More research about shelter in place

Wildfire Today has documented several efforts of communities implementing the shelter in place, or prepare, stay and defend program. Just a few weeks ago during the Tea fire near Santa Barbara, California, two people were seriously burned while attempting to evacuate during the fire.

Two researchers from Washington State University, Matt Carroll and Travis Paveglio, are studying several Western U.S. communities that are considering the implementation of alternatives to evacuation. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Salem News.

The researchers said alternatives to evacuation make sense because in many cases, mass “relocation” (as authorities often call evacuation) often results in traffic jams and car accidents, nervousness and panic, which can cause harm to people during fire events.

In addition, research in the U.S. and experience in Australia have both shown that many buildings burn down in wildfires not because of flame fronts enveloping them, but because of flying embers before and after the main fire event. Such embers can be dealt with, as the Australians say, “with a bucket and a mop.”

Furthermore some rural communities have difficult access and poor roads that make evacuations dangerous.

Another advantage to preparing one’s property for the possibility of not evacuating during a fire is that such preparations may increase the survivability of homes and structures even if residents choose to evacuate in a particular event. Such physical preparations are known in natural resource parlance as “firesafing.”

Another key in a ‘stay or go’ situation is to evacuate early, if one is going to evacuate at all. “The literature is very clear that last minute, rushed evacuations are very dangerous. People die,” said Carroll.

“No one method will work for every community or condition, but it is necessary to understand the circumstances during which it is better to stay behind,” Paveglio said.

“If steps to an alternative to evacuation are not implemented right, it could put more people at risk,” warned Carroll, who highlights the importance of both physical and social preparedness and community cooperation to develop and implement alternatives to evacuations.

Paveglio, Carroll and U.S. Forest Service co-author Pamela Jakes’ research project “Alternatives to Evacuation – Protecting Public Safety During Wildland Fire,” was published in the March issue of the Journal of Forestry. Other articles from their ongoing work with Western communities are still under review. The research has been conducted in close collaboration with Jakes, a senior research forester with the USDA Forest Service North Central Forest Research Station in Minneapolis.

Thanks, Dick, for the tip.