Smout Allen

Beth Bird Yr 5

The Ojai Wildfire Response Centre is located near Lake Casitas in Ojai, Ventura County, within the United States Forest Service’s jurisdiction for wildfire suppression. It is the first in a proposed masterplan of wildfire response centres across the Los Padres Forest National Park in South California. A grid of firebreaks, in keeping with the existing national grid of the American landscape, connects the response centres, maintaining and controlling the spread of wildfires across the National Reserve. The Ojai Wildfire Response Centre operates at a local level of emergency response, suppressing wildfires during the ‘Initial Attack’ burn period, with the ability to continue operating during an ‘Extended Attack’ burn period. 

The physical form of the response centre mimics flame dynamics, where pockets of buoyant air drive the slender height of flames upwards from the belly of the fire. The interior space of the response centre resembles the anatomy of a seashell: practice-lands spread from the back of the building like an open mollusc, and offices for the higher chain of command spiral up the tower, topped with a watch-room at the apex. A burns unit is nestled between emergency and training wings, like the interior whorls of a seashell in the heart of the building, opening at an aperture to a cactus garden with views across the Californian landscape. 

Purpose-made materials Nomex, Kevlar and Goretex are developed to aid firecrews. Autopsies of these technical fabrics were carried out to speculate on their application as architectural materials used to construct the Ojai Wildfire Response Centre. These autopsies rethink ‘fire safety’ within architecture, a current topic that requires further research and consideration in practice today.

National Reserve 2018