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Monolithic Dome Suffers Slight Scorching In Oklahoma Wildfire

Image: Dome in Marlow, OK survived a 3000 acre wildfire.

Dome in Marlow, OK survived a 3000 acre wildfire.


Smooth going – for a while!

For 16 months, the construction of Jerri and Darrell Strube’s new Monolithic Dome home, 50 feet in diameter and 23 feet high, in Marlow, Oklahoma went relatively smoothly. Once Andy Barnes, owner of Alpha Omega Builders in Kingston, Oklahoma, completed the dome shell, Jerri and Darrell began doing the finishing. And all continued going rather well – until January 12.

On that unseasonably warm, very windy afternoon, a wildfire broke out in Stephens County, enveloping Marlow. Despite the efforts of more than a dozen fire departments and four air tankers, rapidly spreading flames charred 3000 acres just in Stephens County and destroyed five homes.

Nila Kappely, Jerri’s sister, owned one of those homes – a typical country farmhouse sitting just across the road from the Strube’s Monolithic Dome.

Survival

But Darrell and Jerri were far more fortunate. “We lost five homes out there,” Jerri said. “But ours wasn’t (lost). I mean the fire came up right to the edge, singed a little bit of the Airform, down low, but as we were told, the Airform is not flammable.* As soon as the grass burned away from it, the Airform was fine. It scorched a little, but it didn’t burn.”

Two weeks after the fire, Monolithic called the Strubes to see how they were doing. Jerri said, “It’s going pretty good. My husband and I have been constructing this home in such a way so as not to have a house payment when it was done. Since my sister’s house burned down, she and her husband are having to move into our house – before we can – and so we’re having to share a bathroom. And we’re trying to get the kitchen in so they can use that. We’re still in the construction mode.”

As for the damaged Airform, Jerri said, “I talked to Larry (Byrne) at your office about it. He said to just wash it off really, really good – scrub the black off – then get some urethane paint and paint the outside of it. The scorching is just a small area.”

More domes?

While Jerri and Darrell continue working on their Monolithic Dome home, Nila and Wyatt Kappely plan to build one of their own. Jerri said, “Nila picked out a floor plan that she likes out of your book (Dome Living) that has all the plans in it. She gave it to Larry and he is now sketching out her ideas because she wanted some changes – a pantry and a door added.”

Other Marlow residents who lost their homes have also expressed an interest in Monolithic Domes. “We’ve actually given away another one of your books with your website on it to one neighbor,” Jerri said. “We’ve given a couple of tours of our dome, and we’ve probably had about five or six people that stopped in and wanted to look at it and get more information.”

*David B. South, Monolithic’s president, says that “not flammable” is not a correct characterization of an Airform. But the terms “fire-retardant” and “self-extinguishing” are appropriate.

Media coverage

Shortly after the January 12th wildfire, Erica Harpold, newsreporter for KAUZ-TV Channel 6 in Wichita Falls, Texas interviewed Jerri Strube and Nila Kappely.

Below is a summary of that broadcast:

Erica: Last Thursday’s wildfire in Stephens County scorched thousands of acres of land. Sixty acres of those destroyed are Jerri Strube’s. Despite flames touching her home near Marlow, Oklahoma, it’s still standing.

Jerri: If you go outside and look – the fire’s right up against the dome.

Erica: Jerri’s home didn’t catch on fire because it can’t. It’s a Monolithic Dome, a super-insulated, steel-reinforced, concrete structure.

Jerri: Fire-proof, tornado-proof, hurricane-proof, termite-proof – it’s everything-proof! Instead of having a Safe Room, that a lot of people do – you know – build in their houses now-a-days – we have a safe house.

Erica, with picture of a Monolithic Dome: But you can see, it’s anything but typical.

Jerri, entering her dome-home: Some people just can’t live in a round house. They want the traditional square.

Erica: But for Jerri, peace of mind and the money she saves is worth living in a home that looks a little different.

Jerri: Our electric bill for lights running 24/7 was like $50.

Erica: Jerri’s sister Nila Kappely lived next door in what she called a standard, country home. But it was destroyed in last week’s fire. Nila is now considering building a dome house of her own.

Nila: Now that I have no house and theirs is still standing and it’s concrete, that’s what I want to do. I don’t want to go through losing everything again.

Erica: Jerri’s home is not completed. The builders still have to put in the kitchen and fix other areas on the inside of the house. Jerri plans on painting the outside and adding a porch. If you want to find out more about Monolithic structures, you can visit Monolithic.com.

A rewrite from article originally published February 9, 2006.