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Slave Lake- What did / didn't burn?

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  • Slave Lake- What did / didn't burn?

    I haven't heard or read anything about what houses and buildings burned and didn't burn. I'm wondering what lessons will be learned and what possible building code changes might come of it.

    I have heard of talk of fire breaks around towns, houses, etc. but with embers travelling on 100 kph winds I don't know if that would or could have prevented multiple outbreaks downwind in a case like this overwhelming firefighters.

    I do recall reading an interesting story a number of years ago about the big LA and area fires where one man (an engineer) had used fireproof materials and building techniques in building his family's house and it was the ONLY house not burned to the ground on the entire hillside. (His house was apparently unscathed by the fire.)

    In Edmonton, I know there's been calls for banning vinyl siding, etc.

    So what building lessons can be learned from the Slave Lake fire?

  • #2
    Originally posted by KC View Post
    So what building lessons can be learned from the Slave Lake fire?
    Don't build a town in the middle of a forest unless you have a 10 mile wide fire break surrounding said community.
    Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far / shine on you crazy diamond

    Comment


    • #3
      Interesting and current (May 21, 2011 - mentions the Slave Lake fire)

      http://forestindustries.eu/content/f...ings-not-trial

      A number of links...
      http://www.bcbuildinginfo.com/displa...1&topic_id=803

      Comment


      • #4
        If I was building a house, it would be stucco, I'd love to do clay tile, of course wood trim and other places can still burn but the chances are very reduced.

        Slave Lake
        http://alberta.ca/home/documents/TOS...200Signed2.pdf

        South Shore Subdivision
        http://alberta.ca/home/documents/dam...0amSigned2.pdf

        Poplar Lane Subdivision
        http://alberta.ca/home/documents/dam...0amSigned2.pdf

        Comment


        • #5
          Um, stucco is a facade trim, isn't it?

          You'd need a non-wood structure throughout, and a minimally-flammable roof to boot.

          And even so, a whirlwind of fire would probably just go down through the flues and ignite the interiors?

          Firebreaks seem the only possible option.

          I wonder if there's some safe method for booby-trapping the forest near a town to have it quickly razed if necessary when fire approaches, sort of the way they mine buildings and bridges in wartime for demolition during an orderly retreat.... Nah, that seems a bit like science fiction.
          Last edited by alex69; 26-05-2011, 03:00 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            I thought a few of the comments from this forum thread were interesting...

            http://forums.finehomebuilding.com/b...ywallsheetrock
            excerpts:

            "by HeavyDuty in reply to Anonymous [original] on Sat, 01/29/2005 - 07:05
            ...There was a discussion in FHB I believe may be couple of years ago about exterior house design that stood up in real test of California wildfire. There were pictures of houses that survived after the fire swept through while the surrounding houses were turned into ashes."


            "by CJD in reply to Anonymous [original] on Sat, 01/29/2005 - 20:01
            I have studied California wildfires a fair bit and found that the most important design element is to eliminate fuel near the structure exterior - including your firewood storage, propane tank, vehicles, outbuildings, and vegetation. I am installing an underground propane tank for fire safety and the planning department will allow it outside of my building envelope.

            The second most important is to use roofing and siding that is non-combustible AND make the structure as close to monolithic as possible. High thermal mass also helps. There have been plenty of stucco houses with tile roofs that survive wildfires and burn down well after the firestorm passes. Apparently, burning embers are blown under tiles, into vents, and under siding that smolder unseen and burn the house down from the inside hours later.
            In this case a residential fire system would be of some value if you also protected attics. It is also useful if a window fails during the relatively sort time it takes for a firestorm to pass.

            Monolithic features also make good energy efficiency. Casement windows, HRVs, and good sealing practices around penetrations.

            The most wildfire resistant structures have:
            * A high mass exterior like conventional stucco. The stucco will have to absorb a lot of heat energy before studs would ignite. Adobe, rammed earth, ICF, underground, gunited concrete domes, and concrete block are also good. Rigid insulation like EPS will melt in a low oxygen environment rather than burn, but has to get very hot. I am using ICF.
            * A mechanically interlocked metal roof (like a double-lock standing seam) on top of an unvented vaulted roof structure (like SIPs)
            * A slab or sealed crawl space.
            * Oh yeah, and sit in the middle of a concrete parking lot about this size of Costco's. Can you get a clear cut permit?
            Edited 1/29/2005 1:10 pm ET by CJD"

            Comment


            • #7
              Even stone buildings burn, of course its the timbers inside supporting the roof and floors or the furniture, rugs, draperies, but the old cement style stucco does offer more protection than vinyl siding, I'm not sure how well acrylic stucco holds up to fire.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by alex69 View Post
                Um, stucco is a facade trim, isn't it?

                ...I wonder if there's some safe method for booby-trapping the forest near a town to have it quickly razed if necessary when fire approaches, sort of the way they mine buildings and bridges in wartime for demolition during an orderly retreat.... Nah, that seems a bit like science fiction.
                I have no idea. As is, I imagine fire breaks consist of a low growing crop or grass. Flying embers may ignite the crop (or grass) and burn back towards the fire reducing the main fire's ability to rapidly threaten a town with it's full force, in an unmanageable way as it seems to have done to Slave Lake.

                In Slave Lake the high winds must have rapidly spread hot embers for kilometres and across dozens of homes and yards at the same time. I'd heard stories of people looking out their windows and seeing bushes in their back yards and neighbours' garages and homes being on fire.

                I've never thought of this but even in Edmonton could a fire reach the scale where high winds spread it faster than resources could be deployed to slow it? (Say a major river valley fire moving along the banks and into the neighbourhoods along side.)
                Last edited by KC; 26-05-2011, 04:08 PM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  My project, Town Hall/Library/Prov and Muni Offices burned 2/3 down


                  Ottawa-Edmonton-Vancouver-Edmonton

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Ian that was your project? I left the Town just before they moved into it. It's going to be a pain for the Town just to get to any normalcy. Land Base files room was probably obliterated despite the fact it was a protected fire room.

                    There was a big fire about 3 years ago on the southshore of Slave Lake. Not 100km/hr winds, but it did burn through the smaller communites west of town (mostly of the acreage type). Not 1 single house burned down. They attributed that to people keeping their houses clear of anything flammable, debris, and trees. Seemed like the fire just passed right by them.

                    I doubt any sort of building code would've saved any homes. Seems like that fire was unstoppable with the winds.

                    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/...291/story.html

                    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/enter...705/story.html

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      ^it was indeed. Very sad.


                      Ottawa-Edmonton-Vancouver-Edmonton

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by KC View Post
                        I've never thought of this but even in Edmonton could a fire reach the scale where high winds spread it faster than resources could be deployed to slow it? (Say a major river valley fire moving along the banks and into the neighbourhoods along side.)

                        Good question. Of course it hasn't happened so far as we know. But we're much drier, warmer, and with less wetland than in most of even the historical period.

                        I suspect if it did happen, it would be the last such fire, much as the c. 1910 (1908??) fire along the Pembina around Barrhead and Westlock was the last forest fire there because it cleared the land for cultivation and there was no forest left to burn.

                        The block or two that burned out in west Ellerslie three or so years ago is scary if you think of how many other overbuilt vynil-sided shingle-roofed subdivisions there are in the city. Of course it's totally insignificant compared to what Slave Lake had to go through. But it's not just Slave Lake, is it? Look at how often there've been fires in the Okanogan in the last decade.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          How to Build a Fireproof Home
                          By: AMY R. HUGHES AND MARK POWERS, This Old House online
                          http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/arti...153991,00.html

                          A Fireproof House for $5000
                          ESTIMATED TO COST THAT AMOUNT IN CHICAGO, AND DESIGNED ESPECIALLY FOR THE JOURNAL
                          by Frank Lloyd Wright, Ladies Home Journal, April 1907
                          http://www.antiquehomestyle.com/plan...-fireproof.htm

                          Is it possible to build a fireproof house?
                          30 October, 2007 4:35PM AEDT
                          By Fiona Parker
                          The myths and the facts about what makes a house burn.
                          http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/...30/2076006.htm



                          This 'fireproof' paint was in the news years ago
                          (I've always planned to buy some if I/when I build a new house or to put on the cabins and out buildings at the lake.)

                          Seems to me that fire resistant coatings like this should be in the building code to be sprayed on all wood frame
                          construction before the sheathing is applied.

                          See the videos / news reports...
                          http://www.nofire.com/index.shtml

                          .
                          Last edited by KC; 27-05-2011, 08:00 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Excellent article... (I hope it gets distributed to and discussed by anyone building in our rural communities.)



                            "The home.. was called a "miracle house" by the Los Angeles Times..."




                            http://www.finehomebuilding.com/how-...t-details.aspx

                            "Why did some survive in the midst of charred destruction?
                            The home of To Bui and Doris Bender was called a "miracle house" by the Los Angeles Times because of its dramatic survival in a neighborhood almost totally devastated by the fire. Why did this trilevel structure and a few others like it survive while neighbors' homes on all sides, sometimes no more than 10 ft. or 15 ft. away, burned to the ground?

                            "It's in the details," Bui insists. He knows about such details. Originally from Vietnam, he lived and worked as a structural engineer in Germany for more than 10 years. There, the predominant building materials are concrete, stone, brick and steel. "In Germany, structures are designed to last hundreds of years," he said. "I built my house to last." He insists his Laguna home is not overbuilt. "It's just that whatever the minimum codes called for, I went a little further."

                            For example,..."


                            Page 4 excerpt:

                            "Code officials take lessons from the surviving structures
                            Rich DuBerry is not the only official impressed by the houses that survived. In Laguna Beach, architects and building officials convened an emergency task force to discuss lessons that could be learned from the devastating fires. Headed by the Laguna Beach Building Department's John Gustafson, the task force called attention to the hazards of building beside Southern California's dry wildland areas and to what builders and homeowners can do to defend structures against future fires.

                            The report, which draws from examples of miracle houses and from field observations and analysis of fire experiences across the state, generally recommends that houses be built or retrofitted to withstand as much as one hour of fire conditions on the magnitude of the Laguna Beach blaze.

                            Task-force recommendations include: ..."
                            Last edited by KC; 01-06-2011, 10:29 AM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Fire-resistant homes are being built in California, and here’s some of the features they'll have - StamfordAdvocate


                              “ Napa-based architect Brendan Kelly says it will be "impregnable" using prefabricated steel framing wrapped in noncombustible insulation from Canada-based homebuilding company BONE Structure.

                              "When a very hot, fast-moving wildfire moves through a zone, the point is the building is more secure so it doesn't allow embers to get into nooks and crannies where they can combust," says Kelly of Kelly + Morgan Architects. "Eliminating things like vents in a BONE Structure house is easy because of the way it goes together with steel and spray insulation."...

                              https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/new...n-14804642.php

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