Some homes being rebuilt in Paradise, CA will be very wildfire resistant

Based on the quonset hut design used extensively by the US military in World War II

quonset hut style home
A quonset hut style home, via CBS News.

A few of the 13,861 homes destroyed in the Camp Fire are being rebuilt using a particular design that is much more fire resistant than a typical structure. In 2018 the northern California fire burned most of the houses in Paradise after a failure on a Pacific Gas and Electric powerline ignited the blaze that raced through the town, doing much of its damage in just a few hours.

During World War II the US military purchased and installed thousands of quonset huts, a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanized steel with a semi-cylindrical cross-section.

quonset hut style structure
Design for a quonset hut style structure, via CBS News.

The steel itself is non-combustible of course, and if the rest of the exterior building materials are also, the structure should be very resistant to ignition during a wildfire. But it is important that everything within the home ignition zone is consistent with Firewise principles.

Firewise defensible space structure

CBS News Sunday Morning produced the video story below of how this quonset hut concept is being used in Paradise.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Gerald.

Estimated TOTAL cost of the Camp Fire was about $422 billion

The Camp Fire, November 8, 2018
The Camp Fire, November 8, 2018. NASA (Joshua Stevens) – NASA Landsat 8.

We often publish statistics about wildfires, such as acres burned, average size, number of fires, and average size by decade. Here are some examples. Others are at an article updated February 2, 2022.

Average size of US wildfires by decadeNumber of wildfires

Bankrate has assembled more data about wildfires in an article titled U.S. Wildfire statistics.

Such as:

A study of the 2018 Camp Fire reveals staggering facts and estimations:

  • Total 2019 claims from the Camp Fire: more than $12 billion
  • Total damage and economic losses: more than $400 billion
  • Total insured losses: estimated between $8.5 to $10.5 billion
  • Toxic debris removal: nearly $2 billion
  • Victim aid: $200 million
States most at risk from wildfires

Bankrate also has wildfire data broken down for each state. It’s an interesting way to spend few minutes, perusing the numbers.

More information about the Camp Fire.

Researchers conduct detailed case study of the Camp Fire

Establish a fire progression timeline

firefighter battles flames Camp Fire
A firefighter battles flames at the Camp Fire. Photo by FirePhotoGirl used with permission.

On a brisk November morning in 2018, a fire sparked in a remote stretch of canyon in Butte County, California, a region nestled against the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Fueled by a sea of tinder created by drought, and propelled by powerful gusts, the flames grew and traveled rapidly. In less than 24 hours, the fire had swept through the town of Paradise and other communities, leaving a charred ruin in its wake.

The Camp Fire was the costliest disaster worldwide in 2018 and, having caused 85 deaths and destroyed more than 18,000 buildings, it became both the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history, two records the fire still holds today.

What made the Camp Fire so devastating? And what lessons can we learn to prevent another disaster of this scale? Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have begun to answer these questions by investigating the conditions leading up to the fire and meticulously reconstructing the sequence of events describing the first 24 hours of its progression. A new report containing the timeline identifies areas where more research is needed to improve life safety and reduce structural losses. It also offers a detailed look at how a large and deadly fire advances — information that will become increasingly valuable as fire seasons continue to intensify.

“Going forward, there’s no reason to believe that fire activity and severity is going to lessen anytime soon. We’re never going to get rid of wildfires, natural or human-caused. But we can learn how to live with and work together to mitigate them.” —Steven Hawks, CAL FIRE chief and report co-author

“The information we collected on the timeline is extremely powerful by itself, not only for Paradise but for other similar communities, to help them understand what they may encounter and better prepare, whether it is at a community or at the first responder level,” said NIST fire protection engineer Alexander Maranghides, who led the timeline reconstruction.

To piece together the puzzle of the Camp Fire, the team carried out discussions with 157 first responders, local officials and utilities personnel who were present during the fire. The team documented sightings of fire or smoke and efforts to fight the fire or evacuate, as well as insights into community preparedness and weather conditions.

NIST Report Camp Fire
NIST researcher and fire protection engineer Alexander Maranghides views a landscape marred by the Camp Fire during a field data collection deployment. Credit: NIST.

The researchers sought to back up observations made during the fire with additional data sources before adding new puzzle pieces to the timeline. With the help of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), Paradise Police Department and others, the team gained access to and reviewed large data sets, including radio logs, 911 calls, dashboard and body camera recordings, and drone and satellite images. They also looked to images in social and news media to corroborate the sightings of discussion participants.

By the end of the painstaking process, the authors of the report incorporated more than 2,200 observations into the timeline, which is broken up into 15 separate segments to capture concurrent events throughout different sections of Butte County.
Continue reading “Researchers conduct detailed case study of the Camp Fire”

PG&E to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter for fatalities in Camp Fire

84 people were killed in the northern California fire in 2018

The Camp Fire, November 8, 2018
The Camp Fire, November 8, 2018 about four hours after it started. NASA (Joshua Stevens) – Landsat 8.

In a rather startling development, Pacific Gas & Electricity is expected to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the 84 people that were killed during the Camp Fire that burned through Paradise, California November 8, 2018. The fire also burned 154,000 acres and destroyed more than 18,000 structures.

Below is an excerpt from an article at NBC news:

PG&E has agreed to plead guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of unlawfully causing a fire after it was blamed for the Camp Fire in Northern California, the state’s deadliest in history.

The fire, which burned through the Sierra Nevada foothills for half a month in late 2018, burning through three towns, was sparked by Pacific Gas and Electric Company equipment, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which identified ignition points in Butte County.

The settlement, which the utility reached with the Butte County District Attorney’s Office on March 17, was filed in the Superior Court of California in the county and made public Monday morning by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

It must still be approved by the Butte County Superior Court, as well as the federal bankruptcy court overseeing PG&E’s case. In January of 2019, PG&E filed for chapter 11 protection to, in part, set up a “Fire Victim Trust.”

A PG&E spokesman told NBC News that the utility has reached settlements with victims from 2015, 2017 and 2018 wildfires, totaling about $25.5 billion.

Last May the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection released results of their investigation which determined that two points of ignition were found that were caused by failures of PG&E electrical transmission lines. One of the towers was 99 years old.

The company is expected to plead guilty in court on April 24, a date that was moved back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UPDATE October 10, 2020: PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter on June 16, 2020.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom and Erik. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Trailer for the documentary “Fire in Paradise” released

A story about the Camp Fire that destroyed the city of Paradise, California

Camp Fire satellite photo 10:45 am Nov. 8, 2018. Zeke Lunder
Camp Fire, as it began to burn into Paradise, Calif. LANDSAT 8 image at 10:45 a.m. PT, Nov. 8, 2018. Processed by Zeke Lunder, Deer Creek Resources, Chico, Calif.

Netflix has released a trailer for “Fire in Paradise”, a documentary about the Camp Fire that killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes after it started under a PG&E power line at about 6:30 a.m. on November 8, 2018. Pushed by strong winds, within hours the fire raged through Paradise, California becoming the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. The documentary includes firsthand footage of the fire and interviews with dispatchers, first responders and survivors.

The 39-minute film directed by Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari will be available for streaming on Netflix November 1, a week before the one year anniversary of the disaster. It won the Audience Award for Best Short Film at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

In July the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection released “Into the Fire”, a 17-minute film about the Camp Fire. Other films about the fire include “The Deadliest Wildfire in California History” by Vice, “The Camp Fire Documentary” by Paradise-area film maker Golden Eagle Films, and “Inside the Megafire” by PBS.

“Rebuilding Paradise” directed by Ron Howard for National Geographic is still under development. It will follow the residents, first responders, and volunteers helping to rebuild the town over the course of a year.

Political candidate creates four-minute ad emphasizing the Camp Fire and climate change

political ad wildfire fire
Screenshot from the video below.

Our policy on Wildfire Today about politics is that it “…will not be discussed, unless it directly affects wildland fire or firefighters”.

A presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, has created a four minute video ad in which most of those minutes are spent on the topic of the devastating Camp Fire that killed 85 people and destroyed over 14,000 homes in Northern California in November, 2018. The ad also discusses climate change.

Senator Sanders may be using wildfire as a means to talk about climate change, but it is unusual for a political candidate to put this amount of effort into the subject of wildland fire.

Wildfire Today is not going to endorse politicians. If other candidates put forth a similar amount of effort on the subject of wildland fire, we will cover those as well.