Fire Safe San Mateo News

Wildfire Safety Blog and News from Fire Safe San Mateo.

CAL FIRE San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit Aug. Live Fuel Moisture

CZU August 10th LFM is posted at National Fuel Moisture Database and summarized below.  The Highway 35 & 92 location could not be sample due to an extensive marine layer, which resulted in active precipitation.  Results were all within average for this time of year. 

Location

Current(%)  

8/10/17

Previous (%)

7/26/17

Change

Hwy 35 & 92 - coyote brush

N/A

150

N/A

Pulgas - coyote brush

139

146

-7

Saratoga Summit - chamise

80

82

-2

new growth

87

89

-2

old growth

74

75

-1

Corralitos - manzanita

92

92

0

new growth

93

93

0

old growth

91

91

0

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CAL FIRE San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit July Live Fuel Moisture

CZU July 26th LFM is posted at National Fuel Moisture Database and summarized below.  The Pulgas location was at average levels but all other locations were below average for this time of year. 

Location

Current(%)  

7/26/17

Previous (%)

7/5/17

Change

Hwy 35 & 92 - coyote brush

150

157

-7

Pulgas - coyote brush

146

151

-5

Saratoga Summit - chamise

82

90

-8

new growth

89

94

-5

old growth

75

85

-10

Corralitos - manzanita

92

108

-16

new growth

93

112

-19

old growth

91

104

-13

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CAL FIRE San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit June Live Fuel Moisture

CZU June LFM is posted at the National Fuel Moisture Database and summarized below.  A decline in fuel moisture was observed at all sampling locations, but levels are near average for this time of year.  The increase in old growth moisture at Corralitos was likely a sampling error.  This will be confirmed when the next sample is taken.

Location

Current(%)  

6/20/17

Previous (%)

5/19/17

Change

Hwy 35 & 92 - coyote brush

171

188

-17

Pulgas - coyote brush

168

170

-2

Saratoga Summit - chamise

106

118

-12

new growth

120

143

-23

old growth

92

93

-1

Corralitos - manzanita

126

121

+5

new growth

133

149

-16

old growth

120

93

+27

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Upcoming Federal Grant Opportunities

CAL FIRE will be accepting applications for two upcoming grant opportunities:

Landscape Scale Restoration Competitive Grant Program. An announcement is attached and additional information is provided in the link below. Applications are due September 1 and need to be submitted to Tom Smith in Sacramento (contact information in announcement). Questions regarding this grant opportunity should be directed to Tom Smith. Landscape Scale Restoration

Western States WUI Grant. Again, an announcement is attached and additional information is provided in the link below. Applications are due August 25 and need to be submitted to Captain Frank Rodgers (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Captain Rodgers is the best initial contact for questions regarding this grant opportunity. Fire Planning (scroll to the bottom – “WSFM WUI Applications”).

Please forward this email onto any organizations or entities who you believe may be interested.

FY_2018_Landscape_Scale_Restoration_Competitive_Grant_Program.docx

CA_Specific_2018_WSFM_WUI_Letter.docx

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Minutes of 6/14 FSSMC Meeting Now Available

On our "Home" page, click the "About Us" tab, and then "Meetings". You will see two options, "Agendas" and "Minutes". Click "Minutes" to find the one for this meeting in the 2017 folder.

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60 Minutes: Why fighting wildfires often fails -- and what to do about it

More than 100M Americans live in or near forests and grasslands that can erupt in flames. Steve Inskeep reports on fighting wildfires, which cost federal agencies almost $2B last year

Fighting wildfires in America cost federal agencies almost $2 billion last year including more than half the budget of the U.S. Forest Service. Wildland fires are growing worse in a time of drought and climate change, and the biggest and most destructive fires can't be stopped. They are a force of nature: imagine trying to stop a hurricane. Yet the government has to try, because more than a 100 million Americans now live in -- or near -- forests and grasslands that can erupt in flames.

Watch the 60 Minutes Special

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Schedule of Upcoming 2017 FSSMC Meetings

Upcoming meeting dates are 2/8, 4/12, 6/14, 10/11 and 12/13. Meetings are on Wednesdays and start at 9:15 am at 4091 Jefferson Ave. in Redwood City. Our annual barbeque will be on 8/9, location to be determined.

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The Efficacy of Hazardous Fuel Treatments

The Efficacy of Hazardous Fuel Treatments

Click on the link below for a copy of A Special Report from the Ecological Restoration Institute at Northern Arizona University to the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Wildland Fire.

The reports covers the efficacy of hazardous fuel treatments and is a rapid assessment of the economic and ecologic consequences of alternative hazardous fuel treatments.

Download the Report:

2013-report-Efficacy-of-Hazardous-Fuel-Treatments.pdf

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2016 Living With Fire In San Mateo County Brochure Available

Long awaited and now here! 

The 2016 version provides a comprenhensive rundown on how to protect your home from the risk of wildfire along with a detailed list of resources.

You can accesss it from our "Home" page by clicking on the "Read More" tab as this item scrolls and stops on your screen or through the "Resources" then "Living with Fire" tabs where you can view, download and print it.

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Fire Safe Receives Award Check from FM Global

At the April 13th Fire Safe San Mateo County meeting, FM Global, a Rhode Island-based insurance carrier, presented a check to Fire Safe in the amount of $2,015 for the installation of hazardous fuel road signage at four strategic locations in San Mateo County.  CAL FIRE will be responsible for the installation.

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Fire Safe San Mateo County Awarded Hazardous Fuel Reduction Grant by CAL FIRE

On March 30, 2016, FSSMC received notice from The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) that its grant project entitled Los Tranco/Vista Verde Hazardous Fuel Reduction Program had been selected for funding in the amount of $75,150.  The project will last for two years beginning with community outreach and education in the second quarter of this year followed by hazardous fuel reduction activitivies over the remaining life of the program.

Congratulations and many thanks to those who were instrumental in helping to create a successful application!!

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Winning A Wildfire Preparation Day Grant

Apologies for the very short notice, State Farm is offering $500 per selected grant.  The grant application needs to be in no later than February 28th, so an off-the-shelf proposal is best.

Join individuals and groups of all ages on May 7, and participate in national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day activities that will make your community safer from the impacts of future and past wildfires.

For details, check out the following link:

http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/outdoors/wildland-fires/campaigns/national-wildfire-community-preparedness-day

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Your House Could Survive A Wildfire Video from Dr. Jack Cohen

Overview:

Wildland fires are a serious threat to lives and property in the U.S. The combination of drought, warmer temperatures, high winds and an excess of dried vegetation in forests and grasslands has made fire seasons progressively worse over the past 50 years. And, in the last decade, wildfires have burned over 80 million acres of these lands. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), 2015 saw one of the worst fire seasons in decades, with over 10 million acres burned.

Facts and Figures:

  • According to the NIFC, 2015 saw more than 68,000 wildfires burn over 10 million acres.   
  • The U.S. Forest Service reports that 2015 was also the most expensive wildfire season on record, costing $1.71 billion for the year. This total surpasses the previous record of $1.67 billion set in 2002.    A total of 4,636 structures were destroyed by wildfires in 2015, including more than 2,600 homes and more than 100 commercial buildings   
  • The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) cites more than 72,000 U.S. communities are at risk from wildfires.

Be sure to check out this video from Dr. Jack Cohen, Fire Science Researcher, at the USDA Forest Service for details about how a house could survive a wildfire.

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California Wildland Urban Interface Code Information

Fire Code Book CoverYears of experience by the California fire service have led to a new strategy for reducing the chance of building loss or damage due to wildfire, with new regulations that are now mandatory within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). It is a two-pronged approach – providing defensible space and constructing a more ignition-resistant structure.

​EXTERIOR WILDFIRE EXPOSURE PROTECTION:

 Buildings are now required to be constructed so that they have less chance of catching fire from burning embers from wildfires. Most of the highest wildfire losses take place during hot, windy days or nights when flames spread so fast that many buildings catch fire and overwhelm available firefighting forces. Many buildings ignite when burning embers land on wood roofs, blow in through vents, pile up in cracks, or become lodged under boards. By constructing buildings in a way that reduces the ability of embers to intrude, a major cause of structure ignition is reduced.

Recently adopted building codes reduce the risk of burning embers igniting buildings. Standards are already in effect for roofs, attic vents, siding, exterior doors, decking, windows, eaves, wall vents and enclosed overhanging decks.


Years of experience by the California fire service have led to a new strategy for reducing the chance of building loss or damage due to wildfire, with new regulations that are now mandatory within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). It is a two-pronged approach – providing defensible space and constructing a more ignition-resistant structure.

​EXTERIOR WILDFIRE EXPOSURE PROTECTION:

 Buildings are now required to be constructed so that they have less chance of catching fire from burning embers from wildfires. Most of the highest wildfire losses take place during hot, windy days or nights when flames spread so fast that many buildings catch fire and overwhelm available firefighting forces. Many buildings ignite when burning embers land on wood roofs, blow in through vents, pile up in cracks, or become lodged under boards. By constructing buildings in a way that reduces the ability of embers to intrude, a major cause of structure ignition is reduced.

Recently adopted building codes reduce the risk of burning embers igniting buildings. Standards are already in effect for roofs, attic vents, siding, exterior doors, decking, windows, eaves, wall vents and enclosed overhanging decks.


CHAPTER 7A BUILDING CODE LANGUAGE

FIRE SAFE REGULATIONS

Government Code Sections 51175-51189   

General Guidelines for Creating Defensible Space

Building Materials Listings and Manufacturning Process

***NEW WUI PRODUCTS HANDBOOK***

Homeowner's Summary of Fire Prevention Laws

http://www.woodsidefire.org/components/com_jce/editor/tiny_mce/plugins/anchor/img/anchor.gif);">What You Need To Know About California’s New Building Codes

Protecting a building from wildfire takes a two-pronged approach:

  • Remove flammable materials from around the building
  • Construct the building of fire resistant material

The law requires that homeowners do fuel modification to 100 feet (or the property line) around their buildings to create a defensible space for firefighters and to protect their homes from wildfires.

New building codes will protect buildings from being ignited by flying embers which can travel as much as a mile away from the wildfire.  The following ignition-resistant standards are designed to prevent embers from igniting a building:

BUILDING MATERIALS LISTINGS FOR WILDLAND URBAN INTERFACE BUILDING MATERIALS

The Office of the State Fire Marshal's (SFM) Building Materials Listing Program (BML) was originally created to mandate that all fire alarm systems and fire alarm devices be approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal prior to sale or marketing within the state. The program later was expanded to include many other materials such as: roof coverings, fire resistive wall and ceiling-floor assemblies, wall finish materials, fire and non-fire related hardware, insulating products, fire doors, fire dampers, electrical appliances and devices. Each product approval and listing is based upon an evaluation of test results that include an analysis of required product performance and reliability features. All manufacturers that want to list products in California must have those products tested and labeled by a SFM accredited laboratory. If a product does not qualify for listing but meets the standard of the “Materials and Construction Methods for Exterior Wildfire Exposure,” Chapter 7A of the California Building Code will be listed in the WUI Product Handbook.

WUI BUILDING MATERIALS TESTING STANDARDS

The new building standard for the Fire Hazard Severity Zones will be enforced by the Building Official as projects go through the plan checking process. To best assist them in determining if a product meets the code requirements, the State Fire Marshal's BML Program is accepting applications for materials that meet the new code. These materials will be listed on the SFM BML website and the Wildland Urban Interface Building Codes page of the Wildland Hazards and Building Codes website section. The SFM listing service provides building authorities, architectural and engineering communities, contractors, and the fire service with a reliable and readily available source of information.

Since the materials under Wildland Urban Interface Building Codes (except wood shakes and shingles) are not required by law to be listed by the SFM, the listing for these products are strictly voluntary. Materials not listed by the SFM may still qualify for use provided they met all the requirements under Chapter 7A. If not listed on the SFM site, all documentation and testing certificates showing compliance must be submitted to the building official having jurisdiction for final approval.

EFFECTIVE DATES OF CODE:

On September 20, 2007 the Building Standards Commission approved the Office of the State Fire Marshal’s emergency regulations amending the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 24, Part 2, known as the 2007 California Building Code (CBC).

“701A.3.2 New Buildings Located in Any Fire Hazard Severity Zone.

New buildings located in any Fire Hazard Severity Zone within State Responsibility Areas, any Local Agency Very-High Fire Hazard Severity Zone, or any Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Area designated by the enforcing agency for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after January 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this chapter. New buildings located in any Fire Hazard Severity Zone shall comply with one of the following:

1. State Responsibility Areas.
New buildings located in any Fire Hazard Severity Zone within State Responsibility Areas, for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after January 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this chapter.

2. Local Agency Very-High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.
New buildings located in any Local Agency Very-High Fire Hazard Severity Zone for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after July 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this chapter.

3. Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Area designated by the enforcing agency.
New buildings located in any Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Area designated by the enforcing agency for which an application for a building permit is submitted on or after January 1, 2008, shall comply with all sections of this chapter.

HOW TO GET CODE QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Information Bulletins” and formal state building standards “Code Interpretations” pertaining to wildfire protection building codes are available from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Project specific questions should be addressed by the agency having jurisdiction of the project. They may have more restrictive requirements in local ordinances.

WUI INFORMATIONAL BULLETINS:

WUI REFERENCE MATERIALS:

New Building Standards have been adopted for areas within local jurisdiction Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones and in the State Responsibility Areas (SRA). Phase I of the standards are already in effect. Phase II standards will go into effect January 1, 2008.

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Hardening Your Home Against Wildfire

A wildfire-safe home must be an ember-ignition-resistant home, so that even if the flames do not reach your home, it will be able to withstand exposure to embers that may have been blown a mile or more in front of a wildfire.  To provide maximum wildfire protection for your home, a combination of near-home vegetation management, appropriate building materials, and related design features must be used. These points are summarized the excellent Univesity of California publication, "Home Survival in Wildfire-Prone Areas: Building Materials and Design Considerations."

Preparing and maintaining adequate defensible space will guard against flame contact and radiant exposures from nearby vegetation—but because of the likely ember exposure to your home during a wildfire, you cannot ignore building material and design considerations. Similarly, if you ignore your defensible space (i.e., you do not have it or do not maintain it), the wildfire will produce maximum ember, flame, and radiant exposures to your home.  It is very unlikely that even hardened buildings can survive such exposure, as a weak link will likely exist somewhere in the building enclosure. 

There is a direct link between home survival, the vegetation management required in developing adequate defensible space around the home, and the building materials and design used to construct the home. The area where your vegetation should be managed (i.e., your defensible space) will depend on the particular topography and siting of the home on the property. Information included in this publication is focused on the home and is intended to provide information to help you make “fire wise” decisions regarding material choices and design decisions, whether you are building a new home or retrofitting your existing house. A considerable amount of information has been published in recent years on defensible space and vegetation management. Check with your local cooperative extension office or fire department for information appropriate to your area.

Read more about hardening Your Home against wildfire...

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Be Fire Safe, Even When Clearing Defensible Space!

Hundreds of fires are started each year by power tools.   If you live in a wildland area, use extreme caution during fire season.  Lawn mowers, string trimmers, chain saws, grinders, welders, and tractors can all start fires if not used properly.

Mowing:  Striking  rocks can create sparks  and start fireas in dry grass. Use caution, mow only early in the day (before 10AM, when the weather is calm, cool, and moist). 

Spark Arresters:  In wildland areas, spark arresters are required on all portable, gasoline-powered equipment. This includes  tractors, harvesters, chainsaws, weed-trimmers and mowers.

Keep the exhaust system, spark arresters  and mower in proper working order and free  of carbon buildup.  Use the recommended grade of fuel, and don’t top it off.

Visit www.firesafesanmateo.org for more information on creating defensible space!

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Designing for Disaster: National Building Museum Highlights Firesafe Building Practices

From earthquakes and hurricanes to flooding and rising sea levels, natural disasters can strike anywhere and at any time. No region of the country is immune from the impacts and rising costs of disaster damage. In light of this stark reality, the National Building Museum presents a multimedia exhibition titled Designing for Disaster, a call-to-action for citizen preparedness—from design professionals and local decision-makers to homeowners and school kids. The exhibition explores strategies local leaders are currently pursuing to reduce their risks and build more disaster-resilient communities. The exhibition will open May 11, 2014 and remain on view through August 2, 2015.

Natural disasters can impact any of us, anywhere, at any time. In 2012, the financial toll in the United States alone exceeded $100 billion, and the loss of life and emotional toll is immeasurable. No region of the country is immune—112 events in 32 states were declared natural disasters in the U.S. during 2012.

The National Building Museum's exhibition, Designing for Disaster, examines how we assess risks from natural hazards and how we can create policies, plans, and designs yielding safer, more disaster-resilient communities.

DESIGNING FOR DISASTER

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"One Less Spark" Weather Forecaster Toolkit

The One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire Weather Forecaster Toolkit with fire weather reporting ideas for all media is available and ready for use.

Components of the Toolkit include:

  • Ideas for newspaper (traditional and on-line) , radio, and television weather reporters to connect forecasts with fire danger
  • Examples of weather reports containing fire safety messages
  • Commonly used terminology to enhance understanding thereby accurately describing terms to the public while forecasting
  • Examples of messages that can be used during weather reporting to help the public understand fire weather terminology
  • Short, simple, and catchy phrases that can be easily inserted into forecasts
  • Links to websites to further enhance wildland fire weather information.

Sponsors include:  California Wildfire Coordinating Group Prevention Subcommittee. Member agencies of the CWCG include; US Forest Service, CAL FIRE, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cal OES, Caltrans, CAL Fire Safe Councils, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service . 

The Toolkit is attached and can also be downloaded from:    http:/www.preventwildfireca.org/OneLessSpark/. Please give us feedback about your thoughts and use of the Toolkit.

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Wildfire Preparedness: FIRESCAPING

b2ap3_thumbnail_BG.jpg

Appropriate manipulation of the landscape can make a significant contribution towards wildfire survival.  Firescaping integrates traditional landscape functions and needs into a design that reduces the threat from wildfire.

In addition to meeting a homeowner’s aesthetic desires and functional needs, firescaping includes vegetation modification techniques, planting for fire safety, defensible space principles, and use of fire safety zones.

Three factors determine wildfire intensity:  topography, weather and fuels (vegetation).  Property owners can control the fuel component through proper selection, placement, and maintenance of vegetation.  Careful planning and firescape design can diminish the possibility of ignition, lower fire intensity, and reduce how quickly a fire spreads – all factors which will increase a home’s survivability during a wildfire.  

In firescaping, plant selection is primarily determined by a plant’s ability to reduce the wildfire threat.  Other considerations may be important such as appearance, ability to hold the soil in place, and wildlife habitat value.

Minimize use of evergreen shrubs and trees within 30 feet of a structure, because junipers, other conifers, and broadleaf evergreens contain oils, resins, and waxes that make these plants burn with great intensity.  

Choose “fire smart” plants - typically plants with a high moisture content, larger leaves, low growing, with stems and leaves that are not resinous, oily or waxy.  Deciduous trees are generally more fire resistant than evergreens because they have a higher moisture content when in leaf, and a lower fuel volume when dormant.  

Placement and maintenance of trees and shrubs is as important as actual plant selection.  When planning tree placement remember their size at maturity. Keep tree limbs at least 10 feet from chimneys, power lines and structures, and separate canopies so no trees touch.  Do not plant shrubs beneath trees.

Firescape design uses driveways, lawns, walkways, patios, parking areas, areas with inorganic mulches, and fences constructed of nonflammable materials such as rock, brick, or concrete to reduce fuel loads and create fuel breaks. Fuel breaks are a vital component in firescape design.  While bare ground can not burn, it is not promoted as a firescape element due to aesthetic and soil erosion concerns.

When designing a firesafe landscape, remember that less is better.  Simplify visual lines and groupings.  A firesafe landscape lets plants and garden elements reveal their innate beauty by leaving space between plants and groups of plants.   In firescaping, open spaces are as important as the plants.

Learn more about firescaping here...

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Colorado Conference Explores the True Cost of Wildfires

Adapted from http://wildfiretoday.com/2014/04/18/the-true-cost-of-wildfire/

A recent conference in Glenwood Springs, Colorado explored The True Cost of Wildfire.

Usually the costs we hear associated with wildfires are what firefighters run up during the suppression phase.  The National Incident Management Situation Report provides those numbers daily for most ongoing large fires. But other costs may be many times the cost of suppression, including the value of structures burned, crops and pastures ruined, economic losses from decreased tourism, medical treatment for the effects of smoke, salaries of law enforcement and highway maintenance personnel, counseling for victims, costs incurred by evacuees, infrastructure damage and shutdowns, rehabilitation of watersheds, forests, flood and debris flow prevention, and repairing damage to reservoirs filled with silt.  And of course there can not be a value placed on the lives that are lost in wildfires.  In Colorado alone, fires since 2000 have killed 8 residents and 12 firefighters.

The total cost of a wildfire can be mitigated by fire-adaptive communities, hazard fuel mitigation, fire prevention campaigns, and prompt and aggressive initial attack of new fires with overwhelming force by ground and air resources. Investments in these areas can save large sums of money. And, it can save lives, something we don’t hear about very often when it comes to wildfire prevention and mitigation; or spending money on adequate fire suppression resources.Below are some excerpts from a report on the conference that appeared in the Grand Junction Sentinel:

[Fire ecologist Robert] Gray said the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire in New Mexico ended up having a total estimated cost of $906 million, of which suppression accounted for only 3 percent.Creede Mayor Eric Grossman said the [West Fork Complex] in the vicinity of that town last summer didn’t damage one structure other than a pumphouse. But the damage to its tourism-based economy was immense.“We’re a three-, four-month (seasonal tourism) economy and once that fire started everybody left, and rightfully so, but the problem was they didn’t come back,” he said.
A lot of the consequences can play out over years or even decades, Gray said.He cited a damaging wildfire in Slave Lake, in Alberta, Canada, where post-traumatic stress disorder in children didn’t surface until a year afterward. Yet thanks to the damage to homes from the fire there were fewer medical professionals still available in the town to treat them.“You’re dealing with a grieving process” in the case of landowners who have lost homes, said Carol Ekarius, who as executive director of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte has dealt with watershed and other issues in the wake of the 2002 Hayman Fire and other Front Range fires.
The Hayman Fire was well over 100,000 acres in size and Ekarius has estimated its total costs at more than $2,000 an acre. That’s partly due to denuded slopes that were vulnerable to flooding, led to silt getting in reservoirs and required rehabilitation work.“With big fires always come big floods and big debris flows,” Ekarius said.Gray said measures such as mitigating fire danger through more forest thinning can reduce the risks.
The 2013 Rim Fire in California caused $1.8 billion in environmental and property damage, or $7,800 an acre, he said.“We can do an awful lot of treatment at $7,800 an acre and actually save money,” he said.Bill Hahnenberg, who has served as incident commander on several fires, said many destructive fires are human-caused because humans live in the wildland-urban interface.“That’s why I think we should maybe pay more attention to fire prevention,” he said.
Just how large the potential consequences of fire can be was demonstrated in Glenwood Springs’ Coal Seam Fire. In that case the incident commander was close to evacuating the entire town, Hahnenberg said. “How would that play (out)?” he said. “I’m not just picking on Glenwood, it’s a question for many communities. How would you do that?” He suggested it’s a scenario communities would do well to prepare for in advance.

The chart below from EcoWest.org shows that federal spending per wildfire has exceeded $100,000 on an annual basis several times since 2002. Since 2008 the cost per acre has varied between $500 and $1,000. These numbers do not include most of the other associated costs we listed above.

 

Cost per wildfire acre

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