[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: GSBN:SB Fire fighting

Happy New Year Catherine,  et. al.

When I interviewed people about every straw bale fire I could track
down ( totaling 18 fires ) several years ago, two principal scenarios
1. When the roof framing was not ignited, the fire remained
localized, and typically was put out without a fire department
getting involved at all. Even a squeeze sprayer can douse small
pockets of smoldering straw.
2. In every instance where the roof framing caught fire, the building
was a complete loss, in some instances ( like the one Tom mentioned )
because the fire department actually pulled the walls down to get at
the straw smoldering within.

Based on the survey, by far the most vulnerable stage in construction
is when the bales are up, but unplastered, and the roof framing in
up, but there is no ceiling. At this stage, a small fire begins in
loose straw on the floor,  climbs the walls, ignites the roof
framing, and off we go!  So educate everybody about this "fire
ladder" and the need to break it wherever possible, cleaning up loose
straw continuously, and getting  a slip coat on the walls as quickly
as possible. If you can pre-slip the bales before stacking, even better.

But back to firefighting: based on a few conversations with
theorizing firefighters, the first approach would be to try their
detergent-based foam to maximize the wetting. American fire trucks
typically now have the ability to turn their water into such foam.
It's not,  unfortunately, thick enough foam  ( think dishwater, not
shaving cream ) to blanket the walls and smother the smoldering.

Probably more importantly, firefighters should be aware that when the
fire has been "knocked down" and the building can be entered for what
they call "salvage and overhaul" where they haul the smoking debris
out of the house to completely soak it, the bale walls can be
inspected for cracks or other openings that are still smoking. And
these can be dealt with locally: fire companies carry all manner of
saws for cutting through roofs and walls. The big circular saws would
probably be better than the chain saws for cutting into the walls to
hack out the smoldering straw and remove it for soaking.

As we saw in the Richmond flame spread test, however, where we hand-
carried an entire charred bale wall outside to a dumpster for
soaking, things can get pretty exciting when you give armloads of
smoldering straw more air, so they would want to get it outside
quickly.  Salvage and overhaul is considered really boring after the
real firefighting, though, so they might actually enjoy it.

The point to make to the firefighters is that a bale wall with a few
smoking cracks should be addressed locally, not destroyed; similar to
how they address a burning electrical outlet: cut it out and remove
it. And the more they can avoid pouring water on the the bale walls,
the better the chances of saving them.

So that's the theory:  now, who's willing  to donate their bale house
to more fire research?

Bob Theis

On Jan 6, 2007, at 11:50 AM, Catherine Wanek wrote:

Happy 2007!

Since there are a number of strawbale homes in our area, our local
volunteer fire department has expressed an interest in training the
members in how to fight a fire in a bale house.

I am currently compiling all of the TLS stories about fire for
background information.

Does anyone know if there is already a fire department that has
established a protocol for fighting strawbale fires?  If not, can you
offer suggestions in this regard?

Thank you in advance.

Best Regards,

Catherine Wanek
Natural Building Resources
505-895-3389 / 800-676-5622

For instructions on joining, leaving, or otherwise using the GSBN
list, send email to GSBN@...HELP in the
SUBJECT line.  ----