Monday, January 15, 2018

Build. Burn. Repeat?

'The historic devastation wrought by wildfires in 2017 offers a strong case for a new approach to creating wildfire-resistant communities. Experts say we could create those communities today. If that's true, then why is it so hard to get it done?'

Jesse Roman reports at NFPA Journal,

"'I believe, and I think most professionals in the field believe, that we could build ignition-resistant communities today where people wouldn’t even have to leave their homes during a wildfire—the wildfire could pass right through the neighborhood, and not affect any of the structures,' said Gary Marshall, the former longtime fire marshal in Bend, Oregon, who also teaches wildfire home ignition courses for NFPA [National Fire Prevention Association]. 'We hear all the time that this wildfire problem is just a forest health problem, but it’s not. It’s a structure problem.

"Jack Cohen, one of the nation’s preeminent experts in wildfire structure ignition, spent 40 years as a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service studying the various ways that wildfires can cause homes to catch fire. In the vast majority of cases, he says, houses are ignited not through direct contact with the wildfire itself, but by embers blown in from the fire front. Through housing design and construction material choices—metal roofs, screens over gutters, gravel instead of mulch landings, decks made of composite materials rather than wood—homes can be sufficiently hardened to prevent firebrands from setting them ablaze. Keeping the space 100 feet around the home clear of things like dry brush, tall grass, and wooden fences can cut off other paths the fire can take to reach the house. Combined, these methods have demonstrated, in dozens of experiments, the ability to dramatically reduce the likelihood of home ignition, Cohen said. And they are all steps that local governments can mandate through codes and ordinances during the building permitting process."

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