Wildfire briefing, February 25, 2014

Sign at the Myrtle fire
Sign at the Myrtle fire
Fire Prevention sign at the Myrtle Fire in South Dakota, July 23, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Insurance companies cancel policies

Some homeowners in the Scripps Ranch area near San Diego have received notices that their policies are being cancelled. The residents live near the areas that burned catastrophically in 2003 or 2007, fires that destroyed thousands of homes and took 16 lives. According to an article at 10news, one of the homeowners said, “They canceled us and also several people on our street, saying they couldn’t renew our policy because we were too close to the brush line.”

Which area near Colorado Springs will be next?

Some residents in the Colorado Springs area are a little concerned about the vulnerability of their homes after the fire disasters of 2012 and 2013. Last year the Black Forest Fire just north of Colorado Springs destroyed approximately 480 structures, and in 2012 the Waldo Canyon Fire on the other side of the city wiped out 347 homes. There is concern now that the Broadmoor area could be susceptible to fires that start in the Cheyenne Mountain area. Fox21 news has more details.

Two Senators on the same page as President Obama about fire funding

Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have praised President Obama for proposing that wildfires be funded in a manner similar to other natural disasters. Monday the President met with most of the nation’s governors and told them that wildfire funding in the administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 would be similar to provisions in a bill introduced in the House, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2014 (H.R. 3992), which would create an emergency funding process for fire response. If enacted, it would mean the federal land management agencies would no longer have to rob dollars from routine ongoing non-fire activities to pay unusually high fire suppression expenses.

Tom Zimmerman lectured at the University of Montana

Tom Zimmerman, a former Area Commander and Type 1 Incident Commander, lectured at the University of Montana on February 20. He was the first speaker in the Mike & Mabelle Hardy Fire Management Lecture Series which was established through an estate gift from Mike Hardy, a 1939 alumnus of the School of Forestry. Now the President of the International Association of Wildland Fire, Dr. Zimmerman, had a key role when he worked for the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service in promoting, training for, and establishing procedures for managing wildfires that are not fully suppressed. In fact, he has the dubious honor of being instrumental in coining some of the terms for these fires, including “fire use fire” and “fire for resource benefits”. Below is an excerpt from an article in the Missoulian about his lecture.

“…Fire has a natural role in the environment and we need to embrace that and accept that,” Zimmerman said. But we also need to keep preventing human-caused, unwanted fires. And we have to understand that the firefighting tools we have aren’t designed to protect the thousands of private homes that now stand at risk of wildland fires.

“You’ve got to keep working with your communities to explain what’s going on,” Zimmerman said. “You’ve got to keep laying out the facts. But there’s a threshold to understanding, and I don’t know if you can keep that buy-in for very long when people are breathing smoke all summer. We talk about restoring fire as a natural process, and then you have one that burns five times as much as the plan calls for. You can’t say, well we won’t burn anything for the next five years.”

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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.

4 thoughts on “Wildfire briefing, February 25, 2014”

  1. What has happened since 1993 flooding on the Mississippi and many other floods since has gotten the attention of FEMA and the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) which has created consternation amongst many who live near the flood plain…….

    This will most likely have the same effect / affect in the fire arena….

    If this has not hit home to many………it will soon start…..zoning regulations or not

    AND I understand the FIREWISE program REAL welllllll. Problem is, as mentioned in many sites, this one included…….the FIREWISE program may or may not have been applied equally throughout the US…..but it had to start somewhere……

    Now it will be a financial hit rather than just a GPS point on a map and a leaflet describing to the landowner the needs that NEED to be tended to

    This was bound to happen and I would imagine it will gain steam in the Intermountain West here in the next 5 to 10 years if not sooner

    Like the Airtanker industry…….money “gots” to come from somewhere and maybe like us pilots and folks in the aviation industry who have been paying insurance for self and aircraft hull insurance…….now it will be affecting a landowner like us pilots

    Welcome to the club!!!!

  2. Well I sort of expected this on insurance. If you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters on a re-occurring basis and good solid prevention steps are not taken or it defies common sense to live there in the first place then the insurance companies will raise up your rates or just plain cancel/refuse coverage. River flood zones and barrier islands that frequently flood or move are good examples. Many of these places are meant to be parks/forests/nature/wild scenic areas/preserves just for that reason.
    Fire safe communities can be built for the most part but they have to be planned and maintained and the community needs the appropriate construction codes to do it. Hurricane Andrew demolished/damaged tens of thousands of inferior buildings in South Florida due to lax building codes in 1992, along with corrupt inspectors. There are other place you just don’t build like the outer banks of North Carolina with a repeated, proven record of storm damage. If you do, no insurance and you accept the loss. Or in fire prone areas that have history or high potential for un-controllable, fast moving fires. In my opinion the developers/building industry just does not care. They are looking for the money and will move on.

    On a side note they are actively not supporting sprinkler systems in new residential housing, not all that expensive when put in during the original construction. Probably the best single device to have to warn of, and contain a house interior fire till the fire department shows up. A external system would work good for a approaching wild fire. As structural fire fighters say: “There are buildings that have sprinklers and alarms or buildings that burn down”.


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