preparing for high wind event wildfires

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SSSdave
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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by SSSdave » Sat Nov 17, 2018 10:12 am

There have been several report of people attempting to escape the fire that were not able to drive out due to road blockage or fires alongside roads that instead found a lake or stream to get into while a fire was raging beside them. In fact a horse made the news of getting into a swimming pool that later shivering needed help to get back out. Several people for instance went into Concow Reservoir that is east of Paradise about a mile. They found the experience cold but endurable.

There are some people in remote rural areas, especially those within heavily vegetation woodland, forest, or chaparral zones that even if they have say a defensible area around their wooden homes, may not expect to be able to evacuate during wildfires because small roads leading away are likely to be blocked by fire. A solution could be to construct a small fireproof enclosed shelter separate from a dwelling that also has smoke air filtering with enough room for just one to few people. And I am talking small here, for instance 2 person size might be just 5x5x7 feet lwh. Cement, brick, rock. Maybe just cinder block walls with a metal roof top. The powering for the smoke filtering fan could come from an external battery. It would also have a place to sit, a few shelves with a small minimal kit of emergency medical supplies, smoke masks, flashlight, food, water, oxygen bottle, map, a book or two. Note for decades there have been those that have built, bunkers, fall-out shelters, tornado shelters, etc however with a simple search did not see anything meant to escape wildfires.

One would not expect to ever be within such a shelter to escape heat of a fire for more than an hour or two however if roads were blocked, one might need to be within the shelter overnight or a day or two if smoke was an issue. The small shelter air volume would make it easier to filter out smoke. If one might need to spend such longer periods in the shelter, a person fleeing an imminent fire could grab warmer clothing, even a sleeping bag, and also any important person items like a document file box.

The most expensive part of a shelter would be the smoke filter. It is not easy to filter out a lot of wildfire smoke especially down to a level it can barely be smelt. There are many consumer filters for removing cigarette smoke in rooms, however heavy wildfire smoke is likely to clog such products quickly. A cheaper filter would be ok if the goal is just to survive, however a person is not going to want to endure noticeable levels of smoke more than short periods. To endure longer periods, for several hundred dollars there are products and one may need to have spare filters depending on time within a shelter. A larger filter system also means a larger battery for power. In some small rural communities where such fires are possible, larger emergency shelters for more people could also be built.

Another reason a shelter could be useful to a person defending their wooden home, is once an evacuation order was given it could allow them to not evacuate and instead perform emergency actions like watering down their home and removing as much flammable material up against their home as possible in the last minutes. And it would give a person more time to deal with grabbing important materials like documents they might save.








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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Nov 17, 2018 11:24 am

An above-ground shelter may not be able to keep the inside cool enough. An underground shelter, like a root cellar may be better.

My daughter who lives in Durango is in a new upscale subdivision that has really strict building codes that require fire-proof houses. The largest expense when they built their house was concrete. In less affluent subdivisions, the cost would likely be prohibitive. I think in this case, some government grants would need to be made so that they could afford the more expensive fire code building.

The logical plan would be simply not to allow development or re-building in fire-prone areas. Perhaps in this case, there could be land-swaps that would allow those who lost homes in the fire to build on state land. The problem with the Paradise area vs Napa, is that Paradise is a much lower income town with very limited resources to rebuild with stricter codes.

I will say when I read that some people survived by going into that reservoir, I now think walking down to the American River if a fire struck here is not that bad of an idea. I am not sure we would not just become boiled meat if we were to hole out in our swimming pool.

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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by dave54 » Sat Nov 17, 2018 11:51 am

Here is the syllabus for the firefighting class.

http://fire.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/firenv ... Manual.pdf

Unit three talks about basics of mountain weather, and may be of interest for general outdoors recreation. The final unit talks about specific actions and some nuggets can be gleaned about what a homeowner can do in few minutes you have before you must bug out -- unhook the propane bottle from the backyard grill and get rid of it (how far can you toss it?), put a ladder against the house on the side away from the fire, fill the kid's wading pool with water (or bucket, or whatever you have). Leave garden hoses hooked up and coiled. Remove anything up against the house like lawn furniture, unlock all gates providing access to your yard. Toss in the pool if you have one. Make it easier for firefighters to defend your home.
Of course, the best actions are done in advance, like vegetation clearances. Other points are take the extra gas cans, paint, solvents, and all the other household chemicals out of your attached garage and put them in a storage shed away from the house. And secure your ammunition. Nothing gets a firefighter's attention faster than hearing ammo pop off, and they may disengage and let your house go.
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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by longri » Sat Nov 17, 2018 1:38 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sat Nov 17, 2018 11:24 am
I am not sure we would not just become boiled meat if we were to hole out in our swimming pool.

Wrong cooking term. You wouldn't boil, you'd roast. Or asphyxiate. If you had an air supply that allowed you to stay submerged you'd probably make it. But stashing scuba gear near the pool would be kind of an odd way to prepare for a fire storm.


What I wonder is how likely is this in a more urban environment, without the fuel of a nearby forest. A fire storm in a well paved city is certainly possible. But, outside of some major catastrophe, is it a realistic scenario?

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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by freestone » Sat Nov 17, 2018 2:13 pm

longri wrote:
Sat Nov 17, 2018 1:38 pm
Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sat Nov 17, 2018 11:24 am
I am not sure we would not just become boiled meat if we were to hole out in our swimming pool.

Wrong cooking term. You wouldn't boil, you'd roast. Or asphyxiate. If you had an air supply that allowed you to stay submerged you'd probably make it. But stashing scuba gear near the pool would be kind of an odd way to prepare for a fire storm.


What I wonder is how likely is this in a more urban environment, without the fuel of a nearby forest. A fire storm in a well paved city is certainly possible. But, outside of some major catastrophe, is it a realistic scenario?
I drove 101 through the Woolsey fire on Thursday and noticed that new densely constructed PUDs were spared even though the surrounding landscape was completely consumed by the fire. Maybe PUDs are easier for CalFire to defend than the Malibu mansions?
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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by SSSdave » Tue Dec 11, 2018 5:09 pm

The top California fire person is echoing things I have been saying that is a good sign. Expect over years he has been quietly butting heads with politicians, real estate, and banking people trying to make changes but has been ignored. So upon exiting, gives him a chance to openly voice his mind without worrying about pressure.

https://www.sfgate.com/news/us/article/ ... 457824.php

snippet:

Communities in fire zones need to harden key buildings with fireproof construction similar to the way cities prepare for earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes, and should prepare commercial or public buildings to withstand fires with the expectation hundreds may shelter there as they did in makeshift fashion when flames last month largely destroyed the Sierra Nevada foothills city of Paradise in Northern California.

To adapt, he advocates wildfire warning systems that not only use new technology like automated phone calling systems, but maybe restoring civil defense-style emergency sirens in some areas. City planners must prepare communities "unlike we ever have before" with easy evacuation routes and new evacuation centers.

And he said Californians must treat "red flag" extreme fire danger warnings the way Midwesterners treat tornado warnings — as imminent threats.

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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by rightstar76 » Thu Jan 03, 2019 6:06 am

Excellent article on the Camp Fire:
A state fire planning document warned in 2005 that Paradise risked an ember firestorm akin to the one that ripped through Berkeley and Oakland 14 years earlier, killing more than two dozen people and destroying more than 2,000 homes. But Paradise officials framed risk in historical terms: In 50 years, no wildfire had crossed the Feather River.
https://www.latimes.com/local/californi ... story.html

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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by SSSdave » Thu Jan 03, 2019 8:44 am

I have an LA Times account. After the fire started, I posted comments on the main article the newspaper was running at that time in which the local and state people were all stating there was nothing they could have done to have prevented the fire due to such unexpected conditions. My main input from obscure local news sources was there was a ridiculous 100 minute delay between the time the fire started and when the evacuation order was sounded and by that time the fire had already reached Paradise. Instead after the Redding and Santa Rosa wind driven infernos they should have been on hair trigger status and sounded evacutation orders instantly if any fires started to their east. And should have had an air siren system howling and not just a phone etc warning plan that the article shows was a huge failure.

My inputs gained traction from other commenters thus suspect the LA Times followed up nicely digging into the issue that tends to point a blame at state, local officials, and residents.

A year later, the Butte County grand jury warned that the town faced disastrous consequences if it did not address the capacity limits of its roads. But Butte County supervisors and planners rejected the panel's call for a halt to growth until the evacuation problem was met.

Meteorological records show 36 days since 2003 with gusts of 100 mph or more, and as high as 200 mph. Paradise sat in the path.

After the Camp fire was reported at 6:31 a.m., the wind carried embers to nearby Concow, where a mandatory evacuation order was demoted to "warning" status at 7:17 a.m.

In Paradise, the first order to evacuate part of the city came at 7:57 a.m., and the first report of fire at the edge of town two minutes later. Immediately there were a dozen spot fires in town.

Broshears (Paradise emergency management director) said he wants an intensive study "to account for every decision that was made." He now favors a siren system that could warn everyone at once, and better plans to do what Paradise did by default — shelter people in place when escape is not possible.


Beyond the officials, once again we need to also point blame towards our state's corporate real estate, banking, financial land investor powers work to reduce efforts to reign in their agenda of continuing to sell off their huge inventory of lands in our fire prone regions.

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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by mrphil » Thu Jan 03, 2019 9:08 am

That article is surprisingly accurate and unbiased for the LA Times. Whatever the cause, the only way to improve outcomes in the future is to be honest and pragmatic on what went right and wrong. We get that so rarely anymore, especially when politics and culpability are concerned.

Straight from someone I know that's very well informed on the subject of the Camp fire and town of Paradise is: given a lot of factors involved with not only terrain and the false sense of "it can't happen here" is the fact that complacency played a huge role in the extent of the damage; having a huge number of elderly and lower income residents without the means, defensible space around a large number of homes, businesses, and neighborhoods was exactly ZERO. Too often, grasses and dry vegetation regularly over 6-8 feet tall being right up to the sides of buildings.

I live in a major wildland-urban interface area in Sonoma County. We didn't get it during the 2017 Tubbs fire, but we're frighteningly past due for a burn of our own, and given that we have virtually no safe escape route, the one thing we take seriously is that we need to have the ability to shelter-in-place, and the only way to do that is to clear vegetation. In our case, we extend the recommended distance by many multiples (100s of feet), including clearing the understory below oaks and removing volatile species like brooms and coyote bush...ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure and all that...

Completely off-topic, considering that the Feather River is probably one of the most underworked and gold-rich rivers/mining districts remaining in California, the prospecting this Spring should be phenomenal with all the erosion. Sure wish I could use my 4" dredge.

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Re: preparing for high wind event wildfires

Post by rightstar76 » Thu Jan 03, 2019 10:39 am

SSSdave, the same folks who got rich selling places like Paradise, are now minimizing their risk by cancelling or refusing to sell fire insurance policies. It's shocking that officials ignored the harsh reality of the potential for a catastrophic fire. Deference to big business interests probably a major factor.

I question why there wasn't a neighborhood task force with a volunteer coordinator for each section of the city. Before the fire, volunteer coordinators could have gone door to door and made sure everyone was signed up for the emergency warning system and knew how to evacuate. However, even if such a plan had been devised, I wonder if it would have been implemented as some would have objected citing privacy and individual freedom. Also, big business interests afraid people might not buy property or invest in the city after learning there could be a catastrophic fire. I suspect it was a combination of both.

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