News and opinion about wildland fire
Based on the quonset hut design used extensively by the US military in World War II
A few of the 13,861 homes destroyed in the Camp Fire are being rebuilt using a particular design that is much more fire resistant than a typical structure. In 2018 the northern California fire burned most of the houses in Paradise after a failure on a Pacific Gas and Electric powerline ignited the blaze that raced through the town, doing much of its damage in just a few hours.
During World War II the US military purchased and installed thousands of quonset huts, a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanized steel with a semi-cylindrical cross-section.
The steel itself is non-combustible of course, and if the rest of the exterior building materials are also, the structure should be very resistant to ignition during a wildfire. But it is important that everything within the home ignition zone is consistent with Firewise principles.
CBS News Sunday Morning produced the video story below of how this quonset hut concept is being used in Paradise.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Gerald.
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After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. View all posts by Bill Gabbert
I wonder whether anyone has considered how solar panels would be installed on a curved corrugated roof?
Free standing solar panels are a Common Option.
Probably the same way they are on every other curved roof.
Might be tricky if the opening of the quonset hut (“the end”) is facing south, the preferred direction for panels to lean. If the quonset hut had ends on east/west alignment, one whole side of the quonset hut would be facing south, and solar panels could be attached flat across the arches. The trick is insulating the interior of the metal roof. Spray foam would be my guess.
I’ve always liked the design. Simple. Strong. Steel won’t burn, but will soften, collapse. Water on a thin, red-hot metal structural member can result in fragmentation.
A friend of mine lived in a Quonset hut house and lost it. Another built a house to beyond fire codes and lost it. Keep any glass cool. Most houses burn from the inside out.
Flexible solar panels, similar to the ones used on ships.
Too many CA counties aren’t progressive enough for anything new like this. Mine won’t allow a gray water system for fire fighting or irrigation…because they’ve never allowed it before…
I have 5,500 gallons of emergency storage for rainwater. No law against that.
Ask the agency for the science upon which their policy is based, and whether or not the charter gives them the power to enforce it? Make waves.
Depending upon what’s in it, the water may not be satisfactory for irrigation, especially of food crops, and if plants accumulate toxins they can affect wildlife and/or pets.
Rainwater collection in Ca. Is specifically, Legalized for years. I Believe the Designs on this are IBC, UBC, and CBC. Compliant. 85% recycled. Steel! i’ve Been on the “ cusp” on one of these since my home Burnt. Last year! 50,000,000 People are under Threat In the wester US. 150 year old communities. Not just newcomers. Building. Generations!
700 years ago in 2020, before covid, I was in AUS helping those fine folks with some atgs work. I noticed that asphalt roofs are about as common as hairless unicorns and everyone had a metal roof. Most homes are constructed out of cinder block with standard 2×4 interior walls. I watched and flew over countless burning homes where all that was left was a burned out cinder block shell with a melted and caved in metal roof. Many of these homes were out in the open with little fuel around them and well separated. This vexed me and led me to the conclusion that a metal roof, although nice, actually provides little protection in and of itself.
It pains me to see all of the new houses going up in the Camp Fire scar. Paradise is doomed to burn again and again. It sits in a bad spot, the urban footprint was built with no consideration for how fire moves over land, and the parcel layout makes it impossible for many lots to really get 100′ of clearance. Over half the roads in town are private with minimal width and one way in and out. I’m glad some people are recognizing the inevitability of fire there and building with it in mind. Over half of the houses built to modern wildland fire codes between 2008 and 2018 burned in the Camp Fire, often because the house next door was on fire and there was no fire department on hand to do anything about it. Even storage sheds need to be built to firesafe standards in places like this if they are close enough to ignite your house via radiant heat.
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