Rhubarb – A Beautiful, Edible Plant

by Admin 27. August 2012 11:05
By: Eliza Osborn

Rhubarb is a beautiful vigorous plant that comes up faithfully every spring and gets bigger and bigger each year. It will send up a huge stalk with a not very pretty bloom on it but you shouldn’t let Rhubarb bloom. Cut back the blossom stalks to the ground to keep the plant vigorous and producing. Also, the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid and are considered toxic. So when you cut the stalk to eat be sure to cut the leaf off immediately since the poison will travel into the stalk once cut. Actually the leaves can be simmered in hot water to make an insecticide.

The stalks are delicious in pies and you can dip the raw stalks in sugar and eat like celery. This is really good and kids love it. It is high in Vitamin C and Calcium.

Rhubarb is one of the most carefree plants to grow. It does best where the winter temperature goes below 40′ and the summer highs average around 75-80. Don’t harvest any stalks the first year and only a few the second year. But after that you can harvest up to 1/2 the plant. Stop harvesting though when the stalks become thinner because it means the roots are getting weaker.

Since we really enjoy more tropical settings than we are able to have where we live, it’s fun to use some plants that look tropical, like the rhubarb with its big, leathery leaves. We are even trying to grow some palm trees, but I think that is pretty optimistic of us. Maybe some of them will make it though, if we can have a few milder winters until they can get established.

Thanks and happy planting!

Sparing Tomatoes

by Admin 24. August 2012 08:16

By: Eliza Osborn

Cherry TomatoesIsn’t one of the greatest things about summer having fresh, delicious tomatoes right out of your own garden? Well, here in the “Klondike” of the Rocky Mountains, we don’t get tomatoes till the very end of the summer and this year with our cold, wet spring we didn’t get them until September. We’d had a few cherry tomatoes get ripe but the big, slicing tomatoes took a very long time. That means, at least for us, there will probably be a freeze long before all of our tomatoes have ripened. That can be very frustrating. Fortunately there are some things you can do to keep from losing a lot of green tomatoes.

There are 3 tricks that I’ve heard of to save tomatoes, 2 of which we’ve tried and had success. The other we just recently learned of and are looking forward to trying this year.

If you have green tomatoes late into the season and you’re pretty sure they won’t have time to ripen before the cold hits them, you can bend the stalks over at the ground and it will trigger the tomatoes to go ahead and ripen. Green Tomatoes

Or if you have green tomatoes on the vine and freezing weather is imminent, you can carefully pull up the vines and hang them upside down in a protected area, like a garage. The tomatoes will ripen and won’t be wasted.

We’ve just heard of a way to save the plant for a head start in the spring. Cut the vines back and carefully lift the root ball. Place it in a container of sand and put it in a protected area that doesn’t freeze and doesn’t get too warm. Keep it moist but not wet. In the spring, when the ground has warmed up enough,just set it out in your garden. As I said, we haven’t tried this yet but will this fall. If anyone has tried this last trick we’d like to hear how it worked out for you.

If you live, like we do, where the growing season is so short you’ll do just about anything to extend your harvest.

FireIce Q& A - Positive Pressure Ventilation(PPV)

by Admin 9. August 2012 08:12

Hey FireIce Bloggers!  Check out todays question and answer below:

PPV FanDescribe this operation. How must the blower be placed at the open entry point?


Positive Pressure Ventilation or PPV is defined as: “A method of ventilating a confined space by mechanically blowing fresh air into the space in sufficient volume to create a slight positive pressure within and thereby forcing the contaminated out the exit opening”.PPV Procedures

The fan or blower is placed 4’ to 10’ from the entry point you must ensure the fan cone completely covers the entry point. An exit point MUST be created opposite the entry point to push the smoke out of the exit opening.  This exit opening should be the same size or slightly smaller than the entry opening.  The entire goal is to create postive pressure an it is important that no other exterior doors or windows are opened during this operation.

Once the structure is stabilized you can open and close interior doors and exterior windows to pressurize one area at a time. Opening and closing interior doors at the proper time can accelerate the removal from heat and smoke. Also removing cold smoke from a building after the fire is extinguished is achieved by placing a negative pressure fan at the exit opening. Source: Chapter 11 Ventilation, Essentials of Fire Fighting 5th Edition. (See Illustrations)

If deployed properly PPV can prove to be a useful tool on the fire ground Proper Training and Practice on this operation is essential to ensure “Everyone Goes Home”. Stay Safe!
By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

Save Those Lemon Seeds

by Admin 9. August 2012 05:52

By: Eliza Osborn                                              

Lemon TreeWhen you eat an orange or tangerine or even a kumquat the seeds are a nuisance. But they can become beautiful plants.

The seeds are easy to germinate by just poking them about 1/2″ into potting mix in a pot and keeping them moist. After they sprout, just water every 4-6 days. They make beautiful house plants and as the little “tree” grows you can move it into larger pots. In the warmer seasons they will be happy on the deck or patio or even in the ground if you live in Zone 8 or higher. If you’re growing them inside they’ll need to be by a sunny window or at the very least, by some bright light bulbs.

Emerging from the ground, the sprouted seed quickly presents a stand of shiny, green, fragrant leaves a surprisingly sturdy, stem with every intention of becoming the hardwood trunk of an evergreen tree. Yet these seedlings can be pruned so that they remain at whatever sizes you want. Try several seedlings started in a larger pot to make a fuller planting.

Since citruses readily cross their species lines, (which have already been manually crossed and recrossed), the fruits are varied and many. So don’t plant a tangerine seed expecting to get tangerines. Maybe these should be called surprise plants. If all the conditions are right and the plant is happy and grows to maturity, then it will be fun to see what kind of fruit it will produce.  Happy Planting!



Everyone Goes Home

by Admin 25. July 2012 07:31

Hey FireIce Blog Readers!! It appears this past month has been busy for many departments around the world and with that being said the LODD list grew as did firefighter injuries… Our job is hard enough and we take many risks, but most injuries are preventable!

Make everyday a training day So Everyone Goes Home… Stay Safe!


By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer


Categories: FireIce | GelTech Solutions

What Does Your Dirt Feel Like?

by Admin 25. July 2012 07:09

Soil? Dirt? Looks like clay to me.By: Eliza Osborn

Even though it’s one of the most important factors of gardening, it’s often overlooked when planning a garden.

Do you have any idea what your soil is like? Good soil is made up of about 50% air and water and the remaining portion is mostly minerals products with a small amount of organic matter.To learn the make up and amount of nutrients in your soil you will need to get a soil analysis done. This can be done at the county extension office for a small fee.

The mineral portion is made up of very large, small and tiny particles. These particles determine the texture of the soil, which determines how often you might have to fertilize and irrigate. Most soils are a combination of these textures. The problem is when there isn’t a good balance and there is too much sand or clay.

The largest particles are sand. Sandy soils drain very quickly and it is then necessary to water and fertilize more frequently.

The small particles are silt and these particles allow medium drainage.

The tiny particles are clay and these particles can hold a lot of water and nutrients. The problem is that the clay can get very compacted and hold the moisture and nutrients so tightly that they can’t be used by the plants.

I’ve gardened in very sandy soil and in very hard clay soil. The sandy soil is very easy because there isn’t much resistance to the shovel, and weeds pull out easily. However, plants need watering and feeding really often because there aren’t many nutrients in the sand and the water just zips right on through. Adding organic matter to the sand will greatly increase it’s texture and nutrient content as well as it’s moisture holding capabilities.

On the other hand, clay soils are a real challenge to garden in. We literally had to use a Maddox and a pick ax to plant fruit trees and shrubs. The soil has to be broken up in quite a large area,  with sand and a lot of organic matter added, to give the roots a chance to grow. You have to be sure not to over water because the water doesn’t drain off and can rot the roots. There are usually a lot of nutrients present though, so you need less fertilizer.

Really good soil is sandy loam, which is a good balance of all of these textures. It’s easy to work with, is fertile and drains well. If you’re blessed with sandy loam in your yard, both your thumbs can be green.

Until you get you soil analysis done, there are couple of quick test you can do to try to find out what your soils texture is. The easiest way is to rub a small amount of moist soil between your finger and thumb. If it’s sandy, you’ll be able to feel the coarseness and if there is a high clay content, it will feel silky, almost slimy.

Another way is to put a small amount of soil, (taken from different spots in your garden area), into a large jar (quart – gallon) and add 5x -10x the water. Shake it up really well and just let it settle. After a few hours you’ll begin to see different levels of sediment appearing. Leave it for a few days, and you’ll be able to get a pretty good idea of the texture of your soil. The large sandy particles will be on the bottom, silt in the middle and the tiny clay particles on top. The proportion of these layers will give you an idea of how to garden in the soil you have.

Of course there is much more to soil than texture, but it’s a step toward understanding how to care for your plants and help them thrive.

So, take off the gloves and feel the dirt.

Thanks and happy planting!

FireIce Academy is back in session...

by Admin 20. July 2012 06:33

Hey FireIceBloggers!! FireIce Academy is back in session...

You have responded to a fire in a single family dwelling. Upon arrival your company officer orders your hose team to don full PPE and advance a 1 3/4 inch attack line to the front door. The door is open and you can see the fire at the back of the living room. The smoke that is rolling out of the doorway is black and the heat is intense at the opening.

What method of attack, direct, indirect, or combination, do you use?

Answer: The combination attack uses the fog nozzle to its best advantages.

What are the advantages of this method?

Answer: The wide fog pattern cools the room and provides protection to the nozzle operator.

Why did you select this method?

Answer: The fog nozzle also creates small water droplets that absorb the heat and generates steam to smother the fire. The straight stream can penetrate the burning combustibles from a distance and complete the extinguishment process.

Stay Safe!

By Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer


Categories: FireIce | GelTech Solutions

Growing Rosemary

by Admin 13. July 2012 08:13

Potted RosemaryBy Eliza Osborn

Rosemary is one of those wonderful smelling herbs that is also beautiful and so useful in the kitchen when cooking with fresh herbs. Isn’t it great to know that Rosemary is extremely easy to grow? It is an evergreen, perennial plant that needs plenty of sunshine, 6-8 hours a day, well drained soil and don’t let it get cold, as in 35′ or less. That’s why mine is in a pot, because it has to come in for the winter. I prune it back in the autumn, a few weeks before bringing it in, so that  it doesn’t take up so much room in the house. When it does come inside, it needs to have as much light as possible, and don’t over water it. It’s a Mediterranean plant and likes it a little on the dry side.  If, however, you live where you can plant it into the ground (zone 10-11), then it can become a pretty good sized shrub.

It can be pruned but doesn’t need to be. It responds very well to pruning though and can even be used in a topiary. You can prune it just to shape it or to keep it within a certain size and that can be done pretty much any time. The bits that are pruned off can be dried and used for seasoning in cooking. Also, just handling Rosemary makes your hands smell oh, so good.

To use in cooking, either strip the leaves off the woody stem and put into recipes, or put a whole sprig in and remove it later. Rosemary has a strong flavor so it doesn’t take much to use as seasoning. It’s really good used to season olive oil or vinegar. The flavor also works well with other herbs such as , chives, oregano, garlic, parsley, sage and thyme. So experiment with it and see how you like it.

Why don’t you add Rosemary to the list of the herbs you should be growing?

Thanks and happy planting!

Wildfires and What’s Being Done? (Part III)

by Admin 13. July 2012 08:03
(A segmented look at Firefighting, Fire Extinguishing Products, and Fire Suppression)

We’ve looked at firefighting foams and now we’ll look into long term retardants and What’s Being Done…
What are long term retardants?
Quite simply it’s the red stuff dropping from aircraft across the world on wildfires! So let’s look at the technical side of Long Term Retardants…
A fire retardant is a substance other than water that reduces flammability of fuels or delays their combustion. This typically refers to chemical retardants but may also include substances that work by physical action, such as cooling the fuels or by initiating a chemical reaction that stops a fire.
Early fire retardants were mixtures of water and thickening agents, and later included borates and ammonium phosphates. Borates are chemical compounds which contain oxoanions of boron in an oxidation state and ammonium phosphate is salt of ammonia and phosphoric acid. Today’s long term retardants are comprised of Diammonium Sulfate, Monoammonium Phosphate, Diammonium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Hydroxypropyl, and Performance Enhancers of Diammonium Sulfate is a synonym for Ammonium Sulfate and other synonyms are Sulfuric Acid, Diammonium Salt, Actamaster, Dolamin, and Mascagnite. Ammonium Sulfates are an inorganic salts which is part of soil fertilizers and its purpose is to reduce the soil pH.
Monoammonium Phosphates is an ammonium dihydrogen phosphate and is formed when in a solution of phosphoric acid is added to ammonia until the solution is distinctly acidic. Monoammonium phosphate is often used in the blending of dry agricultural fertilizers and it supplies soil with the elements nitrogen and phosphorus which is usable by plants. The compound is also a component of the ABC powder in some dry chemical fire extinguishers. This substance is also supplied in an emerald green or aquamarine crystal growing box kit for kids.
Diammonium Phosphate is used as a fertilizer and when applied as plant food, it temporarily increases the soil pH.
Guar Gum, Hydroxypropyl is an inert ingredient used as a thickener. Its common characteristic is that it’s a water absorbing polymer.
Ok that sounds pretty technical and that’s what’s in the red stuff...  What are its effects on the environment?
Well according to the manufacturer they say it’s…
“Long-term retardants are the safest, most effective, and environmentally friendly retardants available. No other products meet the current USDA Forest Service specification for long-term retardant. This specification includes product qualification testing for combustion retarding effectiveness, environmental, safety and health and corrosion standards.”
Ok so the manufacturer states that its product is the safest, most effective, and environmentally friendly and no other product meets the US Forest Service Specification. Hmmmm lets have a look at that…
According to the USFS Qualified Products List they are correct! There are no other companies listed on the QPL with a product that is classified as a long term retardant… So they are a sole source provider to the Federal Government...
So how effective are long term retardants?
There are no public records with the US Forest Service for Lateral Ignition Flamespread Test or Combustion Retarding Effectiveness. So the answers are unknown to the public...
Let’s recap what we have learned so far. Chemical composition is very salty with fertilizer salts. Here is a breakdown according to the MSDS sheet listed with the US Forest Service.
Diammonium Sulfate, CAS #7783-20-2 = >65%
Monoammonium Phosphate, CAS #7722-76-1 = >15%   
Diammonium Phosphate, CAS#7783-28-0 = >5%
Guar Gum, Hydroxypropyl, CAS#39421-75-5 = Performance Additives, CAS# Trade Secret = The trade secret performance additives are protected by “trade secret” but the manufacturer states “Our wildland fire retardants consist of fertilizer type salts, a coloring agent, corrosion inhibitors, and flow conditioners.”
Ok so there are corrosion inhibitors in the red stuff well what are they?
In an environmental assessment of long term retardants dated October 2007 conducted by the US Forest Service it states ” Previous retardant formulas contained sodium ferrocyanide 2 as a corrosion inhibitor. It was found that under certain conditions, sodium ferrocyanide poses greater toxicity to aquatic species and aquatic environments than retardant solutions without this agent.” While we cannot confirm what corrosion inhibitors are currently being used today in the current formulas because they are a “trade secret”. One can only assume that they have not improved since 2007 and here is why…
In July 2010 a Montana Federal Court Judge the Honorable Donald Malloy “ordered the U.S. Forest Service to take a hard look at its use of toxic aerial fire retardants and their impact on fish and wildlife habitats.”
Ok so that blows the claim by the sole supplier to the Federal Government that they are the “safest, most effective, and environmentally friendly retardants available.”
Hmmm, no testing results available on effectiveness. So the “safest, most effective, and environmentally friendly retardants available” on the market today?
Not so much according to the environmental watchdog groups who filed a federal lawsuit and not according to a federal judge.
So What’s Being Done?
“Molloy ordered the Forest Service to comply with the federal laws by Dec. 31, 2011, threatening contempt sanctions if the agency fails to do so.”

"The Federal Defendants are advised that failure to comply with this deadline may subject them to sanctions, including contempt proceedings, and could conceivably result in enjoining the continued use of aerially-applied fire retardant until the law enacted by Congress is complied with," Molloy wrote. "The issue requires immediate attention."  

That was July 2010 and in December 2010 headlines are;

 “U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula” announced “that he will be taking senior status in August 2011.”

Coincidence??? Guess we will have to wait and see…

So who is the manufacturer of the sole provider of products used by the Federal Government to retard and combat wildfires?

They are called Phos-Chek and the Phos-Chek Fire Safety Group is part of ICL Performance Products LP, North America's premier phosphate chemical manufacturer.

So who is ICL?

“ICL Performance Products LP is a worldwide leader in the manufacturing and marketing of phosphates, phosphoric acid, and phosphorus chemicals.”

Since it is a Limited Partnership company is there a bigger picture or group?

“ICL Performance Products LP, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Israel Chemicals Limited (ICL), based in Tel Aviv, Israel. ICL is engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of fertilizers, industrial products, metallurgy, and performance products.”
So during this segment we discussed long term retardants and the jury is still out on them. We have also looked at firefighting foams more commonly known as Class “A” foam used for fire suppression. In the next segment we will look at fire gels or water enhancers and how they affect firefighting equipment, the environment and the effectiveness for fire suppression or exposure protection.

By: Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer

Wildfires and What’s Being Done? (Part II)

by Admin 2. July 2012 05:48

(A segmented look at Firefighting, Fire Extinguishing Products, and Fire Suppression)

In the last segment we touched on some of the things that are being done by the local, state, and federal agencies to reduce the threat of wildfires in the wildland urban interface. In this segment we’ll look at fire extinguishing products and their effectiveness.

It appears that wildfires have become a pandemic and we have all seen the news clips of airplanes and helicopters dropping some sort of liquid on a fire…
But what is that liquid?
Some of it may be clear, some of it appears to be bubbly, and some of it may be red or blue. More often than not they are fire extinguishing products and some have been around for close to 100 years to aid firefighting efforts and help to firefighters with fire suppression. So let’s look at these fire extinguishing products and how well do they work for fire suppression.
Firefighting foams are the chemicals that have been around longest ever since the early 1900’s and developed by a Russian Chemist named Alexsandr Loran. Originally firefighting foams were designed to combat flammable or combustible liquid fires. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when the foam manufacturers came up with the idea of making a formulation to be used on wildland fires which has evolved into Class “A” foam.
So what are firefighting foams or class “A” foams?
The chemical composition of these fire extinguishing products vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but all contain some sort of surfactant. Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension of liquid (usually water). Surfactants are usually organic compounds which are carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon and cyanides. Other components of firefighting foams are organic solvents such as trimethyltrimethylene glycol and hexylene glycol, foam stabilizers such as lauryl alcohol, and corrosion inhibitors.
Now that we have your attention of what’s in firefighting foams! Let’s look at their effects on the environment…
The US Forest Service QPL (Qualified Products List) specifies a mix ratio of 0.1 to 1.0 % foam concentrate to water and clearly states that they must be mixed within that ratio to comply with their specifications. Now on the other hand firefighters are taught in the Fire Academy to mix firefighting foam at a ratio of 3 gallons of foam concentrate mixed with 97 gallons of water to get an end product of 3% foam. Hmmm the US forest Service says a maximum of 1%... Why?? Let’s look at toxicity on mammals and fish…
Acute Oral Toxicity Mammals (Foam Concentrate):
Phos Chek WD 881 = 4378 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it also is moderately irritating to non washed and washed eyes, and has a 0.9 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
Phos Chek WD 881-C = >5050 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it is also moderately irritating to non washed and washed eyes and has a 1.4 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
Tyco Silv-Ex = >5050 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it is also severely irritating to non washed and washed eyes and has a 2.7 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
National Foam KnockDown = >5000 LD₅₀ (mg/Kg) it is also moderately irritating to non washed eyes and mildly irritating to washed eyes and has a 1.2 primary irritation index for skin irritation.
**Note** The lower the Lethal Dosage value (LD₅₀) is - the more toxic it is.

Fish Toxicity (Foam Concentrate):
Phos Chek WD 881 = LC₅₀ 11 mg/L soft water and 10 mg/L hard water.
Phos Chek WD 881-C = LC₅₀ 17mg/L soft water and 10mg/L hard water.
Tyco Silv-Ex = LC₅₀ 46mg/L soft water and 28mg/L hard water.
National Foam KnockDown = 28mg/L soft water and 26mg/L hard water.
**Note** The lower the Lethal Concentration value (LC₅₀) is - the more toxic it is.
Let’s look at what firefighting foams do to fire equipment? We already established that firefighting foams contain corrosion inhibitors. Corrosion inhibitors are a chemical compound that decreases the corrosion rates of a material, typically a metal or an alloy. Corrosion tests are designed to measure the loss of structural integrity of the affected metal and potential loss of the metal item. Significant corrosion in fire pumps or aircraft may have catastrophic effects to human life. Corrosion testing is based on mils-per- year and the US Forest Service is looking to minimize the risk of corrosion- caused fire equipment failure in the field. The benchmark is less than (Uniform Corrosion Partial Submersion at 120˚F (Foam Concentrate):
Phos Chek WD 881 = 0.1 Aluminum, 1.9 Steel, and 0.5 Yellow Brass.
Phos Chek WD 881-C = 0.9 Aluminum, 4.7 Steel, and 0.7 Yellow Brass
Tyco Silv-Ex = 0.1 Aluminum, 4.9 Steel, and 3.5 Yellow Brass
National Foam KnockDown = 0.4 Aluminum, 1.1 Steel, and 0.1 Yellow Brass
While all of these firefighting foams comply with the US Forest Service Specifications it should be noted that the above testing results is public record and are published on the US Forest Service’s website.
How effective are firefighting foams in aiding firefighters in fire suppression or fire extinguishment?
Simply it last for seconds compared to water!!
Here are the test results from the US Forest Service QPL list.
Lateral Ignition Flamespread Test (LIFT)
Phos Chek WD 881 = 211 seconds compared to Water = 112 seconds
Phos Chek WD 881-C = 255 seconds compared to Water = 124 seconds
Tyco Silv-Ex = 139 seconds compared to Water = 128 seconds
National Foam KnockDown = 225 seconds compared to Water = 116 seconds
Basically what we have learned from this segment is that firefighting foam is corrosive to firefighting equipment, it’s not that great for the environment, and it’s not very effective compared to water.
So stop wasting the taxpayer’s money!
On a side note National Foam as well as AFG Firewall, Kidde, and Ansul are all owned by Tyco. In the next segment we will look at Long Term Retardants the red stuff being dumped from airplanes and helicopters…  

By: Rob Rosovich, Fire Protection Engineer