Protecting Homes From the Outside
The following material applies to the protection of structures from the outside. It does not deal with structures that already have fires burning inside them.
Oakland in 2003
Scenario: My devices (described below) are not installed in the houses of Oakland most vulnerable to nearby forest fires and brush fires. A wildland fire spreads to some homes—or there's a wiring flaw in Joe Blow's suburban home and it ignites and nobody's home, so it gets out of control and starts neighboring homes ablaze as well. People call the fire department. But high winds that day start 10 additional homes ablaze before any help arrives, and unfortunately 37 more are burned before the fires are contained. 47 x $350,000 (probable average replacement cost for this area) is over 16 million bucks. The insurance companies are not the only ones wishing there'd been a more effective response to the fire; everyone else will too, especially the relatives of Granny Green—she didn't make it to safety.
Now let's rerun this scenario:
My devices (described below) are installed in the houses of Oakland that are most vulnerable to nearby forest fires and brush fires. And when, whether from faulty wiring, adjacent forest fires or canyon brush fires, the flames start up, my devices—Fire Blankets—will save the day—though they will not necessarily save the landscape vegetation and perhaps not even the decks. Many new homes for sale include fire blankets and recognize their importance to fire safety.
A canyon brush fire has started. The neighborhood is alerted. The occupants of the vulnerable homes do a few simple tasks and they can rest secure that their homes will be protected no matter how close the flames get to them. First they push a button or two, then they do a couple of tasks on the outside of their houses and voilà, their homes are enveloped in a secure blanket of protection that flames and heat cannot penetrate.
Note: The only difference between this canyon brush fire scenario and the one that starts inside Joe Blow's house because of bad wiring is that in the former the media or cops with bullhorns or sirens will give the advance warning, whereas in the latter Joe's neighbors are likely to see fire and smell smoke and immediately get their Fire Blanket rollers unrolling before they call 911, which Joe probably did already anyhow. In either case, if occupants aren't home, their Fire Blankets could activate from smoke detection devices or radio-controlled blanket-operating devices (like garage door openers) given to trusted neighbors.
What Is It? And How Does It Work?
Basically the Fire Blanket is a large blanket made of the most fireproof and heat proof material that is available or can be made. I surmise that it will be made from either the fabric firefighters wear, possibly from the same fabric that astronauts wear, or whatever type of fabric or foil (aluminized Mylar? Nomex? Turnout material?—which is a firefighter garment) is best for the job of keeping fire from harming houses and perhaps from even harming some shrubs and small trees.
No one scrambles around trying to throw a blanket over a house that's in the line of fire. The Fire Blanket is already installed on the home and it is always ready to be deployed. It is released by pushing a button (or maybe a few buttons, depending on the installation). Then (also depending on the type of installation) the homeowner will go outside and clip a few spring-lock hooks to ground anchors to complete the deployment.
All installations protect the nondeployed Fire Blanket inside protective roller cylinders, which may be aluminum or other protective all-weather, fireproof material. When the deployment button is pushed the rolled-up blankets descend or ascend from their protective cylinders and envelope the house. The roller cylinders at roof edges (like aluminum foil dispensers or roll-up movie screens used in schools) will include rain gutters that are built into them, and will replace current rain gutter arrangements.
Since fire or heat could take out a nearby power pole or destroy underground cables, rechargeable battery backup systems must be in place to support blanket roller motor operation. Since the Computer Age is here, such systems are becoming more and more common for both computers and security alarm systems-one could just use one system for two or three purposes.
There are many ways a Fire Blanket can be installed on a house. Below are a few of the possibilities. See the section of our site called Fire Blanket Plans for drawings and detailed descriptions.
1. Fire Blanket cylinders would be installed to replace gutters-these arrangements would include gutters and Fire Blanket cylinders containing Fire Blankets that deploy to the ground. Additional Fire Blanket cylinders would be installed at the roof peak and the blankets would descend from the roof peak to the roof edges. On the nonguttered sides of the house, the Fire Blanket cylinder would be installed under the sloped roof overhang and the blanket would deploy downward to the ground.
2. Fire Blanket cylinders would be installed at the peak and Fire Blankets would descend in two directions over the roof and all the way to the ground. On the nonguttered sides, Fire Blanket cylinders would be installed under the roof overhang and blankets would descend to the ground.
3. The Fire Blanket cylinders would be installed on two sides at the gutter sites and blankets would deploy both downward to the ground and upward to the peak. The nonguttered sides would be as above.
Many installation possibilities exist. Each house would have a custom designed Fire Blanket cylinder arrangement that would be the best for that house. A-frames would be the easiest to protect, and dome houses the hardest. Where needed, there would be pulleys and wires and motors to deploy the blankets to cover all house surfaces completely. All Fire Blankets would be deployed by the use of electricity and gravity, and would also be able to be deployed by hand, should electric power be cut off. However, the best back-up in cases of electrical failure will be uninterrupted power supplies or battery back-up systems similar to those used on security alarm or computer systems. Should house power fail, these systems would provide adequate power to deploy the Fire Blankets.
After the Fire Blankets have been deployed, the homeowner would fasten the blankets' weight rods via spring lock hooks fastened to ground anchors so wind can't lift the blankets and expose part of a wall. And where blankets meet at house corners, the homeowner could tie them or fasten them together with Velcro at 0', 3.5' and 7' so that wind activity cannot expose any part of the house.
Fires don't burn without fuel, and the fire Blankets won't constitute fuel—rather, they'll be a barrier between the fire and the fuel (the house). And because overhangs are often 18" from walls, there will be a nice dead air space to act as insulation, in addition to the Fire Blankets, which hang 6" to 18" away from walls, not against them.
Stay in or Leave
Homeowners and occupants will either leave the area or remain in the home after the blankets are deployed and secure. This would depend on the nature of the nearby fires, dangers, and, of course, personal comfort. If the fuel source is close by and very large like a forest or field of underbrush, or if the house is close to neighbors who do not have any protective devices, or if there is any chance of breathing toxic fumes from nearby burning houses or industries, everyone should leave after deploying and securing the blankets. In some cases, it may be necessary to evacuate people because of toxic fumes coming from burning paints, carpets and plastics in nearby homes or other structures that have no Fire Blankets. But possibly keeping everything sealed up tight (windows closed, air conditioners and heat pumps off, and chimney vents closed) will preclude such a step, should residents desire to remain with their homes. Residential fire areas get very hot because houses burn, and because the vegetation isn't properly managed and limited, and it burns fast and hot. If neither yours nor your neighbors' houses burn, then the heat won't be that intense unless the amount of brush or large, burning trees around your home is extreme.