Destructive Nature of Various Disasters – FIRE

The most completely destructive hazard that can happen to conventionally-constructed houses in the USA and Canada is fire.

After a house fire caused by a fire-storm, there is literally nothing left of value after the fire – except memories. The home and everything that was in it, are either ashes, or if non-flammable, damaged beyond salvage.

Everything is gone forever. Records, furniture, photographs, toys, money, the house, libraries, clothing – everything – no longer exist.

Large fires (over 250 acres), 1980-2003

Firestorms and Wildfires

  • The map shows locations that experienced wildfires greater than 250 acres, from 1980 to 2003 (23 years) [map not to scale]
  • Sources: Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, and the USGS National Atlas
  • Particularly impacted are regions in the western United States
  • Few states are unaffected

Shown above is a map of the USA showing the enormous number of fire storms over a 20-year period.  The magnitude of the number of fires and firestorms is graphically demonstrated. In certain regions, predominantly in the west, fires in high density population regions, a large number of houses are consumed every year.

Incredibly, those involved in the house market seem to have developed a Las Vegas attitude – burning houses are an expected loss as a result of the inevitable fires that occur annually.

We feel that state and local agencies responsible for housing codes should be developing criteria that require constructing and re-constructing homes in potential firestorm areas with materials and systems that are much more fire resistant.

Shown here are some fire scenes – demonstrating how overwhelming the annihilation of a house can be.

Burney, CA

Thick, black smoke rises above the town of Burney, CA
Thick, black smoke and numerous fire trucks help convey the intensity of this fire in Burney, CA

San Bruno, CA

Fire consumes a house

Fourmile Canyon, Boulder, CO; 2010

Fire consumes a home in Boulder, CO in 2010

http://www.kdvr.com/news/kdvr-boulder-fire-victims2-txt,0,3623118.story (Includes video)

Chelan, Washington; August 27, 2015

Home is completely burned in Chelan, WA in 2015

http://www.kirotv.com/gallery/news/photos-washington-wildfires-thursday-update/gCWXY/#8036958

A child’s play structure remains near the ruins of a house lost to a wildfire days earlier.  The complex of fires burning throughout the area are the largest in state history (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)


Curiously, after most of the fire disasters, home buyers rebuild or buy replacement “bonfire” houses constructed with the same flammable materials as the houses they lose.  Generally, this is because buyers are not offered any alternative choices in the materials of construction.

Why not?  This will be the subject of a subsequent post.

There is no technical reason why houses cannot be built which will successfully survive intact all of the generally experienced natural disasters.

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Surviving Disasters in America

Surviving disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and firestorms has two aspects: survival of life and limb and survival of property. Homeowners of existing homes should address the former by adding a disaster-resistant shelter. Homeowners building or buying new homes have the option to install a safe room or build the whole house as a safe room, thereby addressing survival of property as well as survival of life and limb.

Read Surviving Disasters in America
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