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To the bunkers?

edited February 2009 in architecture
<p>After Victoria's worst fires on record, architects are wondering what can make a building safe in the face of flaming maelstroms like these. Norman Day <a href="">has suggested</a> that all houses in fire-risk areas should have underground concrete bunkers. He seems to be saying that a house, no matter how it is built, can't be expected to withstand the new benchmark in fire ferocity. Yet some houses in the worst-affected areas did emerge unscathed, when neighbours' homes were burnt to the ground - often thanks to a roof sprinkler system throwing water well beyond the house itself, powered by generators and fed by large fire tanks.</p>
<p>Christine Nixon's new <a href="">Bushfire Reconstruction Authority</a>, along with Premier Brumby's <a href=",25197,25039082-26103,00.html">Royal Commission</a> into the fire will no doubt be looking into the adequacy of the current <a href="">wildfire provisions</a> of the planning and building codes. What should they be considering?</p>


  • hairdresser
    edited November -1
    shutting RMIT down for a start.
    Day's shot from the hip his entire career.
    I'm on the edge of my chair waiting to hear more from all the other experts at the Australian Centre for Irrelevance.

    re Bunkers.
    there already appears to be cases that families perished in them in this fire.
    much as people did in cellars and basements when Dresden was fire bombed?
    Lack of breathable atmosphere and oxygen starvation in confined spaces are obvious scenarios in fire storm conditions.

    In the end though you can't have a lot of faith in a reconstruction authority headed up by a failed ex copper who tossed in the job early. can you?
  • w_y_e
    edited November -1
    <p>Although a huge fan of bunkers in general, I wonder if some places might have been better zoned? The Wild Fire Management overlay can just be seen in the very top of the map. </p>
    <p>44.06 certainly suggests some reasonable measures to take if you're in a WMO... none of which were required for Marysville (haven't checked others).</p>
  • hairdresser
    edited February 2009
    yeah - i think most architects are on to that one wye. except normie.
    it doesn't help to put a low density city in the path of a fire.
    And is C. Nixon gonna pin that one on Brumby - or Thwaites - or Delahunty.
    Anyone know what dark hole Delahunty crawled off to after her stint as the planning minister in hiding all those years.

    firestorms come from the west.
    i'd be prepared to lay money down that there will be some relation between houses that survived, proper solar orientation (ie small western exposure/few windows) and being on the lee side of ridges.
    do the maths.

    i'd go for bunkers if they were communal at least you could sit around and crack jokes in the dark.

    back to cutting hair now.
  • simon seasons
    edited February 2009
    <p>I reckon you could do the maths yourself hair dresser. You might consider making a submission to the royal commission even but I seriously doubt you'd find many people to crack a joke with down a bunker  while sitting out a fire storm.</p>
    <p>We don't need hind sight so much as we need foresight.</p>
    <p>One house that survived had steel roll down shutters and minimal valleys in its roof design. Another had sprinklers on it roof.</p>
    <p>A case perhaps for good design and architectural cahonas that isn't so concerned with looking good at the expense of practical considerations like fire resistance, ESD and shelter from the elements.</p>
  • supergroove
    edited November -1
    Oh the humanity! I haven't been on here for months, and herr sausage fingers is still going!
    When will the hurting stop?

    HD I'm not convinced that solar orientation would have helped/hindered?, but site placement sounds feasible enough.

    Was in the Kimberly a while back, got stopped at roadworks, and chatting to the lollipop guy, he spent 3 days in a portacom during a hurricane up there, much alcohol consumed in as good a company can be expected, not all bad.
  • hairdresser
    edited February 2009
    yeah supergroove.
    only thing up with a communal bunker would be getting stuck in it with herr ss.
    but taking an esky in and passing around beers would be just the shot.

    there is going to be a reason there are still houses standing.
    maybe its not just some random fickle nature overwhelming everything - as sops like Day make it out.

    @ seasons - i'm just an old cnut of a hairdresser but i rode out ash wednesday and so did my dad.
    i'm sticking to my single shot gun. the storm comes from the west. its a storm. I've seen one - up close and personal. two things r happening. cyclonic wind + vortexs standing up and lying down across the ground from one predominant direction with projectile flaming debris. put a lot of windows in front of that? its not hard maths. for sure there are lots of detail factors too. anyone who cuts hair to AS3959-1999 knows them as well.

    if you watch the abc you would have seen a full concrete block house with a metal structure roof - 3 people died in it. completely burnt out. its been said the guy who built it was very keen about bush fire proofing and took his house seriously. y did that happen? be good to find out?

    i can't wait to hear godsell in next weeks papers myself.
    that should make you happy SS. ya!
  • simon seasons
    edited February 2009
    <p>Make a joke with your mates if you want but I have friends whose children have missing class mates and a Iocal car mechanic lost his whole family. I myself went through the 07 fires with the fire less than a Kilometer away three times and passing fifty metres away once, and that was stressfull enough. I have yet to meet a single person who could make a joke about those fires, let alone these ones.</p>
    <p>Your laxadasical off the cuff supposition is innapropriate. But you dont care, so what the heck. Supergroove seems to offended by 'humanity' !!! What's that about?</p>
    <p>Fire proofing did nothing in some places and helped in others. Clearly none of us are truelly qualified to comment other than perhaps suggesting ways to design fire resistance into all future houses. Could we perhaps make useful suggestions and refrain form pointless pointscoring invective?</p>
    <p>Which bring me to a question. Is there any organisation out there, or in here, where design services can be donated and if not, can we set up such a thing Peter?</p>
  • hairdresser
    edited February 2009
    <p>^ wheres the joke hague - [xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] ? by all means give us one of your 3,000 word self righteous theories buddy. however there is a 1,800 house case study out there to sift through. maybe even a know all like u might pick up something from that. - but shit - don't let me get in the way of your bulldozer. the AIA already has a pro bono register. go sign up if u think that is the answer.</p>
    <p>[xxx] = chopped by moderator</p>
  • simon seasons
    edited November -1
    <p>Thanks for answering my question re bro bono.</p>
    <p>The following is the joke apparently and that's a quote, six posts above if you need help, from you hairdresser. You tell me what you have to laugh about and then perhaps we'll all know what you mean. You could also suggest who you had in mind to "do the maths". I would have thought the royal commision was the place for that sort of information to be tabled but apparently you have it at your fingertips. Is it that information that's next to your betting form guide. Moralising twat indeed!</p>
    <p>" btw.

    firestorms come from the west.

    i'd be prepared to lay money down that there will be some relation between houses that survived, proper solar orientation (ie small western exposure/few windows) and being on the lee side of ridges.

    do the maths.</p>
    <p>i'd go for bunkers if they were communal at least you could sit around and crack jokes in the dark. "</p>

    <p> </p>
  • travis bickle
    edited November -1
    yeah lexan and butenol do pretty well in the climatic extremes. both do a lot better in yellowy photoshoots. build for the mags...thats what i say.
  • kashmir
    edited November -1
    <p>HD, what is godsell's involvement in this?</p>
  • hairdresser
    edited February 2009
    been editing your entries ss - recut your shit shooten kick the saloon door opening scene?

    so waz happened - where's the essay on gutters and roller shutters...........
    be at least as good as stormin normin's radio lecture yesterday about bunkers with pressurized oxygen tanks. presumably he meant what he said when he said oxygen?

    i'm the last retard hair stylus that would want to get in the way of the backhoe of progress while your digging a foresight trench SS - but I think the fcukers who put Darwin back on its feet did it with hindsight once it had happened. handy having a ruin u could learn from before u wiped the slate clean. Still - as u say - all the answers are out there in the lofty recesses of good design. roller shutters, tin, and a glenda murcatt blueprint no doubt. I'll leave u to it. personally i'm not that impressed nor interested in whats gone on in the bush hills in the last 10-20 years. similar sentiments when it comes to the great ocean road. kinda agree with G. Greer's harsh reprimand in the Australian today. She's a bitch but I wish she were my mum.

    u must be getting to know cabbie these days travis?

    godsell's everywhere kasmir.
    be in the details when they get to those next week.
  • simon seasons
    edited February 2009
    <p>I can't be bothered with your shit HD. Your neither useful nor usefully informed. [xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]</p>
    <p>F- off and have this forum all to yourself.</p>
    <p>And editing for me is an issue of clarity or addendum.</p>
    <p>last word. your also very likely to be a patheticly shackled designer of god only knows what.</p>
    <p> </p>
    <p>[xxxxxxxx] = chopped by moderator</p>
  • sod
    edited February 2009
    <p>buckle - what bushfire category do you place houses in hawthorn? your house would have folded in that heat along with just about everyone else's.</p>
    <p>swinemon - don't use the bushfire to justify your inane building ideas. fire sprinklers seemed to be effective and go largely unseen. there are no excuses (even climate change) for your lazy thinking on architecture.</p>
    <p>how's [xxxxxxxxxxxxx] going to milk this situation? isn't he preoccupied with picking up his 7M on the old CUB site?</p>
    <p> </p>
    <p>[xxx]= chopped by moderator</p>
  • hairdresser
    edited February 2009
    I'm all those things SS Hague.
    i try and avoid belonging to the great constituency of contemporary Australians who use moral vanity to gain the upper hand over their political and cultural opponents. who said that - hey?

    but i hope u stay around because you make this place australian.
    its like having the prime minister in the room.

    sod. what? a fire in hawthorn? whats travis bent on about.
    re godless. probably just a rumour - article getting fired up on shipping container.

    btw I saw in the print version of Norm's space capsule bunker idea that he had gone off his oxygen bottles for air bottles. take that onboard SS - stormin thinks on his feet like all good architects.
  • peter
    edited February 2009
    <p>This is the last thread I'd thought I'd need to take to with the [xxxxxxxxx]s. I was appalled that this thread could descend so quickly into snarkiness.</p>
    <p>Fact is there are 1831 houses reduced to rubble leaving a lot of people distressed and homeless. Most of them will want to rebuild in the same community. And Brumby wants to get the victorian wildfire provisions rewritten overnight.</p>
    <p>Emotions are running high, but isn't this is the time for building professionals put aside their differences and use their knowledge to put forward (and debate) concise and constructive ideas?</p>
    <p>>> WYE The WMO overlays do look a bit small. And when you have a project in one you need to work out whether your threat is small, medium, or extreme, based on local vegetation. All that goes out the window with 1 in 100 year firestorms like this.</p>
    <p>Some questions are I guess,</p>
    <p>- is this going to become a 1 in 20 year threat due to global warming and an incessant drought?</p>
    <p>- is the emphasis moved from protection of housing to protection of communities (ie neighbourhood shelters)?</p>
    <p>- which design recommendations can make a difference and could be better regulated? Orientation, window sizes, materials, storm shutters, sprinklers, buffer zones?</p>
    <p>- are some hill sites just to dangerous to be building houses on?</p>
    <p> </p>
    <p> </p>
    <p> </p>
    <p> </p>
  • simon seasons
    edited February 2009
    <p>"Emotions are running high, but isn't this is the time for building professionals put aside their differences and use their knowledge to put forward (and debate) concise and constructive ideas?" (peter)</p>
    <p>Well I tried to start off on that tack peter, but I though i'd pull up HD for thinking a joke might exist in a bunker amidst all this dispair and just got torn to pieces by that HD xxxx and the little coterie that flutters around him who just can't pass a comment without passing wind.</p>
    <p>I have lots of ideas I'd like to put up here by way of reasoned discussion but I just can't stand him anymore. Thankyou for posting the links to volunteer building professional sites, as noted on that thread.</p>
    <p> </p>
  • hairdresser
    edited February 2009
    try and let it go ss.
    I gave u the moral high ground.
    but i got to say i am offended to be called a he.

    supergrooves into communal bunkers. so am I.
    u got a case against them - fine. lets hear about it.

    Marysville is going to be a grim lesson in what it means when the population chooses freely their own refuge rather than the designated evacuation place. That will be one detailed case study. u can be sure.

    But time's running out for a broader case study.
    its a 1 in 70 year opportunity to learn useful things.
    very soon all the scattered ruins will be dozed.
    the army is hanging back but it won't be long before they are in there clearing.

    If it happened then i really could believe something like Rudd's brick by brick rebuild.
    we'd be that bit closer to being like the Japanese.
    they have an earthquake landscape in which they have tested the cycle of destruction and reconstruction for a 1000 + years.
    We have been here for 200 and don't appear to have moved forward with the concept of a fire landscape.
    and now we want to put cities in it - not just "hamlets" and "towns".

    pro bono charity work is fine. i don't put it down.
    i question its initial effectiveness and i wonder if its getting in the way of seeing what to do first up.
    i'm prepared to accept being called an arsehole for saying that.

    I suppose thats what i wanted to hear from the AIA pres.
    not a knee jerk call to donate services. that could have come down the line.
  • travis bickle
    edited November -1
    people are just plain cruel.

    id consult sean with peters questions.

    pond roofs are nice. peter m_ueller likes them too. so does that other fulbright guy.

    anyway back to the cab. i left my copy of bunker archaeology there.
  • kashmir
    edited February 2009
    <p>They better be careful sending in the bulldozers, lots of particalised asbestos mixed in with the ashes.</p>
  • travis bickle
    edited November -1
    noble sentiments x-dresser.
  • simon seasons
    edited November -1
    "Marysville is going to be a grim lesson in what it means when the population chooses freely their own refuge rather than the designated evacuation place." (HD)

    This quote just shows how much of an armchair commentator you are HD. If you think anyone had a choice in the few minutes, and in some case seconds, before their annihilation on that Saturday then you sadly underestimate the forces of nature.

    The usual annual CFA fire hazard index is from 0 to 100 with 100 an extreme fire danger. The index is generated from statistics garnered from such parameters as dryness, temperatures and wind speeds and is used to declare or not declare total fire ban days. The index on Saturday was 300 and that figure is quoted from the CFA's top man in Victoria. Those conditions have never, ever been witnessed before and there has never been a fire like it in Australia and yet you think a choice existed in those last desperate minutes. Naivety past the point of offensiveness.

    The only difference that anyone can make in those circumstances if they, god forbid arise again, is a choice made years before to design houses as fire resistant as possible. That means from now on more regulations and better/alternate training for designers and architects, does it not?
  • simon seasons
    edited February 2009
    <p><i>Some questions are I guess,</i></p>
    <p><i>- is this going to become a 1 in 20 year threat due to global warming and an incessant drought?</i></p>
    <p>Climate change would suggest that this could be the scenario. In which case it would be sensible to start designing houses from that perspective. I think that experiance makes the convert, I fortunately was only threatened by bushfires but I have reclad my relocated house in corrugated steel from timber weatherboards for that exact reason. If I had lost my house entirely and I didn't want to leave my land, as I can understand, then I would certainly dismiss as a matter of course rebuilding my house as it was before.</p>
    <p><i>- is the emphasis moved from protection of housing to protection of communities (ie neighbourhood shelters)?</i></p>
    <p>This firestorm was so severe that community shelters would have been barely useful only for those who lived next door to them. The fires I went through made it impossible on some days and nights to see my wife who was talking to me from 3 metres away inside our house with all the doors and windows shut! Imagine trying to find your way to a local refuge outside with embers swirling around you and your hair catching on fire from the heat. Evacuation in the middle of a fire emergency is simply impractical and downright dangerous as the many deaths in cars attempting to escape proved. The answer is either very early evacuation to a safe locality or individual house design and site preparedness</p>
    <p><i>- which design recommendations can make a difference and could be better regulated? Orientation, window sizes, materials, storm shutters, sprinklers, buffer zones?</i></p>
    <p>All those already make a differance if they are utilized. The problem is that they are optional in many areas and so they are not used. They are encouraged and repeatedly encouraged by the CFA and CSIRO but they are still optional. Regulations that clearly state that such preventative measures must be used means that they can be designed into the buildings and landscaping from the start instead of just being tacked on as after thoughts. That in itself would make a huge difference in their effectiveness, merely because proper detailing means they would actually have a chance to work.</p>
    <p>The other effective prevention is proscribed annual and regular burn offs of the bush. The science is still being done on just how this can best be achieved but the arguement is that the burn offs need to hot enough to achieve regrowth against those who think it doesn't matter as the change to the enviroment is natural anyway. Aborginals burned of all the time according to historical records but historically they probably chose optimum times of the year to do so. Scientists are working on determining which is the best time of the year and how much. I think they'd better get a wriggle on with some more funding perhaps.</p>
    <p><i>- are some hill sites just to dangerous to be building houses on?</i></p>
    <p>Some might be but I think you'll never stop people wanting to live at the top of hills. My guess is that that situation would require a specialist fire prevention plan of the site and the house design.  Things like not being allowed to build right on top of an escarpement perhaps but then people shouldn't be allowed to sell blocks of land where that is the only option. I know a site in St Andrews that was simply a couple of acres of knife edge and the only flat land was the very top of it which was just wide enough to get a sliver of a house and no car port. Ridiculous you would think but it was very cheap and my friend could afford it.</p>
    <p> </p>
  • peter
    edited November -1

    I'm in an armchair too, but here I go... I'm not sure that neighbourhood bunkers should be disregarded because no one would have a chance to get to them. A friend of mine had been intending to stay with the house, but changed her mind when she realised the scale of the fire. They drove out at high speed along a crap one lane road with flames licking at the car. This happened for many who were not as successful driving out. Surely fire-safe points dotted about the community would make better refuges than driving for ten km, hopefully in the right direction. </p>
    <p>The other argument for communal bunkers is that they could be set up properly with an air supply. Individual bunkers under houses would cost a heap to build and maintain if you wanted to do it properly. If you didn't do it properly, you could find yourself in an airless box.</p>
    <p>>> Hairdresser.

    I'm involved in one of the pro bono initiatives (arch-peace). We are just trying to provide a bridge for not-for-profit community groups to connect to pro bono professionals when the time is right. In the past we have found that the usefulness of pro bono services, at the early stages, is in offering expertise, hope, and structure to groups who have a defined need but don't know much about how to deal with it. A lot of time is spent dealing with competing user groups, government bureaucracies and funding bodies. I think there could be a role for this very soon.

    The pro bono model works best in the <b>early </b>stages, before funding is secured. After that, it is problemmatic to work for free at the same time as other consultants and builders are paid full rate. At this stage, the funding body will often require that design services be tendered along with everything else. The architect is then usually welcome to tender along with everyone else. But our role would have been successful if we were able to get the project to this point.

    I think things may work differently in this case. Working for community groups is relatively simple. But there are private homes and ruined businesses to rebuild too, and the profession is going to have to think through ways that pro bono architects can assist.</p>
    <p> </p>
    <p> </p>
  • sod
    edited November -1
    <p>buckle -god has the answers but he will have to ask jeanieboy first. timber or steel screens and glass everywhere is the go in a bushfire.</p>
    <p>on the pro bono issue - the model peter outlined seems one step removed from standard commercial practice - plently of architects freely assist with feasabilty work in the hope of picking up a job. </p>
    <p>Private business and homeowners will want to do their own thing with rebuilding - they'll either see merit in the idea of using an architect or not.  Boy scout architects don't have much to offer - whatever is deemed to be good bushfire design practice can be implemented just as well by a local drafting service. You seem to be confusing architecture with essential services. I can't see how any architect can have any insights on this situation at the moment.</p>
  • hairdresser
    edited February 2009
    herr SS - u have the moral high ground without feeling u have to defend it. i am an arsehole.

    re marysville. the dead don't do interviews on tv.

    the full story will emerge as the police end their investigation.
    but i have heard from my armchair that two large groups of residents took
    shelter in advance of the fire in two places - in a few cases well in advance of the fire.
    the cumberland spa and the town hall?
    CFA personal and some residents went to the oval as they were meant to.
    they survived.
    this does caste a question over your assertion on the impossibility of evacuation in a semi
    urban - urban situation.
    but u may turn out to be correct.

    u are incorrect in your view that wildfire zone regulations are optional.
    they are not. AS/NZ 3959/1999 compliance is required and has been for at least a decade.
    u can thank the insurance industry for that initiative - not architects.
    there are certainly some questions over wildfire overlays however.
    w.y.e nailed it with the first post. u missed that. peter didn't.
    u can also be sure that the insurance industry will be prepared to press the case for compliance and auditing - with or without the knowledge of the property owner. they are not known for their charity.

    RE Pro Bono Peter.
    I'll probably register in 6 months after the list thins out and interest evaporates.
    the AIA should have a different response to other organisations who might wish to make
    immediate efforts to relieve.

    @ kasmir
    too true
    the army will package this stuff into pits.
    they already have the sealed dozers for battlefield work/uranium dust.
    brumbys got two choices? OH&S nightmare - or turn it over to the forces for a couple of weeks.
    looks to me like he knows that.
    without a case study audit a lot of information will disappear fairly soon - it has too.
  • w_y_e
    edited November -1
    <p>Not sure if I should go with the general vibe and fan the fires that seem just as intesnse here, but...</p>
    <p>An article in the Age the other day (which I can't seem to find online) told the story of a bloke who a coulple of years ago. cleared about 240 trees from his property (leaving a few 1000 still on his land). The council fined him $50,000 for cutting down trees that where further than 6m from his house. He took it to court and lost a further $50,000 to the council, despite bushfire expert types saying he was doing reasonably things (he's a CFA member too). So, clear you land and set up fire breaks and let the council take your money, then watch every other house within a 2km radius burn to the ground except yours.</p>
    <p> </p>
    <p>The argument that changing the building code would add $20,000 to house costs seems a bit low. It's been proven to be more like $100K.</p>
    <p>Furthermore, rather than talking bunkers, why not think of it in terms of a cellar with all the suitable contents included. A bunker and a few VBs, or a cellar and a nice glass of red and mouldy cheese?</p>
    <p> </p>
    <p> </p>
  • hairdresser
    edited February 2009
    that is true re costs w.y.e.

    the standard refers back to the BCA in classes of terrain/landscape cover deemed subject to extreme bushfire attack - ie fireproof construction according to fire source features.
    it would be relatively easy to top out costs 100K more.

    20K figure would relate to cost burdens according to classes of terrain/landscape cover lower down the scale within a wild fire zone.

    Brumby's advisors aren't well boned up? (or r?) but not painting the true picture.
  • simon seasons
    edited February 2009
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    <p><o:p> Peter. If early evacuation to a safe locality is an optimum course of action then community bunkers would be very good. As you point out the cost would be prohibitive for most and presumably that means they wouldn't be an option for most individual houses. I was suggesting that evacuation by the skin of ones teeth is the least desirable option as you again attest, and that in that case the community bunker won't do the late evacuee much good at all. It is relatively impossible to safely find ones way as I can assure you dense smoke and embers is like being in a total white out in a howling blizzard full of charcoal sticks and burnt leaves.

    <p><o:p> </o:p>(sod) "You seem to be confusing architecture with essential services. I can't see how any architect can have any insights on this situation at the moment."</p>
    <p>Sod, you seem to be confusing architecture with luxury goods. Good architecture is not all about stylism. It is also about designed and built answers to an enviromental situation and there are plenty of architects with plenty of good advise and plenty of situations from which good ideas could come. You may not have met any yet perhaps.</p>
    <p>Wye. Unfortunately a cellar is not an option because if the house burns down directly above you then the air is sucked out of the cellar. That is exactly how you kill European wasp nests. 'By Design' show on RA had an interesting segment on eco mimicry this last saturday. Perhaps the best option would be small bunkers designed like wombat burrows. They have a deep decending entrance which then rises up into an underground chamber. This would enable the group to enter and then flood the entrance behind them with water. It would still cost as much as any excavation, but might be more effective. Many wombats survive in any case without flooding the entrance with water so it must work for them because the soil inside the burrow retains large enough amounts of nitrogen and oxygen.</p>
    <p>Where has it been proven that changing the building code means a 100K increase in building costs. Bunkers might cost that much but where else is that so?</p>
    <p> </p>
    <p>HD. The wildfire zone as wye pointed out did not cover what was patently in need of such cover. I didn't miss it at all. In fact the opposite, as I said that since most localities afflicted weren't covered by wild fire zoning then fire prevention was optional for them. Again you missinterpret me merely for the sake of creating friction.</p>
    <p>ps. I do not profess to hold any high moral ground. It is simply a case of you monopolizing the low moral ground and then blaming those you inevitably have to look up to for your predicament. Try taking responsibility for your own assertions, apologizing occaisionally, and having a bex and good lie down.</p>
    <p> </p>
  • hairdresser
    edited November -1
    no regulatory structure without an overlay.
    optional is not in it. (refer yourself here) following?

    a thread is for stringing things together.
    wye put the first bead on the string?

    different to necklacing?

    no chance on the apology front ss.
    i like J. Saffron - not Ray Martin.
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