Topics

Defensible Space for wildfires? > Fires and such


Roger Padvorac
 


Steve,
Maybe you (or somebody you know) could answer this question. Whatever happened to Defensible Space?
 
"An area either natural or manmade where material capable of causing a fire to spread has been treated, cleared, reduced, or changed to act as a barrier between an advancing wildland fire and the loss to life, property, or resources. In practice, "defensible space" is defined as an area a minimum of 30 feet around a structure that is cleared of flammable brush or vegetation."
 
I don't hear Defensible Space talked about anymore. When the news reports that homes were burned down, why don't they include in the report that the homes were fire-trap homes without Defensible Space?
 
I googled this: "Defensible Space"
And got a half million results, so its not like its difficult to find info on it. Browsing thru the images for this search shows some great pictures of intact homes surrounded by Defensible Space and burnt out areas. There were also some pictures of fire-trap homes that will be goners if a fire ever comes near them.
 
To me, for a person who is living in wildfire country, not doing defensible space is as irresponsible as a person doing drunk driving when they have to close one eye to reduce the number of images they are seeing.
 
Defensible Space is a wide spectrum of levels of preparation. Every bit of preparation decreases the risk of structure loss due to wildfire. As long as you haven't evacuated, its never to late to get out the rake and pruners and start reducing the flammable vegetation near your buildings. From a firefighters perspective, you can ever have too much Defensible Space.
 
When there aren't any other options for quickly getting rid of flammable debris, stack them up in small dense stacks out in the open, with wide spaces between the stacks. This way when a fire comes thru the stacks will burn more slowly than the standing grass and brush would have burnt. This in turn will minimize the size and intensity of the wall of flame, and so the small stacks are less likely to ignite tress and buildings than freestanding brush and grass would.
 
During a red flag warning is the wrong time to use mowers with steel blades because if the blade hits a rock, then the sparks could start a fire. However using a grass cutting machine with a plastic filament, instead of steel blades, (and a spark arresting muffler) seems reasonable to me.
 
Even so, after using a gas powered weedeater you would need to do a fire watch, just in case the fire smoldered for a while before breaking into flames.
 
* * * *
Everybody seems so shocked when fire-trap homes burn down, when that is to be expected when the home is in the Wildland Urban Interface in wildfire country. This is especially so when its nearly impossible in most locations to get permission for prescribed fires to lower the fuel load before fire season starts.
 
I agree 100% with fire fighters doing triage and not risking their lives trying to save fire-trap homes during major fire events. If it was you, would you spend a lot of effort trying to save a building that will probably burn down anyway, which is dangerous to be working on when the fire is close by, or spend a moderate amount of effort working on a home you can almost guarantee will be saved, which has enough defensible space so that if the fire suddenly surges forwards, that defensible space will help save your life?
 
My health does better when I'm in an area where ponderosa pines are growing. They don't grow where I live now. In the last 10 years every single place I was thinking of moving to in WA, OR, and CA has been burned out. This is in addition to those locations having months of air pollution levels from smoke that would make me nonfunctional because I'd be so sick. Maybe the smoke would have killed me. At this point, even if I had a large windfall, I doubt I'd move to a dry area. Living in the Douglas fir/live oak transition zone seems like a reasonable compromise between health and flammability (for now).
 
* * * *
I used to think that living west of the Cascades meant not having to pay attention to Defensible Space. Now I'm seriously questioning that attitude because I'm a bit shocked at the amount of large fires west of the Cascades.
 
This year this seems to be the most useful tool for tracking wildfires:
When its overloaded, it returns the map, but no fire details, which is usual for "public services" provided by federal agencies. Sometimes during off hours, when many people are panicking, if you wait for a long time, the fire details eventually show up. If there are only small fires, away from densely populated areas, then this page responds very quickly with fire details.
 
In the last 3 days there have been 4 wildfires near my home that were large enough that they showed up on satellite fire detection systems. This year seems to be on track for a record setting year for wildfires on the west coast. Worse yet, the definition of a "big fire" is steadily getting bigger.
 
This gets back to wondering why there seems to be deafening silence about Defensible Space.
 
* * * *
As I waited on the draft for second thoughts, an interesting idea came to me.
 
For people too elderly to do firefighting, the next best thing would be to load up some pruning and yard work tools, and drive around helping people who are making desperate efforts at last minute creation of Defensible Space. An advantage of helping at this point would be few people would care about doing a neat job, so it would be really easy to do this kind of work.
 
One of the images in my mind, from when I was a young adult, was a carload of ladies who spent their time driving around and helping the old ladies. What makes this image stick in my mind was one woman was considerably younger than the others in the car, and she was in her 60's. One can only imagine how old the old ladies were that they were helping.
 
A similar activity would be driving around and helping the old duffers clear Defensible Space around their homes.
 
Helping somebody save their home would give some serious meaning and satisfaction to life.
 
* * * *
If you are spending time anywhere near a fire, you need some basic safety equipment and fire safety education.
 
Since a fire can spread faster than 5 mph, "near" depends on the current weather conditions.
 
It would be very sad if some volunteers, helping people create Defensible Space around their homes, got burned up because of an unexpected change in the weather.
 
I ordered a lot of my equipment for working in the woods and for wildfire safety from this place:
I was happy with their service and products. However I haven't ordered from them since 2009. I glanced at their website and they are still very serious about forestry and wildfires.
 
There aren't a whole lot of places, even on the internet, where you can buy this kind of equipment. Considering the hazards of working in the woods, I would only buy this kind of equipment from a place that specializes in selling forestry equipment to people who use it to earn their living.
 
This is the 4th edition of this book:
I have the 3rd edition and it was very useful when I was working in the woods during the dry season. While there is a lot of info on managing hundreds of firefighters, there is also a lot of useful info on Defensible Space and good safety practices for anybody anywhere near a wildfire. Some people might think the book is too expensive. For perspective, how much do you spend on insurance each year? How much is your home worth? How much is your life worth? I see this book as inexpensive insurance.
 
Fires can spread dozens of miles a day and trap even professional firefighters. Its very easy to accidentally start a fire, you can be held liable for any damage caused by any fires you accidentally start, and in most weather conditions in most environments, if you have the equipment on hand a few feet away from you, then you can put out a small fire before it spreads. In short, its better to be prepared than to be sorry you weren't.
 
The good practices aren't rocket science, so they are easy to practice, once you know about them. For instance, somebody needs to be designated to watch the weather behavior, and if you can see it, the fire behavior. Then if there are any ominous changes in behavior, immediately tell the rest of the team about it. Its easy to become preoccupied doing a task, and not notice changes in the weather until its too late. Having a designated watcher reduces the risk of being trapped by a fire. The watcher can also watch for fires started from tools striking rocks and creating sparks, and then alert the team while the fire is still small enough to be easily put out.
 
Sincerely,
Roger
 

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2020 6:11 AM
Subject: Re: [oregoncoots] Fires and such

My son in law was one of the Eugene firemen trapped yesterday up by Blue River surrounded by the fire.  Pretty scary day.  They had no radio since the towers had burned.  And too windy to fly helicopters in to them.  My daughter got a call from a department Captain.   The call she dreads.  She was sure he was dead.  All of them are now safe.  Other crews had to clear 25 miles of down trees, burned trees and power lines to get the firemen and sheriff deputies out.  

He said they saved the school and a few houses but everything else is gone in Blue River.  Please send any extra prayers to the firemen and folks who have lost so much. 

Steve Miller


Stephen Miller
 

I am certainly not qualified to address all your points Roger.  I do hear about it east of the mountains.  Like you said where ponderosa grows.  

I have seen stories on This Old House on PBS about using the correct materials to build your house and how much that can lessen the danger.  

There are products, foams I think, that you can use to pre treat your home before you flee.  

But with east winds and a very dry summer stuff burns. 

Not sure why the power companies up  Santiam Canyon and up the McKenzie did not cut power like they did up MtnHood above Sandy.  Maybe they did but I did not hear about it.  

Scary stuff.

Steve Miller


On Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 5:29 PM Roger Padvorac <roger@...> wrote:
Steve,
Maybe you (or somebody you know) could answer this question. Whatever happened to Defensible Space?
 
"An area either natural or manmade where material capable of causing a fire to spread has been treated, cleared, reduced, or changed to act as a barrier between an advancing wildland fire and the loss to life, property, or resources. In practice, "defensible space" is defined as an area a minimum of 30 feet around a structure that is cleared of flammable brush or vegetation."
 
I don't hear Defensible Space talked about anymore. When the news reports that homes were burned down, why don't they include in the report that the homes were fire-trap homes without Defensible Space?
 
I googled this: "Defensible Space"
And got a half million results, so its not like its difficult to find info on it. Browsing thru the images for this search shows some great pictures of intact homes surrounded by Defensible Space and burnt out areas. There were also some pictures of fire-trap homes that will be goners if a fire ever comes near them.
 
To me, for a person who is living in wildfire country, not doing defensible space is as irresponsible as a person doing drunk driving when they have to close one eye to reduce the number of images they are seeing.
 
Defensible Space is a wide spectrum of levels of preparation. Every bit of preparation decreases the risk of structure loss due to wildfire. As long as you haven't evacuated, its never to late to get out the rake and pruners and start reducing the flammable vegetation near your buildings. From a firefighters perspective, you can ever have too much Defensible Space.
 
When there aren't any other options for quickly getting rid of flammable debris, stack them up in small dense stacks out in the open, with wide spaces between the stacks. This way when a fire comes thru the stacks will burn more slowly than the standing grass and brush would have burnt. This in turn will minimize the size and intensity of the wall of flame, and so the small stacks are less likely to ignite tress and buildings than freestanding brush and grass would.
 
During a red flag warning is the wrong time to use mowers with steel blades because if the blade hits a rock, then the sparks could start a fire. However using a grass cutting machine with a plastic filament, instead of steel blades, (and a spark arresting muffler) seems reasonable to me.
 
Even so, after using a gas powered weedeater you would need to do a fire watch, just in case the fire smoldered for a while before breaking into flames.
 
* * * *
Everybody seems so shocked when fire-trap homes burn down, when that is to be expected when the home is in the Wildland Urban Interface in wildfire country. This is especially so when its nearly impossible in most locations to get permission for prescribed fires to lower the fuel load before fire season starts.
 
I agree 100% with fire fighters doing triage and not risking their lives trying to save fire-trap homes during major fire events. If it was you, would you spend a lot of effort trying to save a building that will probably burn down anyway, which is dangerous to be working on when the fire is close by, or spend a moderate amount of effort working on a home you can almost guarantee will be saved, which has enough defensible space so that if the fire suddenly surges forwards, that defensible space will help save your life?
 
My health does better when I'm in an area where ponderosa pines are growing. They don't grow where I live now. In the last 10 years every single place I was thinking of moving to in WA, OR, and CA has been burned out. This is in addition to those locations having months of air pollution levels from smoke that would make me nonfunctional because I'd be so sick. Maybe the smoke would have killed me. At this point, even if I had a large windfall, I doubt I'd move to a dry area. Living in the Douglas fir/live oak transition zone seems like a reasonable compromise between health and flammability (for now).
 
* * * *
I used to think that living west of the Cascades meant not having to pay attention to Defensible Space. Now I'm seriously questioning that attitude because I'm a bit shocked at the amount of large fires west of the Cascades.
 
This year this seems to be the most useful tool for tracking wildfires:
When its overloaded, it returns the map, but no fire details, which is usual for "public services" provided by federal agencies. Sometimes during off hours, when many people are panicking, if you wait for a long time, the fire details eventually show up. If there are only small fires, away from densely populated areas, then this page responds very quickly with fire details.
 
In the last 3 days there have been 4 wildfires near my home that were large enough that they showed up on satellite fire detection systems. This year seems to be on track for a record setting year for wildfires on the west coast. Worse yet, the definition of a "big fire" is steadily getting bigger.
 
This gets back to wondering why there seems to be deafening silence about Defensible Space.
 
* * * *
As I waited on the draft for second thoughts, an interesting idea came to me.
 
For people too elderly to do firefighting, the next best thing would be to load up some pruning and yard work tools, and drive around helping people who are making desperate efforts at last minute creation of Defensible Space. An advantage of helping at this point would be few people would care about doing a neat job, so it would be really easy to do this kind of work.
 
One of the images in my mind, from when I was a young adult, was a carload of ladies who spent their time driving around and helping the old ladies. What makes this image stick in my mind was one woman was considerably younger than the others in the car, and she was in her 60's. One can only imagine how old the old ladies were that they were helping.
 
A similar activity would be driving around and helping the old duffers clear Defensible Space around their homes.
 
Helping somebody save their home would give some serious meaning and satisfaction to life.
 
* * * *
If you are spending time anywhere near a fire, you need some basic safety equipment and fire safety education.
 
Since a fire can spread faster than 5 mph, "near" depends on the current weather conditions.
 
It would be very sad if some volunteers, helping people create Defensible Space around their homes, got burned up because of an unexpected change in the weather.
 
I ordered a lot of my equipment for working in the woods and for wildfire safety from this place:
I was happy with their service and products. However I haven't ordered from them since 2009. I glanced at their website and they are still very serious about forestry and wildfires.
 
There aren't a whole lot of places, even on the internet, where you can buy this kind of equipment. Considering the hazards of working in the woods, I would only buy this kind of equipment from a place that specializes in selling forestry equipment to people who use it to earn their living.
 
This is the 4th edition of this book:
I have the 3rd edition and it was very useful when I was working in the woods during the dry season. While there is a lot of info on managing hundreds of firefighters, there is also a lot of useful info on Defensible Space and good safety practices for anybody anywhere near a wildfire. Some people might think the book is too expensive. For perspective, how much do you spend on insurance each year? How much is your home worth? How much is your life worth? I see this book as inexpensive insurance.
 
Fires can spread dozens of miles a day and trap even professional firefighters. Its very easy to accidentally start a fire, you can be held liable for any damage caused by any fires you accidentally start, and in most weather conditions in most environments, if you have the equipment on hand a few feet away from you, then you can put out a small fire before it spreads. In short, its better to be prepared than to be sorry you weren't.
 
The good practices aren't rocket science, so they are easy to practice, once you know about them. For instance, somebody needs to be designated to watch the weather behavior, and if you can see it, the fire behavior. Then if there are any ominous changes in behavior, immediately tell the rest of the team about it. Its easy to become preoccupied doing a task, and not notice changes in the weather until its too late. Having a designated watcher reduces the risk of being trapped by a fire. The watcher can also watch for fires started from tools striking rocks and creating sparks, and then alert the team while the fire is still small enough to be easily put out.
 
Sincerely,
Roger
 
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2020 6:11 AM
Subject: Re: [oregoncoots] Fires and such

My son in law was one of the Eugene firemen trapped yesterday up by Blue River surrounded by the fire.  Pretty scary day.  They had no radio since the towers had burned.  And too windy to fly helicopters in to them.  My daughter got a call from a department Captain.   The call she dreads.  She was sure he was dead.  All of them are now safe.  Other crews had to clear 25 miles of down trees, burned trees and power lines to get the firemen and sheriff deputies out.  

He said they saved the school and a few houses but everything else is gone in Blue River.  Please send any extra prayers to the firemen and folks who have lost so much. 

Steve Miller


 

There has been a lot of attention given to promoting Defensible Space as the fire seasons get worse. There are volunteer programs that help people make their properties out in the country safer from wildfires, and the fire departments and fire protection districts do their best to help people make their homes safer. Forest fires that travel as fast as the McKenzie and Santiam canyon fires did don't care about defensible space. <sigh>

Historically there have been many, many big forest fires west of the Cascades -- remember the Tillamook Burn? -- so that's nothing new. Douglas fir is a fire dependent species. Before human meddling, they sprouted in burned over areas after the broadleaved brush had got a start, then after the Doug firs had matured western hemlock would start taking over the forest -- unless another big fire came through first...

The sort of firestorms that hit up the Santiam and McKenzie are something new, and scary. <sigh>

On 9/9/2020 5:28 PM, Roger P wrote:

Steve,
Maybe you (or somebody you know) could answer this question. Whatever happened to Defensible Space?
www.fs.fed.us/nwacfire/home/terminology.html <http://www.fs.fed.us/nwacfire/home/terminology.html>
Defensible Space:
"An area either natural or manmade where material capable of causing a fire to spread has been treated, cleared, reduced, or changed to act as a barrier between an advancing wildland fire and the loss to life, property, or resources. In practice, "defensible space" is defined as an area a minimum of 30 feet around a structure that is cleared of flammable brush or vegetation."
...
--
John <@Jkohnen>
I know there's a proverb which that says "to err is human", but a human error is nothing to what a computer can do if it tries. (Agatha Christie)
--
This email has been checked for viruses by AVG.
https://www.avg.com


Case Turner
 

Defensible Space is promoted here heavily. Mainly spurred from the Awbrey Hall fire that ripped through the west side of Bend in 1990.

Most new subdivisions that build in more rural areas have to be a Firewise development which require special restrictions on building a fire safe structure, landscaping with firewise approved methods and planting and maintaining the landscape.

Having a defensible space and a properly built structure are very important to protecting your home.

Case

Sent from not here

On Sep 9, 2020, at 8:18 PM, John Kohnen <@Jkohnen> wrote:

There has been a lot of attention given to promoting Defensible Space as the fire seasons get worse. There are volunteer programs that help people make their properties out in the country safer from wildfires, and the fire departments and fire protection districts do their best to help people make their homes safer. Forest fires that travel as fast as the McKenzie and Santiam canyon fires did don't care about defensible space. <sigh>

Historically there have been many, many big forest fires west of the Cascades -- remember the Tillamook Burn? -- so that's nothing new. Douglas fir is a fire dependent species. Before human meddling, they sprouted in burned over areas after the broadleaved brush had got a start, then after the Doug firs had matured western hemlock would start taking over the forest -- unless another big fire came through first...

The sort of firestorms that hit up the Santiam and McKenzie are something new, and scary. <sigh>

On 9/9/2020 5:28 PM, Roger P wrote:

Steve,
Maybe you (or somebody you know) could answer this question. Whatever happened to Defensible Space?
www.fs.fed.us/nwacfire/home/terminology.html <http://www.fs.fed.us/nwacfire/home/terminology.html>
Defensible Space:
"An area either natural or manmade where material capable of causing a fire to spread has been treated, cleared, reduced, or changed to act as a barrier between an advancing wildland fire and the loss to life, property, or resources. In practice, "defensible space" is defined as an area a minimum of 30 feet around a structure that is cleared of flammable brush or vegetation."
...
--
John <@Jkohnen>
I know there's a proverb which that says "to err is human", but a human error is nothing to what a computer can do if it tries. (Agatha Christie)


--
This email has been checked for viruses by AVG.
https://www.avg.com




MylesJ Swift
 

I lived in the woods for almost 50 years. I did all the defensible space rules and then some. No shrubs of any size within 20 feet of the house except for one Japanese maple, single specimen plants to 100 feet away, any tree except fruit trees within 100 yards of a building got an 18 to 24 foot lift, mowed 3 acres of field, kept the logging roads open, etc. These are all great protection against a fire that is running across the ground. None of this helps much when a fire is jumping from tree top to tree top in a 40mph downhill wind.

 

Please keep safe everybody.

 


Roger Padvorac
 


Steve,
Thanks for the info. I think many people, including myself, developed a habitual attitude of we live on the soggy, wet side of the mountains.
 
All of the finger pointing over the next several months will go a long ways to raising awareness and starting to change that attitude.
 
I read a depressing opinion essay to the point that being decisively proactive after a disaster (and throwing lots of money at it) gets politicians reelected, and spending money to prevent disasters gets them unelected. Its so sad that human sacrifices are required to start that cycle.
 
Yes, wildfires, like lots of things are scary, until you learn the good practices and become religious about following it.
 
I spent 4 years repairing electronic equipment that used 5,000 volts. You had to energize it to be able to troubleshoot it. The only accident in our shop was a space cadet who repeatedly violated good practice. There was a dent where his head hit the wall after he short-circuited himself. The dent in the wall was a cautionary tale told to new people, who then applied themselves to following good practice. Since he was a space cadet to begin with, it was hard to tell if the accident caused any permanent injury.
 
I've had a lot of close calls caused by violating good practice and by the time I was working with 5,000 volts I was pretty religious about following good practice.
 
There are many dangerous jobs and the people who do those jobs for years without accidents are the ones who learn the good practice and then religiously follow it.
 
Driving vehicles in urban traffic is actually pretty scary. However we learn the good practice and become accustomed to it. A few times I've been away from vehicles for a prolonged period. Then the first ride in a vehicle after that was pretty scary, until I became accustomed to it again.
 
Wildfires, unlike electronic gear sitting on a bench, are erratic and move around, so it takes a lot of good practice to make it safe to deal with wildfires.
 
Two of the preventive measures firefighters do is either wrap the whole building in a foil wrap, or spray down the whole building with foam. I don't see any reason why homeowners can't do that for themsevles. In a major fire event there just aren't enough available firefighters, and anything you can do for yourself is a plus. This would be in addition to all of the practices recommended for creating Defensible Space.
 
Part of the good practice for wildfires is having many layers of fallback options. A scared person is a person at risk for making mistakes in judgment calls. Having several layers of fallback options helps build confidence and the quality of decisions.
 
Even if your plan is to evacuate when told to do so by the local government, things can go wrong with that. Having a fire shelter, and knowing the appropriate way to use it, adds one more layer of fallback options, and helps a person stay calm enough to make good choices, and then be effective in carrying out those choices.
 
* * * *
Unfortunately, having safety gear tends to increase risk taking behavior. I've even seen this in myself.
 
Yes, I've done a lot of successful self-rescues (some were narrow close calls) because I carry so much gear with me. A better plan would have been not to need self-rescuing in the first place.
 
So possibly the ultimate good practice is:
Carry fallback safety gear, and be as conservative about risk taking as if you didn't have the safety gear.
 
Sincerely,
Roger
 

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2020 5:59 PM
Subject: Re: [oregoncoots] Defensible Space for wildfires? > Fires and such

I am certainly not qualified to address all your points Roger.  I do hear about it east of the mountains.  Like you said where ponderosa grows.  

I have seen stories on This Old House on PBS about using the correct materials to build your house and how much that can lessen the danger.  

There are products, foams I think, that you can use to pre treat your home before you flee.  

But with east winds and a very dry summer stuff burns. 

Not sure why the power companies up  Santiam Canyon and up the McKenzie did not cut power like they did up MtnHood above Sandy.  Maybe they did but I did not hear about it.  

Scary stuff.

Steve Miller

On Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 5:29 PM Roger Padvorac <roger@...> wrote:
Steve,
Maybe you (or somebody you know) could answer this question. Whatever happened to Defensible Space?
 
"An area either natural or manmade where material capable of causing a fire to spread has been treated, cleared, reduced, or changed to act as a barrier between an advancing wildland fire and the loss to life, property, or resources. In practice, "defensible space" is defined as an area a minimum of 30 feet around a structure that is cleared of flammable brush or vegetation."
 
I don't hear Defensible Space talked about anymore. When the news reports that homes were burned down, why don't they include in the report that the homes were fire-trap homes without Defensible Space?
 
I googled this: "Defensible Space"
And got a half million results, so its not like its difficult to find info on it. Browsing thru the images for this search shows some great pictures of intact homes surrounded by Defensible Space and burnt out areas. There were also some pictures of fire-trap homes that will be goners if a fire ever comes near them.
 
To me, for a person who is living in wildfire country, not doing defensible space is as irresponsible as a person doing drunk driving when they have to close one eye to reduce the number of images they are seeing.
 
Defensible Space is a wide spectrum of levels of preparation. Every bit of preparation decreases the risk of structure loss due to wildfire. As long as you haven't evacuated, its never to late to get out the rake and pruners and start reducing the flammable vegetation near your buildings. From a firefighters perspective, you can ever have too much Defensible Space.
 
When there aren't any other options for quickly getting rid of flammable debris, stack them up in small dense stacks out in the open, with wide spaces between the stacks. This way when a fire comes thru the stacks will burn more slowly than the standing grass and brush would have burnt. This in turn will minimize the size and intensity of the wall of flame, and so the small stacks are less likely to ignite tress and buildings than freestanding brush and grass would.
 
During a red flag warning is the wrong time to use mowers with steel blades because if the blade hits a rock, then the sparks could start a fire. However using a grass cutting machine with a plastic filament, instead of steel blades, (and a spark arresting muffler) seems reasonable to me.
 
Even so, after using a gas powered weedeater you would need to do a fire watch, just in case the fire smoldered for a while before breaking into flames.
 
* * * *
Everybody seems so shocked when fire-trap homes burn down, when that is to be expected when the home is in the Wildland Urban Interface in wildfire country. This is especially so when its nearly impossible in most locations to get permission for prescribed fires to lower the fuel load before fire season starts.
 
I agree 100% with fire fighters doing triage and not risking their lives trying to save fire-trap homes during major fire events. If it was you, would you spend a lot of effort trying to save a building that will probably burn down anyway, which is dangerous to be working on when the fire is close by, or spend a moderate amount of effort working on a home you can almost guarantee will be saved, which has enough defensible space so that if the fire suddenly surges forwards, that defensible space will help save your life?
 
My health does better when I'm in an area where ponderosa pines are growing. They don't grow where I live now. In the last 10 years every single place I was thinking of moving to in WA, OR, and CA has been burned out. This is in addition to those locations having months of air pollution levels from smoke that would make me nonfunctional because I'd be so sick. Maybe the smoke would have killed me. At this point, even if I had a large windfall, I doubt I'd move to a dry area. Living in the Douglas fir/live oak transition zone seems like a reasonable compromise between health and flammability (for now).
 
* * * *
I used to think that living west of the Cascades meant not having to pay attention to Defensible Space. Now I'm seriously questioning that attitude because I'm a bit shocked at the amount of large fires west of the Cascades.
 
This year this seems to be the most useful tool for tracking wildfires:
When its overloaded, it returns the map, but no fire details, which is usual for "public services" provided by federal agencies. Sometimes during off hours, when many people are panicking, if you wait for a long time, the fire details eventually show up. If there are only small fires, away from densely populated areas, then this page responds very quickly with fire details.
 
In the last 3 days there have been 4 wildfires near my home that were large enough that they showed up on satellite fire detection systems. This year seems to be on track for a record setting year for wildfires on the west coast. Worse yet, the definition of a "big fire" is steadily getting bigger.
 
This gets back to wondering why there seems to be deafening silence about Defensible Space.
 
* * * *
As I waited on the draft for second thoughts, an interesting idea came to me.
 
For people too elderly to do firefighting, the next best thing would be to load up some pruning and yard work tools, and drive around helping people who are making desperate efforts at last minute creation of Defensible Space. An advantage of helping at this point would be few people would care about doing a neat job, so it would be really easy to do this kind of work.
 
One of the images in my mind, from when I was a young adult, was a carload of ladies who spent their time driving around and helping the old ladies. What makes this image stick in my mind was one woman was considerably younger than the others in the car, and she was in her 60's. One can only imagine how old the old ladies were that they were helping.
 
A similar activity would be driving around and helping the old duffers clear Defensible Space around their homes.
 
Helping somebody save their home would give some serious meaning and satisfaction to life.
 
* * * *
If you are spending time anywhere near a fire, you need some basic safety equipment and fire safety education.
 
Since a fire can spread faster than 5 mph, "near" depends on the current weather conditions.
 
It would be very sad if some volunteers, helping people create Defensible Space around their homes, got burned up because of an unexpected change in the weather.
 
I ordered a lot of my equipment for working in the woods and for wildfire safety from this place:
I was happy with their service and products. However I haven't ordered from them since 2009. I glanced at their website and they are still very serious about forestry and wildfires.
 
There aren't a whole lot of places, even on the internet, where you can buy this kind of equipment. Considering the hazards of working in the woods, I would only buy this kind of equipment from a place that specializes in selling forestry equipment to people who use it to earn their living.
 
This is the 4th edition of this book:
I have the 3rd edition and it was very useful when I was working in the woods during the dry season. While there is a lot of info on managing hundreds of firefighters, there is also a lot of useful info on Defensible Space and good safety practices for anybody anywhere near a wildfire. Some people might think the book is too expensive. For perspective, how much do you spend on insurance each year? How much is your home worth? How much is your life worth? I see this book as inexpensive insurance.
 
Fires can spread dozens of miles a day and trap even professional firefighters. Its very easy to accidentally start a fire, you can be held liable for any damage caused by any fires you accidentally start, and in most weather conditions in most environments, if you have the equipment on hand a few feet away from you, then you can put out a small fire before it spreads. In short, its better to be prepared than to be sorry you weren't.
 
The good practices aren't rocket science, so they are easy to practice, once you know about them. For instance, somebody needs to be designated to watch the weather behavior, and if you can see it, the fire behavior. Then if there are any ominous changes in behavior, immediately tell the rest of the team about it. Its easy to become preoccupied doing a task, and not notice changes in the weather until its too late. Having a designated watcher reduces the risk of being trapped by a fire. The watcher can also watch for fires started from tools striking rocks and creating sparks, and then alert the team while the fire is still small enough to be easily put out.
 
Sincerely,
Roger
 
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2020 6:11 AM
Subject: Re: [oregoncoots] Fires and such

My son in law was one of the Eugene firemen trapped yesterday up by Blue River surrounded by the fire.  Pretty scary day.  They had no radio since the towers had burned.  And too windy to fly helicopters in to them.  My daughter got a call from a department Captain.   The call she dreads.  She was sure he was dead.  All of them are now safe.  Other crews had to clear 25 miles of down trees, burned trees and power lines to get the firemen and sheriff deputies out.  

He said they saved the school and a few houses but everything else is gone in Blue River.  Please send any extra prayers to the firemen and folks who have lost so much. 

Steve Miller


Roger Padvorac
 


Case,
I had assumed that on the east side there was more awareness of Defensible Space. Its good to know there is a strong focus on it there.
 
I'm glad to hear that its baked into new development. Trying to retroactively change the landscaping around would be an overwhelming challenge for many people.
 
Do they allow residential buildings to be built within 10' of each other. Every time I see construction like that I shake my head because that's way too close for stopping wind driven fires in residential areas.
 
Never having heard of that fire, I found this page
There is nothing like firsthand experience to wake people up.
 
Once I was cutting down fresh alder trees in a drizzle. I needed to burn up the branches to get them out of the way. Its difficult to get dripping wet, freshly cut alder to burn, however eventually I got a fire going with dead wood, and used that to start the green wood burning.
 
Once I got the fire going with a good draft, I threw branches on it as fast as I could so it wouldn't go out. Eventually the flames were about 20' high, it was making a deep, throbbing, roaring sound that you could feel as well as hear, and burning twigs were raining down around me. Since everything was soaking wet, it wasn't a fire danger.
 
However the physical force of the fire scared me a bit. I hadn't ever heard a fire roar like that before. If dripping wet, freshly cut alder could burn like that, then what about a dry coniferous forest in a hot dry wind?
 
Ever since then I've had more respect for wildfire, and have been more cautious about activity that might accidentally start a fire.
 
Sincerely,
Roger
 

----- Original Message -----
From: "Case Turner" <dirtsailor2003@...>
Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2020 8:26 PM
Subject: Re: [oregoncoots] Defensible Space for wildfires? > Fires and such

Defensible Space is promoted here heavily. Mainly spurred from the Awbrey Hall fire that ripped through the west side of Bend in 1990.

Most new subdivisions that build in more rural areas have to be a Firewise development which require special restrictions on building a fire safe structure, landscaping with firewise approved methods and planting and maintaining the landscape.

Having a defensible space and a properly built structure are very important to protecting your home.

Case

Sent from not here

> On Sep 9, 2020, at 8:18 PM, John Kohnen <
jkohnen@...> wrote: