A mobile fire engine might be an element of a fire-safe or fire resilient system but it isn't really a permaculture approach.
Erica Wisner wrote:
Firefighting is a response to an emergency. Like doctoring an injured animal, or watering a wilting crop.
Fire prevention, and fire planning, are design responses to a pattern of predictable effects. Like knowing the needs of the animals so they can stay healthy, or laying out your contours and crop placement so that it doesn't need irrigation.
Controlled burning and fuels removal might be analogous to good breeding by culling the herd, or selective harvesting for drought resistance.
Erica Wisner wrote:
After the Black Belt categories:
I: Red Card: Has basic firefighting training, either wildlands or structural
II: Has firefighting experience on 2 or more fires
III: Has squad or task boss experience (several years on active fires), and is qualified to train others as firefighters
IV: Experience may include IC of fire incidents, local fire chief or department officer, managing teams of firefighters and civilians; special conditions or equipment training.
V: Is qualified to manage extensive firefighting efforts, issue fire-weather warnings, revise training materials, etc.
VI: All that and still improving... beyond my comprehension.
Erica Wisner wrote:
- Reads and makes use of local info sources about fire prevention, fire-wise landscaping, burn bans, etc.
- Spends at least a few hours per week making the house and yard more fire-safe, even if it's just tidying up.
- Has put out campfires with and without water
- Can estimate how long it will take for a fire to burn out in a given setting.
- Has working fire alarms in home - near bedroom doors, near top of stairwell, and on each floor.
- Has already taken care of any valuables or pets that might cause a temptation to run back into the house: fire-resistant storage or duplicate copies for important papers, bug-out bag for key valuables, pet escape door(s), etc.
- Follows weather, burn bans, fire-danger warnings; knows when not to use a chainsaw after 1 pm, etc.
- Knows how to put out an electrical fire. Has a suitable extinguisher to do so. Is almost certain that due to careful, better-than-code maintenance of all electrical wiring, vehicles, and appliances, will never need to do so.
- Can identify location and hazards of any special materials or chemicals in home, and has them stored as safely as possible to prevent fire.
- Has escape routes and meeting points planned - both for home fire, and for evacuation in case of wild fire.
- Has multiple resources for fire info: local fire dept. non-emergency, local weather and fire weather warnings, an online site for emergency info, apps or text alerts.
- Discusses fire-prevention strategies with others in community; supports local firefighting, prevention, and land-use management efforts.
Will Meginley wrote:Firewise.org is a really good resource and the "gold standard" I would use, personally. Not at all unfriendly to permaculture if you put some thought and common sense into it. I wouldn't recommend deviating from the advice listed without a solid understanding of fire behavior and the combustion process.
On that front, Erica Wisner made a very good post in the fire safety PEP1 thread a few months back. I've been meaning to add more to that discussion for a while now, but have been rather busy on several fronts this summer. When I do add stuff it will probably be to that thread, because it would take me forever just to catch this thread up with that one - let alone add to it. For what follows, this simple mini-lesson will suffice:
The combustion process requires three inputs to begin and sustain itself: oxygen, heat, and fuel. Take away any one of these three things and the process stops. All forms of firefighting are methods of removing one or more of them. Spraying water on a fire removes heat. Digging or bulldozing firelines around a fire removes fuel. Aerial fire retardant removes both if applied correctly. Oxygen removal really isn't effective except in confined spaces that can be closed off. (And woe be unto you if you are caught therein!) Halon fire extinguishers inside aircraft engine compartments are one such system. As a permaculturist, you have the most control over heat and fuel. (Through irrigation and design/"yard hygiene," respectively.)
elle sagenev wrote:Anyway, the question is, how would you protect your property from fire in a permaculture way?
The best way for you to protect your property from fire the permaculture way is to design your landscape in such a way that NO ONE has to do ANYTHING to protect it, except check in on it every once in a while to make sure nothing is going wrong. You cannot depend on anyone being home and , frankly, if you are not a trained firefighter we don't WANT you home. I said it in the other thread and I will re-emphasize it here. Firefighting is NOT (underlined five times in blood-red ink) a DIYer-friendly activity. If you want to help fight fire on your own land join your local VFD or prescribed fire council and get the proper training. Otherwise grab your emergency bag and GO. If you don't, at minimum you waste our time convincing you to leave and/or babysitting you. At worst you do something stupid and get yourself killed before we even show up. If you followed the firewise guidelines your land will pretty much defend itself - that's what they were designed for. The fact that so many people don't follow them is what makes our job increasingly difficult with each passing year.
Others have already given you suggestions on how to design your landscape. Everything listed here so far has been solid advice for the most part. Most of Alder's suggestions are very similar to the firewise recommendations. I wouldn't be surprised if that's where they came from.
elle sagenev wrote:Our land is quite settled. I suppose the good thing is that our driveway is on the wind side of our house. So there is that for fire protection. I think we were wondering if there was a way to protect the whole property. Like a road or moat or something clear around. Plus if we got a moat I'd probably become quite fabulous, or insane, it's up in the air.
First, a question. Do you need to defend the whole property, or just the buildings and gardens? What type of fuels do you have? (short grass, tall grass, brush, forest? How much dead, woody material is lying around?)
Depending on the fuels, a simple dirt foot path 18 - 36 inches wide might be sufficient to stop a ground fire. Wind-blown embers won't even waste the time to laugh at that, which is where irrigating the zone immediately around the home, "yard hygiene," and building materials come into play.
elle sagenev wrote:I laughed at pines and such being a bad tree choice. It's the main one for tree lines around these parts and ours is 4 lines deep in pines. Bugger it all!
Pines in and of themselves are not bad at all. Nor are other conifers like spruce and fir. The key is not to have them too close to the house, and - more importantly - not to have any branches lower than 8ft from the ground. They ARE more apt to cause severe fire behavior if fire gets into the crown than most broadleaf trees, which I think was Alder's point.
Alder Burns wrote:I think that statistically, more structures are lost to ember fallout and wind-driven embers than to the actual direct spread of flames.
Correct. The biggest culprits are firewood stacks, leaves in gutters, seat cushions on patio furniture, and door mats. If you're following the firewise guidelines, your house should never receive direct flame contact. If you aren't, one of these things will catch on fire and then your house WILL receive direct flame contact - but not from the wildfire.
Dale Hodgins wrote:A roof covered in soil, could prevent much of the damage that occur each year. Adobe houses present very few opportunities for fire to damage them.
A living roof will burn like any other field of grass, but the underlying soil would insulate most of the rest of the house from the heat. I'd still be worried about wind eddying embers down from the roof against the walls, onto the patio, or into open windows. Adobe and other masonry materials are indeed about as safe as you can get, from a fire protection standpoint. And for the love of all things holy, don't use wood shingle siding/roofing in a fire prone area unless you're comfortable with the idea of a "disposable house" - because that's what you're creating. Hell, even asphalt tiles would be better than wood shingles. (One of the few reasons I would ever have for saying so)
Dale Hodgins wrote:Areas overrun with sage brush are particularly flammable.
Agreed. Under the right conditions, I've seen 3ft sage brush fields produce 200+ ft flame lengths. Chaparral and palmetto thickets are other deceptively flammable areas. Which reminds me of one suggestion that might not readily occur to most permaculturists. I know it's very convenient to have the herbs close to the kitchen door. However, most herbs from the Mediterranean region come from VERY fire prone areas. The oils/chemicals that make them so aromatic and flavorful also make them highly flammable. Think of them as the sage brush of southern Italy. If you keep them near the house, keep them at least 10-15 ft from the house on the downwind side - preferably on the other side of a stone patio - and keep them trimmed well back.
Will Meginley wrote:
Alder Burns wrote:I can see the point about evacuating from a regional fire, where there is advance warning, but my main danger here is from the road not far from the house. A fire from that sector (a cigarette butt, a trailer chain dragging sparks, etc.) will be up the bank and in our front yard in a heartbeat.....way faster than the fire department can get here and perhaps even faster than we could get the car out. So the main gardens and the fruit trees are out there, and the woodchip pile and wood shed even further out, sprinklers on the roof, and a generator...
If you water your gardens and lawn they will not burn readily. (The water in the plants must be boiled off before they will combust, which reduces heat.) If you practice good yard hygiene there will be little to burn. If you maintain a 3ft buffer of bare soil, gravel, or pavement that is free of weeds around it, your wood chip pile and woodshed are safe from anything except blowing embers. And really, how expensive is it to replace a pile of wood chips? Certainly less expensive than pretty much any medical bill, I would think. A layer of gravel in the 3ft immediately adjacent to the house and other structures would also be good practice.
This brings up another good point, however. You may not be able to get out. Perhaps the fire is blocking the only road out of your neighborhood, or even your driveway. For such an eventuality you also need at least one (more is better) "safety zone," which is an area where a human being can survive the passage of a fire without the aid of protective devices or clothing. Ideally this would be somewhere free of fuel but that seldom ever happens, so somewhere open with short grass or other stuff that burns mildly and doesn't give off much residual heat afterwards will work. Meadows and flood plains work very well. Rock screes and avalanche chutes can also be possibilities. The exact size these zones need to be is highly variable, based on the local fuels and weather. The textbook answer is that, at minimum, if you're standing in the middle of the safety zone the distance between you and the edge of the safety zone should be 4x the expected flame height. That's for flat ground. If you're on a slope you need even more distance on the downhill side to protect against convective heat. Obviously, to know the expected flame height you have to have a pretty good understanding of fire behavior. Your best bet would be to contact your local fire authorities and find out what they would recommend. This area doesn't necessarily need to be on your property, but you have to be able to get to it quickly. On foot. Having a backup safety zone is also good, because nothing guarantees the route to your primary safety zone won't be blocked, either. (Particularly if it's down the road on a neighbor's land)
Either way, my advice still stands: If you can't put it out within the first 2-3 minutes with a shovel and a garden hose GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. To a safety zone, out of the neighborhood, wherever. It's just stuff. People might be worth dying for, but no stuff will ever be. And if there are little people in the house worth dying for, drop the hose and take them to the safety zone - because they won't be smart enough to go there themselves when you get burned over.