Sprinklers Can Save Your Property

Prepared by Mitch Miller, Information & Prevention Technician, OMNR

If you think your outpost cabin or lodge is vulnerable to forest fire, you're right. This is the largest boreal forest on the planet and fire lives here. If you think there's nothing you can do, you're wrong. You can take steps to protect your property from wildfire, and it's not as hard as you might think!

For years, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) has been providing information on how to protect your forest home from wildfire by taking a educated look at your surroundings and removing potential fire hazards. By creating a defensible space around your structures, you will provide firefighters with a better chance to defend it against oncoming wildfires.

Some Fire-Safe Landscaping Tips for Creating a Defensible Space

  • Create at least a 10-metre wide clearing around your buildings
  • Trim the branches on all trees within your clearing to a height of three-metres
  • Clear a one-metre strip around each building, down to bare mineral soil
  • Keep your grass watered and cut, and remove dead grass

With a well-planned defensible space, you can reduce the severity of the wildfire when it reaches your property. By carefully choosing your design and construction materials when you build, the odds of your structure surviving a wildfire get even better. A well-designed structure can withstand radiant heat and burning embers.

Some Construction Tips for Building a Fire Resistant Structure

  • Metal roofing provides better protection than asphalt or cedar shingles
  • Use stone, brick, stucco or metal siding for exterior surfaces
  • Enclose the space under structures with fire-resistant materials
  • Use dual or triple pane windows to reduce radiant heat transfer
  • Screen in all vents with wire mesh no larger than 6-mm in size

As people invest time and money building structures in the forest, they must understand that there is a risk associated with this. The best possible strategy for dealing with the risk of wildfire is to build with fire-resistant materials in a fire-safe area and install a permanent sprinkler system.

On a hot, windy day when the forest is dry, fire can spread so quickly that it can reach your location before waterbombers and crews arrive. This is when the time and money you invested on your sprinkler system can save your property.

If a wildfire appears as though it could threaten a structure, and if there are resources available, the OMNR will attempt to protect the structure by installing a temporary sprinkler system. Once in place, the fire pump will be started and allowed to run for several hours before the wildfire reaches the site. By soaking the area with water, the fire will lose its intensity once it reaches the moisture and, in almost every case, the structure will be spared as the fire passes by or over it.

In the past, there have been times when there was so much fire activity that the staff and equipment simply weren't available to protect every structure in the path of every fire. This is where you can make a difference by taking steps to prepare for the day fire arrives on your doorstep.

To assist you with the design of your permanent sprinkler installation, OMNR staff in the Northwestern Ontario have spent years researching, developing and testing various sprinkler components and configurations. The goal is to produce a step-by-step manual that will provide information on how to protect individual structures like outpost cabins, and multiple structure sites such as tourist lodges.

When OMNR staff protect an outpost cabin with sprinklers, they typically use a single sprinkler kit. This kit contains five sprinkler units and a tool roll. Each sprinkler unit consists of a sprinkler head, spike base assembly, a water thief with 15-feet of nylon garden hose, and a blanking cap. The spike base assembly is a mount for the sprinkler head that is made from angle iron and designed so that it can be held in place with 3.5" standard nails.

To ensure effectiveness, you must have a secure water source and each sprinkler head must cover an 80-foot radius. In a typical setup, a 3-HP volume pump will suffice. If you don't have a pump, the OMNR can connect a Wajax Mark III fire pump to your sprinkler installation through your 1.5" threaded male end.

Once you have designed and installed your permanent sprinkler installation, make sure you let your local OMNR fire management headquarters know. That information will be added to their database and will be recalled if there is a fire headed your way.

For more information on this project, or if you have questions regarding the types of equipment you may need to purchase, please contact your local district MNR fire management headquarters. 

There is good information available on-line at the OMNR Aviation and Forest Fire Management website: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/AFFM/index.html

This article was taken from pages 16 & 17 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, September/October 2003 Issue


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