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P23-fire-rpt - 9/30/94

Baron Durr's fire report for Pennsic XXIII.

NOTE: See also the files: P19-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

From: DEW@ECL.PSU.EDU (Durr ishJabal Bey alFarengi)
Newsgroups: rec.org.sca
Subject: PW XXIII Fire (and) Safety Report
Date: 31 Aug 1994 22:09:07 GMT
Organization: Orluk Oasis

Pennsic War XXIII Fire (and) Safety Advocate Report
By (Smokey) Baron Dur

After five years of monitoring and counseling Pennsic campers, these
are the conclusions that can be drawn:

1) You can't create fool-proof rules. Fools find other ways to cause

2) You can't expect people to obey rules they don't understand. Some
still think that they are above the laws (of physics).

3) You can't legislate intelligence. Too many just check their brains
at the door.

4) Anyone can be a bad example. The real problem is convincing people
that just because "Duke Sir Ego" did it, that doesn't make it a good
thing to do.

The rules and "Fire Nazi" letter in the pre-Pennsic newsletter as well
as the rules contained in the site booklet were not written by me, nor
was I asked for input. The fire rules should be rewritten. Then,
they should be enforced without regard for social status (fire doesn't
care if you are a prince or pauper).

The purpose of these rules are not for the protection of the person
who violates the rules, but to protect the innocents who will be
harmed by anyone "causing or risking a catastrophe" (Commonwealth of
PA Criminal Code, Section 3302, which indicates that willful or
intentional acts are a felony of the first degree, and reckless acts
are a felony of the second degree. The penalties are $25,000 and/or
up to 20 years imprisonment. Other charges which include criminal
mischief, arson, and homicide may also be attached.) This is serious
folks. Time to wake up.

For the first week of the War, it was mostly preaching to the choir.
Most of the folks who are there for that week are experienced (they
have heard this before), and are prepared. Some are new, and if we
can get to them, are trainable. When Pennsic hits full stride in the
second week, there are far too many incoming campers that haven't a
clue. The safety booklet was an attempt to reach them, and as I only
had a thousand, they were distributed to camps on a one for each ten
expected campers. The persons that received them were asked to
distribute and share them with other people in their camps. Later in
the War, I asked different people if they had seen the book, and most
answered negatively. (One more experiment fails!)

Why does this need doing? Two reasons: Fire is a good thing when
managed, controlled, and respected. Post-modern people (that's your
14-th generation apartment dweller) lack the life-long experience with
fire that the peoples we emulate (the medieval man) had. The goal is
to rekindle the knowledge in Pennsic participants so that they may
regain their respect of fire, not to scare them with "dreadful and
dire warnings" of doom. (We require authorizations for fighters;
should we require something like that for fires?)

Here's the call to action. I'll keep it simple.

1) Make simple rules. Provide Explanations. (Name the rules for the
folks that caused them to be created. It's one way to become a

2) Enforce your rules. Equally (high and low). No exceptions.

3) Eliminate the perennial problems. Ban or bar habitual "criminals".
If they were stupid last year, chances are that they are still

4) To all Crowns, Coronets, Peers, and other Notables (all those
deemed Examples)! You, of all people, must be as Caesar's wife. If
the halo of one of your fellow Examples has slipped, by all means,
help them back to grace! (If you haven't been told yet, you have been
entrusted with the responsibility to nurture the "Dream". Know this,
and act accordingly!)

The remainder of this report is a chronological listing of my
activities and some external reports from others who helped in the
monitoring. Specific and particular recommendations follow the

Saturday, August 6. I handed out the safety booklets to Land Reps
waiting in the check-in line. A total of 285 camps were contacted at
this time (I got autographs from the Land reps.

Sunday, August 7. Since most folks were still getting settled, I
conducted a very preliminary patrol. Just to kick things off, 10
minutes into my cursory patrol I found "Molotov's on stick" (glass
fruit-jars with wicks and kerosene on long, thin bamboo sticks) in a
camp next to the lower wash house (by lake). I met Melkor by the camp
store were he was collecting kerosene for heaters in the camp
hospital. I must remind him that the pure, bottled oxygen and
kerosene are a very dangerous mix.

Monday, August 8. Began the grand tour handing out booklets to
various camps (starting at the northern end of the camp). Observed
golf carts (Michael of Bedford and "Grand Squire") speeding about the
camp. I checked at Security to see if there was a coincident
emergency (there wasn't). Sent messages to the Autocrat's staff
meeting about the speeding problem, especially since now was the time
to set good examples. The Northshield camp says that it douses fire
safety violators (open flames in tents) with water to discourage
repeat behavior. At various camps, people keep asking about fire
safety classes, which I inform them that my visit and the booklet are
the replacement for that activity. I stopped to remind Chirurgeons
about No Smoking sign because of the bottled oxygen in the hospital

Tuesday, August 9. As part of NE/NW patrol, I examined torches on
East Royal gate and Camp House de Tyre (action required by complaint).
The camps indicate that they will comply with recommendations.
Completed upper camp ground down to Howard's Fen. Master Wulfgar wants
to argue his point that kerosene is better than fuel oil for torches
("I called my Fire Safety Expert, and he said..."), to which I decline
to debate. Melkor asked if I would do this again next year (with a
budget). We also talked about "safety cert." for chirurgeons, but
Brusten de Bearsul was not in favor of this. While on patrol, I am
often asked to interpret the rules, but I refer folks to Security for

Wednesday, August 10. Security carts are now moving slower, but some
of the joy-riders are still moving at excessive speeds (looks like a
queen or princess?) I inform the AEthelmearc Royal camp that their
road torches are too close to tents. When wrapping up SW region
patrol around noon, I found that (SW16) Camp of Monadh had left
unattended fire burning. I sent for security as I could not leave the
scene (as it would then, again, be unattended.) I repeatedly called
into the camp, and just before security arrived, one of the occupants
of the camp woke up. I told him about the problem, and suggested that
he berate his camp companions for leaving him in a dangerous situation
(him asleep and the fire un-banked). I have found evidence of people
reading the books (improved fire pits). There was a report of several
drunks playing quiz games with the booklet. (Whatever it takes...)
More discussions with Brusten de Bearsul, he is expecting to provide
someone to make rounds with me this year and "learn" what it is that I

Thursday, August 11 (rains most of afternoon). While on patrol in SE
regions, I find torches set up in the middle of straw strewn camp -
Camp Silver Leaf. Security was informed (Master Wulfgar), and I left
a booklet. Today I have completed the tour of the entire site. The
are only 2000 on site at this point.

Friday, August 12. Not able to obtain cart for safety rounds. With
the influx of people, as soon as one problem is checked, another
occurs. Not much accomplished today.

Saturday, August 13 (Late night Rain). A cadet of Smokey the Hedgehog
provided a test of the fire detection and extinguishing system. After
raising a tent in Calontir royal, the cadet left his candle lantern
outside in the rain and went to bed in another camp. The candle
burned down to the wood inside the lantern and ignited the paraffin
soaked wood. It was burning very well (including the soaked grass
around it) when the security patrol took notice of it. They called over
one of the camp occupants and pointed it out. It just happened that
the person they hailed was the camp master, who knew that no fire pit
was designated for that particular spot. They immediately responded
and extinguished the fire. To commemorate the incident, a shrine was
erected on the rubble (St. Barney of the Flame). I left the issue of
discipline to the Queen of Calontir to administer.

Sunday, August 14 (5.25 inches of rain). Most fire pits are full of
water. A refugee center is set up at the Barn for the hardest hit.
Note that most road torches are not safely placed for "unattended

Monday, August 15. Repeat NW patrol today (no cart available from
security). General conditions are fine, but still have to remind many
folks to make equipment visible and check distances/placement of fire

Tuesday, August 16. Repeat NE Patrol today (no cart available from
security, but worked things out with the War Marshal). No major
problems noted. Baron of Jararvellir brought up several issues. The
use of Diazanon by campers for an insect deterrent is also a toxic
hazard for people in bare feet (I verified this after the War). He
was also picking up broken glass in road left by some late night
accident. (Hurrah for his sense of responsibility to his fellow!)

Wednesday, August 17 (Rain). Repeat SE patrol today (Still no cart
from security, but the War Marshal lent it to me again). Calontir
is spreading mulch to dry out ground for party. I remind them that
the shredded bark is like tinder when it dries out. I also remind
them that the purpose of mulch is to keep moisture in the ground, not
wick it out. There was a (post-war) report of a grass fire in SE15
(not reported to security). Citronella candles had been removed from
buckets and placed on bamboo stakes, which then burned through and
caught the grass on fire. The neighboring camp extinguished the fire.
The offending group was from NJ ("clan something") and had been given
booklets by the neighbors. Apparently, this group also tried to dig
its fire pit adjacent to the neighbors tents and were generally
hostile to all adjacent camps.

Thursday, August 18. Repeat SW patrol today (still no cart available,
so we go on foot). Tents are too tightly packed in some camps, while
others still have acres of space. For a second time, I remind the
Chirurgeons about no smoking signs for the hospital tent. This time
they put them up.

Friday, August 19. The off-site fire that occurred at 2:35 AM on
Friday involved tires (no gas lines or gas tanks...you would have
heard the explosion) at the Penn DOT junkyard. Heavy equipment (Penn
DOT) was used to ensure containment.

No firebreaks were "jumped", and the site was not in serious danger.
Contributing factors included the saturated condition of the forest
and the quick response on the part of the fire department.

Throughout this particular event, I was detained at Security Point.
The initial call came in from a roving patrol and was quickly
responded to by Coopers/Pennsic Security (calls to the local
authorities were made almost immediately). Security (patrols and
staff) continued to rove the area adjacent to the event and evaluate
the potential danger. Information control was established at the
Barn, and the patrols were told to advise campers to hold for further

There was one unidentified person in a pickup-truck that elevated the
risk of disaster by riding around the site instructing campers "to
prepare for evacuation". Fortunately, large-scale panic did not take
hold. (If anyone knows who this was, let them know the serious nature
of their action. The fire had potential for harm, but panic combined
with the disorientation of being waken in the wee-hours is a deadly
cocktail in and of itself.) If things had been very dry (like PWXX),
the results could have been different. The potential for property
damage (burned camps) would be a possibility (not a certainty), but
the tragic loss of life might be limited or averted if panic can be

After all this, at 3:30 AM, a Security foot patrol was concerned about
Midrealm Royal Camp torches (inside camp) and candle lanterns (inside
tents) that were left attended. He and I stood by the gate until an
off-shift camp guard stopped by to take care of the camp (the
occupants were either asleep or out). !Bad Royals! No oat cake!
Also noted unattended torches in Flaming Gryphon camp.

Saturday, August 20 (Rain). In the evening, a truck runs over tents in
Confederation Camp (truck owned by one of the camp members. Parking
brake failed and two tents were severely damaged. No injuries were
reported. One individual over-reacted and tried to stop down-hill
traffic in the area of the accident and nearly got run over for his

Sunday, August 21 (Rain). Many camps leave unfilled fire pits/sump
pits. Brusten de Bearsul informs me that his person who was supposed
to be my trainee did not show. Like I had not noticed this? Many
(including myself) discovered that Pennsic mud is like ice when it
comes to driving. No traction for going or stopping.


As Pennsic sprawls, I'd suggest that local (neighborhood) security
stations (in conjunction with the remote first-aid points) become the
rule. This would provide better communications for the more remote
camps as well as reduce the need for cart-patrols (foot patrols would
be operated from these sub-points, and foot patrols are more likely to
find problems instead of whizzing right by them as often occurs).
Patrolling you own neighborhood is better (you know where things are),
and you can be more help (like the good old cop on the beat).

All golf carts should be outfitted with both first-aid kits and fire
extinguishers. A patrol pouch for foot patrols can likewise be
issued. It would conceal the hand radios as well as carry note books
and writing instruments.

I tried to spawn a grass roots effort of safety checking (self
examination), but this does not seem to work. A cadre of "inspectors"
that could sweep sections of the camp on a regular basis to search for
issues and raise them to the campers might be more effective. This in
not an enforcement issue, but rather a monitor and advise method. If
there was a chronic problem, the applicable rule should be enforced by
security, not the inspector.

Habitual and/or chronic (security and safety) problems must be
documented and, if necessary, curtailed or eliminated from Pennsic.
There. Now I've said it in writing. (Throw the rascals out!)

A general (global) recommendation about staffing Pennsic: Candidates
for senior staff positions should have completed at least one year of
deputy staff service in the field of support AND receive a favorable
recommendation from the senior staff before assuming the office. This
would eliminate some of the wide variances that occur (particularly in
Security and Classes) from year to year. (For example, what do you
think I'll have to say about Brusten de Bearsul's trainee candidate
after this year? Thus far only Hector of the Black Height has
followed me around three years ago, and then only for one day.)

Oh yeah, have a nice War...

This report may be reprinted intact in any SCA publication. Any extraction,
excision, or modification of the content, for any purpose requires the author's
permission. This document is close captioned for the humor-impaired. Post no
bills. This report is moose-proof.

Dale E. Walter |(Smokey) Baron Dur of Hidden Mountain
|Durr ishJabal min al-Maqfi Jabal abu Neefa Sultan ilorluk
dew@ecl.psu.edu |Orluk Oasis on the War Road (of Aethelmarc)
|Member # 02933

From: DEW@ECL.PSU.EDU (Durr ishJabal Bey alFarengi)
Newsgroups: rec.org.sca
Subject: Re: PW XXIII Fire (and) Safety Report
Date: 5 Sep 1994 14:54:38 GMT
Organization: Orluk Oasis

Greetings to the Rialto!

In <34bsf0$8er@scratchy.reed.edu> odlin@reed.edu writes:

#> >[Pennsic Safety Report deleted]
#> One question, one request:
#> Could "open flame" (in the context of "...in tents") be defined (What's
#> what's not)?

If we had to spell out all (readily recognizable) "unsafe acts", you would
have a rule book of significant size. I explained it once as follows:

Open is not enclosed.
In is not out.
Up is not down.

(comprehension is left as an exercise for the student.)

#> And my request for next year's Pennsic: Fewer bloody golf carts. In
#> particular: Security "patrols" on golf carts cannot hear anything, and
#> are thus pretty useless. Except for being annoyingly noisy at 3 am...

Please see my recommendations on decentralized "security/aid stations" at the
end of the report.

#> -Iain, who was amused at Pennsic by a gentle who took it upon himself to
#> have little chats with everyone around him he thought was violating the
#> fire safety rules, while he himself had a tiki torch less than two feet
#> his own tent...

Please also see my recommendations for "inspectors/counselors" in the same

From someone who took the time to send mail on another part of the report...

dur> large-scale panic did not take hold. . . .

#>While I agree with you that this person was a jerk, I really don't
#>expect that he could have caused 'large scale panic'. I don't beleive
#>that the majority of folks at Pennsic are that easily stampeded. (Ok,
#>so a few are, but I doubt that enough are to cause a serious problem.)

If this incident had happened at 3 PM on Tuesday, I'd agree. Because it
happened at a time when people are disoriented and tired (3 AM Friday),
expecting rational behavior when "Chicken Little" is on the loose is asking
too much (consider why it is a felony to shout "FIRE" in a theater...)

Some PW autocrats have published simple rules like, "Don't Be Stupid. Don't
be a Jerk."

Maybe the rules should be:
Stop. Look. Listen.

(In other words, careful reflection on the intent of your action versus the
status quo should reveal to you the probable results of your course of action
as well as provide options to accomplish the same solution. Solicitation of
advice and opinions may provide further enlightenment and assistance towards
the success of your endeavor.)

So, I ask you. Which of these is easier to remember?


Dale E. Walter |(Smokey) Baron Dur of Hidden Mountain
|Durr ishJabal min al-Maqfi Jabal abu Neefa Sultan ilorluk
dew@ecl.psu.edu |Orluk Oasis on the War Road (of Aethelmarc)
|Member # 02933

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