I’m getting ready for my August Camp NaNoWriMo novel and I’d appreciate a bit of helpful advice.
Setting: Contemporary, Southeastern Utah, a cattle ranch in a fictitious county shoehorned in between National parks, late spring or early summer (not cattle selling season)
Synopsis: A rancher in need of money agrees to take on paying guests in the form of an inept extreme team-building group of city-slickers and meets a sexy school teacher who is one very smart cookie.
Scene: A fire pit cookout area near the bunkhouse. The first night the team scorches the bunkhouse and the barn during a Bonfire Bonding ritual. The bonfire builders are supposed to use normal firewood but they get carried away, building a College Station contender of a bonfire using an unattended stack of fence posts. The ranch hands don’t notice the problem until the torch goes up. They first notice the sparks and flames over the barn roof and the actual fire is about 60’ beyond the barn. They get it put out fairly quickly, but the damage is impressive the next morning. (No fictitious persons or animals were hurt in the making of this scene)
Team Leader response: Meh, it’s just firewood. You’re insured, right?
Rancher response: That was $$$$ worth of pressure treated pine fencing! It’s gonna take (time and effort) to replace! Rants continue…
Google-fu says it would be pressure treated pine but online manufacturers only want to part with the numbers if you’re looking for a quote. Since I’m not actually building a fence…
Experts and guessperts I’m looking for a $2-6K monetary setback for the rancher here, so some answers are related. Expensive fence posts = smaller fire or bigger setback. Cheap fence posts = bigger fire or less setback. Insured fencing = temporary setback, major irritation.
Here are the details I’m looking for help with:
1. How big is the pyre? I’m thinking 8-10 vertical feet of stacked hardwood on a 5’ diameter base would make a pretty impressive pile and shoot flames 25-30 feet in the air once it’s fully involved.
2. How much wood (4”x4”x8’) would it take for a not solidly compacted, teepee-style stack? (I can visualize a pickup-load but not a cord)
3. What would be an approximate value of the fencing?
4. Would it be reasonable for 14-15 armchair engineers and a couple of dedicated kibitzers to build such a pyre in 2-3 hours, considering: a) they’re arguing over how to do it, and b) they’re not overly concerned with safety inspections?
5. Would treated lumber have an effect on the fire? Ex: Stronger/faster burn, easier/harder to ignite, oily/dry ashes, more sparks, colored flames, smell/taste of smoke, more dangerous to inhale? I’m thinking No but I could be wrong.
6. Some of the ranch staff has volunteer experience fighting wildfires. Fire extinguishers and a bucket brigade are too small to do much good. I have three ideas that I might use in combination if any of them are feasible.
A: On-site fire hydrants in the main building compound with a portable hose & pump
B: Hose & pump but drop the hose end into a well, a swimming pool, a stock tank or other open water source.
C: Use a BobCat-sized bulldozer to tip over the stack in a safe direction and scoop dirt on it. (my current favorite)
Any constructive suggestions would be helpful.
Afterthought: Is there a cattle selling season?