Fire Safe San Mateo News

Wildfire Safety Blog and News from Fire Safe San Mateo.
Jun
12

Learning from Sonoma County: How Vegetation Maps can Prevent Fires in San Mateo County

image_firedamagema_20190613-192240_1 Fire Damage Map of Woody Vegetation

We were delighted to have our guests from Sonoma County come down for our Fire Safe San Mateo County workshop Wednesday, June 12th, 2019. In anticipation for a collaborative, multi-agency County-wide vegetation mapping project "San Mateo County Vegetation Map and Landscape Database Project", guests spoke upon the current progress of the mapping project within San Mateo County and applicative uses for the maps, focusing on fuel load and fire modeling from Sonoma County's mapping project. We've summarized our guest's presentations below. 

The ultimate goals of the San Mateo vegetation mapping project are large and ongoing. So far, the project has been able to produce high resolution imagery and LiDar data, a method of remote sensing that creates a 3-D representation of the landscape. From these original data sets, and with the help from an army of botanists, the project aims to produce fine scale vegetation type maps, fire fuels mapping, relative forest stand cover, impervious surfaces layer mapping, hydrologic system mapping and topographic modeling and contours. With enough funding, more maps can created from the original data. Altogether, the applicative uses of the data produced will be limited to the imagination. Ultimate completion of the project is slated for January 2022. The final maps (available in GIS format) will be available at San Mateo County's GIS webportal

In Sonoma County, a similar mapping project was completed in 2017. The final product is provided not only as downloadable packages, but also through a user friendly mapping webportaland "Story Map". These easy to use maps bring the wealth of information this project brings to the greater public, including local government, State government, academia, communities, Resource Conservation Districts, non-profits and commercial entities. This data has been used for a myriad of reasons, spanning wetland conservation, agricultural protection, old-growth redwood research, carbon sequestration research, floodplain and creek restoration and planning along with so much more. Check out their website at sonomavegmap.org

Following the 2017 Sonoma Complex fires which started October 8th, 2017, Sonoma suffered devastating impacts from the combined destruction from the Pocket, Tubbs and Nuns Fire. In the aftermath, there were many questions as to why the fires spread the way they did and with such destructive force. Fires are not new to Sonoma County, there have been multiple historical fires, predominantly in 1924 and 1963, that match similar footprints to both the Nuns and Tubbs Fire. However, there's no question that these fires are beyond the extent of any historical fire. To answer the question, "why?", a collaborative effort was created through Ag and Open Space Sonoma County with Kass Green & Associates with Tuckman Geospatial. Their hypothesis was the changes in the landscape, such as slope, vegetation, wind and ladder fuels, were responsible for heightened intensity and spread of the fires. With funding assistance through NASA, the research team investigated the relationship between damage to the landscape (woody canopy) and variations across the landscape. Using machine learning, the research team looked at 72 landscape variables, including ladder fuels, canopy height, wind direction and speed, and distance to streams. 

Out of the six scenarios (each of the three fires being divided by wind driven events and topography driven events) their machine learning algorithm found high density of ladder fuels, low canopy height (shrubs), low climatic water deficit (precipitation and overall moisture), and far distance from streams all correlated to high damage to the landscape. A large takeaway from these results is the importance of ladder fuels in intensifying wildfires. Ladder fuels are the accumulation of woody vegetation (fuel) underneath a forest or shrub canopy. From these ladder fuels, fire can "climb" from lower growing woody vegetation up into the canopy, causing a high-temperature crown fire. The fire prevention community has known ladder fuels increase the risk and intensity of wildfires for a long time. This study not only verifies this case, but also provides something greater—a means of mapping the ladder fuels through Sonoma County. With this map, Sonoma County is able to find and manage for ladder fuels, focusing on escape routes, homes and buildings. 

For San Mateo County, we still have a few years to wait before we can create similar resources. Starting in Summer 2019, the data will be coming out piecemeal, like LiDar, 1-ft contours, and ladder fuels, but the final package is slated for 2022. Once fully produced, these maps will provide critical information to fire prevention agencies, such as Fire Safe San Mateo County, in planning escape routes, creating targeted fuel reduction projects around fire prone communities and so much more. 

Special thank you to Danny Franco (Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy), Deborah Hirst (Board of Supervisors for District 3), Supervisor Don Horsley, Denise Enea (Woodside Fire Protection District and Fire Safe San Mateo County Board President) and the good folks at Woodside Town hall for all your work in creating this workshop.

For more information on the San Mateo vegetation mapping project, please contact Daniel Franco at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Power point presentation from the day's presentations are available here:

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Apr
25

FIRE SAFE San Mateo County Post-Fire Data & Assessment Workshop

Rx Burn Henry Cowell SP cropped

Wednesday, June 12, 2019 from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM (PDT)

Woodside Town Hall | 2955 Woodside Road | Woodside, CA 94062

The San Mateo Fire Safe Council invites you to join us June 12th, 2019 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm for a series of presentations by staff and consultants with Sonoma County Agriculture & Open Space, who will be sharing data and analysis performed on the Sonoma County Complex Fires of 2017. Key discussion topics include:

  • The Sonoma County Vegetation Mapping and LiDAR Program, which is similar to current ongoing countywide fine scale vegetation mapping efforts in San Mateo and Marin Counties.
  • NASA Funded research designed to update existing Sonoma vegetation data sets ad analyze the impact of the fires across the landscape, and discover and quantify relationships between fire damage and landscape charactaristics such as vegetation weather, land use, and land management patterns.
  • Overview and results from a survey to understand the use of Sonoma's Vegetation Mapping and Land Cover Map Products in fire response, post-fire recovery and resilience planning.

Join us for a networking lunch from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm (immediately following the workshop) provided by District 3 Supervisor Don Horsley.

SPACE WILL BE LIMITED!

For questions please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Apr
10

Bay Area Prescribed Fire Council's Spring Tour

Crazy about Prescribed Fire?

The Bay Area Prescribed Fire Council is hosting their first Spring Meeting and Tour Thursday May 2nd and Friday May 3rd in Morgan Hill/ Henry Coe State Park.

This will be a conveinging of prescribed fire practitioners throughout the Bay Area. Come learn from their experiences and share your own.

 

 Sign up at: 
Bay Area Prescribed Fire EventBrite Page

 

 Thursday speakers include:

-Cultural burning on Amah Mutsun land
-Air Quality with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District
-Ecological reasons to burn with Audubon Canyon Ranch and Sonoma Ecology Center
-Legislative update
-Deciding where the BARxFC is headed (Policy/ Research, training and communications)

Friday will be a tour of nearby Henry Coe State Park, their prescribed burning, and wildfire history with park employees and Cal Fire.

 

Bay Area Prescribed Fire EventBrite Page

Questions or comments to:
Jared Childress  |  Prescribed Fire Specialist  |  Fire Forward

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. |  Office: 707.938.4554, ext. 309  |   Mobile: 510.499.1496
Bouverie Preserve,  P. O. Box 1195, Glen Ellen, CA 95442

2019 Spring meeting flier

 

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Mar
29

Updates from Preparing for Wildfire Convening, March 13, 2019

Hosted by Climate Ready San Mateo County, the Preparing for Wildfire Convening on March 13, 2019 brought together over 100 community members to talk about the future of fire in San Mateo County. The event brought insighful speakers to relay lessons larned from Sonoma County, recent data on fire and current efforts in San Mateo County. Speakers were followed by a collaborative moment around community preparedness and fire risk for attendees. A big thanks to FIRE SAFE San Mateo County members who joined this event.

 

Check out Climate Ready SMC's website for more information and highlights from the event. 

ClimateReadySMC Raider C 8

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Feb
28

Upcoming Events

Check out a few upcoming events of interest to FIRE SAFE San Mateo County members! These events are not affiliated with FIRE SAFE San Mateo County, but are wonderful opportunity for members to learn and network throughout the region. 

Fire Weather Research Workshop
San Jose State University
April 26, 2019

This is the first annual fire weather research workshop aimed at providing new information to fire agencies, students, students , and other stake holders to the current state-of-knowledge of fire weather research in California. Read about more information on their website or sign up for the event on google forms.

CPUC Wildfire Technology Innovation Summit
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Summit is designed to initiate an ongoing dialogue between the technology industry, academic researchers, utilities and government on the needs and tools to address wildfire challenges. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from leading experts, practitioners and entrepreneurs and to discuss innovative technologies, strategies and practical tools.
For more details see http://firetechsummit.cpuc.ca.gov

Wildland Urban Conference
March 26-28, 2019

The IAFC's Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) conference offers hands-on training and interactive sessions designed to address the challenges of wildland fire. If you're one of the many people responsible for protecting local forests or educating landowners and your community about the importance of land management—then this is the conference for you.
Learn more at https://www.iafc.org/events/wui
 

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Jun
07

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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Nov
06

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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Nov
06

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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Jul
15

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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May
28

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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