Home Fire Protection

9 Oct 2017 - Redwood
        Valley & Potter Valley Fires Just over hill from my house.

© Brooke Clarke 2017
Protection Steps
    Hot Embers


After getting an fire evacuation call at 1 am early Monday morning 9 October 2017.  It turned out that I did not need to evacuate, but the Mendocino lake complex fire was lighting up the sky.  Here are photos of fire attack helicopters and aircraft flying over my house fighting the fire.

Since then I've been studying what I can do to reduce the chance that my house will burn.

The three elements of fire (Wiki) are: fuel + air + heat.

Protection Steps

Remove Fuel

The first thing is to remove a lot of the undergrowth that is potential fuel.

Fire Fighting Equipment

As part of the second step I'm investigating getting some wildfire fighting equipment.  A number of people in the recent fire saved their houses or the houses of a neighbor/friend/relative by fighting it themselves.  Note that there's no way the local fire departments could respond to all the calls for help.

Areas that were evacuated and they had police road blocks, with the rule once you leave the area you can not return.  But they would not force anyone to leave.  So those who stayed had a neighbor/friend/relative who could meet them bringing needed supplies.
Fire Apparatus (Wiki) "any vehicle that has been customized for use during firefighting operations."


Fire Hydrant

It happens that there's a fire hydrant in front of my property.  It's made by Clow and is a wet barrel type.
Note that the outlets are 2-1/2" and 4-1/2".  The nuts are pentagon shaped, not the hexagon shape that's commonly used on nuts and bolts, so standard tools will not work.  Also vice grips, pliers &Etc. will fail and damage the pentagon shape.

Fig 1
Clow Wet
                      Barrel Fire Hydrant 
Fig 2
Clow Wet
                      Barrel Fire Hydrant
I'm trying to learn why this and other hydrants on my street are painted white.


The wiki page on fire hoses misses some the functional differences in fire hoses (Wiki). 

Wall Stiffness
I would say the most important hose parameter is wall flexibility.
Flexible wall tubing will collapse when a vacuum is applied.  The lower radiator hose in a car (feeds the water pump) has a metal helix inside to prevent colapse which would have the effect of blocking water flow.

Note that the tubing connected to a vacuum pump has flattened.
                      M180 Aspirator
Note that the stiff wall tubing does not colapse.
                      M180 Aspirator

Common garden hoses (Wiki) have stiff walls and are easy to use.  For example if a common garden hose is lying on the ground and the faucet is turned full on, the hose will not move. You can hold a garden hose nozzle in one hand and point it left or right wihout resistance from the hose. 

Fire hoses have very weak walls which makes them much lighter in weight than stiff wall hoses.  But the price paid is that flexible wall hoses can not be used for suction applications, like on the input to a water pump.  Also flexible wall hoses want to straighten out when pressurized and so require more effort to aim a nozzle that stiff wall hoses.  Monitors (Wiki) are water nozzles that are anchored to avoid problems with the pressurized hose.

Flexable wall hoses will not flow water when folded, for example when in a pin rack inside a building or when on a reel.  Hose used on reels with a swivel joint to allow water pressure even when the hose is on the reel (not fully unwound) are all stiff wall hoses.

The key advantages of flexible wall (fire) hoses is that they are lighter in weight and lower in cost than stiff wall hoses.  The early fire hoses were made only from fabric and so would degrade if left wet.  This is why most fire stations have a tall hose drying tower.  More modern fire hoses have linings that are not effected by long exposure to water and so don't need to be dried prior to being stored.
Hose Size
used on pressurized reels



Stiff Suction (pump inlet)

Stiff Suction (pump inlet) 12.6

Stiff Suction (pump inlet) 19.6

Stiff Suction (pump inlet) 28.3

5/8" & 3/4"
3/4" Garden hose Fitting
<= 0.44

Flex Forestry 0.79
Flex Forestry 1.77

2.5" Note 1
Flex Attack
Matches hydrant

Flex Heavy Duty - Supply line
Heavy Duty - Supply line 12.6
Flex Heavy Duty - Supply line 19.6
Note 1: This is the classic handline and requires training and strength to keep under control.  Larger diameter lines are refereed to as supply lines, i.e. lines are are not moved once in place.


The early fire hoses were made of leather made much the same way that leather boots were made.  Then came hemp fabric hoses that would leak water when first wet but after the fibers swelled would be water tight.  These fabric hoses would be damaged if left wet and to fire houses needed drying racks to dry hoses.

More modern hoses have liners so that the fabric does not see water and so do not need drying racks.  This also means these hoses are more suitable for home protection since they can be used for practice.

Water Pump (Wiki)

There are many types of pump, but a key property for a fire pump is self priming capability.  This requires a positive displacement type pump that can generate a good vacuum on the input so as to suck water into it.  (This really is just creating a vacuum so that the atmospheric air pressure can push the water into the pump.  For fresh water with a density of 62 pounds per cubic foot or 0.43 PSI per foot of head and an atmospheric pressure of 14.7 PSI the maximum depth a pump can pull up water is about 34 feet.)

Home Water Supply

In order to use exterior sprinklers where you can not use a line powered timer (the power probably will go out), it's necessary to have an adequate flow for all the sprinklers to run at the same time.  At my house the water pressure at the street (fire hydrant) is 106 PSI and it's less than 10 feet of elevation below the house foundation elevation.

The hose bib just after the pressure regulator tests at 44 PSI with a Rain Bird P2A pressure gauge.
This hose bib will fill a 5 gallon bucket in 40 seconds.  5 * 40/60 = 7.5 Gallons Per Minute, and the pressure on the other bib is 20 PSI.
The water district says my water meter should flow 25 GPM at the meter.  So the flow limitation is caused either by the 1/2" pipe or the pressure regulator.

There may be sprinklers that are tapped off the line between the meter and pressure regulator, need to test to see if that's the case.

House Water
                      Pressure Regulator & Hose Bib


Indian backpack Fire Pumps - spare parts - Carry Rack for Indian Fire Pump F14 -
1798708 Portable fire extinguisher and sprayer, Smith Myron H, D B Smith & Company Inc, Mar 31, 1931, 222/530, 210/172.6, 222/189.6 - Smith Indian
1869869 Portable fire extinguisher and sprayer, Smith Myron H, D B Smith & Company Inc, Aug 2, 1932, 222/321.1, 222/475, 222/530 - tank top holder for pump  
3094939 Liquid spraying pump, Jones William T, Smith Jr Alfred P, Smith Sr Alfred P, D B Smith & Company Inc, Jun 25, 1963, 417/547, 417/549, 417/554, 92/30  
3095123 Ambulant liquid spraying pump and supply tank, Jones William T, Smith Jr Alfred P, Smith Sr Alfred P, D B Smith & Company Inc, Jun 25, 1963, 222/175, 220/501, 222/189.11, 222/529, 222/475 - latest version of Smith Indian 5 Gal backpack


Akron Brass - Booster Reels - Nozzles - YouTube -
Continental (Goodyear) - Water Hoses - Water Hoses -
eDarley - Darley - Wildland -
Eley / Rapid Reel Wall Mount Garden Hose Reel Model 1041 - Amazon - p/n 1044 Extra-Capacity Kit - 5/8"id X 175' Garden Hose -
Elkhart Brass - YouTube - Nozzles
Firequip - YouTube (installing fittings on hose, kink resistance)
Hannay - Booster Reels -
Honda - Water Pumps - WX (light weight), WT (trash), WH (High pressure), WMP (Multi Purpose), WSP (submersible)
Key Hose -
Kochek - Hoses -
Reelcraft - General Water Reels - 601044-150 3/4" x 150' Hose Assembly w/ Garden Hose Fittings, 300 psi - Amazon - GCCA33118 L 175' x 3/4" Reel - S601026-200 200'x3/4" hose -
1. Can the reel be mounted on the side of a house either directly or using an optional bracket?
2. Are the hose assemblies available with the correct male thread for connection to the reel and with a standard Garden Hose Thread male outside end?
3. On the motorized reels can the hose be pulled out by hand when there is a power failure?

R&R Fabrications - bags for many uses - Fire Hose -


National Fire Protection Association/Wildfire

National Wildfire Coordinating Group -
Incident Response Pocket Guide, PMS 461, NFES 1077, January 2010 - not the current version but still lots of good info.
PMS 447-1 Water Handling Equipment Guide, June 2013, pg 122 Hose Flow Rate Determination by the Splash Method - simple to do.

The 2 1/2 Inch Handline - article about use of classic fire hose and effectiveness of smaller lines.
California Fire Safe Council - Reducing Wildland Risk brochure
Mendocino County Fire Safe Council - Resources -
YouTube: National Fire Protection Association - Making Your Home Firewise -
National Fire Fighter - Hose Packs
Handle for fire hose HANDLE-X™
YouTube: Self locking twin donut roll - Single Donut Roll - no carry bag needed

Hot Embers

YouTube videos featuring Jack Cohen.

NFPA: Wildfire: Prevent Home Ignition: Part 1, Part 2 - firebrands (small hot embers) are the dangerous things, not the crown fire.  The embers start things that act as kindling which in turn can start the house on fire.  So, eliminating the kindling is key to preventing house ignitions.
NFPA: Your Home Can Survive a Wildfire (13:19)
NFPA: Firewise Virtual Workshop - Power of Embers (1:00:26) - http://firewise.org/ - Wind tunnel that can hold a full size house. Steve Quarles
Radiant Heat Versus Firebrands (embers) (3.33)
Protecting Your Home From Wildfire (28:51) Jack Cohen - examples of homes that burned and evaluation of homes that did not - details
Wildfire! Preventing Home Ignitions (19:26)
Fire dynamics (4:57) - smoke from heated wood is flammable

PublicResource.Org - Using Water Effectively in the Wildland/Urban Interface - Portable Sprinklers -
                      Sprinkler Garden Hose fitting to left.
Stake and foot step may be re-bar.
4' or 5' 1/2" iron water pipe and full circle 1/2" sprinkler.

This suggests exterior sprinklers.
1997901 Water
                      sprinkler, Orton H Englehart, Apr 16, 1935
1997901 Water sprinkler, Orton H Englehart, Apr 16, 1935, 239/230, 239/259 -

This is the classic impulse or impact sprinkler.

65PJADJ-TNT - Brass Impact Sprinkler - this has a 1" inlet, 57' to 65' radius, 50 to 80 PSI line pressure, up to 1" per hour (I will need regulator just for these).
35ADJTNTB – ¾” Inlet Brass Impact Sprinkler - 3/4" inlet, maybe 30' radius
20JH 1/2" Inlet Full Circle Brass Impact Sprinklers - 1/2" inlet, 35 - 80 PSI, 35' to 44' radius (Full circle is much simpler, less to go wrong).
Underhill Product Code: SI100F Impact sprinkler - 1" Full Circle -
Manual valve and galvanized iron plumbing.  Minimal plastic parts.  Birds sitting on swing arm???? Freeze protection =  drain valve
Report examines effectiveness of outdoor sprinkler systems during wildfires - External Sprinkler Systems and Defensible Space: Lessons Learned from the Ham Lake Fire and Gunflint Trail - "Experience was that with the cooler, moister environment created by the sprinklers, embers were suppressed before they were able to ignite the fuels, whether structures or vegetation. "
3/4" inlet heads with 3/6" nozzle

At least one 1-1/2" NH (National Hose) threaded Fire Department standpipe.
There is a question about "shelter in place".
Wildfire Sprinklers Inc. - full big $ systems
Rainbird Sprinkler Heads   
Nelson Sprinkler Heads   - Catalog (7 MB) - 1" & 1-1/4" inlets & much larger Big Guns - Brochure - 2", 3" or 4" inlets.
Nelson F33 (full circle) impact sprinkler head, 3/16 & 1/8" nozzles at 80 PSI: 13.25 GPM & 106' diameter.  [The F33V the same except 113' diameter)
FEMA Fire Sprinklers - Interior & Exterior

FlameGuard® CPVC Fire Sprinkler Products - some compatibility issues with non CPVC parts of the water system.  Iron pipe may have a number of advantages for this application.


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