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  1. #1
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    NorCal Wildfires -- Causes, Management and Prevention

    As a mountain biker, I think it's important to try to understand the environment that we occupy. This is an interesting perspective from Paul Hessburg, who is a research landscape ecologist with the US Forest Service. He's speaking of the western wildfire phenomenon in general.


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    A follow up on the discussion a couple months back.

    https://forums.mtbr.com/california-n...t-1087584.html

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    Good video. Accurate. Thanks for posting this.
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    Good to see this talk again. Of course this mostly applies to conifer forests (merchantable timber) and relates somewhat to the Paradise tragedy and not very much to the fires in SoCal (more brushland than "forest")

    What caught my attention this go around was that cattle grazing can be detrimental to a healthy forest as the grazing prevents a healthy burn pattern. Not what we're being told around the Bay Area in regards to open space management. Maybe the Bay Area is too developed to have healthy forests fire-wise? (Too many houses where there shouldn't be houses?)

    I'm not sure if it was on Prime or Netflix but I just watched a documentary on "The Big Burn" referenced in this talk. Pulaski of the "pulaski" tool fame was well featured. His is quite a story.
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    The video has been circulating for some time now, A rather simplified explanation of a very complex multi-faceted problem.
    So many trails... so little time...

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    Quote Originally Posted by dave54 View Post
    The video has been circulating for some time now, A rather simplified explanation of a very complex multi-faceted problem.
    Would you like to add something?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    Would you like to add something?
    4,295,016 + 5

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    Quote Originally Posted by dchester View Post
    4,295,016 + 5
    20304555

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    Quote Originally Posted by dchester View Post
    4,295,016 + 5
    Ba dump. Sphhhhh.
    What's wrong with him??

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    20304555
    No one can say you don't have any answers.
    What's wrong with him??

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    Quote Originally Posted by Finch Platte View Post
    No one can say you don't have any answers.
    There are some engineers on this site that might find that funny.

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    A telling quote from that TED talk - "60 percent of new housing starts (builds) are occurring in this area", referring to the wildland/forest interface.
    hold my beer...

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    Quote Originally Posted by MtotheF View Post
    A telling quote from that TED talk - "60 percent of new housing starts (builds) are occurring in this area", referring to the wildland/forest interface.
    And that has to do with over population.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jms View Post
    And that has to do with over population.
    Yep, to a large degree.

    We as a society have also gone to great lengths to bring electricity and cell towers and paved roads into some formerly remote areas, and as a result real small communities have grown as people seek a level of personal comfort and space outside of built up, heavily populated urban areas. People can work remotely now, too. So, the appeal of living in the forest is a whole lot greater when you don't have to struggle for a small paycheck in an economically depressed climate with a severely restricted workforce, and you don't have to chop your firewood to stay warm all winter, and you don't need a 4x4 to get to town every day. And so it goes. We always seek our own personal comfort levels, based on what we can afford to do. For many of us, that means if we can afford to live somewhere with a little more shoulder room, we do that. And, just like with everything else in life, there are gonna be some consequences...
    hold my beer...

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    I think what's telling is forests that aren't "managed" at all do not have these problems. Curious how a scientist from the forest service spent 4 seconds out of 14 minutes speaking to timber harvest and to that bent it to practices from the 40's. Spend time in old growth forests in the Cascades or burn cycle forests in Frank Church then spend time in managed forests. The difference is striking, especially in temperature and moisture.

    Just came from the Rainier zone back down to more managed forest here in Oregon. The amount of mushrooms growing up there compared to where they spray all kinds of shit down here is unbelievable. Another comical statement is speaking to what the American Indian did to augment the landscape compared to what we do.

    The only thing complex here is in the number of ways we f$ck up the natural order of things and the amount of propaganda created to continue exploitation. I personally see nothing to change the current trajectory, to the contrary.
    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

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    Prophetic and Tragic

    If you can track it down as a podcast, Dr Drew, on KGO, interviewed a professor emeritus of Forestry from Texas AM today that had given a talk at a town meeting to the residents of Paradise two years prior to the Camp Fire, and stated, no matter how well they as individuals, and as a community they did to clear defensible space, etc., due to mismanagement of the fuel loads in the surrounding forest, the town would burn. Track it down. Hopefully that come out fully - and those responsible are held accountable.

    I believe the same thing is likely to happen in Santa Cruz County, the amount of deadfall, fuel load[vegetation], and population density is WAY higher @ here - it will burn to the sea, with many more casualties.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MtotheF View Post
    Yep, to a large degree.

    We as a society have also gone to great lengths to bring electricity and cell towers and paved roads into some formerly remote areas, and as a result real small communities have grown as people seek a level of personal comfort and space outside of built up, heavily populated urban areas. People can work remotely now, too. So, the appeal of living in the forest is a whole lot greater when you don't have to struggle for a small paycheck in an economically depressed climate with a severely restricted workforce, and you don't have to chop your firewood to stay warm all winter, and you don't need a 4x4 to get to town every day. And so it goes. We always seek our own personal comfort levels, based on what we can afford to do. For many of us, that means if we can afford to live somewhere with a little more shoulder room, we do that. And, just like with everything else in life, there are gonna be some consequences...
    Or if you have limited income in retirement, and you'd prefer not to be warehoused, in a "senior community"
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    Quote Originally Posted by WHALENARD View Post
    I think what's telling is forests that aren't "managed" at all do not have these problems. Curious how a scientist from the forest service spent 4 seconds out of 14 minutes speaking to timber harvest and to that bent it to practices from the 40's. Spend time in old growth forests in the Cascades or burn cycle forests in Frank Church then spend time in managed forests. The difference is striking, especially in temperature and moisture.

    Just came from the Rainier zone back down to more managed forest here in Oregon. The amount of mushrooms growing up there compared to where they spray all kinds of shit down here is unbelievable. Another comical statement is speaking to what the American Indian did to augment the landscape compared to what we do.

    The only thing complex here is in the number of ways we f$ck up the natural order of things and the amount of propaganda created to continue exploitation. I personally see nothing to change the current trajectory, to the contrary.
    WA is a very different climate and forest than the forests and mountains in CA, but yes your point in general is very valid i think. The question is, what can be done now to prevent or mitigate future tragedies?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Californiagrown View Post
    The question is, what can be done now to prevent or mitigate future tragedies?
    5 acre minimum lot size is a good place to start. When they rebuild Paradise allow 5 homes per block instead of 50 homes. You can't have 100' of defensible space when the lots are 100' wide! (Unless your strategy is to torch your neighbor's house first to act as a back-burn)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moe Ped View Post
    5 acre minimum lot size is a good place to start. When they rebuild Paradise allow 5 homes per block instead of 50 homes. You can't have 100' of defensible space when the lots are 100' wide! (Unless your strategy is to torch your neighbor's house first to act as a back-burn)
    Agreed that zoning and planning regulations in fire prone areas should be written with wildfires in mind despite the fact it would generally stifle growth and revenue.

    IDK what can be done for the apparently millions living in in the crosshairs right now... other than some cloud seeding for rain mid summer (i have no idea if that would work in CA's climate).

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5k bike 50cent legs View Post
    Nice article that looks at the problems with controlled burning. It's easy to say 'burn more' but air quality is a major roadblock. Exempting controlled burns from the Clean Air Act does not make the air cleaner -- it makes dirty air legal. The article mentions one burn waited 8 months for the right weather. I was involved with one that waited 3 years for the weather to be right. One northern California National Forest, (Lassen), found that between the number of allowable burn days they were given, and the right combination of weather for a successful burn, they averaged 18 days per year. That does not give you much of an opportunity for an active burn program. Any fuels treatment program will require mechanical treatment. Burning alone cannot meet the needs. The numbers are simply not there, and wishful thinking will not make it feasible to only burn.

    Plus, there is so much fuel in many areas, mechanical treatment is needed before you can safely burn. First you put big noisy machines on the hillsides behind people's homes, then you fill the neighborhood with smoke. Homeowners don't like that, even the ones that scream the loudest to do something.

    Brush and trees grow back. In 10-15 years the fuel is regrown and is highly flammable again. You must re-treat the area or it will burn the same as if you did nothing. Fuels treatment is ongoing and recurring, and you end up needing to re-treat the same area before you have even made a dent in the total backlog.

    All this costs money. The legislature just promised $1 billion over 5 years for fuels treatment. That is a joke. $200 million per year is a fraction of what's needed, and it needs a lot longer than 5 years to fix the problem. Does anyone here seriously believe the appropriations will actually be made? I give it two years. Then there will a 'fiscal emergency' and 'newer budget priorities' and the promised money will disappear faster than a politician's promises in an election year. Then the usual activist groups will go running to a judge for an injunction against any project that actually tries to be implemented.

    Yeah, I am cynical. I have seen this happen too many times before. A crisis -- promises of funding and regulatory reform -- then nada. This rerun is getting old.
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    ^^^ Great insights.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moe Ped View Post
    5 acre minimum lot size is a good place to start. When they rebuild Paradise allow 5 homes per block instead of 50 homes. You can't have 100' of defensible space when the lots are 100' wide! (Unless your strategy is to torch your neighbor's house first to act as a back-burn)
    Ever had to look after a five acre parcel? It's almost a part time job. Actually counter-intuitively, higher density with a much bigger fuel, common break/management zone around it would be a better plan - spreads the management time/cost and increases the size of the fire break.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jms View Post
    Ever had to look after a five acre parcel? It's almost a part time job. Actually counter-intuitively, higher density with a much bigger fuel, common break/management zone around it would be a better plan - spreads the management time/cost and increases the size of the fire break.
    Yes I do, I have two 5 acre parcels I look after; one in the Los Gatos hills (steep, quite the fire hazard) and one outside of Hollister (nearly flat, much easier to manage) and once a defense zone is established it's relatively easy to maintain. Probably 2 weeks per year per property for fire-safety related maintenance. We do all our own work and have invested in the machinery it takes to make the task easier. We live a hobby farm life style, not interested in a country club ambiance.

    Neighbors wanting the "country club" look spend $$$ on nearly full-time landscape workers, we have goats. (With water restrictions during the drought the "country club" look became nearly impossible)

    "Higher density with a much bigger fuel, common break/management zone around it" would work too; I think the word for that is what is called a "city" and that's not where I care to live.

    Regardless; under the right (wrong?) wind/temperature/humidity conditions either of my properties could be lost in a wildfire; that's a risk we accept. But it's not that hard to minimize the risk. If I could have afforded 50 acres I'd be there; that's where I would feel I could control my own destiny fire-wise.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moe Ped View Post
    Regardless; under the right (wrong?) wind/temperature/humidity conditions either of my properties could be lost in a wildfire; that's a risk we accept. But it's not that hard to minimize the risk. If I could have afforded 50 acres I'd be there; that's where I would feel I could control my own destiny fire-wise.
    I have 85 acres that has been in the crosshairs of two hard fires in the past three years - Tassajara fire burned to within a few hundred feet of my north property line, Soberanes spent a summer skulking around a mile away - and I daydream about 5 acre parcel management! We do what we can here, which involved aggressively clearing a defensible space around the buildings; a job that took us the better part of a whole winter and needs to be repeated every other year. If a crown fire decided to come up the valley, the big oaks around our buildings would probably have enough fuel in them that we'd be toast. And they'd probably be fine. The rest of the property is incredibly steep and heavily wooded, and in pretty much the same natural state that this part of the Santa Lucias has always been. It's a natural fire trap, and fire has historically played a shaping role in how the vegetation coexists and regenerates down here. I try to practice non-attachment to material things as my fire coping strategy...
    hold my beer...

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    We just had another wildland fire here in Santa Cruz yesterday. The cause was yet again a homeless campfire. That is the fourth fire in the immediate area in the last week and a half started by homeless. Fortunately wind was down and they all stayed small. Rincon fire was the biggest at 17 acres. Amazing how slowly that one burned.

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    It's interesting that the start and initial burn before it hit town was in an area that burned just ten years ago.
    https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=39.7...2&b=hyb&a=fire

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    Quote Originally Posted by LightRanger View Post
    It's interesting that the start and initial burn before it hit town was in an area that burned just ten years ago.
    https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=39.7...2&b=hyb&a=fire
    Interesting.

    Much of that burn appears to be in the grass land phase and much of the timber wasn't touched (per the most recent view in Google Earth).

    But the brush land is completely grown back; typical of Chapparal---give it 10 years and it's got a full fuel load ready to go again.

    I think the winds are what made the Camp Fire such a monster. Pulga (near where the fire started) and Paradise are only 10 miles apart. 50 mph winds. Do the math.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moe Ped View Post
    ...
    But the brush land is completely grown back; typical of Chapparal---give it 10 years and it's got a full fuel load ready to go again.
    ...
    That is a point I made in my earlier post. Fuels treatments must be repeated on a regular cycle. So why did the state put a five year sunset on the new legislation?
    So many trails... so little time...

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    Quote Originally Posted by dave54 View Post
    So why did the state put a five year sunset on the new legislation?
    Probably to make the enviro-mentals happy.

    Or this is just a successful conspiracy to burn the deplorables out of California.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moe Ped View Post
    Probably to make the enviro-mentals happy.

    Or this is just a successful conspiracy to burn the deplorables out of California.
    Hey man, we've got a high speed rail boondoggle to pay for, Jerry needs all the money he can get for that! ; )
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    Quote Originally Posted by jms View Post
    Hey man, we've got a high speed rail boondoggle to pay for, Jerry needs all the money he can get for that! ; )
    And a whole caravan of people need benefits when they get here.
    So many trails... so little time...

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    NorCal Wildfires -- Causes, Management and Prevention

    Quote Originally Posted by dave54 View Post
    And a whole caravan of people need benefits when they get here.
    I’m guessing the average “caravan” asylum seeker will work more hours per year than the average native born American.

    I’d also wager that they’d contribute more to the economy than many a backwoods wanna be, federal government hating, but still taking all sorts of subsidies, leech on society citizen who would deny them entry simply because of the color of their skin.

    Semi-on-topic: I’d bet we could train some of those people to be top rate fire fighters.


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    Or this is just a successful conspiracy to burn the deplorables out of California.[/QUOTE]

    Great, what do we call this conspiracy? It could be the name of another tasty IPA from Henhouse Brewing.

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    To lighten the mood a little bit; these guys rock:



    (Another posting mentioned the video was taken in the Redding area but didn't say when)

    Something that should be considered is that CalFire, USFS and etc. should stay manned 100% year-round; plenty of preventative stuff to do if they follow the seasons. If things get really slack they could ferry down to Australia and fight fires there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    I’m guessing the average “caravan” asylum seeker will work more hours per year than the average native born American.

    I’d also wager that they’d contribute more to the economy than many a backwoods wanna be, federal government hating, but still taking all sorts of subsidies, leech on society citizen who would deny them entry simply because of the color of their skin.

    Semi-on-topic: I’d bet we could train some of those people to be top rate fire fighters.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    I’m guessing the average “caravan” asylum seeker will work more hours per year than the average native born American.

    I’d also wager that they’d contribute more to the economy than many a backwoods wanna be, federal government hating, but still taking all sorts of subsidies, leech on society citizen who would deny them entry simply because of the color of their skin.

    Semi-on-topic: I’d bet we could train some of those people to be top rate fire fighters.


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    " Asylum" seekers don't climb fences to illegally enter the country. They do it through legal means. Or they come to California. We don't have 12 million "Asylum" seekers in the US, we have 12 million people here illegally. I'm in construction for a living. Believe me, I know the cost involved in their presence. I also can completely understand their desire for a better life but would prefer we had a better solution than an imported brown underclass that don't have basic rights when it comes to workplace safety and wages.
    I would agree that there could definitely be a migrant worker program focused on wild land management. I've never heard one word of English spoken by the crews doing forest thinning through private timber companies above me in Northern California so I'm guessing that is already happening to some extent, legal or otherwise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean Allan View Post
    " Asylum" seekers don't climb fences to illegally enter the country. They do it through legal means. Or they come to California. We don't have 12 million "Asylum" seekers in the US, we have 12 million people here illegally. I'm in construction for a living. Believe me, I know the cost involved in their presence. I also can completely understand their desire for a better life but would prefer we had a better solution than an imported brown underclass that don't have basic rights when it comes to workplace safety and wages.
    I would agree that there could definitely be a migrant worker program focused on wild land management. I've never heard one word of English spoken by the crews doing forest thinning through private timber companies above me in Northern California so I'm guessing that is already happening to some extent, legal or otherwise.
    So, most news reports I can find say that “several” of them, out of approximately 400, did that.

    Let’s call it 4. Do the other 99% have your permission to seek asylum?


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    I recently thought of another way (besides cigarette smokers carelessly using the world as their ashtray, flicking their stinky butts wherever they choose) that wildfires can start: WATER BOTTLES. Yes, those recyclable yet everyone seems to pitch them along trails, roadsides, wherever. So, hear me out here. A clear plastic water bottle with ANY amount of water in it can REFRACT the sun’s rays, thereby concentrating the energy enough to ignite dry brush/grass/whatever. I’ve seen COUNTLESS carelessly forgotten water bottles with liquid in them tossed here there and everywhere, in tall grass, along roadsides, trailside, etc. Talk amongst yourselves.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leopold Porkstacker View Post
    I recently thought of another way (besides cigarette smokers carelessly using the world as their ashtray, flicking their stinky butts wherever they choose) that wildfires can start: WATER BOTTLES. Yes, those recyclable yet everyone seems to pitch them along trails, roadsides, wherever. So, hear me out here. A clear plastic water bottle with ANY amount of water in it can REFRACT the sun’s rays, thereby concentrating the energy enough to ignite dry brush/grass/whatever. I’ve seen COUNTLESS carelessly forgotten water bottles with liquid in them tossed here there and everywhere, in tall grass, along roadsides, trailside, etc. Talk amongst yourselves.
    Wasn’t there a Myth Busters episode about that?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    Wasn’t there a Myth Busters episode about that?


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    I have no idea. I used to have a television but from 2004 onward have been television-free.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leopold Porkstacker View Post
    I have no idea. I used to have a television but from 2004 onward have been television-free.
    That was a good decision.

    Our TVs are reserved for BBC dramas and YouTube instructional videos re: woodworking, bike maintenance and car repairs. And watching bike races.


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    Good thread, here's my 2 cents having just survived the Carr fire: Regardless of what local land managers are doing or not doing if you live in the forest or oak woodland its really your responsibility to protect your home and your life! You can't expect local or federal government agencies to protect you. The resources just aren't there. On top of that most people are either to lazy or in denial to do anything proactive to protect themselves. People love the isolation and beauty of the forest but they are taking a huge risk. Maybe after the Camp fire people will get a clue.

    I have lived in Old Shasta near Whiskeytown for 10 years. I knew it was only a matter if time before a big fire would come through. Luckily our house was one of only a few that survived. All the houses around us are gone. A month before the fire I had this gut feeling that I really needed to do something in case of fire so I did. I packed 5 large bins full of important papers, old photos etc in case of evacuation. Then I installed a sprinkler system under the eaves around our house. The last thing I did before evacuating at 2:30 in the morning was turn it on. The sprinkler is most likely what saved our house because we lost our separate garage/studio(with lots of bikes inside) that did not have a sprinkler system. Clearing your property in not enough.

    Ironically the fire that burned through our neighborhood in the 70's is used as a training scenario by Cal Fire but this time the fire burned the opposite direction. Cal fire should share this type of info with communities so they can develop fire management plans. I just heard that there are a number of Paradise residents who lost their homes a second time to wildfire and did not have insurance. Now why, after losing their homes in the previous fire and being denied future fire insurance did they rebuild and not take active measures? Did they not learn anything? Yes forests could be better managed but all forest will burn at some point. California is just getting hotter and drier and government can't keep up to manage the risk. Communities and individuals will have to step up to save themselves through planning, e.g. enhancing natural firebreaks, setting up sprinkler systems on houses, clearing suburban canyons of excess fuel etc. I may start another thread on sprinkler systems for wildfire protection if people are interested. Cheap soaker hoses can even be used!

  45. #45

  46. #46
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    Over 100 humans, 1000's of animals died horrific (did you ever hear somebody die in a fire?) deaths and in this day and age, "illegals", forest managers, dumb home owners etc are all to blame. Something is very broken here.

    There were > 50MPH winds, < 10% RH at the time of the fire in area with a forest full of fuels and by default a forest = fuels. There is no defensible space, better forest management or other high minded solution to the tragic sequence of events that occurred that fateful morning. This fire threw spots 5 miles away! The only thing that stopped the West flank of the fire was a vast field of no fuel farmland.
    Last year at this time Cofee Park and the rest of Sonoma had the the same sequence of events as well as the fire down in Malibu this week. There is no way to stop a fire like this (just one tree is enough).

    ACUDOC - always planned to do the eve sprinkler, good to here that it saved your structure.

    Regardless, thoughts and prayers to all who have been impacted.

  47. #47
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    Whatever you do, don't blow things up in flammable grassland areas.

    https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/27/us/ar...rnd/index.html

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tommybees View Post
    Over 100 humans, 1000's of animals died horrific (did you ever hear somebody die in a fire?) deaths and in this day and age, "illegals", forest managers, dumb home owners etc are all to blame. Something is very broken here.

    There were > 50MPH winds, < 10% RH at the time of the fire in area with a forest full of fuels and by default a forest = fuels. There is no defensible space, better forest management or other high minded solution to the tragic sequence of events that occurred that fateful morning. This fire threw spots 5 miles away! The only thing that stopped the West flank of the fire was a vast field of no fuel farmland.
    Last year at this time Cofee Park and the rest of Sonoma had the the same sequence of events as well as the fire down in Malibu this week. There is no way to stop a fire like this (just one tree is enough).

    ACUDOC - always planned to do the eve sprinkler, good to here that it saved your structure.

    Regardless, thoughts and prayers to all who have been impacted.

    A defensible space will help in less extreme fire conditions, but I agree, anyone who thinks a 100 foot clear cut is going to stop a large windblown wildfire has never seen a large windblown wildfire.

    I live deep in the Red Zone in Colorado. Things are not quite as bad here as some of the areas like Paradise and Malibu because the development is not quite as dense, the weather is a little cooler, and the higher altitude does slow down the burn rate. But nonetheless, we have had many catastrophic fires and will certainly see many more.

    My biggest fear is that even if my house doesn't burn, it will be declared uninsurable. I am already paying over 1% of the value of my house per year for my homeowners insurance. Yes, it sucks. I am guessing that eventually, all homes in fire Red Zones will be like houses in coastal areas in Florida - all insurance companies will pull out, and the states will have to step in with government-sponsored homeowners insurance. We have already seen an impact on the sales of homes in my area due to the high homeowners insurance costs. When someone is looking at a monthly payment and the homeowners insurance on the plains is $100/mo and it is $600/mo in the foothills, that extra $500/mo comes right out of the value of the foothills property.

    Those roof sprinklers are a great idea, if you have the water. I have a well, and I'm guessing it would go dry after just a few hours of that kind of load. Larger houses that are now being built around me are required to have roof sprinklers and a cistern with at least 5000 gallons of water. Then you need a pump to pump the water into the fire suppression system. When the power goes out, so does your fire suppression. Power is one of the first things to go in a bad wildfire scenario.

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