Study of Large Scale Fires to Be Undertaken

Study of Large Scale Fires to Be Undertaken

Field tests for “Operation Firestop” will be held at the United States Marine base Camp Pendleton, Calif., in July.

“Firestop” is a one-year operational study designed to explore certain aspects of mass-fire buildup and behavior and to provide the fire services with some new aids to mass-fire prevention and control.

The whole operation is based on the fact that mass fire in urban or wildland areas cannot be controlled with existing fire control methods.

Eleven municipal, county, state, and federal agencies are cooperating in the precedent-shattering tests at the big Marine base near Oceanside.

Cooperating agencies include Los Angeles County Fire Department, L. A. City Fire Department; U. S. Forest Service, California Region; University of California School of Forestry, Federal Civil Defense Administration, California Office of Civilian Defense, U. S. Weather Bureau, California Forest and Range Experiment Station, Forest Service Equipment Development Center, Arcadia ; and Marine Corps, Camp Pendelton.

Manager of the operation is Professor Keith Arnold of the University of California School of Forestry.

Executive committee members directing the operation include Harold Bowhay, Chief of Fire Service, California OCD; Chief Keith E. Klinger, L. A. County Fire Department; Chief J. H. McLendon, Federal Civil Defense Administration representative; M. M. Nelson, Forest Service Regional Fire Control Officer; and Dep. Chief F. H. Rothermel, L. A. City Fire Department.

Here are a few excerpts from Progress Report No. 1 of “Firestop.”

“Operation FIRESTOP is a cooperative program of those agencies in California which are concerned with the control of large fires. Over 95% of all fires in the wildland areas of the state are handled and controlled satisfactorily with equipment and techniques which have been developed through many years of field experience. A small percentage, however, develop into large fires with which existing equipment and techniques cannot cope.

“These areas of mass fire can rapidly devastate thousands of acres of valuable timber or watershed and causes losses of many millions of dollars annually.

“Most of the agencies involved will contribute equipment, facilities, and highly trained personnel to the project. Present plans include the setting of a large number of mass fires and small fires which have the potential of becoming mass fires. Various new techniques and equipment will be tried on them to determine the best methods of coping with mass fire while in the raging inferno stage and with the small fire to prevent it from developing into that stage.

“These fires will be set in an assigned area of the Marine Base at Camp Pendleton, San Diego County, in conjunction with the control burning program carried out each year by the Marines to remove inflammable vegetation from the firing range areas.”

Many “tools” will be used in the experiments. Among those to be tried are aerial water bombing and sprays from conventional aircraft and helicopters, aerial backfiring from predetermined control lines, the use of fog barriers and smoke barriers to slow fire spreads, chemicals and sprays to retard the fire, the use of backfire to turn or slow down running fire fronts.

An investigation also will be made into methods of speeding up fires or setting large numbers of fires over a vast area with the use of a simultaneous ignitor cord. Officials of the project pointed out it is often as important to set fires or speed them up in order to bring them out to control lines that may be permanently held as it is to stop or slow them down.

Already a number of private concerns have offered their products to be tested or their services to assist with the tests. These include chemical and aircraft companies.

All are being encouraged to participate in any way they can.

As the experiments progress during the current fire season, any results which show promise will be made immediately available to field personnel of all agencies so that they can use them at once if needed.

Another important point is that “Firestop” is designed as a completely mobile operation capable of moving intact to the location of an actual wild fire if necessary and utilizing its experimental techniques to assist in control.

Many hours have been spent by personnel from the various agencies involved in meetings to plan the important field work for the project. Weather Bureau surveys have been underway for the past several months.

A complete photographic record—both still and motion pictures—will be made of the “Firestop” field work.

CLIFF DEKTAK

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