In the midst of drifting smoke haze from wildfires, forced evacuations, and wildfire news all over the media, back-to-school kids in northern California are getting lessons on fire preparedness.
Ridge-area sixth graders, just east of Chico, California, have been learning the do’s and don’ts of keeping their families safe in the event of a wildfire. The Paradise Post reported on a new curriculum designed by the Butte County Fire Safe Council, which received a grant from PG&E that supplied educational materials to local sixth-grade classes.
Local Pine Ridge teacher Mike Gulbranson told his class on Thursday, “We’re going to focus specifically on wildfire in the foothills because this is where you live.”
He ran his students through instructional material ranging from identifying hazardous vegetation to the geographical makeup of the local area and why it’s especially susceptible to wildfire.
“Fires love elevation,” Gulbranson told the kids. He explained how a fire on the lower part of the ridge is more likely to move up the ridge rather than down. Taylor Cook, 11, was asked about how trees might catch fire from the underbrush below. She correctly identified the hazard as “ladder fuels” and said she’d learned about ladder fuels on a field trip. The schools program is supported by community donations and grant funding from Pacific Gas and Electric Company
The Northern Rockies Regional Fuel Planner, Stu Hoyt, has issued a Safety Advisory for areas affected by mountain pine beetle infestations. There have been several instances where crews have not been expecting the rapid transition from surface fire to crown fire in lodgepole pine in the green attacked and red needle stages. This advisory is posted on the predictive services website under Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisories and can be found on the Northern Rockies Coordination Center website under Outlooks. Concerns to Firefighters and the Public:
Anticipate rapid transition of surface fire behavior to passive and active crown fire behavior when temperatures are above 75˚, relative humidity is below 20% and foliage is in sunlight.
Wind is not needed to influence this fire behavior transition.
Anticipate rapid fire growth in all directions as this is a fuels dominated condition.
Anticipate long-distance spotting in any direction.
Anticipate independent crown fire movement perpetuated by embers landing in the foliage of beetle-attacked or killed trees.
Closely monitor fire weather conditions to maintain situational awareness.
Track the probability of ignition.
Utilize the table developed by the Missoula Fire Lab for Mountain Pine Beetle-attacked trees.
Probability of ignition above 70% should be an early trigger point in decision making.
At POI greater than 80% firefighters should be prepared for rapid transitions from surface to crown fire behavior.
When initial attacking new fires in these conditions, if possible delay engagement to after peak burning period or early morning when fire behavior is low.
Escape routes and safety zones must be identified before engagement.
Using the green as a safety zone should not be considered.
Identify at least two different Escape Routes and Safety Zones in case your original ones are compromised.
Monitor and understand the effect that weather changes and topography have on fire behavior.
Post lookouts who can see the flaming front.
For further information, contact Stu Hoyt at (406)329-3266 or (406)370-5757
Visually simulating the spread of vegetation fires has advanced far beyond the four overhead projector system we used to use at Descanso Station in southern California. The system described in the video below from KOB.com uses a projector connected to a computer to place an image on a sand table, resulting in an amazing three dimensional background on which to simulate the spread of fires. Check out this video.
More information, including a better video explaining how it works, is at Simtable.com.