USFS employee puts out fire on roof of ranger station

A U. S. Forest Service employee put out a fire on the roof of their Ranger Station in Leavenworth, Washington Wednesday night. Apparently caused by an electrical problem, the fire burned a portion of the cedar shake shingle roof. The USFS employee knocked down the fire with a garden hose until the fire department arrived.  Chelan County Fire District 3 Chief Kelly O’Brien said the fire caused damages less than $10,000.

But, a wood roof on a U. S. Forest Service structure? How can we preach to the public to use construction materials that are fire-resistant when we use the worst possible material on our own structures?

When the 83,000-acre Jasper fire burned through Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota in 2000, the shake shingle roof on an isolated historic structure had just been replaced with, guess what, another shake shingle roof. On three different occasions firefighters had to apply foam to the National Park Service structure and then retreat as the fire approached, taking a significant risk to protect it.

Shake shingle roofs are not only made of combustible material, but the overlapping of the unevenly-shaped shingles provides thousands of crevices that make ideal traps for burning embers. And once a small fire becomes established under a shingle, applying water onto the top of the roof rarely will extinguish it. The roof usually has to be torn apart and accessed from below to put out the fire. All this takes time and resources, which are usually in short supply during a wildand fire.

Synthetic shake shingles

But there are alternatives for re-roofing historic structures. Synthetic shake shingles are available that except under close inspection, look almost exactly like wood shingles. Agency administrators should be brave and stand up to the historic preservation zealots and insist on making even historic structures as fire resistant as possible, while still maintaining the historic appearance and values.

Below is a portion of a brochure published by You can download the entire 6 MB file HERE.

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