Author Topic: Man in rural Washington survives wildfire inside his concrete domed house  (Read 374 times)

Offline Oil Lady

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This man is obviously a prepper/survivalist. The news piece treats him quite decently. But the news piece also avoids the two no-no words "prepper" and "survivalist" in the whole reporting of his tale of survival.

They allowed him to preach a subtle message of the Gospel of Preparedness toward the end.

His name is John Belles, and he lives in Okanogan County, Washington.

Glancing around the various Prepper forums across the intertubes, other preppers who live in his region claim John Belles has allowed them to tour his home and get ideas on how to build a similar structure. He seems to have a fine reputation in the area for being smart and friendly (IOW: he's NOT a nut-job).




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcKOJs9R3kA

2 minutes, safe fore work. 


http://abcnews.go.com/US/mans-concrete-home-survives-raging-wildfire-washington/story?id=33286398


Quote
 
Man's Concrete Home Survives Raging Wildfire in Washington 

by RACHEL HAWATMEH  - Aug 24, 2015

A Washington man’s cement home is still standing after surviving a raging wildfire that passed his home and scorched acres of surrounding land.

John Belles said he was prepared for the inevitability of a wildfire when he built his thin-shelled, concrete dome in 1999 surrounded by dry fields in Okanogan County.

Earlier this week, Belles just happened to be working 30 miles out of town when he received a voicemail from a friend warning him about a fire approaching his home, he told ABC News today....
 


« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 05:53:58 AM by Oil Lady »

Offline archer

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great. good to know a dome survived.

Offline outoforder2day

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Cool to see that some news groups are allowing a sane view of prepping, though I'm not sure how sane it was to stay in the home while the fire raged out of control around you.  :-\
I get that the concrete dome home should have been fine, but air quality, smoke inhalation, oven-effect... lots of things could have gone very poorly for this guy.

Offline Morning Sunshine

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I wonder about the windows - how come they did not blow out?

And I think he is lucky that the fire was moving so fast - too fast to heat the house to a roasting point, cuz I agree, it could have easily turned into a giant cob oven!

Offline Oil Lady

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I think a true scientific study of the home's structure is in order after this event.

Offline never_retreat

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He made an interesting comment near the end of the video about "the pvc skin being unharmed, must have been the water".
Do we think he had some sort of sprinkler system on the outside of the building?

Offline never_retreat

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Oh and by the looks of things there was only brush around this house. It was probably burnt and out pretty quick.
Its not like the house was surrounded with trees. There was probably not enough heat for long enough to even warm the outside of the concrete.

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I wonder about the windows - how come they did not blow out?

And I think he is lucky that the fire was moving so fast - too fast to heat the house to a roasting point, cuz I agree, it could have easily turned into a giant cob oven!
Windows do ok in a lot of cases if they can expand evenly.  Tight fitting frames will cause the expanding glass to crack, but double and triple pane windows do pretty well, especially if they have an IR coating to reflect the heat.  That's not to say that large picture windows that are going to expand a lot will survive, but smaller windows like he had frequently to alright.

I think a true scientific study of the home's structure is in order after this event.
A lot of homes get studied after events like this, but the construction methods are "too expensive" for folks to buy into.  Folks get stuck in the "it won't happen to me" syndrome and would rather spend 20-40% less money so they can get a nicer car or granite counters.

Looking at the overhead news coverage of the Black Forest fire in 2013 was elucidating.  Half million dollar homes burned to the ground, but their $50,000 horse shelter filled to the gills with hay, the most flammable stuff on earth, survived with a little scorching on the flame front side.  Steel buildings do very well in wildland fires.  Windowless ones, even better.  But very few folks want to have that exterior look, even if the interior can look like this

And the real key is getting below ground.  Rattlesnakes do just fine in wildland fires in their dens just inches below the soil.  Heat rises.  Stuff that's below ground endures anything in even the most intense fires.

He made an interesting comment near the end of the video about "the pvc skin being unharmed, must have been the water".
Do we think he had some sort of sprinkler system on the outside of the building?


Research has shown that exterior sprinkler systems can make a huge difference, but they need to be on for at least 20-40 minutes before the flame front to be effective.  They work by raising the relative humidity in the area, which dramatically reduces flame intensity and ignition of materials in gutters and such.  The brilliance of his design is he had no gutters to collect pine needles.  The majority of homes survive the initial flame front only to get taken out ten or fifteen minutes later when the needles in the gutters cause fire up under the otherwise flame resistant shingles. 

Offline mountainmoma

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A fast grass fire would not ignite my house either. (flat painted plywood sheathing, double pane windows, metal roof, no attic vents (no attic), no crawl space vents  -- although my attached deck could catch embers underneath). But, a real going good HOT exploding the trees ahead of the fire front would have roasted him, as well as anyone in my house.

I had also heard what  Endurance knows professionally, that vents (attic and crawl space) as well as rain gutter debris are often what will let a fire catch on a house that otherwise would scorch and pass by -- and catching under a deck  :-[
« Last Edit: August 25, 2015, 10:49:25 AM by mountainmoma »

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A fast grass fire would not ignite my house either. (flat painted plywood sheathing, double pane windows, metal roof, no attic vents (no attic), no crawl space vents  -- although my attached deck could catch embers underneath). But, a real going good HOT exploding the trees ahead of the fire front would have roasted him, as well as anyone in my house.
There's actually a great video I saw in my WUI class (S215) that showed a log home surrounded by doghaired lodgepole pines, but had about a 50' setback of cut lawn.  You could watch the running crown fire approach, the firefighters were forced inside by the heat of the flame front, but when they emerged, the side of the home was scorched, but did not ignite.  Data showed that the logs could reach about 325F before they would offgas, but would not ignite without direct flame impingement.  The key is surviving the ember shower that precedes the flame front and avoiding direct flame contact with the home while it is offgassing.

Testing showed that most homes could survive with some trees as close as 35'.  While humans can't endure that kind of heat, the data shows that wood siding can survive must more than we think.

Here's a little of the recent research on causes and effects of various mitigation strategies.

http://www.fireadapted.org/~/media/Fire%20Adapted/Images/News%20Images/Waldo-Canyon-Rpt-FINAL-shrunk%203.pdf

Bonnieblue2A

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I believe another key regarding wildfires and windows is to remove the curtains/shades on the inside that may combust from the heat radiated by the window glass.  As I understand it, exterior metal shutters on the windows are another layer of protection from wildfires.

Offline archer

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my brother has a concrete dome in the southern calif desert. when he leaves he locks steel plates over the windows in case of fire.

Offline Morning Sunshine

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He made an interesting comment near the end of the video about "the pvc skin being unharmed, must have been the water".
Do we think he had some sort of sprinkler system on the outside of the building?

He mentioned in one of the articles I read (maybe not this one) that he had been outside and had been spraying the house side closest to the fire with water until it got too close, and that is when he went in.  So it was still pretty wet/cool from that.

Offline outoforder2day

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endurance

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More detailed article http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/24/omak-washington-wildfires-state-of-emergency



Errrm, like he was expecting an exact answer?  Let me get out my slide rule and calculate the BTU/hour rate from a 10 hour fuel... Seriously?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvPa_yEEd4E
It's going to get hot. Very hot, then it's going to start cooling down fairly quickly.  A concrete dome is going to absorb a lot of energy, but smoke can kill you pretty quick if your home isn't sealed very well.  Nobody in their right mind is going to recommend you stay inside your house and then suffer the liability if you don't make it.

Offline mountainmoma

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I believe another key regarding wildfires and windows is to remove the curtains/shades on the inside that may combust from the heat radiated by the window glass.  As I understand it, exterior metal shutters on the windows are another layer of protection from wildfires.

Yeah, last fire evacuation at my house, the auxillery ladies told me that, and I got an escort and had 5 minutes. I walked thru the house, wrapped curtains around my hand and pulled, just pulled the hardware out and threw curtains into the middle of the room, said goodbye and left.

Offline PrepNow

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There is something to be said for this kind of structure. I was reminded of a video  I'd seen of another guy riding out a hurricane in his dome home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxsSBHTFk3w

Seems like they could do well in tornadoes too.