P24-fire-rpt - 10/9/95
Baron Durr's fire report for Pennsic XXIV..
NOTE: See also the files: P19-fire-rpt, P23-fire-rpt, Fire-Book-no-pics,
P-history-msg, P-stories-msg, BP-Thingie-art.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: Lord Stefan li Rous
From: DEW@ECL.PSU.EDU (Durr ishJabal Bey alFarengi)
Subject: Pennsic 24 Fire Report
Date: 21 Oct 1995 01:57:52 GMT
Organization: Orluk Oasis
Pennsic 24 Fire Report
(Copy provided to all the Autocrats for comment and redaction on or before 5
October, 1995. No comment received as of 20 October.)
It must be said that the efforts of Eirikr (Calontir), Stepon (Atlantia), and
Ferris (East) as my deputies as well as the host of Concerned Pennsic Citizens
were deeply appreciated. With your help and cooperation, much of the potential
risk was reduced or eliminated this year.
This was the first year I wrote the fire rules for Pennsic. Murphy struck me
as well, and one of the rules (the bonfire and campfire spacing of 20' and 10')
was incomplete. I got a lot of heat for that mistake, and cannot lay the blame
off on anyone. It was, however, corrected before the war began, and so none
suffered by it.
One new feature was added this year. Willful misconduct (violation of the fire
rules) was grounds for issuing the "First and Only Warning," which meant that
repeated performance was answerable to the Autocrat, "Who will determine
whether you live, or leave." These offenders were reported to the autocrat for
We reprinted the safety booklets again this year, this time with a special
"camper authorization" card. This was to encourage campers to be trained in
safe and effective camp practices (the Chirurgeons tell me that they had a
steady stream of non-combat related injuries that might have been preventable
with some training and/or awareness.) The Fire Safety Classes were not
attended, so that avenue of training is a lost cause. Only the "camp calls"
method seems to work (folks are not motivated to attend safety lectures; small
The one thing that has not changed is the basic attitude that some folks have
that "that rule should not apply to me, I'm special!" That gives license to
others to break the rules. The real result is that the safety margin is
reduced, and somebody is likely to be hurt (even fatally.) We had to publish a
"special" rule for cause this year, the one about throwing gas on your fire.
Of course, grateful thanks go to each and every Pennsic Citizen who DID go the
extra mile and put an effort into policing and patrolling the camp, and the few
who took the time to train their guests at AND before Pennsic. I hope you
enjoyed a safe and pleasant war as a reward for your efforts, for I can offer
you nothing more valuable than that. I wish I had the space to list all of the
good camps this, as many really were well prepared or at least were receptive
and cooperative to the safety effort. Those who weren't, well, you will hear
The following is a chronological report, pieced together from the collected
notes of my deputies, security, and my personal notes (which include verbal
reports from other Pennsic Citizens.)
Friday, August 4: (Early rain) I arrive and start training with those waiting
for the land grab. Folks seem real un-happy about that, but otherwise are
cooperative and receptive to the training efforts. Eric and I start discussing
what efforts will be required to accomplish the inspection and training
Saturday, August 5: (Afternoon rain) Land allocation goes without incidents
of note (i.e. no effigy burnings or mob scenes with torches were reported.) No
rounds made, while we wait for folks to get settled in.
Sunday, August 6: (No rain) Hector and I make rounds, and we note that the
Enchanted Ground encampment (SW8) has fire pit too close to tent as well as
poorly placed torches. We left a booklet in the fire pit with a message to
move things. Later we advise Haakon of the situation. He later reports that
he spoke with them and they will correct the problem. Fadilah and I continue
rounds, where we noted that Wolfden (SE14) had a fire burning next to a vehicle
in camp. They put out the fire when we called it to their attention.
Monday, August 7: (No rain) Haakon and Bear the Axe reported seeing several
violations during night patrols last night (no specific camps where
identified.) That afternoon, House Belligerent Dragon (SW13) left a fire
burning unattended in their camp. The First and Only Warning was issued, and
they were encouraged not to repeat the incident or any like it.
Tuesday, August 8: Elaine reports that Camp Longbow (NE10) corrected their
torch location. Brusten reports that a camper was injured Monday (burned) by
pouring kerosene in the fire pit. Further investigation reveals that it was
not kerosene, but gasoline. The camper from Clan Concusare (SE14) thought the
fire was out, and the flash traveled back up the cascade of fuel to the can
where it burned his hand. Quick thinking on the part of his fellow campers to
smother the fire with a washtub contained the blaze. He was sent to the
hospital for treatment (1st and 2nd degree burns on his right hand.) When I
spoke with him later, he assured me that he would not try that again (name
withheld by request.) This also caused the first "Stupid Rule of PW XXIV" to
be issued...Don't use gas to start your fires!
Eirikr tours the camps with me. We note that camp Black Skull Bandits (SE17)
has repeated their strewing straw paths again this year with torches placed in
the paths (same as last year.) We leave a booklet with a note to correct this
condition. A neighbor of House White Mists (SE18) reports that last night
large flashes of fire were seen, like those characteristic of accelerates
(liquid fuels) being dumped on the fire. Later that same day, another report
of this activity was received, and Haakon was informed. Several campers
discover that torches sold at K-mart have plastic fuel containers that melt and
then dump fuel on the ground. They rush to inform me of this situation, which
I ask the heralds to include a warning in the official bulletins. The Moritu
(SE7) said that they didn't have to display their extinguishers as everyone in
camp knew where they were. I asked them to put them out like all the other
camps just so that the inevitable statement of, "They don't do it, so why do I
have to?" would be without foundation.
Wednesday, August 9: (No rain) No formal
Thursday, August 10: (No rain, 1848 souls in camp at 11 AM today.) Report of
continued activity at White Mists continues (unattended fire). The Autocrats
will speak with them today. Security reports multiple incidents of unattended
fires. We suggest that the Heralds announce that expended propane cylinders be
turned in at the camp store for safe disposal (which I should have arranged
for, but forgot.) Security reports Merry Makers (SW25) with unattended fire
and no fire extinguishers, White Mists (SE18) had unattended fire, as well as
Bear Clan (SW22) with an unattended fire. First Warnings were issued to each
of these camps. One camp in NW40 was reported to have unattended fire (by
Security). The occupant of the camp was asleep, and the neighboring camp
assisted the Security team in extinguishing the fire. (I could not locate the
camp when I conducted rounds.)
A small camp on the North side of Dragon Fosse (between Brewers and Battle) was
advised of several dangers in their camp (fire pit too close, no extinguisher,
liquid fuels within 5' of fire pit.) They corrected the situation while we
were there. A concerned camper advised us of the fire pit in Anglesea camp
(SE19), which was located under a fly. We spoke with them on this, as well as
relocating their torches away from the straw strewn paths in their camp. The
Rouges camp (SW18) had a trash pit full of discard beer bottles in their camp.
Advised Puk's Paradise (SW18) of torch location hazards (too close to tents.)
A Staff camper mentioned straw and torch hazard in Timberwolf camp (SW18), and
on verification and discussion with them, all issues were satisfactorily
resolved. Red Spears (SW13) was careless about torch placement, and were so
advised. Concusare (SE14) has straw strewn about camp with torches located in
the middle of the straw. They are advised to remove the straw from around the
Friday, August 11: (Noon rain, 2414 campers on site at noon.) Stepon and I
make rounds. Rogue camp (SW18) had unattended fire last night (Security
report), and I issued First Warning (as well as told them to clean up the trash
heap (beer bottles) as it was likely to create a foot hazard from broken glass.
Vlad's Pleasure Palace was reported to have unattended candles in tents
(Security report). First Warning was issued. (Security reports that) Merry
Makers (SW19) had another unattended fire in camp , but because of confusion
over which camp it was it was several days before this was clearly resolved.
The matter was turned over to the Autocrat (Marin) for resolution, with the
advice that the time elapsed since the incident would make it difficult to
resolve the issue cleanly.
Black Skull Bandits (SE17) have not cleaned up straw around torches yet, and
still have car in camp. White Mists (SE18) still have a truck in camp after
three days. (Security reports that) Darkyard (NW10) had an unattended fire
last night. Eirikr investigated, and the First Warning issued. Barony of
Jararvellir (NE6) has the pop-top torches that have been banned since Pennsic
20, and refuse to remove them. The camp-master feels that "since they were
purchased at the Coopers store, they are permitted." Eirikr had already
advised them. If Security finds these torches in use, that will be a
violation. Single camper in black yurt (SW19) has what appears to be a fire
pit in tent, so we leave a booklet with a note. Later, Security gets a message
that the "pit" is for drainage, not for fire. Eirikr also reports on
unattended torches in Thescorre (NE4) camp.
Saturday, August 12: (No rain, 3360 on site at 1 AM.) Kinderfodder (SW20)
have torch under their fly (like last year), which they refuse to put it out
when security instructs them too do so. They also claim that it was "OKAYED"
by me (which it was not). They didn't know that I was standing outside on the
road to hear this. Ogami (Security Deputy #1) comes to their camp and issues
the First Warning at 01:15.
Later that day I make rounds with Ferris. Black Skull Bandits (SE17) were
still without fire extinguishers and still had not moved the straw (or their
car.) They were instructed to get the extinguishers and move the straw. House
Emeroke (SE19) have moved in, and Stepon and I advise them of the several fire
safety issues in their camp (fire pit too close to tents, torches too close.)
(Neighbor of) White Mists (SE18) reports more flashes seen from camp after
dark, and we note that the truck is still in camp. Left booklet with a note at
camp Clan MacGowan (SE10) to relocate torches. (Staff camper reports) on
pop-top torch across from Vlad's Pleasure Palace (SE11), which I verify that it
is one of his. Asked them to take it down, as it is a safety hazard.
Concusare (SE14) has straw strewn about camp with torches located in the middle
of the straw. They are advised to remove the straw from around the torches
I had to drop off Ferris to run an injured party from the Morning Roamers camp
(SE16) down to the Chirurgeons Point. While I was there, a false alarm was
called in on the radio, and I was dispatched to aid security down by the
swimming holes. As we discovered, the report of gunfire, death, and mayhem was
a complete false alarm (but the reaction by security, Chirurgeons, and other
support troops was impressive!)
Eirikr left warnings at a camp in NW11 about placement of torches under a fly.
He also left a warning at the Info-Crat's camp about the placement of the
propane stove next to a tent wall. I had to listen to the complaints about
that one, but it was a valid concern. I finally had the chance to examine the
home-made torches at Atlantian Royal (Bedford manufactured). These are the
best I've ever seen, and if he ever makes them for sale, I'll buy some.
Sunday, August 13: (Storm in evening) Pippin's classes on fire safety are
poorly attended (only one person came to the first class, and none to the
second.) (Security reported that) Wolfden (SE14) had unattended torches in
camp. After issuing the First Warning, they told me that they had heard
Security in the camp, had heard the patrol receive instructions to extinguish
the torches, and then had left with out doing so. Later I talked to Haakon
about this issue. Anglesea (SE19) told to move torches off the straw strewn
paths (again.) Black Skull Bandits (SE17) were still without fire
extinguishers and still had not moved the straw. They were instructed to get
the extinguishers and move the straw (again.) Carolingia camp (SE10) were
advised their torches were too close to tents.
Barony Bhakhail (NW5) started a bonfire with accelerants and were given the
First Warning for violation of PW XXIV Stupid Rule #1 (See previous Monday.)
(I had spent the preceding two hours in their camp, and when I stepped out to
make my evening prayers at the little green mosque by the road side, one of the
campers doused the fire with gasoline and lit it. Apparently, the flames
rolled away from the fire in a sheet and severely scared a number of folks in
the camp. When I returned, I could tell that the fire had been "jump-started"
improperly, and several notables showed up to chastise the camp before I had
returned. What truly annoyed me was that I had stopped by earlier in the day
to advise them to use paraffin as the fire starter, as this would be
significantly safer than anything else.)
Monday, August 14: (Storm today) (Security reported that) Free Companions
campsite that included water-spigot #9 (SE12) had an unattended 2-log fire
burning--the camp was asleep (the patrol entered and heard snoring.) Patrol
doused the fire.
Pippin and I make rounds. House Emeroke (SE19) had a candle burning in straw
while the camp slept. I wake them and issue a First Warning. Hidden Mountain
(NE10) had a fire under a fly, and Eirikr convinced them that, though it was
safe, others would look upon their example and try it in their own camp. The
Hidden Mountain camp understood the significance of the matter and moved the
fire. Black Skull Bandits (SE17) were still without fire extinguishers and
still had not moved the straw. They were instructed to get the extinguishers
and move the straw (again.) House Morwaywffon (SE13) had a tent that had been
damaged by the camp stove, and no fire extinguishers were visible.
I summarized all First Warnings issued to date and gave a copy to the Autocrats
and Haakon. I also catch Melchior using one of the banned pop-top torches and
tell him to cease and desist.
Tuesday, August 15: (Another Storm) I have a day off, and Melchior makes
rounds. He and Security had nothing to report. Eirikr issued first warning to
a camp in NW15 for throwing liquid fuel into fire (the camp took matters into
their own hands as far as the administration of scolding the offender.) Eirikr
also saved the Info-Crat from certain death and destruction by extinguishing a
candle left burning unattended in her camp. I also notice many folks walking
over and around litter in the streets, making no effort to pick it up.
Wednesday, August 16: Black Skull Bandits (SE17) have finally corrected all
issues. Shire Stierbach and House Red Oaks Camp (NE12) had told Security on
the 14th that the torches mounted on their rickety gate had been approved by
me, which they had not. A First Warning was issued, and several booklets were
left. One camper by the Classic Swimming Hole (SW18) complained that the cart
traffic in the area was too heavy, and that Security had harassed them, but not
the local troublemakers. I spoke to Haakon later about this, and suggested to
him (and his neighbor) that they borrow a security tabard from Haakon and set
up their own local constable, so the carts would not have to patrol the area
(Haakon and Ogami liked this idea, I could tell by their smiles.)
I conferred with Hector on the effectiveness of continuing the training and
inspection mission for the remaining days of Pennsic. We concluded that the
folks that had already been trained were now responsible for their own camps,
and that the late arrivals wouldn't give a fig because of the excitement. The
remainder of the mission would be supported by the Security patrols.
Thursday, August 17: (No rain) I make one round on foot through the SE camps
again (about 2 miles with hills out there!) By this time, most problems that
can be corrected, have been, and the usual suspects no longer heed any
warnings. A report that Free Companions (SE12) exploded a bottle of sake on
the fire was received (David Dragonhawk reportedly administered the scolding
when the camp refused to identify itself following the incident.)
Friday, August 18: (Just in case no one heard yet) Tuchux (SE8) and Vlad's
Pleasure Palace (SE11) had an incident. By evening, Vlad's was empty, and the
Tuchux were having a bonfire. Several detonations occur after dark, and two
porta-johns located between the two camps were damaged. With the PA State
Police on site, I had other issues I had to deal with.
Saturday, August 19: (Security reports that) Darkyard (NW10) had unattended
fire (extinguished by Landocrat, David Dragonhawk), Lion's Cross (no location
given) had a fire attended by the unconscious members of their camp, and Barony
Settmore Swamp (SW4) had an unattended fire.
By this time, it is too late to bother with warnings anymore, as everyone is
leaving (I just HATE Pennsic Savings Time!!!) Maybe the Autocrat for PW XXV
will take notice and do something about this issue.
Sunday, August 20: Clean up and leave. (Autocrat) Alexis reports fires still
burning in Tuchux camp, Darkyard camp, and East-Middle Royal (cooks still
present in the royal camp). Several camps have left behind unfilled pits (I
advised Edward of this fact.)
Observations and conclusions:
¥ If there were 10,000 Pennsic Fire Marshals, I'd be teaching more on how to
use fire, and less on prevention. With only five of us out there, it was still
too much to effectively cover all camps on a (more-or-less) daily basis.
¥ Security patrols need to slow down and look around more. Most of the drivers
and riders on carts are staring straight ahead and see nothing going on around
them. Putting more patrols on foot would be more effective, particularly if
they patrolled their own "neighborhoods." Too may folks are taking advantage
of the carts to make sight-seeing rounds (I strongly suggested to one party
that they not use the excuse of being a "security patrol" when they where
obviously a "photo-tour.") The incidence of abuse was limited to the
Info-crat, who was rebuked for her excesses and unsafe operation (and in the
end, that seemed to have no lasting effect.)
¥ The training booklets may have had some effect, but the classes were a bust
each year they have been tried. Camp to camp inspections and education seem to
have the greatest effect.
¥ Many non-SCA groups (and a few SCA groups) just blow-off all advice and
training. Many of these scoff-law groups are camping in preferred areas.
Maybe if they lost their privileges they might listen the next year.
¥ Each year after reports are printed in kingdom newsletters, there is a
general improvement in the camps associated with that kingdom. I thank the
various chroniclers for their service and aid in improving the general
¥ It would help if there was an established policy for handling chronic
troublemakers. I suggest that a method be established between the Coopers and
the Autocrat to resolve this issue.
You are responsible for your own safety and survival at Pennsic. If the people
around you are being unsafe, and you do nothing to prevent it, you can't expect
to escape the odds every time. Enlightened self-interest is the evolutionary
step that survivors have used to prevent their extinction. Hey! Hey! Be
careful out there...
"Smokey" Baron Dur of Hidden Mountain.
Dale E. Walter email@example.com http://www.ecl.psu.edu/~dew/ Member # 02933
(Smokey) Baron Dur of Hidden Mountain
Durr ishJabal min alMaqfi Jabal abu Neefa, Sultan al-Tabl
Orluk Oasis on the War Road (of Aethelmarc)
Copyright © Mark S. Harris (Lord Stefan li Rous)
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