Over 7,000 structures burned in recent California wildfires– where do we go from here?

Will this teaching moment be squandered?

Above: A screen grab from drone footage uploaded October 11 of fire damage in Santa Rosa, California. Since then most of the numbers of lives and homes lost have about doubled. Los Angeles Times.

(Originally published at 1:48 p.m. MDT October 22, 2017)

Even many people who were not physically affected by the recent disastrous wildfires in Northern California are still stunned by what happened beginning the night of October 8 when very strong winds, hurricane force in some locations, pushed incredibly powerful fires through neighborhood after neighborhood.

The latest preliminary data reveals that four of the fires have found places in the list of 20 most destructive fires in California history when measured by the number of structures destroyed. Those four fires, Tubbs, Nuns, Atlas, and Redwood Valley accounted for the destruction of over 7,700 homes, commercial buildings, sheds, garages, and barns. Two of the three largest wildfires have occurred in the last four years.

Those who lost their possessions and homes are going to be hard pressed to find places to live for the next year or two. The state already has a severe housing shortage.

But what comes next in the big picture? People wring their hands and send thoughts and prayers. Is that enough? Most accidents and disasters provide a teaching moment. Will this one be squandered like so many times before after floods, hurricanes, mass shootings, and wildfires? Mentally disabled people accumulate assault rifles and homes are replaced in flood, fire, and hurricane-prone zones. Rinse and repeat.

The Los Angeles Times has started a series of articles looking back, and forward, at the siege of wildfires. On October 19 Paige St. John wrote about firefighting aircraft, and the October 21 edition had an editorial titled, “California wildfires are only going to get worse. We’re not ready”.

Below is an excerpt from the editorial:

…The state requires that new buildings in zones deemed by the state to be at high risk of fire be made with fire-resistant materials, such as tile roofs. The state and local governments should also consider requiring older homes and buildings in high-risk zones to be retrofitted.

Unfortunately, urban areas often weren’t included by the state in its designated high-risk zones because, well, nobody expected a wildfire to sweep through a city. State officials are now revising the maps, and the fires around Santa Rosa must surely be a wake-up call that suburbia has to be made more fire resistant.

Smokey Bear Jack O’Lanterns 2017

Above: Louie and his grandson got an early start on this year’s Smokey Bear Jack O’Lantern.

Send us your photos of Smokey Bear Jack O’Lanterns and we will put some of them here.

Here are instructions and a template for carving yours.

UPDATE October 26: Jolene Sakaske sent us the photo below, saying it was in memory of her grandfather, Joseph Sakaske.

smokey bear jack olantern

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Louie and his grandson.

Red Flag Warnings October 21, 2017

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag Warnings in areas within California, Nevada, and Arizona for high temperatures, low humidity, and gusty winds.

The map was current as of 9:15 a.m. MDT on Saturday. Red Flag Warnings can change throughout the day as the National Weather Service offices around the country update and revise their forecasts.

Destructive Northern California wildfires have entered the record books

Four of the recent wildfires in Northern California are tentatively in the list of the top 20 fires in California, as ranked by structures destroyed. The exact numbers will probably change in the coming weeks as the post-fire surveys conclude.


destructive northern california wildfires records
“Structures” includes ALL structures — homes, commercial buildings, sheds, garages, and barns.

It is burning season in British Columbia

The map above shows the number of current registrations for Category 3 open fires in British Columbia. Registrations are required for a fire that burns material in piles larger than two meters high and three meters wide, windrows, or grass over an area larger than 0.2 hectares (0.49 acres) in size.

Most areas in southern British Columbia are expecting to receive precipitation over the next couple of days, so landowners are probably wanting to get the burns in before the rain or snow.

The BC Wildfire Service sent out a notice Friday morning saying, “Burn Registration line is currently receiving a high volume of calls. Pls be patient if you are waiting in queue.”

bc weather forecast

Another fire truck rollover — this time, into a creek

The driver was pinned underneath the engine and partially submerged in the creek.

(Above: photo from the report shows the contracted engine after rolling off the road into a creek.)

(Originally published at 5:36 p.m. MDT October 19, 2017)

Below is the summary from the report of the rollover of an engine that was working on the Miller Complex in southwest Oregon.


On 27 August 2017, a Type 6 contract engine was conducting structure triage assessments while assigned to the Miller Complex in southwestern Oregon, managed by a Type 1 Incident Management Team (IMT). The crew had just resumed their trip after a short break when the driver came too close to the edge of the roadway and rolled down a steep embankment into a shallow creek.

The engine driver was not wearing his seatbelt and was seriously injured. Although not ejected, the driver was partially pinned underneath the engine, and partially submersed in the creek. The other two engine crewmembers were seat-belted, received minor injuries, and tried to radio for help.

After unsuccessful attempts at radio communication, one crewmember set out on foot to find help. After over one hour searching for help, the crewmember found a nearby resident who helped the accident victim locate a heavy equipment boss assigned to the fire.

A Heavy Equipment Boss (HEQB) assigned to the Division was also EMT-B qualified and became the first responder and incident-within-incident commander (IIC). This IIC managed a large accident response effort which included a staging area manager, extrication team, paramedics, low-angle rescue team, and multiple aircraft resources.

All three victims were successfully and rapidly transported to a hospital about 40 miles away due to a solid response plan implemented by a fireline leader with a calm demeanor and a strong command presence. Agency and IMT support for the injured contractor employee from the initial patient response to the patient’s three-week admission to hospital was outstanding. Relationships between the Forest Service and the contracting community have been further strengthened by the post-accident patient support.


To date, Wildfire Today has documented over three dozen rollovers of fire apparatus working on wildland fires.