Bulletproof material, used in Fire Blankets, would be useful in drive-by shooting areas to cover street-facing inside walls when a hit is feared. If arson was feared, rafter-overhang Fire Blanket cylinders as already outlined could be used, but if the blankets could be bulletproof and fireproof as well, so much the better. The negative side of this is that the average citizen in deprived areas couldn't afford Fire Blankets, but the drug lords and slum lords could, for their own residences.
The Fence That Rises-Other Options for Structures
Rafter-cylinder and roof-peak Fire Blanket cylinders aren't the only way to get blankets into place on a residence without the use of 'copters. One could have special perimeter fences that included the (horizontal) cylinders. When a fire occurred, the strong, thick, metal-pipe corner fence posts would rise up as much as 50' - 75', unrolling Fire Blankets as they went, building a fire wall. This could be done with the cylinders mounted vertically as well, but it would be trickier than this "raise-the-flag" method. This assumes the owners can afford a well driller to dig 45' - 70' holes to mount the fence's corner posts in telescoping pipes, much like the way car aerials work. It's even possible, but trickier yet, to have the "flagpoles" be jointed in such a way that when the pole reached full height, it would tilt itself toward the house until it touched the blanket tilting in from the other side of the house, thereby creating a protective tent for the house. The imagination boggles at all the other possible ways to "gift-wrap" a home for temporary protection from acute fire dangers.
A special on TV described how houses that border on wilderness areas tend to get fire protection that prioritizes residences over all else. This means that forests that used to have lightning-caused forest fires every few years are prevented from their natural burn-cycles. The result of this is a buildup of tinderbox-dry underbrush in the locale, so when fires do happen, they're big and fast and quickly get out of control. It's possible that with the right Fire Blanket technology snugly in place, residents might be willing to let enough fires take their natural course so that the dangerous buildups no longer occur. One factor affecting these urban interface residents, besides feeling safe enough, is the lifestyle quality issue arising from breathing smoke from prescribed and lightning-caused fires. This is a hard issue to deal with because both air quality and wildland fuels buildup management are legitimate concerns.
Fire Suppression Problems
Why has California continued to suffer yearly billion dollar costs and losses since 1985? Why has the situation gotten worse since 1950? Why has each season since 1987 been called the worst fire season on record? In general, because of ineffective wildland land-use planning and lack of adequate fuels management on a sustained basis. A house or forest that burns easily is a FUEL. A house that is very difficult to catch on fire because it's fire blanketed in a nonfuel.
Since 1961, wildland fires began to involve structures (which hadn't really occurred since the 1923 Berkeley fire).
Through decades of aggressive fire suppression, the normal, natural fire regime has been altered. There's been overgrowth; drought has stressed the current forests; and insects and diseases have produced extensive forest mortality. This poses an extreme fire risk to the communities threatened by wildland/urban interface problems. How successful are firefighters at suppressing fires in the current situation of unmanaged fuel accumulations? If recent history is any indication, and in spite of heroic efforts from the agencies involved, they are failing miserably in lives lost, property destroyed, and natural resource losses. More people move to wildland/urban interface areas daily, so the situation is predicted to continue to get worse. What's the problem? Why can't we get this situation under control?
My research has shown that the fire suppression problems in this country come in many forms: political/economic (little money is allocated for or available for needed equipment and personnel), ignorance (bad wildland management policies based on "all fire is bad" clichés rather than sound prescribed fire management policies), people's housing materials choices based upon aesthetic rather than practical and safety concerns, lack of integration between and overall strategic planning amongst fire suppression agencies, constant housing additions to the wildland/urban interface, overpopulation, hose standards in one area not matching (and therefore not fitting) the hose standards of a neighboring area-which nullifies much of the help that a fire department can be when they want to help their neighbors during fire disasters, highly flammable landscaping vegetation choices when much less flammable vegetation is available, lack of knowledge by local officials about how to take action to improve the situation, confusion and ambiguity about the imposition of structure requirements in building codes based on local conditions, recent funding decreases in the fire prevention capacity of many agencies, not enough fire risk research, failure to update fire prevention and suppression models to reflect the recent addition of wildland/urban interface problems to the overall fire scenario, etc.
Hurricanes and Twisters
There may be no way to control winds, but one can minimize the drag one's home experiences by making it spherical rather than box-like. Since that's a bit unrealistic, however, we need to search for more pragmatic drag reduction techniques. The venturi forces in a strong wind can lift a roof off, and winds can get under rafter overhangs as well and pry them off. If strong Fire Blankets were mechanically extended from rafter to ground (during storms) and then firmly fastened to (previously) deep-sunk stakes or to foundation bolts, the lift factor could be mostly eliminated because the wind could not get under a nonexposed rafter overhang. And this configuration would also act to anchor the roof to the ground and neutralize the venturi forces trying to pull the roof upwards. Even if only half or less of the would-be home destruction and casualties were successfully protected, what homeowner or insurance company would whine?
Who Pays What?
If insurance companies save a ton of money every year, they can pass quite a bit of this savings back to the consumer in the form of reduced fire insurance premiums. (Around ten billion dollars worth of fire damage is happening yearly in the U.S.—who can say how much FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] pays in disaster relief and how much the insurance companies pay?) After Oakland, the L.A. riots and the California quakes, it figures that the insurance companies would jump on the Fire Blanket bandwagon (meaning invest in the industry and support and sponsor issues about it in Congress) once the research and experiments proved the viability of the concept. 'Copter companies would love the increase in business. City planners, city councils, city insurance people and the rest of their lot would have a lot to gain to subsidize the ideas. So would FEMA, because the government has been shelling out billions of debt-increasing money for disaster relief for states and counties, and U.S. citizens would rather have prevention than cure, since it is THEIR POCKETBOOKS that ultimately pay for the "cure." There's no reason there wouldn't be a nice tax credit from fire-risk states like California for those that mitigated their fire suppression needs with Fire Blanket installation.
One of the biggest winners of all is the fireproof fabric (or foil or sheeting or whatever works best) industry, whose sales will go through the roof. I suggest that the Fire Blanket company(s) form what's called a strategic partnership with these manufacturers to be arranged by investment bankers, et al. Such business structures are highly recommended in the business books of the 90s. And motor companies, pulley companies, wire cable companies, aluminum cylinder fabricating companies, insurance agents and others will be celebrating the Fire Blanket's birth and wishing to be let in on the action.
But perhaps the biggest winner here is the industry that makes all the relevant Fire Blanket products and markets them worldwide before the Japanese or Koreans even know what hit them (and the company can be run like Federal Express or Nike so the U.S. corner on the market is never lost)! I'd prefer that these foreign countries don't get a chance to do with this industry what they did with consumer electronics.
What the Fire Books and Periodicals Say
1. Roofing material is the single most important item in fire safety; landscaping is the second. Although any plant and any building can burn given the right conditions, a properly designed and maintained landscape can greatly reduce the hazard. The main responsibility for fire safety lies with each homeowner. So, it is recommended that the homeowner create a fuel break around his/her home, so s/he doesn't create a "fire ladder" whereby fire can progress from adjacent areas to his/her vegetation to his/her home. Homeowners are also advised to use nonflammable construction materials where possible. Burning embers (or "firebrands") are the main source of fire spread in wildland/urban interface fires.
2. A new aid to fire suppression strategies is the new foam fire suppression units—there are even several commercial home protection units available.
3. Most of California's residential fire losses for the past decade and a half have been in wildland/urban interface areas. More people move there daily, and the situation can only get worse. Most of the structures that get involved in such fires end up a total loss, unlike those structures in non-interface fires.
4. Structure ignition is the critical element for structure survival: structures that don't ignite don't burn. Windows can be a significant factor for potential structure ignitions and no amount of class A roofing or siding will help window vulnerability (but Fire Blankets would cure this type of vulnerability).
5. Results from tests show that non-ember ignition occurs from fires within the immediate surroundings of the structure.
6. Burning/flying embers (firebrands, in firefighter lingo) are such a significant cause of structure fires that vegetation management cannot be extensive enough to significantly reduce firebrand ignitions. So such management should concentrate on the areas near the structure (that's what Fire Blankets concentrate on).
7. Neighboring structures can be a very significant ignition source.
8. Florida's immigrants, a great many of which are older/retirees and have the time and inclination to be politically active, have little patience for the inconveniences caused by the use of fires—whether lightning-set or prescribed fire use—for wildland management. Many of these immigrants choose to move to vulnerable wildland/urban interface areas. And few are patient with smoky air and lower highway visibility. So there is an ongoing educational campaign aimed at informing citizens what's going on, and why, in the wildland management area—especially about fire use.