[GSBN] Straw Bale House Fire
tomhahn at econet.org
Wed Apr 1 08:46:03 CDT 2009
Hi all - Way back in the day (about 1995), a student at Taliesin had
built his student-living shelter with earth-plastered straw-bale. It
also unfortunately had a fire (started in an electrical box of the
photovoltaic control panel) and burned down. It burned the wood
I-joist roof structure out first, then starting working it's way into
the top of the s-b walls, about the time the fire dept. got there.
The firefighters also knocked the walls over, as noted by other here.
Unfortunately, they hadn't gotten all the wood extinguished before
doing so, and had to come back several times over the next couple of
days to put out flare-ups. Apparently, the downed straw was nicely
insulating the wood embers that remained and they would slowly char
until erupting again with all the fresh, unburned straw.
I knew the student/builder of the structure well, and so we went on a
couple of forensic missions to the structure's remains, and he wrote
an article for The Last Straw while I was editor (Joyce?... sometime
in 1996?... Issues 13, 14, or 15?... I don't have my back issues
handy, but maybe someone can look it up quick).
In any case, in his investigation, he contacted the fire department
and got their feedback and suggestions from the fire, and included
our observations. The fire department appreciated the fact that it
was a "clean" fire, without toxins. They also seemed to think,
despite the straw and the flare-ups, that it wasn't any more
difficult to fight than most wood frame structures, especially with
the slow-burning earth plastered s-b walls. And finally, there was
some discussion about alternatives to knocking the walls down,
including whether to leave a reasonably stable, unburned s-b wall
standing and just flood it from the top, thereby not exposing more
straw to more oxygen and possibly burying still hot wood embers.
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