[GSBN] Straw Bale House Fire
rehorn at frontier.net
Thu Apr 2 19:17:56 CDT 2009
Well put, Derek.
rehorn at frontier.net
On Apr 2, 2009, at 5:44 PM, Derek Roff wrote:
> There are several problems with the anecdotal information around
> this event. One is that according to the mother of the homeowner,
> quoted by Mark Piepkorn, most of the details published in the press
> are wrong. Presumably, anecdotes in the press will have more impact
> than more accurate information shared on a small scale.
> The mother says that the stick frame part of the structure lasted
> about 15 minutes, while the strawbale section lasted for hours. I
> think this difference in wall survival times points up a problem
> that is likely to distort most anecdotal descriptions- comparisons
> will be made between very different fires and different stages of
> the fire. When someone from the Boulder County Rural Fire
> Department says that stick frame is easy, because you just peel off
> the drywall or siding, and don't harm the structural members, that
> sounds like it would have had to be within the first fifteen
> minutes of the fire we are discussing. When this person says that
> the bales were a pain in the butt, these are bales that are still
> standing after some hours of a hot fire. According to the mother's
> So the person from the fire department is mentally equating his
> previous experience with stick frame fires, handled very soon after
> the fire breaks out, with a smoldering strawbale wall that had
> lasted through much more severe conditions. The SB wall probably
> had little or no damage at 15 minutes, in this fire. But this
> anecdotal reaction is normal. A firefighter will think about the
> problems that they face in differing circumstances, not controlled
> comparisons in equal conditions.
> Firefighters have a tough job in so many ways. They use very
> destructive methods to stop very destructive fires. They want to
> make sure that every spark is dead out. It's dangerous to do
> otherwise. They have been trained to fight fires in houses very
> different from strawbale. The smoldering straw in a strawbale wall
> allows time for a considered, nuanced approach. In the cases that
> David and Catherine described, the smoldering straw could be dealt
> with hours or days later. Pete removed the smoldering straw by hand.
> The piercing nozzle that Don Fisher describes doesn't sound like
> the subtle tool that I would want to use on my strawbale house. It
> looks like it would inject a large amount of water quickly into a
> hotspot behind the plaster. I imagine that this would require the
> subsequent removal and replacement of one bale on each side of the
> hotspot, and all the bales below the hotspot (where gravity will
> guide the water), due to water damage and mold concerns. This
> would be pretty destructive, especially compared to pulling out a
> few handfuls of charred straw.
> We have lots to test and learn on these questions.
> Derek Roff
> Language Learning Center
> Ortega Hall 129, MSC03-2100
> University of New Mexico
> Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001
> 505/277-7368, fax 505/277-3885
> Internet: derek at unm.edu
> --On Wednesday, April 1, 2009 8:27 PM -0600 john rehorn
> <rehorn at frontier.net> wrote:
>> Hi everybody,
>> I've been reading all of your input with great interest. All told,
>> would you say an insurance underwriter, if so educated, would raise
>> or lower premiums based on this anecdotal information? Seems as
>> though we have a superior fire rating as far as hours of safety go,
>> but our material poses a real problem for conventional firefighting
>> after all the humans and animals are safely out of the house.
>> Apologies for my lack of command of firefighting terminology.
>> Just got off the phone with Jeff Webb of the Boulder County Rural
>> Fire Department. The lead investigator was from the Boulder
>> Sheriff's office and reported to Jeff. Jeff said he was told it was
>> a pain in the butt to put out the fire because the walls were
>> smoldering and rather than being able to peel off drywall and/or
>> exterior sheathing and extinguish the fire without pulling down
>> structural members, the structural members themselves (the bales) had
>> to be pulled down, chopped apart and extinguished. Jeff bemoaned the
>> fact that more of the building had to be destroyed than if it were
>> conventionally built. Of course the firefighters knew nothing of Don
>> Fisher's sb fire extinguishing tool or method, and it would be hard
>> to convince any firefighter to leave a smoldering wall up and relying
>> solely on heat imaging technology.
>> It sounds like we have an immense education challenge ahead of us.
>> I shudder and lie awake at night to think what firefighters would do
>> to my structural hybrid sb home if I couldn't convince them to stay
>> calm and put out the sb portion of the fire slowly and with
>> precision. It makes me want to go out first thing tomorrow morning
>> and discuss this information with my local fire station and urge them
>> to buy Don Fisher's tool and barring that -- buy it for them. It
>> would be worth the $850. Can one of GSBN veterans tell me what the
>> protocol is on sharing information coming from this network? I guess
>> I feel the info is somewhat sensitive, agreed?
>> Regarding Martin's question about partnering for testing on earth
>> plastered sb walls, I think that the Colorado Straw Bale Association
>> by virtue of our mission statement is obligated to partner in this
>> endeavor. Let it be known, however, that we don't have a lot of
>> money and would need equitable partnership from all interested
>> parties. David E. or Bruce K., wouldn't you be the folks to
>> spearhead the actual testing, while the rest of us contributed
>> finances? Or would it be Don F.
>> Thanks to everyone for this very informative discussion.
>> John Rehorn
>> Executive Director
>> Colorado Straw Bale Association
>> coloradostrawbale at yahoo.com
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