Steven Pyne: evacuations not always necessary

The prolific author of books about wildland fire, Steven Pyne, has been quoted in a Canadian publication as being an advocate for homeowners, in some cases, not evacuating in front of a fire, but staying, and putting out the small embers after the fire front passes. Sometimes this is called “prepare, stay and defend, or leave early”.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

VICTORIA, B.C. — A U.S. fire-fighting expert says evacuating communities to escape forest fires is not always the right thing to do.

Fire historian Stephen Pyne says it’s rare that communities are engulfed in a “tsunami of fire.”

More often, homes are destroyed by fires started from small burning embers thrown out from the fire front, Pyne said in an interview. They could be extinguished with little effort.

“After the front has passed, or the main surge, you could go out with a squirt gun and a whisk broom,” said Pyne.

He pointed to a wildfire that destroyed a number of homes an evacuated neighbourhood in Los Alamos, NM, nine years ago.

Afterward, officials realized most were the result of burning embers, said Pyne, who teaches at Arizona State University.

“Are these mass evacuations the right approach?” he asked. “Or is that what people are doing because they’re afraid of TV or lawsuits, who knows what?”


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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.