saving your home from wildfire

After seeing this article, and many other like it over the years, I wondered if it would be posible to design a sprinkler system around one’s home that would have enough power to protect it from such a fire. I suspect that the desert-like areas described in the article would would make the endeavor close to impossible, as I am sure it would require lots and lots of water. Would the amount of water needed be the limiting factor? Or the ability to move it fast enough? Or both? What if you had a 100K gallon tank and a big diesel-powered pump, and a bunch of big sprinklers, like from a golf gourse arrayed around the home (on top as well?). Would the water merely steam away when the flames came close enough? How about a staggered array of nozzles, some farther away to help keep the really hot stuff away? Has this been tried and failed?

Are you thinking that wildfires spread only via the ground? They don’t.

It would be really tough to stop the airborn cinders (small, medium and sometimes very large chunks of burning stuff) that plop down from above and start a new fire.

Don’t know if it’s been tried before or not. Here is a page from BIFC with a list of things to do to reduce risk.

You can build the house out of things that don’t burn (brick, stucco), you can roof it with things that don’t burn (title, fiberglass). You can limit the exposure to flying embers by covering the vents to the attic, and assuming that you clear combustible material away from the house, you have an excellent chance of saving your house even without sprinklers.
Landscaping with ice plant is a wonderful idea in a fire area.

I’m sure it could be done; if you have enough water and can distribute it properly; keep everything wetted down and even airborne cinders are going to get quenched as they drop. I remember seeing a picture (I think it was in the National Geographic) about a guy who went onto his house roof with a hose during a wildfire and kept wetting everything down - the photograph showed his house standing relatively unscathed, amid the charred ruins of his neighbours’ houses.

Of course he was probably taking an unacceptably high risk - a little more serious a fire and he’d have collapsed from heat exhaustion, or not had sufficient water to keep it at bay and perished amid the flames, but if you’ve got an essentially unlimited water supply and a way to deliver it evenly and fairly quickly over your entire house, you should be able to stop it from catching fire under even quite serious conditions.
The water won’t protect it from the radiant heat of nearby fires though, so things could still get very scorched, perhaps even enough to ignite curtains inside windows etc (I suppose you could install drop-down reflective shutters).

“having enough water” is a simple thing to say but I wonder how it would take? And is is a guess as to how mcuh water would need to be delivered to keep a really raging fire at bay?

Following the suggestions in the link danceswithcats supplied combined with some kind of water delivery system seems like a great idea. I’m going to go work out a plan right now. I’m thinking that having enough water will be the hard part. A big ass pump and a bunch of hoses etc is just a matter of assembly, but what to do when the water is gone? Hmmmm…

Thanks for the responses.

Your home sprinkler system is predicated on the size of the water main to your house. The fire dept hooks up to that same main. There have been cases where individual home owners, attempting to save their houses have put so much strain on the system, there was nothing left for the fire dept to protect the periphery. The home owners could not protect against the main fire so everyone lost.
I believe that was part of what happened in the Berkeley Hills fire near Oakland Ca several years ago.

It took a while to find it-here’s the story of a retiree who beat the forest fire and saved his home in New Mexico. Scroll down past the gov’t yapping to read the story.

An excellent story, danceswithcats, thanks! So, I suppose my theory is possible, especially if you have a good supply of water, a good pump, a good coat and you’re a retired fire fighter and know how to fight fires. :wink:

That’s the critical thing. In many high fire areas, dudes insist on covering their roofs with kindling wood. :eek:

In the big Oakland fire, there were many pictures of “solo homes saved by some miracle, when all around them were burnt to the ground”. That mysterious “some miracle”? Tile roof.

Steel or tile. Cut back the undergrowth, get rid of the brush.

I give you the Monsoon Structure Protection System. I cannot vouch for it’s effectiveness, however, as I’ve never actually used one.

When I worked for the forest service in Minnesota, we carried a sprinkler system on the engine. It wasn’t uncommon for us to contain a fire, do limited mop up, then set up a sprinkler system, running on a portable pump, leave it for the night and then come back to finish mop up and break down the sprinkler set up. It was very effective and allowed us to use fewer resources on fires. This system depends on having a fairly large water supply readily available, however. It worked great in Northeast Minnesota, but I doubt it would work so well in the mountain West.

[public service announcement]
Defensible space, people! About 100’. Also, as DrDeth stated, roof construction is huge, too. Visit[/PSA]

St. Urho
Wildland Firefighter, Type I

I recall seeing on TV (PBS or the Discovery Channel, or Learning Channel) a story about someone who had developed a foam that you’d spray on a house near a fire. It used some water, but not a huge amount. The foam coated the house and stayed in place for hours, so it kept cinders from setting the roof on fire.

The stuff was tested with a real house and real fire, and seemed to work pretty well. There may have been some work involved in clearning up afterward, but compared to losing your house, who cares?

:confused: What am I chopped liver? See post #4

Maybe more of a foie gras.

I did quote you and agreed with you, but then expanded on your post. What the problem? :confused:

Many retardants and other water additives exist. Here’s one list.

My comment was directed at St. Urho not you. :slight_smile: I just realised that I grabbed the wrong quote for my post. My bad. :smack:

I did miss that. Sorry.

Would a standard-sized in ground pool be a large enough water source? It would alleviate worries about impacting the firemen’s water supply.

It depends on how long you want to run it and the pump output. It would certainly work for a while, having a swimming pool is a big plus for structure protection, because fire engines can draft out of it.