Gilded Age watch: America's firefighting is turning into a two-tier system, with private services for the 1%

That breaks down majorly two ways, first is how do we find out about a persons history of contract breaking without a something like the courts where these are publicly settled and second is as always what prevents a person in a monopoly position from just breaking contracts because people have no choice but to use their service in their area? Even if we did fix the information problem of the first somehow it’s still a major drag to have to do the additional research every time there’s a contract to be signed instead of being able to use the courts in the case of a broken contract.

correction: $2 per day while in camp. The hourly rate ($1/hour) doesn’t kick in unless they’re working on an active fire.


I suspect it probably breaks down more than just two ways, but, yes, I agree. Part of my problem with libertarianism is that I think libertarians underestimate – or choose to ignore – the degree to which people can be constrained or coerced by forces other than the government. If your hands happen to be tied by force or circumstances, you’re not any happier simply because it’s not the government doing the tying.


Surely you see the connection between the two?

If the wealthy are permitted to opt out of communal goods, they will act to degrade those goods.


“Why should i have to pay for you to have this? It doesnt benefit me!” You dont have to speculate, just consider the outrage tnat greeted the ACA.

of course, and you see the call to action, don’t you? That they can’t be allowed to do that, and must be compelled to pay their share whether they choose to use it or not.


All a question of time and money.
And of course, applicable building codes.
Not entirely sure that these are as fireproof as they are made out to be in the articles:

Building detailing is quite important–little things make a big difference:

I was casting about for an estimated cost per square foot and found this:

The couple describes their home as a “fire-resistant Craftsman for the 21st century.” It’s also more energy-efficient, with more solar panels, high-efficiency lighting and appliances, and a plug-in station for an electric vehicle. Completed in 2011, the home cost about $400 a square foot. [emphasis mine]

In 2011 USD that’s $400,000 for a 1,000 square foot house. (Or if using this calculator then $449,695.25 in 2018 for 1,000 sf quasi-conventional residential building.)

But hey, in 2015, this is kinda already what housing costs in California, assuming housing can be had or bought:

There’s probably going to be an even crazier mad scramble for available housing stock in California now. All relative, when it comes to cost, price, what the market will bear, please cue the late stage capitalism music:

Australia as usual leads the way with IRL-testing of fire-resistant housing even if it feels a tad spendy to me:

With enough money, it is possible to build and comply city/county building code.

However, the lucky few who do not have to answer [much] to building code, restrictive covenants, deeds, homeowners associations, etc. could opt for something else (again, given enough time and money):

Earthbag buildings look promising, for a given value of promising:

I seem to recall an NPR report maybe 5-8 years ago where homes with cementitious tiles caught fire in a California box canyon wildfire that included a firestorm according to an eyewitness interviewed. There was nothing left in that canyon but ashes. All burnt. Given the right amount of heat, everything burns at its own ignition temperature, including “fireproof” materials.

My recollection is that it was a very sobering report.

IANAE but my guess is nearly no manmade structure will ever be 100% fireproof. If you’re in NORAD or an abandoned mine sufficiently underground, you’re probably safe if you can manage a breathable air supply until the fire has swept through.

How many of us have such options?

The fastest countermeasure currently available may be foam suppression systems retrofitted on existing buildings for a stopgap until we can come up with a workable, economically viable way to design with wildfire in mind.

Or find enough caves.

Paging Rufus MacQuarie…


the English custom of firefighting services provided on the basis of wealth, usually by insurance companies

Sounds like a terrible idea, but just imagine what a shit show it would be if there was a country where this was how healthcare works.
Oh wait.


The author has NOT shown that the existence of these insurance firefighters has in any way diminished the money spent on, or capabilities of, the public fire companies. The article contained a few statements that the diminishing of public fire fighting resources is underway, but presented not one number to show diminished spending or manpower. There was a lot of hot air, but NO actual evidence.

No, I’m not an Ayn Rand fan. I think she was a worthless parasite and her ideas are evil. What I am is an enemy of the kind of inaccuracy, sloppy research, and ideological bloviating that are shown in Madrigal’s article

Fortunately, that problem has been solved by the advent of Yelp. /s

I found this an interesting read. Fired brick is probably not suitable for earthquake-prone areas, but the material does seem to have some good fire resistance.

Proven fire protection

Brick industry professionals have long recognized the exceptional fire resistance of genuine clay brick. So, in 2006, the Brick Industry Association decided to put its money where its mouth was. We built five wall panels with brick and other claddings and conducted ASTM E119 full-scale fire tests. Each panel was 10 feet square and made of two-by-four wood framing. Three of those panels were clad with brick. The thinnest brick cladding was only 1 ��-inch thick. And, each of the brick-clad panels withstood a full hour of fire exposure, followed by the standard hose stream test to see if a fire hose would breach the wall. All three brick-clad panels passed the one-hour fire test.

Of the other two panels, one was clad with a popular fiber-cement siding. The other was clad with vinyl siding. Not surprisingly, the vinyl siding panel burned up in about 20 minutes, with flames coming through the wall. The fiber cement siding protected the wood framing a little longer, but the siding itself caught fire in just a few minutes, and the fire burned through the wall in less than an hour. The lesson here is fairly simple: Brick does not burn, and brick cladding will protect your house from wildfires for at least an hour.

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The expense comes with trying to conform the appearance of a conventional house. High cost per square foot means you build smaller. The earth sheltered and concrete stuff is the way to go. Solid slabs, not simply cementitious. Ballast roofs over concrete slabs (essentially earth sheltered). In rural situations have sacrificial structures separated from non-sacrificial spaces. Limit large building envelope perforations to the most important because hardening them to fire is expensive. Will they be Cheyenne Mountain? Nope. But they will be close enough for government work. The problem is the architectural typology doesn’t look like a “house”.


Also, there is going to be a difference between different urban/wildland interfaces. A high elevation mountain town has a much different type of fire to prepare for than a low elevation metropolis and they need different levels of protection.

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Am reminded of fire brigades back when. Forgive me if it’s already been mentioned.

Have read anecdotes of rival brigades arriving at unmarked locales brawling over who could claim payment while the buildings burnt to the ground.

And they can’t get jobs as firefighters when they get out.

These guys are literally risking their lives for less than nothing.


Municipal firefighters didn’t start in the US until around the end of the Civil War, the first municipal fire fighting service in the world was set up in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1824, and then in London in 1833, most towns have their own fire station with a core full-time crew and local volunteers who are on call for major ‘shouts’
“The first organised municipal fire brigade in the world was established in Edinburgh, Scotland, when the Edinburgh Fire Engine Establishment was formed in 1824, led by James Braidwood. The London Fire Engine Establishment, formed in 1833 with James Braidwood as the first Fire Chief. Braidwood had come to London after holding the position of the Chief Officer of Edinburgh Fire brigade.”

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I agree.

Local / applicable building codes and restrictive covenants are the usual obstacles in the U.S. that limit construction of nonconventional buildings, no matter how robust or well-tested against fire.

I can scarcely imagine earth-sheltered homes having the kind of cachet that will attract celebrities enough to buy in–palatial piles seem to be more their style.

If one or two shiny famous people build, say, something like this Swiss version:

or this, in Austria (without the shrubbery though):

… tempered and modified for the California climate…

or one of these:

then maybe the building code officials and homeowner association board members will hear from a bunch of regular citizens who will push for widening the definition of what is acceptable or allowable.

Meanwhile, tiny tiny baby steps here (I am not satisfied but include this for the sake of completeness):

Looks like it would be pretty hot during the summer with hefty air conditioning electric bills, but whatever.

ETA: grammar again


Sheeesh I guess I should not be surprised at the long tail for this discussion:

We must find a way to neutralize their toxicity first.

returning to this as it keeps popping up in my feed.

I also think that permitting people to “supplement”, and I would use this term rather than “opt-out” as opt-out suggests they are not in the system. Rather they have no choice to be in the system, but they have a choice as to whether or not they use the system. And if they choose to purchase their own insurance and doctors services, or just Supplement the universal healthcare they are welcome to.

Now nobody can accuse Universal Healthcare of “trapping” them in a system where they believe the service will be unsatisfactory. There is a huge Medicare Supplement insurance industry now, and I see no reason to suppress this with Universal Healthcare. The rich can hire expensive doctors and go to small boutique private hospitals, and pay for it fully which won’t even make them blink. But they will still contribute through federal taxes to the Universal System proportionally to their earnings – no opting out.