Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 10, 2017

Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

Below the fold:

An impressive video of a ten minutes bicycle ride, at night, through a burning Santa Rosa neighborhood.

The people got out. But those plywood buildings had no chance. (One wonders why such buildings are seen as investments.)

This from a local journalist is also impressive.

Here is a short ride with a devastated victim.

There are several more impressive "Santa Rosa" videos under the journalist's account. The first, longer ones are the best.

Posted by b on October 10, 2017 at 02:21 AM | Permalink


But those plywood buildings had no chance. (One wonders why such buildings are seen as investments.)

Indeed; our 2 Bdr. bungalow is concrete, including interior walls, with a glazed tile roof.

Posted by: V. Arnold | Oct 10, 2017 2:41:08 AM | 1

The wind has calmed way down. It's about 1 am and it's eerily quiet. No sirens or water bombers. Can't escape the smoke smell. Highway was closed both north and south, its only luck that it wasn't us. I was on those streets Friday. Supposed to be back tomorrow. Not sure if the road is open. It's so hard having no idea what is going on.

Building in CA is expensive. Building with concrete is even more, if only because of all the earthquake considerations.

Calistoga / Yountville was one of the most spectacularily beautiful and quaint parts of California. So many little organic gardens.

Thanks for covering this.

Posted by: TSP | Oct 10, 2017 4:51:28 AM | 2

Yes but the fires in Australia burn more than twice as ho are oil treest because all our trees. Trees literally explode 100 yards ahead of the flame front.

Posted by: gut bugs galore | Oct 10, 2017 6:07:19 AM | 3

There are loads of horse ranches all through that area, some with valuable breeding stock. Panicking horses screaming and galloping through the flames is all that would be needed to give this event a final satanic flourish. Hurricanes with destroyed houses for an entire month, mass shootings with the rata-tata-tat and hysterical victims driven home for a week, and now the flames of hell.

Perhaps America is starting to reap what which it has sown.

Posted by: Papa Smurf | Oct 10, 2017 8:00:49 AM | 4


Posted by: Ghostship | Oct 10, 2017 8:05:12 AM | 5

Ghostship | Oct 10, 2017 8:05:12 AM | 4

WoW indeed. I cannot imagine the sense of loss these families must feel.
!,500 homes lost, means 1,500 families have no place to come back to.
Those before and after pics are just stunning...

Posted by: V. Arnold | Oct 10, 2017 8:53:23 AM | 6

Thanks for addressing this topic. California has building codes to address the Wildland Urban Interface especially for wildfires. Building materials must resist ignition. They are tested for combustibility using the standard ASTM84, a notoriously misleading test method. In earlier milder wildfires, compliant buildings stood intact while the neighboring buildings were totaled.

A short history of US building codes: Large cities adopted municipal building codes in the 1800s, primarily to resist spreading fires. Their enforcement bodies gathered into regional conferences, and developed 4 different model codes: the Uniform Building Code for California and the west, with a seismic component, the Basic Building Code for most of the East Coast, the National Building Code for the east and midwest in conjunction with the Insurance Institute, and the Standard Building Code for the South. The fire protection groups and the electrical groups developed their own codes. There was no uniform, basic, national, standard building code until 1994. They ran out of adjectives so they called it the International Code Council (ICC). They rolled it out with a Spanish-language version, which some objected would not apply to poorer countries, but they were assured it would be fine for more developed countries "like Brazil(!)"

The code bodies are basically publishing companies, that's why the codes must be purchased, and regular updates are not given away for free. California, on the other hand, makes its code documents available to all. The ICC developed a Wildland Urban Interface code starting around 2000. Yours truly had a hand in the attic requirements.

The US may be faulted for its wood frame construction. However, floor and roof construction is out of wood in much of the world, and losing the floor/roof structure to fire is not much different from losing everything.

Posted by: Browning | Oct 10, 2017 9:20:04 AM | 7

It's very telling that there is one trope to reports on these fires - what is the damage to humans? Tell us the deaths and injuries to humans. Give us the count of burned buildings and the economic damage of so many acres burning.

In an age of Species Die-Off, how many trees perished? How many animals and plants lost their homes? We can't acknowledge such damage because it might raise questions about our reckless exploitation of the planet.

Posted by: Enrico Malatesta | Oct 10, 2017 9:30:19 AM | 8

>>>> Enrico Malatesta | Oct 10, 2017 9:30:19 AM | 7

Since this is an area prone to wildfires, I suspect the flora and fauna in the area has evolved over time to survive wildfires. Introduced species such as humans, cats and dogs are the ones that will probably have problems.

Posted by: Ghostship | Oct 10, 2017 9:41:19 AM | 9

Browning | Oct 10, 2017 9:20:04 AM | 6

Here in S.E. Asia; modern home construction is concrete home unit; topped by steel frame roof construction topped by glazed ceramic tile roofs.
Fire is just not an issue.
U.S. housing codes are an abomination and only suited to housing contractors profit motives.
In the end the true price, is always extracted; one way or the other...

Posted by: V. Arnold | Oct 10, 2017 9:54:01 AM | 10

Sad but Calif spends tens of billions for illegal aliens and govt workers. Lifeguards retiring with $230,000 pensions. Calif could have bought 100 more fire trucks, trained local volunteer firemen and also bought more fire bomber planes. The state is known for devastating fires and Santa Ana winds.

You had the awful fire last year in Oakland where the fire trap had never been inspected and a firehouse was around the corner. Govt workers just biding their time for pension and retirement.

Posted by: Biz Boy | Oct 10, 2017 10:02:11 AM | 11

San Rosa more than 100miles north from where I live, been there few times. The fires mainly in the eight wines producing counties in northern CA. Earlier spring central valleys encountered massive floods from Yosemite's western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Excessive rain plus melting snow broke Oroville dams forced the city folks downstream moved to safety. The costs to repairs will runs into many hundred of millions.

I'm really sorry to add, If you believe in gods, which I don't. It’s gods’ will Californians being punished for voting Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the first sanctuary state. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law “sanctuary state” bill making CA the first sanctuary state, and 10 other bills designed to protect undocumented immigrants and criminals. California deserves it especially bitch Nancy Pelosi California's 12th congressional district in SFO, south where the massive fires now in northern CA.

Posted by: OJS | Oct 10, 2017 10:21:56 AM | 12

"One wonders why such buildings are seen as investments"

I can explain in details why most houses in US are constructed with woods or lumbers (still standing). But poor Eng writing skill decided not to waste my time. My house a 4br wooden construction in the late 1920s sitting on ½ acre land. Lately decided not to replace the roof before winter (Nov). A good crew can tear down the roof and replace completely new (20-yrs guarantees) roof in 2-days and walk away US$15K cash as if gods’ miracle

Posted by: OJS | Oct 10, 2017 10:43:19 AM | 13


More to the point, masonry codes in California seismic are egregious to design, get permitted and expensive to implement, and after all, builders are 'in it to win it', and buyers are uneducated 'I want one like that! So they build with sticks and EFIS-covered petroleum-bmob skin.

Compare to Guam, with earthquakes but also in typhoon alley, after a big one destroyed the island, everyone in town rebuilt with expensive but solid stuccoed reinforced masonry and flat concrete roofs, and now minimal damage from typhoons, quakes or wildfires.

Would that work in Cali? No, because of the Code freaks, the blow-and-go builders and uneducated buyers. 'Where is my vaulted ceiling Kardashian McMansion?

Florida still allows trailers on blocks in hurricane alley, and Texas allows sheetrock on chipboard in flood zones, then everyone has to pay high insurance bills on their house, but O'Care is evil.

America is a runaway train wreck.

Posted by: Chipnik | Oct 10, 2017 10:48:27 AM | 14

Correction "Excessive rain plus melting snow broke Oroville dams ". Oroville dam did not break but the emergency overflow spillway broke....

Posted by: OJS | Oct 10, 2017 10:49:48 AM | 15


The quality of construction is incredible in the cities in SEAsia, and condo prices are 1/10th those of USA, as are medical and dental 1/5th for what are US-educated medical personnel, plus you are much closer to the farmer in economic downtown and everyone leaves everyone alone.

Having said that, sewage and sanitation are an obaminiation

Posted by: Chipnik | Oct 10, 2017 10:56:13 AM | 16

9 ctd

...abomination, and traffic without signals you have to see to believe the intersectiins, with people crushed to death as roadkill several times a day, and visibly worse every day, in the city. There's a place with my name on it in a village by the sea, two more years, but Im not telling where, lol.

Posted by: Chipnik | Oct 10, 2017 10:59:39 AM | 17

Everything smells like burning carpet. We are in a concrete 4 story office building downtown. Concrete roof, concrete floors. The only lumber is in the cabinets around the sinks. Its not that hard to build with concrete, even in Central California. To make it look cool is another matter. So hard to not be Stalinesque and under a million bucks.

Building with wood in California is a gamble, as is drywall in the bayou. I think its great that people are able to do whatever they want, and if they want to gamble with wood, I think its fine. Not sure I need to be stuck with the bill for their choices, but the liberty to try new things is what stimulates the inventiveness that is America. French winemakers follow the process of their great grandparents, Californian vintners mix syrah and chardonnay then win gold medals for it (ravino).

The grapes have mostly been taken off by now, though there was a heat stroke a few weeks back that really made a mess of the crop. The weed up north is just about to come down. Some of it is going to taste like burning carpet. A loss in that industry will be completely unreported, unmeasured, and tremendously impactful to the locals.

Local press conference just started. Cheers all.

Posted by: TSP | Oct 10, 2017 11:07:23 AM | 18

The thing Americans hate most is "Soviet-style poured concrete". The U.S. ambassador reported seeing it in Libya. The results are well known.

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Oct 10, 2017 11:27:38 AM | 19

Wood is used in construction since it's extremely plentiful and inexpensive. The Santa Rosa region's explosive growth over the past 2 decades is due to the insane price of housing in the overall SF Bay Area, driven by Silicon Valley's success, that's encroached into the wine country, which has always been a drier, scrub-oak region with the poor soils favored by grape vines. Denser forests begin about Mendocino County and spread Northward to Alaska. After the long drought, returning rains caused explosive growth in grasses and shrubs that provide fuel for such wildfires. My sister just visited and is retuning to Cloverdale, which is located on the border between Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, and so far has escaped this year's fires, although it's very likely she knows someone who lost their home. Reinforced masonry can be used, but your home will cost you close to 7 figures instead of the $5-700,000 for a typical suburban, tilt-up, tract-home.

Posted by: karlof1 | Oct 10, 2017 11:31:51 AM | 20

We have seen villages attacked by US / NATO forces in worse conditions. Every day!
Why should we waste time with problems afflicting these accursed people?

Posted by: Anonimous | Oct 10, 2017 11:35:03 AM | 21

Anonimous @20--

Those "accursed people" have as much control over what the Outlaw US Empire does as the Pope--NONE! When you have a criminal organization doing the actual directing of an Empire, you get outcomes like these finally being reported,

Your comment shows you're just as inhumane as the NATO/US forces you abhor.

Posted by: karlof1 | Oct 10, 2017 12:04:10 PM | 22

Woods or lumber in CA is not cheap! Check a big box in CA 1% ca lumber surcharges plus sales tax 7.5%, after local taxes about 8.44%. There are other taxes for State and local add on taxes – recycle, plastic bags etc.

In 2000 a 2X4 8feet stud cost slightly over $1.00 out the door includes sales tax. Today the same identical stud cost more than $3 out the door.

Posted by: OJS | Oct 10, 2017 12:10:41 PM | 23

Most of those houses should not be described as plywood shacks. They are mostly stucco over wood frames and plywood with clay tile roofs. They are obviously not fire proof but certainly harder to ignite than the wood houses with asphalt roofs. During the Oakland hills fire of 1992 both types of construction went up at the center of the firestorm but on the periphery the all wood structures clearly had the lower chances of survival. That fire took out over 2000 single family homes.

Posted by: ToivoS | Oct 10, 2017 12:31:16 PM | 24

Plywood? Possibly in a few upper bracket homes. Particle board, chip board, strand board. All the fine gradations of crap. Held together with flammable and toxic glue.

Posted by: oldhippie | Oct 10, 2017 12:42:54 PM | 25

Petri Krohn says:

The thing Americans hate most is "Soviet-style poured concrete"

apparently they also hate 'Mexican-style' adobe...

a superior building material. plentiful, fireproof, durable, non-toxic, biodegradable.

Earth, the raw material of adobe, has the
lowest possible embodied energy content
of known building materials, that is, the
least energy is required for its production.
Adobe is a recyclable material, as it can be
dissolved back into the earth. True adobes
are dried naturally in the sun, another source
of unlimited and free energy

there are adobe ruins in Iraq dating back 6000 years b.c.

there are adobe buildings in Yemen 900 years old that are still in use.

Posted by: john | Oct 10, 2017 12:46:17 PM | 26

i am sorry for the loss of people's place of living.. i am also sorry for the loss of wildlife and open land due this ongoing population expansion.. until we recognize that not all growth is positive, or that the money system is built up on this premise of all growth being positive - we are doomed to continue in the way we are... growth is a bummer of major proportions at this point... an alternative is badly needed...

Posted by: james | Oct 10, 2017 12:51:38 PM | 27

11 am. Still no planes flying. The wind stopped completely and the smoke is stacking up. Its so thick we can't see the mountains a mile away. But at least it smells more like a grass fire now. Seems like something is raging but we have no idea what.

Never really lived through any kind of real disaster, is it pretty normal to have almost no information from local gov? No idea what is burning, where, or anything. Mendo sheriff twitter says the Redwood fire is 19 000 acres now and 0% contained. Aren't there satellites somewhere? Would now be a good time for us mere civilians to be able to access them? The sheriff doesn't anticipate our evacuation, but I'd kinda like an opportunity to be the judge of that.

If only some of those tomahawks sent to Syria could have built sikorski choppers with radar instead. Again applies the Wayman(?) Rule: "No matter who you vote for, you always get John McCain."

Posted by: TSP | Oct 10, 2017 2:00:43 PM | 28

Maybe try this? make walls, etc, out of bundled steel tubes, maybe 2~3 inches deep. Cover the tubes with fiberglass sleeve for great insulation. Just drill holes in the sides of the tubes and insert threaded rods to hold them together. Cover outside with aluminum panels. Only the aluminum would melt in a fire, and it would likely do pretty well in a earthquake.

Posted by: blues | Oct 10, 2017 3:41:32 PM | 29

John #26 Adobe may be fine for some places in the world but definitely not along the Pacific Coast of California. Adobe houses collapse during earthquakes. Single story wood frame houses are easily the most earthquake resistant houses -- they might break but they do not collapse.

Posted by: ToivoS | Oct 10, 2017 4:20:11 PM | 30

Found a link to this morning's presser at KZYX FM and I think I figured out .gov's newest means of information dissemination. Because our cel phone was not physically in an evacuation area last night, we did not get added to the reverse 911 notification system. There is a website where we can add our number to the list, and until we do that, we aren't learning anything quickly. Also, apparently if we want to know about a particular address, we can call a number and leave a message and they'll find out and call back.

Still no planes. I hear choppers finally, can't see em tho. Wind is picking up. No idea what happens next. This morning most fires were still 0% contained. Next presser at 4.

Adobe ain't structural. The missions used it for walls but had to make them super thick. All timber above (or reinforced concrete.)

Posted by: TSP | Oct 10, 2017 4:52:31 PM | 31

A lightweight cost effective system of reinforced concrete construction was invented by the Covington family of Southern California tract home builders in the late 1970's. The system involved a patented robotically welded three dimensional wire grid with internal insulation. The panels could be lifted and secured in place by one person. When the house was assembled it was sprayed inside and out with a special gunite stucco. An entire three bedroom ranch style house could easily be built in two days with no cost premium over wood. Fire and seismic resistance were superior.

I met the Covingtons in the early 80's and got a tour of their prototype panel production line. They told me that they would not be pursuing the project due to threats from the trade unions. A decade later I was involved in trying to adapt aerospace light weight (fuel saving) construction to cars. I set up my own lobbying firm in DC when Clinton was elected (Low Mass Transit) and was completely shut down by trade unions, just like the Covingtons.

Their panel system is produced in Central/Latin America and available through many building supply houses there. You can buy a panel welding robotic production machine made in China on Alibaba for about $70 k US. I was involved in writing energy conservation codes for California and was a consultant to the state on their first energy code. From first hand experience I can tell you that the field of building codes is a sewer of the most reprehensible corporations and people.

Posted by: mireille | Oct 10, 2017 5:05:21 PM | 32

TSP @31--

The mission walls were made super thick to insulate the interior from the summer heat of California, Arizona and New Mexico, and of course Mexico.

I looked at the forecast for Santa Rosa--no rain, but wind to shift directions and not blow as strong. The Earthview satellite pic shows lots of smoke flowing NNW from 8+ fires, link

[link display corrected - b


Posted by: karlof1 | Oct 10, 2017 5:11:17 PM | 33

Nano aluminum particles from chemtrails pollute the soil over large parts of Northern California. They kill the trees and catalyze wildfire combustion. the recent Lake County fire that burned at least 1500 structures North of Calistoga was probably related to the constant chemical bombardment of the region by Dyncorp operating out of nearby USAF bases. The chemtrail program originally was intended to enhance over-horizon military communications (inner ionishpere) but quickly morphed into weaponized weather, for example manipulating jet stream patterns originating in the North Pacific to cause high temperature anomalies in Siberia that melt the permafrost under Russian oil/gas rigs. Who is behind all of that? The factions that control the US etc. So it's fine to talk about how to build safer houses, but the overarching power plays render everything unsafe, everywhere.

Posted by: mireille | Oct 10, 2017 5:21:18 PM | 34

My current home is built outta 1960's crap, yet despite that its value has increased more than 300% in the 10 years since I bought it, not that does me any good since if I sell the fucker every other house has inflated as well so the 'profit' is purely notional. These are the quandries humans face when trying to create a nexus between the demands of family, income and keeping the weather outta their piles of consumerist garbage.
I dunno about the earthquake code thing which Californians use to justify the materials they use. Is it more likely that they will suffer a bushfire or a major earthquake over a ten year period?
I would have thought a bushfire but I do not know. When I shifted down here earthquakes were the last thing on my mind, but now following two huge quakes that wiped out a city of 600,000 humans just down the road, we get regular tremors which can be scary as shit. I have been through some huge cyclones (hurricanes) and they were exciting sure but not nearly as terrifying as an earthquake where you feel completely powerless - an ant facing an atomic bomb. That is likely why California's code takes earthquakes to heart but they need to be smarter - yes there have been some big earthquakes particularly in the late 19th early 20th century and then much later in LA, but earthquakes are rare events in comparison to big bushfires so at some point there are going to have to be some objective, totally free of interference from the rapacious big construction industry decisions to be made.
People can learn to live with anything e.g, Cyclone Tracy wiped out Darwin more than 90% of the buildings including homes were destroyed so for the first decade after that everyone was all about cyclone code - bolting down roofs, banning construction in surge zones etc. Then when people began to forget and construction company greed combined with shortage of land in non-surge areas, everything went back pretty much to the way things were pre-Tracy.
I was raised in Auckland Aotearoa's, now largest population center by far, it has been built on top of many volcanoes which everyone claims are extinct because one hasn't blown for 200 years or so but the connection between earthquake fault-lines and volcanoes is now so well established that the increased seismic activity in the South Pacific likely means that peace won't last much longer - yet try and tell any Aucklander that they simply don't want to hear it - neither do the floods of bourgeois whitefellas pouring into the town from the Northern Hemisphere. I guess the only plus to that is the blow ins have forced up prices so much that locals cannot buy there and are moving to places less likely to suffer catastrophe.

Decisions about 'codes' should probably be made more sensibly being too draconian initially is what creates the chink for greedies to slip in the wedge, then after 'deregulation' too many people go with the flow imagining "if it were so risky, surely they wouldn't allow it".

The most sensible alternative for Californians for example, is one that few would support as too many people invest their self worth into their place of residence, that would be to build homes that are designed to fail; similar to the paper and bamboo constructions many Japanese had in earthquake prone regions. Your house can be destroyed by either an earthquake or a fire so build something inexpensive and light with maybe one central secure area where consumerist crap the residents are attached to can be placed in times of risk. A major earthquake is usually preceded by smaller tremors over a substantial period - as for fire the areas around these settlements need to be regularly cleared of fuel -fallen branches, long dry grass and the like. That won't prevent fire but it will delay it and allow people to take a few steps to protect themselves and their possessions rather better.

Posted by: Debsisdead | Oct 10, 2017 6:20:46 PM | 35

@22 Karlof

Those "accursed people" have as much control over what the Outlaw US Empire does as the Pope--NONE!

So if the Americans are not responsible for electing, donating and supporting their imperialist politicians, who is?

There's no excuse for lack of action. The only Americans who can be excused are those actively fighting American plutocratic imperialism. That would be less than 1%.

PS. Karlof, it's high time you learn how to write html links - the info is beside each comment form, there's a preview button. It's extremely rude to leave a dirty mess as you did on comment 33 and break formatting for everyone. If you can't write an a href don't include links at all.

Posted by: Uncoy | Oct 10, 2017 7:11:51 PM | 36

Uncoy @36--

I used preview and didn't break the format. And you ought to know that certainly since 1947 the populace of the USA hasn't had control of their national government. I'd go much further back to 1787 and say they lost what small degree of control they had then.

Posted by: karlof1 | Oct 10, 2017 7:20:11 PM | 37

Posted by: karlof1 | Oct 10, 2017 7:20:11 PM | 37

Preview isn't a great indication of broken format as it is among other issues, device dependent - if I read this thread on my desktop there is no problem but if I try to read it on a phone or tablet (I just tested both) the format is screwed and makes reading the thread a tedious chore.

On those days when I cannot for the life of me remember the A HREF= ditty I copy and paste the line b has kindly put above the box then paste the link between the quotation marks over the aclu text - it never fails and it implies that you are posting for the benefit of others who may choose to read yer post.

Posted by: Debsisdead | Oct 10, 2017 8:40:42 PM | 38

@ karlof1 and others about broken formatting

I went and looked at the source to see what broke the formatting and it looks like the link contain a "rel" or relationship option to the tag that couldn't be resolved for whatever reason.
I am not current on use of rel option and maybe there is another reason with how typepad handles
tags that is the culprit.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Oct 10, 2017 10:03:03 PM | 39

shame on me for using the a tag formatting and not closing the tag with

Posted by: psychohistorian | Oct 10, 2017 10:04:37 PM | 40

Uncoy @36--
I used preview and didn't break the format.
Posted by: karlof1 | Oct 10, 2017 7:20:11 PM | 37

That's hard to believe...
I just copied your link @#33 into the comment box on another thread and
previewed it to see if it would wreck the margins.
Guess what? PREVIEW showed that it would wreck the margins...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Oct 11, 2017 1:16:43 AM | 41

regarding broken page formatting:

1. This happen when people paste long URL that contain characters that prevent line-breaking at page boundaries, e.g the link pasted by Karlof1 contains lots of “_” (underscores); if that string of text had used “-” (hyphen) instead it wouldn’t be a problem.

Morality Please use the A HREF= as suggested.

2. @b

Could you please add the following to the stylesheet for MOA (at the bottom of the stylesheet will do):

#content {max-width:55rem; margin:0 auto;}

a[href*="="] { overflow-wrap: break-word; }

That will do two things: first part will prevent the content block of becoming overtly wide, while remaining centred as much as possible; the second part will force a line break on those links like the one posted by Karlof1. It is not perfect and may still cause issues, particularly on small screens, but that is the best I can do given the less-than-flexible layout in use.

Posted by: Philippe | Oct 11, 2017 2:47:56 AM | 42

Seems apropos:

Little Boxes, Malvina Reynolds, 1961

Posted by: Pacifica Advocate | Oct 11, 2017 5:20:56 AM | 43

ToivoS says:

Adobe may be fine for some places in the world...

let me amend that for you...

Adobe may not be fine for some places in the world...

but for the others...

these structures are actually only about 500 years old, and some have been rebuilt a few times over the centuries, but...

well, please don't miss my point.


i live in a seismic area. here in the acropolis the major structures(stone) are at least 600 years old and have been in continuous use all that time.

but yeah, if the 'big one' ever hits, they'll all come down.

Posted by: john | Oct 11, 2017 5:45:28 AM | 44

@ToiVos, #30:

>>>Adobe may be fine for some places in the world but definitely not along the Pacific Coast of California. Adobe houses collapse during earthquakes. Single story wood frame houses are easily the most earthquake resistant houses -- they might break but they do not collapse.

Check out this pdf with pictures of the traditional buildings in Turkey that survived the massive 1999 earthquake, there. That quake killed 17,000 people, almost all of them living in "modern," government-approved housing. The people who lived in the traditional buildings, though--which were built from adobe+wood--all (or nearly all) survived. The key is diagonal struts interspersed with vertical struts, which reinforce and direct the force created when the quake shakes the brick or stone wall material.

Now compare those pictures to the ones you can find on this blog, of slate stone houses built by mountainous peoples in Taiwan (which is famous for its extremely volatile tectonic activity):

Notice how there are vertical columns which are then filled by walls built up from irregularly interlocking slate stones that lie flat upon one another. Those slate walls serve the same purpose as the diagonal joints in the Turkish homes. I have even seen some examples here of stone columns which are laid in diagonally between the vertical columns, and then filled with slate laid on a diagonal. That sort of slate building technique one can find in the Philippines (which was colonized by the Austronesian peoples of Taiwan, some of whom still maintain limited contact with their sister tribes across the water), in Indonesia (Bali), and in a few other places around Asia (Okinawa, for instance)--all areas with quite active seismic activity, and yet those buildings don't fall.

Long story short: it's not the building material, it's the architectural design that determines if a building survives or falls. The Taiwanese government laid down strict building guidelines int he mid 80s (IIRC), eliminating all non-load-bearing stories and enforcing all new building designs to start from a strong load-bearing ground floor. The buildings that collapsed in Taiwan's 1999 earthquake were all from that earlier period; very few that were built after the establishment of the building codes collapsed, and quite many of those were due to neglectful construction by the contractors. Nearly all of Taiwan's buildings are today steel-reinforced concrete structures; notably, the Taiwan quake was stronger, and Taiwan is as densely populated (at least) as that area of Turkey, but only 2,0000+ people died in the Taiwan quake of that same year.

Personally, I'd rather have a properly constructed adobe-and-wood house than one of the boxes made of ticky-tacky.

Posted by: Pacifica Advocate | Oct 11, 2017 5:58:45 AM | 45


I have enjoyed reading your posts, here, over the years, but I must disagree with this comment:

>>>Decisions about 'codes' should probably be made more sensibly being too draconian initially is what creates the chink for greedies to slip in the wedge, then after 'deregulation' too many people go with the flow imagining "if it were so risky, surely they wouldn't allow it".

Building contractors are *ALWAYS* looking for ways to game the system and gauge more money out of the system: it's the nature of the business. A contractor puts in a bid, and then any money he or she makes is what is left over after the client has paid the bid. Going over-budget isn't an option for, say, your average residential contractor or small-scale commercial contractor, so if problems arise on the job or the bid was just too tight to return any kind of meaningful profit, then the pressure to gamble on realigning joints that *should* be 1 meter to 1.2 meters wide will be felt. The pressure to use cheaper concrete, less rebar, etc--it's the nature of the game.

The only kind of building codes that work are ones that are just draconian enough that if someone cheats, the structure will still be safe; to make that work, though, one needs inspectors who are practical enough to know what is and is not acceptable, and wise enough to know when they can't just look away.

Building codes are a necessary feature of any industrialized society. Zoning ordinances, however......don't get me started on those monstrously inhumane beasts.

Posted by: Pacifica Advocate | Oct 11, 2017 6:06:45 AM | 46

TSP says:

Adobe ain't structural

and you ain't paying attention.

Buildings made of sun-dried earth are common in West Asia, North Africa, West Africa, South America, southwestern North America, Spain, Eastern Europe and East Anglia, particularly Norfolk, known as clay lump. Adobe had been in use by indigenous peoples of the Americas in the Southwestern United States, Mesoamerica, and the Andean region of South America for several thousand years, although often substantial amounts of stone are used in the walls of Pueblo buildings(link)

Posted by: john | Oct 11, 2017 6:51:17 AM | 47

TSP says:

Adobe ain't structural

if all those houses that've been reduced to ash that we're looking at in these impressive videos had been built with adobe, well, at least the walls would still be standing.

Adobe ain't structural

Adobe ain't structural

Adobe ain't structural

Adobe ain't structural

etc., etc., etc.

Posted by: john | Oct 11, 2017 7:11:39 AM | 48

Mud based structure strength - form AND materials: See also Hakka Tulou round houses.
Can't find the old CCTV documentary that had more detail about construction.
They added rice syrup and other carbs to the mud mix and aged the bricks several years.
I wondered if this was to promote soil microbe [biopolymer] superglue production.**

** here is a more recent expression of the same material idea -

Posted by: rjj | Oct 11, 2017 8:30:21 AM | 49

At 6 am on Oct 11, the wind is already blowing and swirling. Last I heard the Redwood Valley fire is 21 000 acres and 0% contained. If the off shore winds return (expected for October), and then stay like we saw Tuesday, just that one fire could go all the way to the coast and take out 100 000 + old growth redwoods. There isn't much for bank property so it won't make the news. Some of those trees in that band are 2000 years old.

John @48

"Adobe ain't structural" was a quote from a 40 year architect who walked by my office when I was posting that comment, although, you might know more than he does. If so, put all the unbounded sand on your roof that you like and then sleep under it every night, except in northern california, not because you'd sleep alone, but because you'd never get a building permit or insurance, and when you get caught, you'll be fined the cost of demolition +.

I definitely see value in the building codes and CalFire. Its the most complete guide I've ever seen. And while a change in building materials is not easy, assuredly, I've seen many provisions for different building materials, paths to certification, and nothing that a trade union could prevent. To that, we are currently engineering lab space in shipping containers that comply with these codes. I'm working right now on the back up power to fan for the chemical storage, its required to be .25 CFM / square foot on the floor, with back up power and an emergency shut off. The California building code is very extensive, where I grew up, there were no building codes at all.

Posted by: TSP | Oct 11, 2017 9:21:01 AM | 50

Oh - and I looked at some of these links and nearly every one shows a wooden roof on buildings from before the modern era.

Check out the new school from an ultra incredible local company.

Posted by: TSP | Oct 11, 2017 10:25:05 AM | 51


i'm talking about building materials, not building codes.

adobe as a building material? it's superior, and i think its legacy speaks for itself.

Posted by: john | Oct 11, 2017 10:40:44 AM | 52

TSP says:

Check out the new school from an ultra incredible local company

indeed. there you go. state of the art. i rest my case.

Posted by: john | Oct 11, 2017 10:49:36 AM | 53

John -

You'll notice the pictured roof of any building in California is always something except adobe. And, except adobe, almost everything else burns.

There are options, but as stated prior, they're all $1M+ (or they burn).

The fire marshall says this is a once in a life time fire. Above what percent chance is the wood-roof-gamble not worth it? Its unclear to me.


You're probably right, the zoning ordinances were done in ways most benefiting the friends of .gov (see Diaz, Porfirio). Now the towns are all built in residential zones with clear industrial zones somewhere else. It is possible to change the ordinances, we have a client doing it now, but it takes a committee meeting (paid by client fees, not taxes) and a public debate. About a year long process, should be okay. The people at the county office are what government everywhere should resemble. Decent people trying to learn what we're doing and help as best they can.

Surprisingly, not everyone in government is a raging lunatic. The local sheriff is actually hilarious and under his watch they've never shot anybody.

Posted by: TSP | Oct 11, 2017 11:45:35 AM | 54

@ Karlof1 #22

Karlof1, I considered you smarter, but your childish response makes me reconsider.
Seriously you believe in the nonsense you wrote? The accursed American people have nothing to do with American "government"?
Is the "American Way of Life" enjoyed / defended by the accursed American people or not?
If so, don't you realize that AWoL is only possible by turning the world into hell? And always was and always will be?
And you have the courage, an extra touch of cynicism to say that the American people are innocent and that the only culprit is the so-called "government"?
Well, let's see how much time you need to start blaming the Jews for the "criminal organization" you referred to.
BTW the "criminal organization" came from nothing? Nowhere? No one vote for her?
Sad. I was expecting a little more from you.

Posted by: Anonimous | Oct 11, 2017 6:22:26 PM | 55

Posted by: Pacifica Advocate | Oct 11, 2017 6:06:45 AM | 46

I understand your point of view and do not claim to be an architect but I am still firmly of the opinion that what I call for want of a better term 'preventative' building codes tend to be devised and implemented quite soon after some cataclysmic event. For example here in Aotearoa where local governments are using the massive Christchurch earthquakes as a means to rid commercial districts of all older structures throughout the country.

The code is so restrictive that just about any multi-floor commercial building constructed before 1970 has to undertake massive remediation that is economically nonviable, or be torn down. As far as many property managers are concerned it is an excellent way to rid their portfolios of those buildings that have been determined to have historic importance to the community they are located within. It was a long hard battle to prevent the destruction of these buildings and now it is for naught. As it is CBD's around the country have already been gutted of 90% of the colonial buildings from Aotearoa's initial pakeha invasion, now the last 10% are going - even in those rare circumstances where the owners wanted to keep them. Yes, it is the same for most population centers post globalisation but now when I do visit Auckland, all there is as far as the eye can see is concrete and mirror glass rectangles. I may as well be anywhere -the colonial hotels, theatres and administrative buildings have long gone, the same for more recent structures such as the incredible 1930's chrome and stained glass extravaganza that was the HQ for the power utility or it's brother the art deco style workshops placed on a campus once considered to be the city outskirts but now part of the business district. Gone gone gone the fluorescent signs atop these building indicate that I am probably somewhere in Australia or NZ, but beyond that I could be in any town anywhere in Australasia -yuk.

That really isn't the worst of building regulations which inevitably appear to favour the construction industry rather than the end user - for example the changed codes post cyclone Tracy in Darwin, not only vastly increased the cost of construction - which was immediately passed on to the families buying a residence, the least demanding way of sticking to code meant that natural ventilation had to be sacrificed in favour of solid concrete construction and air conditioning. Just awful when living in the tropics, as opening the internal and external walls to permit ventilation is the best way to keep the climate tolerable in the pre-'wet season' times.
Living in refrigerated air-conditioning is expensive, unhealthy and immensely destructive to the environment.
Houses are for living in - not for going thru cyclones, bush fires or earthquakes in. That means it is vital to draw a line between what is affordable yet gives the occupant some time to escape, and what is more reminiscent of a fallout bunker and unaffordable for many. Poor people need a roof over their heads too, yet because of the way that those realities are ignored in initial post disaster building code decisions, pressure is put on building boards (or whatever they are called in other parts of the world) to change the code which in turn leads to the pendulum swinging too far in the other direction.

Posted by: Debsisdead | Oct 12, 2017 12:31:01 AM | 56

@Debsisdead, #46:

>>>I understand your point of view and do not claim to be an architect but I am still firmly of the opinion that what I call for want of a better term 'preventative' building codes tend to be devised and implemented quite soon after some cataclysmic event.

I'm surprised to hear you saying this: it seems a profoundly Libertarian, anti-societal view.

>>>For example here in Aotearoa where local governments are using the massive Christchurch earthquakes as a means to rid commercial districts of all older structures throughout the country.

Yes...but that has nothing whatsoever to do with establishing effective building codes. That's simply an abuse of building codes fueled by propaganda, a capitalist attack on what is portrayed as the historical sentimentality of certain communities.

Sometimes, there really is too much sentimentality. Sometimes, however, the sentimentality is a genuine resistance to attempts to economically invade a community and force it from self-sufficiency to a dependent sub-economy of some city or corporation or other.

The building codes, in that instance, are a victim--just like the targeted communities, and their otherwise self-sufficient structures.

Think of it this way: when we all get to debating about whether or not a mathematically demonstrable and physically testable limit to safety is something that should or should not be enforced, or can-or-cannot-be-measured, we are no longer in the realm of science/reason/politics, and have instead been dumped into a debate over religion/fantasy/zero-sum power.

Or in other words: the idea of building codes is O.K.; the problem is the current Veil of Maya called "Western European-style Representative Government."

Posted by: Pacifica Advocate | Oct 12, 2017 10:15:24 AM | 57

- Western Parts of North America (including the US) are suffering from a reduced amount of rain & snowfall. In the 1980s & 1990s there was (comparatively) plentiful rain & snow fall in California. On the border between Nevada (spanish for snowy) and California mountains are high enough to have snow in the winter.
- Since say the year 2000 the temperature of the N.-American coastal waters have cooled down significantly and that's why the amount of rain and snow has shrunk. Cooler coastal waters mean that it takes more solar energy to evaporate the ocean water ==> fewer clouds ==> less rainfall.

Posted by: Willy2 | Oct 16, 2017 11:21:41 AM | 58

- "One wonders why such buildings are seen as investments". Excellent point/observation.

Posted by: Willy2 | Oct 17, 2017 8:19:21 PM | 59

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