Posts Tagged: fire
Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety announced last week that Stephen Quarles will join the IBHS research team as senior scientist - hurricane/high-wind building durability and fire protection.
He will also occupy the South Carolina Wind and Hail Underwriting Association Hazard Resilience Chair at the IBHS Research Center.
Quarles has been a wood durability advisor for UC Cooperative Extension since 2000.
“Although my years with UC Cooperative Extension were very rewarding, I could not pass up the opportunity to work for IBHS and in particular at the Research Center with its scientists and staff," Quarles was quoted in the news release. "I am excited to have a more direct role in IBHS research and outreach activities that will help improve the durability of our new and existing buildings.”
Quarles has a bachelor's degree in forestry from Virginia Tech, and master's and doctorate degrees in forest products from the University of Minnesota. He is co-chair of the eXtension Wildfire Information Network (eWIN) Community of Practice, and is a member of the Society of Wood Science and Technology, the Forest Products Society, American Society of Testing and Materials, American Wood Protection Association, the National Fire Protection Association, and the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals.
“Steve brings a wealth of experience in the areas of wood durability, aging, water penetration, and wildfire - all critical aspects of our field and laboratory research programs," the release quoted Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO. “We have long admired Steve's meticulous, incredibly smart work, and look forward to having him add new dimensions to our already impressive group of property loss mitigation experts.”
Quarles begins his new position Aug. 1.
In the early 1800s, European immigrants introduced the fast-growing giant reed arundo (Arundo donax) into California to use the canes for musical instruments. The plants were also used for erosion control and the reeds used for thatched roofing. However, it has since naturalized and become a serious pest in the state's natural waterways.
Arundo can grow at a rate of four inches per day and can reach heights of 30 feet. It reproduces and spreads when sections of the stem or root break off and float downstream.
Dense stands of arundo displace native riparian species. The plant requires a significant amount of water, reducing fish, wildlife and people. In addition, clumps of arundo and the soil around their roots can break off, causing streambank erosion. The clumps can also create channel obstructions that lead to flooding.
Arundo is highly flammable and can quickly carry fire along waterways. After a fire, arundo quickly grows back from its roots. With other nearby plants burned by fire, arundo can spread even more quickly, leaving no room for native plants to recover.
Californians can help reduce the spread of arundo by taking the following actions:
- Learn more about arundo, including how to identify it
- Report sightings to local conservation groups
- Join local eradication efforts or help to start one
- If you own land with an arundo infestation, request help and provide access for control efforts
Creating defensible space around woodland homes is a legal requirement and common-sense habit. UC Cooperative Extension has developed extensive information that will help homeowners maximize safety while maintaining the greenery that makes rural living desirable, according to an article in the Redding Record Searchlight.
Defensible space, yes, but UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor Gary Nakamura told reporter Laura Christman, "It doesn't mean you need to nuke the site and clear it."
Bare dirt would be the ultimate in fire defense, but such a landscape comes up short in appearance, erosion control and wildlife habitat. Besides, Nakamura said, many homes that succumb to wildland fire are ignited by embers that drifted a long way from the fire line.
"It's usually not this wall of wildfire coming to the house. That's people's cartoon vision of what happens," Nakamura was quoted.
The strategy of defensible space is to have an area around the house where embers are less likely to ignite plants or structures. Or, if an ember does start a fire, the fire will smolder or burn slowly so it can be extinguished. Homeowners need to create conditions so that firefighters can "safely get in there and fight the fire," Nakamura advised.
The story noted that UC's Home Landscaping for Fire publication recommends thinning brush and trees 70 feet beyond the "lean and green zone," a 30-foot band around the home. Trees shouldn't have limbs any closer than 10 feet from each other and spacing should be farther on hillsides, where fire picks up speed and intensity.UC has collected research-based information about protecting homes from fire in a wildfire online media kit. The resource contains links to stories, video and UC Web sites dedicated to helping Californians minimize fire damage and stay safe.
One of many UC publications on wildfire resistence.
It may seem like a wildfire would be easy to detect, but vast, rugged wilderness can permit a small blaze to develop into a firestorm before firefighters are deployed.
Reeling from the enormous losses sustained by last year's devastating Station Fire in Los Angeles County -- which took two firefighters' lives, destroyed dozens of structures and cost more than $95 million to fight -- Supervisor Mike Antonovich is asking the county to allocate money to study a high-tech early detection system.
"The Station fire graphically spotlights the need to study and identify solutions for establishing an automated early detection system," Antonovich said in his motion to allocate the funding, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The goal of a technology-based system would be to . . . have a programmed airborne response within minutes to suppress the fire before it spreads."Times reporter Tony Barboza spoke to UC Berkeley fire scientist Max Moritz, who threw water on the idea.
"Does the technology even exist to do this kind of thing?" the story quoted Moritz, who is also co-director of UC Berkeley's Center for Fire Research and Outreach. "I think that's an open question."
Moritz said officials are already able to detect wildfire early under mild conditions.
"But under the conditions we're most worried about -- Santa Ana winds, for instance -- it's not clear that we'd be able to get airborne resources deployed within minutes," Moritz was quoted.
UC Berkeley and UC Cooperative Extension maintain a wide variety of programs aimed at understanding California wildfire and how losses from wildfire can be minimized. Articles, links, and video are available in the online wildfire media kit.
Long before Europeans first set foot in the New World, Native Americans were altering the California landscape by setting fires, UC Berkeley researchers believe. A multidisciplinary team of scientists is looking at a variety of evidence to better understand the nature of Native American prescribed burns. The team includes ANR fire science professor Scott Stephens.
The study was described in the UC Berkeley College of Letters and Science newsletter ScienceMatters@Berkeley. The article said burning could have helped indigenous Californians in many ways.
"If you're a hunter-gatherer living off the land, burning allows you a lot more choice, especially if there's a period of drought or a particularly wet year," the story quoted Kent Lightfoot, an anthropology professor directing the project.
The research includes the study of soil cores to:
- Identify plant species via the shapes of pollen
- Determine the amount of charcoal in various layers
- Sift through the remains of seeds and nuts
- Recover grass phytoliths, rigid microscopic bodies that occur in many plants
The study is being conducted in an area thought to be the site of an ancient settlement of Amah Mutsun Ohlone Native Americans, the article said. Striplen himself is of Amah Mutsun descent and is serving as a liaison between the scientists and the tribe.
Kent Lightfoot and graduate students Liam Reidy and Chuck Striplen at the research site.