MT, nor will I apologize for the mistakes of people I have no control over, but mountain tactics in heavy timber with structures is different than those used in more open terrain with their own unique problems. I do feel our understanding of fire dynamics and how that contributes to structure fire is not neccessarily complete yet. I also feel that homeowner responsibility is not just an individual effort, but a community effort that includes the whole network of community support. That includes the fire service. Your comment about timing is right on. Yet I also think with communities designed and built to be fire resistent, we reduce the hazards of compressed time to respond. That's because we don't have to be there before the fire passes. Resistent homes survive, and we come in after to pick up the incipient fires in the yards. The jist of my comments was not to rely soley on technology. There are other lasting remedies if we deal with communities on a landscape, versus individual structures dispersed through the mountains.
[This message has been edited by monte (edited September 20, 2000).]
09-20-2000, 12:28 PM #16Captain HickmanFirehouse.com Guest
09-20-2000, 03:51 PM #17newtonbFirehouse.com Guest
Thank you all sooooo much for discussing this topic. I am amazed at how much information is available on the internet. I have spent much time on firewise.org as well as other websites I come across regarding fire stuff (including fema, county and other federal websites). The Rattlesnake and Isoslayer websites are really good too and I'm just starting to read the 250 page document on the ISO ratings. (kind of difficult when I am not familiar with many of the terms)
Thanks again and please keep posting to this topic because I plan on checking it frequently and asking questions when I run across something I don't understand.
I also think this is an important discussion due to the fact that so many people are moving into the wildland urban interface and may not fully understand the wildfire hazard mitigation issues....
10-06-2000, 05:19 PM #18Michelle BennettFirehouse.com Guest
You are doing the best possible thing for you and your community!!!! You're trying to make things better, almost everything I have read posted about your questions has been useful information!
The best possible way to improve your conditions is to get your entire neighborhood active in your efforts!!!!!
I am at this time assisting with a community effort to reduce wildfire hazard and make the community more fire-wise and we are having an outstanding response! A few chippers, the VFD's help, and the neighborhood's interest are what is making it work! I am very impressed by your willingness to improve your situation, and your excitement alone could cause an entire movement with your neighbors!!!!
Keep doing what you're doing as far as research, get your local Forest office to help you, I personally know many of the Boulder County Wildland Fire Service personel, (had the pleasure of working with them in Texas on many fires) and they are an outstanding group of people and will be more than willing to assist you! If I can be of service with written materials for you to distribute in your community, please email me with your address, I will be happy to send you some materials that tell your community in "english" what they need to do and what will happen if they don't.
Keep up the GREAT effort!
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