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Stefan's Florilegium


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P19-fire-rpt - 9/1/90

Baron Durr's fire report for Pennsic XIX.

NOTE: See also the files: P23-fire-rpt, P24-fire-rpt, Fire-Book-no-pics,
P-history-msg, P-stories-msg, BP-Thingie-art.


This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that
I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some
messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.

This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org

I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with
seperate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes
extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were
removed to save space and remove clutter.

The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I
make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the
individual authors.

Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these
messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this
time. If information is published from these messages, please give
credit to the orignator(s).

Thank you,
Mark S. Harris AKA: Lord Stefan li Rous
mark.s.harris@motorola.com stefan@florilegium.org

...Keep the Campfires Burning...

By Baron Dur

At Pennsic XVIII, I wandered the War discussing fire safety with the assembled
folk in the guise of the "Pennsic Fire Marshall". When Pennsic XIX occurred
this year, there was no such beast to haunt the lands (by command of the
Autocrat). Nobody died. To my knowledge, nobody burned down a tent, got
seriously burned, or was thrown off the site for "playing with fire".

Let me start this story with what happended months before Pennsic XIX. The
report written about exploits of the Pennsic XVII Fire Marshal was published
in _Pikestaff_, the East kingdom newsletter in the June edition, in all its
gory details. Then, word reached me that the Autocract for the War didn't
want a Fire Marshal for the war, me in particular. While the second part of
the message didn't bother me, the first part did. But, it was her assets and
therefore her problem.

Some good-hearted soul who read the article in the news letter was appearantly
so impressed with the urgency of fire safety that they called me in the wee
hours one day. He said he had a line on a fire truck, and he wanted to know
what to do with it. So I told him. Call the autocrat.

Fearing that this would continue, and possibly undermine the office of the
autocrat, I contacted the East Kingdom Chronicler. "Would you please publisha
short announcement to the effect that I am NOT the Fire Marshal for this
Pennsic War, and that people should instead go to the Autocrat?" The
announcement appeared in the following _Pikestaff_ (July).

However, the news never got to any outside of the East Kingdom. When I
arrived at the War this year, people were comming to me with questions on fire
safety, and asking if I was still patroling the site. Arval was enlisted to
spread the news to ensure that people would not seek me, but go to the
Security Force with their concerns. "Baron Dur is NOT the Fire Marshal" was
cried to the camp. (Later, Arnoff had them change the cry to "..is STILL not
the Fire Marshal. He is Smokey the Baron!")

Even after all that, people STILL wanted to know who the Fire Marshal was. I
told them to ask the autocrat. That was her problem, not mine.

Arnoff later recruited me to the Chirurgeon General Staff as the Combustable
Consultant. Everybody then waited for me to burst into flames, I guess. This
is what you get for practicing safety without a licence, a silly title and
more paperwork. The job is to observe, evaluate, and report on fire safety
issues within the SCA.

This War, only four issues were noted as significant, and are summarized

Torches: Four separate incidents were either observed or told to me.

First: Someone was walking through the campsites with a torch canister on top
of a long pole, held high above their head. The pole was waving back and
forth as the gentle weaved his way down the road. The distance between the
observer and the culprit was large enough that the observer was not able to
catch up to him and advise him of the consequences of his actions.

Second: The short (two feet long) canister tiki torches are appearantly being
labeled by the manufacturer as "hand held" these days. On three separate
instances, young men were observed carrying these around the camp. They were
accosted, and asked to extinguish them, which they did. I happend to follow
one pair of gents back to Trimaris encampment, which seemed to be their home.
In another incident, the gentle identified himself as one of Baldar's squires

Third: The placement, care, and feeding of torches was still a problem this
year. I observed several cases where torches were placed under dining flys,
or where they would fall on tents if knocked over. Several torches were
overfilled, or the wicks were loaded up with soot, causing fire to spit and
spark from the top of the torches.

Fourth: At a large gathering, a gentle tripped over a tent rope, and knocked
a torch canister off the top of its pole. The canister broke open, and
covered the ground with burning fuel, all of this adjacent to one of the
rental pavillions (Grimms Tents). He got up and tried to stamp out the fire,
but the pool of fuel was too large for him to be effective (about three feet
across). The rest of the story is almost comical, if it wasn't for the

The crowd drew back from the fire, as the gentle continued valiently to stamp
away at the fire. Many of the camp occupants rushed away to find their fire
extinguishers, while my protege started hollering "Fire!". I got up, and was
walking over to the fire to smother it with my large jacket, when one of the
"camp firefighters" slammed me in the chest with the warning, "Get Back!
We're waiting for the Fire Extinguishers!" I stepped back, as I could see
someone arriving with a thirty-pound CO2 extinguisher. With three blasts,
they delt the fire a mortal blow. A great cheer went up from the crowd at the
completion of the evolution. As the excitement died down, the party returned
to normal.

I thought the incident was closed, until the chirurgeons later complained to
me about the number of injuries resulting from the fire. Seems that the
responders had been so zealous in running to get their firefighting equipment,
that they had tripped and fallen and hurt themselves trying to save the camp.

Awareness and Misdemeanors: Many cases were observed of both preparedness and
carelessness. Several folk who remembered the discussions from the previous
year were eagar to show me how well they addressed the issue of fire safety in
their camp. My kudos goes to those who took this to heart. But, for every
good deed, it shall not go un-punished. There were an equal number of
occasions where the danger of fire was increased through plain carelessness.

I observed numerous cases of liquid fuels stored next to fire sources, tents
staked too close to fire pits, fires burning in unattended, crowded campsites,
and yes, open flame sources in tents. I interviewed several of the security
teams to determine what, if any, breifing they had recieved on fire safety
enforcement. Less than half of them had been instructed, and less than one in
ten had any idea what to do if they came apon a fire situation, other than
call it in on the radio.

As a side note, one of the PA Volunteer Fireman on site had brought his
personal turn-out gear (fire-fighting clothing and helmet), and had it stored
readily available at his camp. I'm glad it was not needed.

Felonious Firebugs: At least this year the firebugs waited until the War was
over. Sunday night's Calontir Bonfire was again the scene of the "Burn
everything on site" fire fest, with the usual stupid Peer pouring flammable
liquids on a roaring blaze. I hope he still can grow hair on his arms.

Offical Preparation and Regulation: Pennsic XIX was atypical in that
information was widely available and clearly defined well in advance of the
event. My compliments to the appropriate members of the staff.

The regulations for Pennsic XIX concerning fire safety (listed in various
publications) were adequate from a legal standpoint. The issue of structure
proximity (tent spacing) and equipage (amounts and placement of fire fighting
gear) were the best thus far of any war.

However, promulagation of this information assumes that people will "read and
heed". The fact that there were multiple violations of these strictures
indicates either wanton misbehavior or ignorance of the rules. Worse yet,
some of the rules are misinterpreted and further increase the dangers of the
incident. People will respond better to a personal visit by a designated
advocate than to an impersonal edict from on high.

An example of misinterpretation would be the "Fire Extingusher" requirements.
Most of those brought to the War were inappropriate for the situation. They
were either under-rated, or were not rated at all. The most likely of fires
would have burned out of control while three and even four of these units were
discharged. In the case of the torch fire mentioned above, the extiguisher
was improperly employed, requiring multiple attacks to douse the fire. This
lack of training is too common to make any of the "required" equipment even
marginally functional (see the report on last year's tent fire for example).

Obviously, the situation, while improved, is not resolved. However, some are
working towards a possible solution. Two of the large household camps at the
War instituted their own fire safety advocacy, superior to that provided by
the Pennsic staff. This idea has great merit.

Therefore, I propose that _every_ camp have a fire-safety advocate. This
designated person must report for daily training, and is responsible to
conduct training at their camp. The indoctrination and training of the
advocates should be a responsibility of the Pennsic _Safety_ and Security

Historically, the Roman's response to fire was to create a nightwatch called
the Vigilants. Their responsibilities were to raise the alarm in the event of
fire, and then combat the fire with the citizens. As the War continues to
become more civilized (citified), those who attend (its citizens) need be more
vigilant. Remember the outrage of Rome when the "Christians" were blamed for
causing the fire? Be outraged at those who through ignorance or misbehavior
endanger you, your kin, and your friends!

Dur the Nasty, Baron of Grey Matter

PS As a fireman, I've "bagged and tagged" enough strangers. I don't want to
do that to my friends too.

Dale E. Walter |Dur of Hidden Mountain
dew@ecl.psu.edu |Schloss Zwerg, Eagle's Pass of the War Road, somewhere in
|the East

<the end>

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Copyright © Mark S. Harris (Lord Stefan li Rous)
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Comments to author: stefan@florilegium.org
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