Social media can help identify evacuation patterns

Data can help determine when people relocate in or out of an evacuation area

social media evacuation pattern Ranch Fire wildfire
August 5, 2018

In July 2018, a spark near the Mendocino National Forest ignited California’s largest wildfire on record. As the Ranch Fire spread rapidly, officials declared mandatory evacuations in several areas and counties. But where did people go, when did they leave, and when did they return? Researchers have turned to a new data source to observe population movements during a crisis: social media.

“We wanted to analyze evacuation patterns and factors that can influence the speed of evacuations during a crisis,” said Shenyue Jia, a remote sensing specialist at Chapman University.

Analyzing evacuation and recovery patterns could help researchers understand how humans behave in the face of a disaster, which could inform emergency response efforts. Jia said nobody was able to provide population movements during a disaster, especially at a high temporal and spatial resolution—until Facebook.

Almost 2.5 billion people per month actively use Facebook. When a disaster strikes, many of those users log on during an evacuation. Facebook’s disasters map initiative uses aggregated, anonymized Facebook data in disaster areas to estimate population densities, movements between neighborhoods, and where people mark themselves as “safe” during a crisis. The company also works with mobile phone carriers to observe the number of connections to surrounding cell phone towers.

social media evacuation pattern Ranch Fire wildfire
August 8, 2018

The images on this page show the population data during the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California for 10,000 people, as provided by the Facebook disaster map dataset. The first map above shows the area on August 5, 2018, two days after mandatory evacuations were in place. The second map below shows the area on August 8, one day after the evacuation orders were lifted.

During the Mendocino Complex fire, most people fled the fire perimeter when an evacuation was in place, which was not surprising. But what surprised Jia was where people were headed—or not headed.

“Originally, I thought this data could be nice to track which places people decide to go, but the information didn’t show any significant pattern for this fire,” said Jia, whose research was funded by NASA. “I was expecting a very simple trend, but evacuations are more complicated to understand.”

Jia thinks that perhaps people had more shelter options to flee to (FEMA shelters, neighboring towns, etc.), so the evacuation patterns were dispersed.

However, when the evacuations were lifted, the data showed a much clearer trend of where people were headed: most were returning back to their homes and hometowns. Jia said that how the population bounces back post-disaster is an important indicator of whether the evacuated areas may be safe for residing. In the Mendocino Complex fire, most areas saw people returning.

But that’s not always the case. Jia also analyzed population data from Facebook for the Camp Fire that occurred in November 2018. The data showed a large portion of the evacuated area did not see a sustainable population return since many of those areas were destroyed.

“This research demonstrates that social-network data can be a valuable tool to monitor human behaviors in response to disasters, such as wildfires in areas that have been exacerbated by urbanization,” said Son Nghiem, remote sensing expert at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who oversaw this research.

According to Nghiem, this frequently updated social media data can add another dimension to satellite remote sensing data from NASA and other international agencies used to monitor land cover and land use change.

“With remote sensing data, we don’t know the immediate socioeconomic and demographic impacts,” said Nghiem. “This innovative use of demographic data opens up new possibilities to advance research on how humans respond to abrupt physical changes in disaster situations.”

This article first appeared on the NASA website. NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using data courtesy of Shenyue Jia/Chapman University. Story by Kasha Patel.

CAL FIRE receives new dozer and transport

CAL FIRE dozer and transport
New dozer and transport for the Nevada Yuba Placer Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. CAL FIRE photo.

The Nevada Yuba Placer Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection recently received a large piece of fire suppression equipment. (Back in the old days we would lovingly refer to them as a Big Yellow McLeod.)

Here is how it is described by the agency:


CAL FIRE NEU took possession of a new 2018 D6N Caterpillar Dozer and 2019 International HX Series Transport.

The dozer has been modified with an extended track frame which helps with climbing and side hill performance. The engine compartment is configured with a 75 gallon water fire suppression system that can be activated by the operator for fires within the dozer. For operator safety the cab has a pressurized filtration environmental cab system and complete roll over protection system. An advanced lighting package will increase night time vision and allow safer operation under dusty and dark conditions.

The dozer and transport both have the CAL FIRE Automatic Vehicle Location System which operates from radio, satellite, and cellular.

CAL FIRE dozer and transport
New dozer and transport for the Nevada Yuba Placer Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. CAL FIRE photo.

The transport is has a Cummins X15 Performance motor that produces 605 Horse Power and 2050 lb-ft Torque. It is mounted to an 18 speed transmission.

Both Pieces of equipment will service the entire state but are based out of the Nevada City CAL FIRE Station.

One of the two operators assigned to this equipment will be Joe Kennedy recently made famous by videos showing his heroic efforts saving citizens at the Camp Fire in Paradise.

The other operator is Shawn Entz who is a fourth generation Nevada County resident who has over 20 years logging and firefighting in California.


If anyone has a link to the videos referred to above, let us know in a comment.

 

Worker clearing road in Butte Fire scar killed by rolling log

Butte Fire
The Butte Fire at 6:09 p.m. on September 10, as seen from above Jackson, CA, looking southeast. Photo by Matthew Rhodes.

A Calaveras County employee working on a brush clearing project along a road in the scar from the Butte Fire was killed Monday March 18 by a rolling tree or log. County Public Works personnel were working with a CAL FIRE Conservation Camp crew inside the perimeter of the fire that burned 71,000 acres south of Jackson, California in September, 2015.

Kevin Raggio, Calaveras County Coroner, identified the man as 57-year-old Ansel John Bowman.

A very brief “Blue Sheet”preliminary report released by CAL FIRE said the county employee “was hit by a previously downed tree and suffered fatal injuries”. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Butte Fire destroyed 233 residences and 175 outbuildings, and may have caused the deaths of two civilians.

Investigators determine that a power line caused the Thomas Fire

The fire burned 281,893 acres near Santa Barbara, destroyed 1,063 structures, and caused the death of one civilian and one firefighter

Thomas Fire
Thomas Fire, Ventura, CA, Los Padres National Forest, 2017. USFS photo.

The Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) has determined that an arcing power line caused the Thomas Fire that destroyed 1,063 structures and caused the death of a civilian and a firefighter.

Investigators found that strong winds on December 4, 2017 forced Southern California Edison power lines to come in contact with each other, resulting in molten metal falling to the ground which ignited vegetation. The common term for this is “line slap.”

Measured east to west the Thomas Fire spread for over 42 miles, stretching between Fillmore and Santa Barbara in Southern California.

map Thomas Fire
Map of the west side of the Thomas Fire. The red line was the perimeter on December 23, 2017. Click to enlarge.

CAL FIRE Fire Apparatus Engineer Cory Iverson of the San Diego/San Diego County Fire Authority was overrun by fire and killed December 14, 2017 while battling the blaze. A 70-year-old woman died in a car accident while fleeing the fire on December 6, 2017.

At one point nearly 9,000 emergency personnel were working on the fire.

The investigative team was comprised of four agencies: CAL FIRE, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Santa Barbara County Fire Department, and the U.S. Forest Service.

California to activate National Guard to help reduce wildfire risk

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has put together a list of 35 projects around the state where they intend to reduce the wildfire risk for residents. This follows multiple large fire disasters in 2017 and 2018 that killed over 100 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. In many areas those not directly affected by the flames were exposed to hazardous levels of smoke for days or weeks at a time.

The State will establish incident bases in proximity to vulnerable communities and coordinate fuels treatment operations from those facilities utilizing the Incident Command System. The Governor will activate the National Guard to help complete the work.

The projects, identified and planned at the local level, are intended to reduce the public safety risk for over 200 communities. Examples of work to be done include removal of hazardous dead trees, vegetation clearing, creation of fuel breaks and community defensible spaces, and establishment of ingress and egress corridors. CAL FIRE believes these projects can be implemented immediately if their recommendations are taken to enable the work.

Recognizing that entry level employees in California are not highly compensated, and often have challenges finding affordable housing in areas where they work, the state will provide additional government housing for seasonal state employees working on forest management and fuels reduction.

In addition to large-scale fuel reduction projects near communities, CAL FIRE understands that residents have to also do their part to reduce the flammable material in their home ignition zone within 100 feet of structures, and especially immediately adjacent — within 5 feet.

Details on the projects can be found online at http://calfire.ca.gov/fire_prevention/downloads/FuelReductionProjectList.pdf. CAL FIRE expects to keep the list updated.

Priority Landscapes wildfire protection
(Click to see a larger version)

The entire 28-page report about this new initiative can be found here.

CLIF to donate 100% of profits from one of their bars to 2nd responder fund

The first project will help build a new Butte Humane Society facility that will shelter and care for animals impacted by the Camp Fire in California.

I first learned about Clif Bars after discovering that a former coworker, Bruce Lymburn, was the company’s General Counsel. Bruce and I were members of the El Cariso Hot Shots back in the day.

Clif seems like an interesting place to work. Clif Bars are mostly made from organic ingredients, employees can bring their dogs to work, the company gives back to the community through the CLIF Bar Family Foundation, employees are encouraged to volunteer in the community on company time, and they can take two and a half hours of paid exercise each week with free personal training.

The San Francisco Bay Area company made the news the other day with the creation of the CLIF Second Responder Fund.

Most everyone knows what first responders are. They are the first to arrive at emergency scenes — the ones you see in the news — law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. Second responders are the ones that work during the recovery phase, which can last for days, weeks, or months. Examples include power companies, communication companies, hazardous waste cleanup, and services providing food, road clearing, security, first aid, crowd control, sanitation, temporary housing, and social services. The establishment of the CLIF Second Responder Fund will support some of the unmet needs of these second responder efforts.

Clif BarOne hundred percent of all net profits from the sale of Sierra Trail Mix CLIF BAR® Energy Bars will go toward establishing the fund for the long term. Clif Bar & Company has a long history of post-disaster work in communities, often serving as a “second responder” by volunteering, providing financial support and food donations.

The first project of the fund will provide $1.5 million to the community affected by the Camp Fire in Butte County, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. This fund will help the community break ground on a new state-of-the-art Butte Humane Society facility that will shelter and care for animals impacted by the Camp Fire disaster, as well as serve as an emergency center for Northern California in the event of future disasters.

“The devastation created by these fires is unfathomable,” said Gary Erickson co-owner and co-CEO of Clif Bar & Company. “After the flames are extinguished and the camera crews leave, these communities are still desperate for help. This fund will help this community in our own backyard and other communities around the country for years to come.”

The fund was inspired by the work of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. owners Ken Grossman and Katie Gonser, whose community in Chico, California was among those devastated by the Camp Fire. Like Clif Bar, Sierra Nevada is also a family-owned business and the two families have been friends for years. When the fire was in its early stages, Erickson and his wife, Clif Bar & Company co-owner and co-CEO Kit Crawford, reached out to Grossman and Gonser to see how Clif Bar could help.

“When Gary and Kit called, we knew we needed help for our community’s animals. As we listened to the stories and responded to the needs of the community, we knew that help would still be needed long after the initial push of relief had waned,” said Gonser. “The devastation was enormous, with many local families distraught over the lack of care of displaced animals. This shows what two businesses can achieve by working together.” Grossman and Gonser have already donated the land for the new facility.

“Clif is a company full of animal lovers, with many employees bringing their dogs to work with them every day. Not only are animals amazing companions, they’re family,” added Kit Crawford, Co-Owner and Co-CEO of Clif Bar & Company. “We are proud to champion this initial effort and know that this fund will be ongoing to address other needs following national disasters around the country.”

It’s estimated that more than 20,000 animals were impacted by the Camp Fire. The Butte County Humane Society responded immediately, reuniting residents with their pets, providing thousands of pounds of pet food to people who were displaced, and caring for hundreds of injured pets. Through the experience, the staff learned each day and knew a new facility with an expanded mission was needed.

The new Butte Humane Society facility can serve as a centralized information headquarters for animal welfare groups in order to coordinate collective long-term recovery efforts and in preparation for disaster support throughout Northern California. Additionally, in collaboration with other first and second responder animal organizations, the new campus can be used as a crisis evacuation site during local and regional disasters. BHS hopes this will serve as a model for emergency preparedness and response around the country.

The new Sierra Trail Mix packaging will be rolled out nationally this summer in stores and online.

1972 El Cariso Hotshot crew
Part of the 1972 El Cariso Hotshot crew. Bruce Lymburn is at the end of the back row, on the left. Missing: Ron Campbell (superintendent) and Bill Gabbert (took the photo).

In 2007 and again in 2008 Senators Hillary Clinton and Peter King introduced the Skilled Trades Second Responders Act of 2008, which would have established a national program for the training, certification, registration, tracking, and integration of skilled construction workers to assist first responders in responding to disasters, including natural and manmade disasters and terrorist attacks. Both bills died in committee.