Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chips Fire in Plumas County and Being Fire Safe

We live in Plumas County in Northern California near Lake Almanor and Mt. Lassen. The Chips fire has been burning for over 3 weeks and has grown to over 64,000 acres. It began 17 or so miles from us and is now only a few miles away. So far no homes have been burned but communities near us have been evacuated.

We have been on our land just over two years and we've worked hard to make it as fire safe and defensible as possible. But with this fire, we realized that there is much more that we should do so we have been hard at work clearing more debris, doing more limbing and thinning our forest even more. We hate to cut down trees, but given the fire potential and drought conditions, it's better for us and the forest.

Our only water source up here is a well. So far it has been okay, but we do worry about the effects of the drought. Along with our limbing and thinning we've been watering areas, balancing the health of the aquifer we depend on with the health of the forest. Unfortunately we have no way of knowing how close we are or if we are near the "edge" of our water supply.

A few months ago my wife's mother heard about an older fire truck going up for bid. She got it for us and we now have our own 1,000 gallon pumper fire truck. Here are a couple of photos.

My mother-in-law paid $1,000 for it and it's in great condition for its 43 years. The fire truck came with hundreds of feet of good hose and nozzles. It also has two onboard water pumps that allow for water delivery as well as sucking water into the tank from streams, hydrants, rivers and ponds. We weighed this against the cost of having a 1,000 gallon tank, gas pump, fittings and hose and realized that this option would be much more expensive than the firetruck.

Since the firetruck can be filled from most any source, we will still have fire protection even if the well runs dry or if the power goes out (we still don't have enough backup power to run our pump if the power goes out). And the firetruck is mobile - we can move it around as needed.

So, if you live in a rural area, I'd suggest checking with your local fire departments. They often have surplus vehicles that they just haven't gotten around to selling yet. If you ask, you just may be at the right place at the right time.


Wildfire - Are You Prepared?

Operating and maintenance manual for a Hale pump based firetruck (6mb).


P.S. Sorry it has been awhile since I've posted. It's been a busy several months. I intend to post more in the future.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Best Wood Splitter Ever

I've been dreaming about getting a wood splitter for some time now. I don't like the noise or exhaust fumes of the gas ones so I was considering one of the smaller electric models.

A friend told me about an old black oak that had blown down in a storm. I checked it out and ended up bringing home about 3-1/2 cords of it over a 3 day period. I experimented with my splitting maul and found it easier to split green than some of the dry rounds I already had.

I can't remember why, but somehow I ran into a review of Fiskars new long handle x27 splitting axe. I was very tired of dealing with an 8 pound maul, bouncing off the wood all the time, handle breaking, head flying off and the muscle aches (I'm 66), but the new Fiskars intrigued me.

It's not cheap for a maul at $58 plus tax, but I thought it was worth a try since I really wasn't looking forward to lifting these 12" to 20" green oak rounds up and onto a splitter.

Well, I'm amazed. The blurb say it's a one-strike-split axe and it is! One thing I did have to learn is to not swing so hard except on the very toughest narly pieces. And, it's faster than a splitter - much faster except for maybe the new flywheel type that cycling in a couple of seconds.

Most splitters cycle somewhere between 12 and 16 seconds. In 16 seconds I can easily have a 16" to 20" round split into 8 or 10 nice woodstove sized chunks. I've found that I can easily stay at it for at least an hour at a time.

Bottom line is that it does work and it is much easier than using the old heavy mauls. It splits fast and accurate, takes no gas or electricity. Keep it sharp and it will split most anything. Added benefit is that it's really good exercise!

I bought mine from my local Ace hardware store. I ordered it and 3 days later I had it - as quick as buying online from a big box store with the added benefit of buying local - something that is very important to me.

I don't get any commission or anything like that. You can check it out at the Fiskars site and there are several videos of the Fiskars X27 on Youtube. I'll be doing my own video soon.