Sunday, April 17, 2011

2011 Wildland Fire Season Safety Message: Watchout Situation #1

Watchout Situation #1 comes up during initial attack and every time resources arrive at a fire.
Before taking action on the fire, the following considerations must be addressed:
• Can you personally observe the fire or must you use scouts? Describe ways you can scout and size up a
• Do you know the location of the fire perimeter? Discuss situations in which the fire perimeter may not
be obvious. (Spotty fires, etc.)
• Do you know the direction of fire spread? When isn’t the direction of fire spread obvious? (Wind shifts,
spotty fires, etc.)
• Does the direction of fire spread increase risk? Talk about situations where you may have to approach
the head of the fire. (Hiking down from a helispot, approaching from an existing road, switching winds,
• Do you know the fuels and their condition? What kind of information will you assume from what you
already know about fuel types? (Spot fires in fir, extreme fire potential in flashy fuels, etc.)
• Are there aerial resources that can act as lookouts?
• Do topographic hazards exist? What can you assume from what kind of terrain the fire covers? (Slope,
chimneys, aspect, etc.)
• Does enough information exist to establish a plan of attack? When do you have enough information to
begin fighting fire? What do you need to know?
• Do other dangers exist? Have you talked about factors specific to the area you are working in?
(Hunters in the woods, drought, snag patches, etc.)
To reduce the risks:
• Post lookouts until the fire is sized up and escape routes and safety zones are established.
• Retreat if the situation is too complex. Review fires where you had to wait until the area in which you
were assigned to work was scouted and sized up before you were allowed onto the fireline.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

News: Fire gels - Emerging fire fighting business

Insurers adding fire-retardant gel as policy option

“We are seeing more of that kind of above-and-beyond service in high-end markets,” said Candysse Miller, executive director of the Insurance Information Network of California.

But as a new wildfire season approaches, some public safety officials worry that private firefighting programs could interfere with their efforts to combat flames. Other observers worry that two tiers of fire protection may be emerging: one for the general population and one for the affluent.

“We are totally sensitive to homeowners wanting to ensure protection of their properties based on the last two major fires, the Cedar and the Witch Creek,” said Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. “Protection, in their minds, was somewhat lacking. But in the course of doing this, we don't want to see more problems created than are solved by private fire-protection services.”

Under AIG's program, which began here in 2005, Oregon-based Firebreak Spray Systems sprays liquid fire retardant around endangered homes in some of the region's most expensive neighborhoods. Chubb said its new program is aimed at properties insured for $1 million or more.

Still another player on the scene is Pacific Fire Guard of Westlake Village, which plans to enter the market in time for this year's fire season. The company is in negotiations with Fireman's Fund, which soon will offer fire-prevention spraying service as part of its homeowner's policies.

“We will offer it to all policyholders,” said Fireman's Fund spokeswoman Janet Ruiz. “Our target market is $1 million or more” in insured property per household.

Insurance companies need not be in conflict with public agencies, said Sam DiGiovanna, a veteran firefighter who serves as chief of the Firebreak response program.

“We adhere to proper procedures,” he said. “We don't break rules. We are not just out there freelancing. We check in. If whoever is running the fire thinks it's too dangerous to go into a particular area, we don't go into that area.”

Kevin O'Leary, a division chief for Cal Fire, sees pros and cons. Some homeowners who tend to remain during dangerous wildfires might be more willing to evacuate if they knew their homes were protected by private crews with fire retardants, he said.

“The key to it is communications with us so we know that the engines are out there (and) where they are,” O'Leary said.

Firebreak owner Jim Aamondt said the expansion of housing into wildland areas has overburdened fire departments and created a niche for businesses like his throughout the West.

“The number of homes in the wildland-urban interface is growing,” he said. “They are high-value homes in high-risk areas.”

Companies that spray fire retardants and gels emphasize that their products are safe for the environment.

Nicolas Retsinas, director of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, said buying an insurance policy that offers supplemental fire protection is no different than hiring private security guards or sending your children to private schools.

But Samuel Kang, legal counsel to the Greenlining Institute, which advocates for low-income and minority communities, said insurance companies should offer the same services in all communities.

“It seems like insurance is increasingly becoming a tool for people who are at upper-income levels, which is unfortunate,” Kang said.

Gabe del Rio, president of the Housing Opportunities Collaborative, a consortium of housing counseling agencies, said the new fire-prevention service makes sense for insurance companies, which have a lot to lose when expensive homes are destroyed.

The Chubb Group is making its service available in 13 states. An annual Chubb premium on a homeowner's policy for $1 million in coverage in the San Diego region could be $3,500, depending on location and other factors, said spokesman Mark Schussel. The program, which will be administered by Montana-based Wildfire Defense Systems, will use a gel compound that works best when applied hours before a fire approaches.

There are several thousand AIG homeowner's insurance customers in the county who now receive fire-prevention services through Firebreak Spray Systems' Private Client Group, Aamondt said.

Ventura County entrepreneur Bill Kneebusch said his company, Pacific Fire Guard, is preparing to spray a fire-blocking gel from specially designed trucks throughout Southern California.

“We are currently in the process of negotiating a deal with Fireman's Fund Insurance Company,” he said. “We are starting the fire season with just four pieces of equipment . . . I am funded, and I am rolling forward whether I have an insurance company or not.”

Kneebusch said he will begin signing up customers in San Diego County on May 1. If offered independently from a homeowner's insurance policy, he said, his service will cost about $1,800 per year for a standard-size home.


Friday, March 14, 2008

San Diego County to buy fire-resistant gel kits

SAN DIEGO – A fire-resistant gel credited for limiting the devastation caused by the Poomacha fire in October is going to get even more use in the future.

County supervisors Tuesday approved spending $80,000 in taxpayer-funded community project grants to buy 290 home kits of the gel for the Palomar Mountain Volunteer Fire Department.

The gel can be used on buildings, equipment and vegetation in a fire emergency.

Supervisor Bill Horn allocated the money from the $2 million in community project funds he is allowed to distribute in his district each year. The kits will be distributed between eight fire councils in North County.


Fire foam contaminates water supply

Fire Gel: Fire foam contaminates water supply

Fire trucks' water pressure overwhelmed the city's drinking supply lines and pushed fire-suppression foam into them as firefighters tried to extinguish a burning Strip District warehouse, Pittsburgh's director of public safety said Wednesday.

Two pumper trucks were connected to fire hydrants for a long time Tuesday afternoon, said Public Safety Director Mike Huss, and as the pressure built up in the truck lines, it overwhelmed the drinking water lines' force.

"It's highly unusual, and we're surprised that it did it," Huss said.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority advised people Downtown and in the Strip District not to use water for a few hours into yesterday morning, until the foam could be flushed from the system.

Ingesting less than an ounce of the biodegradable foam wouldn't pose a health threat, but it can irritate skin and eyes, said Bob Hutton, a project coordinator for the authority. Callers began complaining about soapy-looking water Tuesday afternoon.

Firefighters allowed the four-alarm fire, which started Tuesday morning in the former Otto Milk Co. complex at 25th and Smallman streets, to burn overnight because of difficulties extinguishing it in cork- and foam-insulated walls. The building continued smoldering yesterday.

Fire Chief Darryl Jones said he had not seen the foam problem in the 20 years he has fought fires.

"We are going to make some adjustments to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.

The fire apparently started when a construction crew's cutting torch ignited insulation in the building, the construction crew manager said. The building's owner, Jack Benoff, was gutting the building and plans to convert it to condominiums.

Source: Full story and updates at:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fire gel credited with saving homes

HOT SPRINGS, S.D. (AP) Firefighters say a super-absorbing gel can save many homes that are now lost in forest fires.

The gel helps water stick to houses.

A system that quickly coats a house has been developed by a veteran Black Hills firefighter.

Gorden Sabo (SAY'-boh) says the gel system which is being marketed to fire departments in several states has proved to be reliable and has saved at least 150 homes so far this year.

State Wildland Fire Suppression Coordinator Joe Lowe (LOH) says fire gel works.

Lowe says it's not more widely used because it's not well-known and the firefighting sector is steeped in a culture that does not readily embrace new technology.

Fire engines in the Black Hills carry gel that was supplied by the state a few years ago

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

New fire-retardant gel can save homes - Yahoo! News

New fire-retardant gel can save homes - Yahoo! News:

In this photo released by Steve Blote, Gorden Sabo points a torch at his finger to show other firefighters the effectiveness of a protective fire gel near Custer, S.D., May 18, 2007,. Fire gels can be used to quickly coat homes and save them from forest fires. (AP Photo/Steve Blote)
AP Photo: In this photo released by Steve Blote, Gorden Sabo points a torch at his finger...

By JOE KAFKA, Associated Press Writer Tue Oct 9, 2:50 PM ET

HOT SPRINGS, S.D. - It was the most intense fire ever recorded in the Black Hills National Forest, but nearly all homes coated with a slimy gel were saved while dozens of houses nearby burned to the ground.

The gel was a super-absorbent polymer that can hold many times its weight in water and clings well to vertical surfaces and glass. It is mixed with water and then can be sprayed on homes with a truck-mounted hose or a backpack apparatus, or dropped from a plane.

The substance is relatively new to firefighting, having been developed about a decade ago, and is not widely used. But some firefighters who have tried it are impressed, saying it offers longer-lasting protection than the foam retardants that have been around for many years.

"This stuff really works," Ed Waggoner of Reno, Nev., a retired California fire boss who now helps direct attacks on large forest fires in the Black Hills. "We're talking about a water bubble that you put on your house two or three hours before the fire gets there, and it'll save it when the fire gets there."

Kim Zagaris, fire chief in the California Office of Emergency Services, said all 122 of the fire trucks under his command carry gel. And county officials in San Diego recently gave the Palomar Mountain volunteer fire department a grant to buy gel that residents can spray on their homes.

In the last decade, thousands of homes — mostly in Rocky Mountain and Western states — have been destroyed by wildfires. Many were ignited by embers that rained down on them well ahead of the flames.

Foam stands up to the heat from fire for only 15 minutes or so, while gel can protect for several hours, and can withstand direct flames, according to firefighters. And the gel — a few hundred dollars' worth can save a home — can be replenished with water merely by misting it every few hours. It is biodegradable and can be washed off with a hose or a pressure sprayer.

Some firefighters say gel is not more widely used because it is still new, the firefighting industry can be slow to embrace new technology, and the backpack sprayers can be slow and unreliable at higher altitudes.

In the July wildfire that destroyed 33 homes near Hot Springs, a Black Hills tourist town, electrician and volunteer firefighter Gorden Sabo helped spray 27 homes with gel. Twenty-five of them withstood the blaze, he said.

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