Nothing seems real to me now until it's been youtubed on a cellphone camera; that special mix of artifacty shadows, blown highlights and uncanny detail everywhere else signifies the zenith of media-era simulated authenticity. Elliott's there, though, and it's terrifying!
It's 4am in the centre of Turkmenistan's Karakum Desert, I'm sitting on the rim to what could be described as the world's largest campfire -- known locally as the 'Door to Hell', or officially as Darvaza Gas Crater.
"Bit windy," he says.
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Firefighters were able to douse the flames within minutes, but not before smoke filled the Princeton, Texas Walmart and forced shoppers to evacuate. Four were treated for minor injuries and a suspect, Jario Briceno-Barrientos, will face the heat in court after allegedly using lighter fluid to set fire to a pile of clothing.
Princeton police were able to arrest the suspect after posting surveillance video of him on their Facebook page. "Due to the overwhelming support from the citizens we were able to capture the suspect," the Facebook post read. "Thank you, everybody, for your continual help and support!"
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Following the tragic fire in an Oakland warehouse space called Ghost Ship, engineer and designer Gui Cavalcanti put together a guide to help ensure that unconventional homes, studios, and galleries are as safe as possible. Cavalcanti’s article acknowledges that people generally use these types of spaces because they can’t afford more conventional real estate. And his guide centers on small, inexpensive changes that can save lives. Here's an excerpt:
Make sure your exit infrastructure is fire-safe. News reports indicate that the Ghost Ship fire was exacerbated by the fact that an improvised stairwell was made of pallets. For the record, people often construct bonfires out of pallets. They are not sound building material, they are not fire-resistant in any way, and they should not have been serving as exit infrastructure between the first and second floor. I’ve seen many pieces of improvised infrastructure in the spaces I’ve visited; second floors that are served by home-built wooden ladders, wooden lofts that serve as mezzanines, catwalks made of old building materials, you name it. All of these examples can be extremely hazardous in a fire or other hazardous situation. They’re cool, they’re edgy, they’re creative, but they can also be fundamentally unsafe. Make sure you have safe exit paths (that are marked and made of fire-safe materials) to all of your spaces, even if you also have decorative walkways and paths. Ladders, poles, ropes and other features are not safe exits.
You can read the full piece over on Medium. Read the rest
Protip: when powerlines fall on your chainlink fence, remove yourself from proximity to the chainlink fence. Read the rest
Almost all of Canada's tar sands production has been shut down by a raging wildfire in Alberta's Fort McMurray region.
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This home was burned to the ground in the Fort McMurray wildfire. The owners watched their living room go up in smoke via a security camera feed sent to their iPhone. Read the rest
On New Year's Eve, a 63-story hotel in Dubai caught on fire. There were no fatalities. Kirill Neiezhmako's time lapse video of the inferno is like something from a big budget Hollywood movie. Read the rest
This guy was showing off his cigarette lighters and matches when he accidentally started a small fire. While he was putting it out, he started an even bigger fire, which wasn't so easy to put out. Read the rest
A foolish motorist was lucky to escape unharmed after trying to kill a spider in Center Line, Michigan, with fire. At a gas pump. While pumping gas.
After spotting the terrifying creature and perhaps remembering the Internet's advice on how such things are best disposed of, he whipped out a lighter and promptly set ablaze everything in front of him. He put out the fire himself with a nearby extinguisher, but not before the pump was destroyed.
Fox News Detroit reports that he later came back to say he was sorry.
This charred fuel pump says it all. We are told his car was barely damaged from the flames. But his embarrassing mistake didn't stop the man from coming back the next day as a customer.
"He was sorry," Susan said. "He was sorry, he said he didn't know. It is just one of those things that happen - stupidity."
Adams said this serves as a reminder about being careful around gas pumps. Whether it is using a cell phone or static electricity, the smallest spark can cause a gas station fire.
It is not noted in reports whether the spider escaped immolation.
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The LeBeau Plantation house in St. Bernard Parish, La., was long considered haunted. Now it's considered toast, having allegedly been burned to the ground by stoned ghost hunters. Local Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann said that the fire broke out at about 2 a.m. Friday, reports Fox News, with the mansion "fully engulfed in flames" by the time firefighters arrived. [via Fortean Times] Read the rest
Investigators are still trying to understand what happened to the 19 firefighters who were killed last weekend in Arizona, while battling a wildfire. Climatewire's Nathanael Massey explains
how a dangerous-but-dealable blaze can quickly become something much more deadly. Read the rest
By now, many of you are probably aware that human behavior is one of the key factors behind some of the massive forest fires we've seen in recent years. The basic story goes like this: Under a natural cycle, periodic small fires sweep through forests, burning through small trees and dry brush. But if you prevent those fires from happening—as humans have done for around a century at this point—all that highly flammable stuff builds up. In the end, you're left with a giant tinderbox of a forest. The next time a fire does happen there, it's almost guaranteed to be much, much bigger and more destructive than the natural fires that forest is adapted to.
NPR has a very nice story about the science and history behind this problem, which forest fire experts call "The Smokey Bear Effect", after the cartoon Ursus the U.S. Forest Service has long used as part of its fire prevention campaign.
Its ill-advised fire prevention campaign.
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And it was the experts who approved the all-out ban on fires in the Southwest. They got it wrong. That's the view of fire historian Stephen Pyne.
"The irony here is that the argument for setting these areas aside as national forests and parks was, to a large extent, to protect them from fire," Pyne says. "Instead, over time they became the major habitat for free-burning fire."
So instead of a few dozen trees per acre, the Southwestern mountains of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah are now choked with trees of all sizes, and grass and shrubs.
A tractor-trailer hauling 10 tons of toilet paper blocked an Ohio highway last week when the payload caught fire. Hundreds of rolls of blazing tissue spilled onto the highway
, according to the Toledo Blade
, with much of the rest ruined by firefighters. Read the rest