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Posts Tagged: Yana Valachovic

Buying insurance for homes in wildfire-prone areas is becoming more challenging

The dramatic wildfire losses in California the last two years has homeowners' insurance companies canceling policies in similarly high-risk areas, reported Austin Colbers in the Aspen Times. The story was distributed by the Associated Press and picked up in numerous newspapers and websites.

Most homeowners can still get a policy, however, insurers often make coverage conditional on homeowners managing trees and undergrowth. 

The story said the challenge is most acute in California, where wildfires caused $9 billion in losses to insured property in 2018. Advocates for property owners are pressuring lawmakers to help people find and keep their insurance. 

Maintaining defensible space around dwellings can reduce chances the home will be burned in a wildfire.

California law requires homeowners in high-risk areas to maintain a 100-foot defensible space around their homes. Since 2008 it has required them to use fire-resistant methods, such as installing vents that won't trap embers, in new home construction.

But the new building codes don't apply to existing homes, said Yana Valachovic, forestry and natural resources advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension in Humboldt County. And the defensible space rules don't focus enough on landscaping immediately around a home, she said.

Posted on Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 3:24 PM
Tags: Yana Valachovic (15)
Focus Area Tags: Environment

December news clips

Keith Gilless, left, and Maggi Kelly, second from right, discussed wildfire at the Commonwealth Club on Dec. 4.

Franz Niederholzer - 2019 New Year's Profile

(Appeal-Democrat), Dec 31

https://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/franz-niederholzer---new-year-s-profile/article_071c961e-0d8a-11e9-b7a9-2ba8813a8968.html

Keeping Up with Navel Infections

(Dairy Herd Management) Emre Gürdal and Noelia Silva del Rio, Dec. 31

https://www.dairyherd.com/guest-author/emre-gurdal-and-noelia-silva-del-rio-university-california-cooperative-extension

How Do Wildfires Start?

(Live Science) Donavyn Coffey, Dec. 28

…In other words, "a source [of heat] hits receptive fuel that's dry enough to burn," said Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire analyst for the University of California Cooperative Extension forestry program in Northern California. In the right conditions, those three factors are all it takes to set a wildfire in motion.

…However, ignition is only the beginning. For a spark to grow into a sustained wildfire, there must be a perfect combination of factors, such as "dry conditions and really strong winds," Quinn-Davidson told Live Science. And because of climate change, dry conditions are lasting longer and, in turn, causing longer fire seasons.

https://www.livescience.com/64378-how-do-wildfires-start.html

Analyzing The Use of Selective Dry Cow Therapy

(Dairy Herd Management) Fernanda C. Ferreira and Emmanuel Okello, Dec 27

https://www.dairyherd.com/guest-author/fernanda-c-ferreira-and-emmanuel-okello-university-california-cooperative-extension

Private woodlands lost to California wildfire — and may not be replaced

(SF Chronicle) Peter Fimrite Dec. 25,

…It costs about $400 per acre to reforest land, said Bill Stewart, a forestry specialist at UC Berkeley who has studied forest restoration programs after fires.

“A lot of (small property owners) ... don't have the cash or professionals to do the job,” he said. They “take a big financial hit when their forests are caught in a wildfire.”

…Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California Cooperative Extension, said wholesale clearing is not always necessary. The rush to clear the land, he said, can result in healthy trees being cut down.

“Many trees can survive pretty bad crown scorch, so there's generally no urgency to get them out, or there shouldn't be, anyway,” said Moritz, an adjunct professor at UC Santa Barbara. “This is especially true of species that resprout, like several of the oaks and also redwoods.”

https://www.sfchronicle.com/california-wildfires/article/Private-woodlands-lost-to-California-wildfire-13489574.php

Get to know your wasps: University of California entomologist addresses misconceptions

(Press Democrat) Kate Frey, Dec. 21

Rachael Long, a University of California Cooperative Extension entomologist and crop adviser, recently told me a story about three wasps that people frequently encounter around their homes and often have misconceptions about.

https://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/9077426-181/get-to-know-your-wasps

Gene Editing Finds its Way to the Farm

(Dairy Herd Management) Clinton Griffiths, Dec. 21

…Alison Van Eenennaam, animal geneticist, University of California-Davis, says edits that create polled herds will soon be common.

“It's kind of like a pair of molecular scissors, if you will, that you can tell to go and cut the DNA at a very precise location in the genome,” Van Eenennaam explains. “What that enables you to do is go in and very precisely alter one particular gene of the thousands of genes that make up the genome, and you can introduce useful genetic variations.”

https://www.dairyherd.com/article/gene-editing-finds-its-way-farm

Farm Bill Set to Bring Several Benefits to California Growers

(AgNet West) Brian German, Dec. 19

...“There's some really good stuff in it for California, I mean first of all, getting a farm bill is fantastic,” said Vice President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Glenda Humiston. “Some really good things for beginning farmers and ranchers, and veterans' efforts in ag.  One thing that's really potentially exciting for California in the rural development title is increasing   the eligibility of communities up to 50,000 for some of the programs.”

http://agnetwest.com/farm-bill-benefits-california-growers

Gene-edited farm animals are coming. Will we eat them?

(Washington Post) Carolyn Y. Johnson, Dec. 17

...“Right now. This is exciting, right this minute,” animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam said as she waited for a tiny blob of a fetus to materialize on a laptop screen on a recent afternoon at the Beef Barn, part of the University of California at Davis's sprawling agricultural facilities for teaching and research.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/national/wp/2018/12/17/feature/gene-edited-farm-animals-are-coming-will-we-eat-them

Commentary: Is Atascadero prepared?

(Atascadero  News) Ray Weymann, Dec. 14 

…But often, even 10 feet from a house takes one into a neighbor's property. Whether this means mandating more aggressive tree and brush clearing, and reevaluation of building codes for new and existing structures, is something the new council should consider, availing themselves with input from our local fire department but also from people like Jack Cohen. Another wildfire expert, Max Moritz, suggests that governments must be more aggressive in not allowing development in areas especially vulnerable to wildfire.

https://atascaderonews.com/article/commentary-is-atascadero-prepared

Ceres Imaging unveils cumulative stress index

 (Successful Farming) Laurie Bedord, Dec. 14 

...“Findings over the last four years show that the average Ceres Imaging conductance measurement from its imagery over the season has provided the best correlation with applied water,” says Blake Sanden, a Kern County University of California Cooperative Extension farm adviser. “While there's no perfect predictor of final yield, Ceres Imaging aerial sensing of canopy plant stress has a significant relationship with final yield.”

https://www.agriculture.com/news/technology/ceres-imaging-unveils-cumulative-stress-index 

New Farm Bill Provides Funds For Research In California ‘Ag,' But No Big Boons

(Capital Public Radio) Julia Mitric, Dec. 13

…"What's fascinating about the Farm Bill is, after all that hyper-partisan debate … it's really a lot of the same of what we already had," said Glenda Humiston, vice president of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Humiston is pleased that California will get an increase of $25 million a year for research of specialty crops, agricultural jargon for fruits, vegetables and nuts, as opposed to commodity crops like soybeans, corn and wheat. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from adapting farming to the effects of climate change to finding cures for California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2018/12/13/new-farm-bill-provides-funds-for-research-in-california-ag-but-no-big-boons/

Can California Improve Forest Management And Prevent Wildfires Without Going Broke?

(Capital Public Radio) Ezra Romero, Dec. 13

...But can California expand programs like forest-thinning and controlled burns and manage its forests on the cheap?

UC Berkeley forestry specialist Bill Stewart says yes. “There's certain areas that it is going to cost you $700 an acre, but other acres you can treat for $50 or $100 an acre,” Stewart said.

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2018/12/14/can-california-improve-forest-management-and-prevent-wildfires-without-going-broke

Technology advances impact production efficiency

(AgriNews) Martha Blum, Dec. 13

“I'm passionate about genetics and sticking up for technology because if we don't stand up for it, we're not going to have access to it,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at University of California, Davis.

“The livestock industry doesn't have access to GMOs because of the debate around plant GMOs,” Van Eenennaam said during a presentation at the 2018 American Agri-Women Convention.

http://www.agrinews-pubs.com/news/technology-advances-impact-production-efficiency/article_09c46363-7755-543d-9048-080f319605fe.html 

Lindcove squeezes 100 citrus varieties into one tasting

(Sun Gazette) Dec. 12

The University of California citrus research center swings open its doors this week to give farmers and the public the opportunity to view and taste more than 100 varieties of citrus.

http://www.thesungazette.com/article/business/2018/12/12/lindcove-squeezes-100-citrus-varieties-into-one-tasting

Can Rakes Save Forests? Yes, As Long As You Have A Drip Torch In The Other Hand, UC ANR Says

(Sierra Sun-Times) Susie Kocher, Rob York, and Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Dec. 12 

https://goldrushcam.com/sierrasuntimes/index.php/news/local-news/16733-can-rakes-save-forests-yes-as-long-as-you-have-a-drip-torch-in-the-other-hand-uc-anr-says

Have shears, will travel

(California Bountiful) Ching Lee

…Sheep owners, particularly those with small flocks, have had trouble finding shearers for years—and the smaller their flock, the harder it is to get someone to shear for them because shearers are paid by the number of animals they shear, said John Harper, a UC livestock and natural resources advisor who has run the annual shearing program for nearly 25 years.

http://www.californiabountiful.com/features/article.aspx?arID=2199

Could legalizing cannabis help the environment?

(Physics World) Kate Ravilious, Dec. 11

Using high resolution satellite imagery for the years 2012 and 2016, Van Butsic  from the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues found a boom in cultivation of cannabis in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties. By zooming right in, the researchers could identify the distinctive shape of the cannabis plants, the regular pattern in which the crop is planted, and the greenhouses perched in unusual places.

...“The chances of environmental damage are much greater in these regions because of the high potential for erosion, which threatens water quality, high potential for using water directly from headwaters, and the need to build roads to access these farms,” says Butsic.

https://physicsworld.com/a/could-legalizing-cannabis-help-the-environment/

What Does It Take To Defend Your Home Against A Mega Wildfire Like The Camp Fire? Here's How One Couple Survived

(Capital Public Radio) Ezra David Romero, Dec. 11

...Earlier this year, University of California system forest advisor Yana Valachovic toured the Carr Fire burn area in Redding.

“What surprised me there was how many of the stucco homes were lost and they were surrounded by green lawn,” Valachovic recalled. “What the mechanism of entry was is that they had a ring of vegetation right around the outside of their house.”

Susie Kocher, a forest adviser for the Lake Tahoe region with the UC Cooperative Extension, often works with homeowners that live within the Angora Fire burn area. That blaze destroyed about 250 homes in Lake Tahoe in 2008. A decade later, Kocher said people still aren't properly preparing their homes.

“There's still a lot of flammable plants planted right under picture windows,” Kocher said, adding that people have almost set themselves up for failure, “perhaps in the mistaken belief that they are kind of safe now because there's no big trees.”

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2018/12/10/what-does-it-take-to-defend-your-home-against-a-mega-wildfire-like-the-camp-fire-heres-how-one-couple-survived

https://www.kpbs.org/news/2018/dec/11/what-does-it-take-defend-your-home-against-mega-wi

Wildfire scientists brace for hotter, more flammable future as Paradise lies in ashes

(CNN) Bill Weir, Dec. 10

…"Well, my colleague Katharine Hayhoe says climate change is like gravity," says Dr. Faith Kearns. "Climate change doesn't really care if you believe in it or not. It's reality. We have gravity, we have climate change."

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/10/us/california-wildfires-climate-weir-wxc/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/12/10/paradise-california-wildfire-climate-change-weir-pkg-vpx.cnn

Are Your Bananas at Risk?

(BYU Radio) Top of Mind, Dec. 10

Guest: Norman C. Ellstrand, Distinguished Professor of Genetics, Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, University of California, Riverside

...Here in the US, there's only one kind of banana in the supermarket – sweet, yellow, no seeds, about as long as your hand. It's a variety called Cavendish and it dominates the international banana market. Which turns out to be a big problem.

https://www.byuradio.org/episode/b36d0128-3422-4c37-8248-a705f0536d82/top-of-mind-with-julie-rose-negotiation-deceit-forecasting-earthquakes-measuring-pain-bananas-risk

Jeff Mitchell: Conservation No-Till Is One Option For Water Conservation

(Cal Ag Today) Patrick Cavanaugh, Dec. 10

Jeff Mitchell is a Cropping Systems Specialist at UC Davis, based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. He has devoted his 19 years to improving nitrogen and water use efficiencies in food, feed, fuel and fiber in no-till cropping systems.

https://californiaagtoday.com/jeff-mitchell-conservation-no-till-one-option-water-conservation/

Solano 4-H schedules Fairfield open house

(Fairfield Daily Republic) Susan Hiland, Dec. 9

The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program will host a 4-H open house from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday on the first floor of the University of California Cooperative Extension Office, 501 Texas St.

https://www.dailyrepublic.com/all-dr-news/solano-news/fairfield/solano-4-h-schedules-fairfield-open-house

California State Fair Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition opens Jan. 8

(Lake Co News) Dec. 8

…The California State Fair is proud to announce the head judge for the 2019 competition, Mr. Paul Vossen. Vossen will employ his expertise and experience at the California State Fair olive oil judging to lead the team of 15 Judges and ensure a fair and ethical judging process.
With more than 30 years of experience in the field as a University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Sonoma County, Paul Vossen offers practical advice to large commercial ventures and hobby farmers alike for clients around the world.

http://www.lakeconews.com/index.php/news/business/59141-california-state-fair-extra-virgin-olive-oil-competition-opens-jan-8

Getting the Facts Straight on Dairies

(California Dairy) Dec. 7

The inaugural California Dairy Sustainability Summit in Sacramento last month was a big hit.  Conference presentations not only focused on what California dairy producers can do to increase their sustainability efforts, but also on how producers can better share their stories and correct some of the common misconceptions that have been circulating the public.  Check out this video with Frank Mitloehner, Air Quality Specialist from the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, who shared the facts, and read more about it in California Dairy Magazine. 

http://www.californiadairymagazine.com/2018/12/07/getting-the-facts-straight-on-dairies

Why Californians Were Drawn Toward the Fire Zones

(Wall St Journal) Jeffrey Ball, Dec. 7

…Lax building codes are at the base of the problem. Even in California, which has some of the toughest such rules in the country, they often aren't adequate or adequately enforced. The codes often dictate the use of fire-retardant materials in house construction but typically say nothing about how a development must be situated on the landscape—and that can help determine whether that development will burn in a fire, says Max Moritz, a cooperative-extension wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “So the developers are able to come in, propose something, and often, without too much oversight, walk away after having built something in a dangerous place,” he says. “And we pick up the tab.”

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-californians-were-drawn-toward-the-fire-zones-1544202053?mod=e2tw

Cutting down Christmas trees on public land is good for forest management: expert

(KTVU) Lisa Fernandez, Dec. 7

A forestry advisor for the University of California is a big proponent of cutting down Christmas trees on public land as an inexpensive, family-friendly holiday ritual and a way to thin the forests of excessive small trees. 

Susie Kocher, who works for the UC Cooperative Extension, has been trekking to the U.S. Forest Service land for the last two decades -- saw and $10 permit in hand -- to cut down her own white fir.  

http://www.ktvu.com/news/cutting-down-christmas-trees-on-public-land-is-good-for-forest-management-expert

http://www.fox10phoenix.com/facebook-instant/cutting-down-christmas-trees-on-public-land-is-good-for-forest-management-expert

https://goldrushcam.com/sierrasuntimes/index.php/news/local-news/16681-can-harvesting-california-christmas-trees-help-the-forest 

Researchers study how to enrich soil

 (Appeal-Democrat) Ruby Larson, Dec. 6

Soil health and research on using cover crops were discussed by farmers, researchers and others at the University of California Cooperative Extension's Soil Health and Cover Crop Field Day on Thursday morning.

Dozens gathered for a presentation on the Healthy Soils Project, which the local UCCE is participating in. The project focuses on managing soil health, changes in soil carbon and reducing greenhouse gases.

…Amber Vinchesi and Sarah Light, agronomy adviser for UCCE Sutter-Yuba, gave a demonstration on how they would test for greenhouse gasses during the course of the project.

https://www.appeal-democrat.com/news/researchers-study-how-to-enrich-soil/article_5e642f10-fa14-11e8-b2fe-779419738557.html

Climate Extremes: the New Norm

(Santa Barbara Independent) Laura Capps, Dec. 6

...“We need to change our perspective to one of co-existing with fire instead of fighting it,” said Dr. Max Moritz, a University of California wildfire scientist. “Fire isn't going away anytime soon. We need to locate and build our communities accordingly so that we reduce our vulnerability over the long term to this essential and inevitable natural process that is wildfire.”

https://www.independent.com/news/2018/dec/06/climate-extremes-new-norm

Will More Permits To Chop Down Christmas Trees Help Thin California Forests And Prevent Wildfires? (AUDIO)

(Capital Public Radio) Ezra David Romero, Dec 5

In a patch of forest a few miles from Lake Tahoe's shore, Susie Kocher and her family are crunching through the snow to find a Christmas tree.

…"It's a great win-win solution,” said Kocher, who is also a forest advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension for the Lake Tahoe area. “You get the public out in the forest, you do good work reducing the density of the trees."

http://www.capradio.org/articles/2018/12/05/will-more-permits-to-chop-down-christmas-trees-help-thin-california-forests-and-prevent-wildfires/

Wildland fire research and impacts on nut orchards

(Western Farm Press) Logan Hawkes, Dec 5

..So far, tree nut damages or other agricultural losses in the deadly Camp Fire are unknown according to UCANR Sustainable Orchard Farm Advisor Luke Milliron in Butte County.

https://www.farmprogress.com/tree-nuts/wildland-fire-research-and-impacts-nut-orchards

Fruit tree owners get free lesson in pruning

(The Californian) John Karlik, Dec 5

Even those with the greenest thumbs may need some guidance when it comes to pruning trees. The University of California Cooperative Extension office is here to help again with its annual fruit tree pruning demonstrations on Dec. 12 and 13.

Starting at noon both days in the orchard of the cooperative's office, ag adviser Mohammad Yaghmour will show attendees how to trim back trees including apple, apricot, cherry and almond as well as grapevines. 

https://www.bakersfield.com/entertainment/fruit-tree-owners-get-free-lesson-in-pruning/article_5ddb2cb8-f1c9-11e8-a83b-b717e64f0168.html

Camp Fire Impacted Local Prescribed Fire Training

(My Mother Lode) Tracey Petersen, Dec 5

...The 20 participants were to get hands-on fire experience to better understand the art and science of fire management and ecology. However, organizer and Natural Resources Advisor at the University of California Cooperative Extension – Central Sierra Susan Kocher relays that due to the explosion of the Camp Fire no flames could be ignited for the training because the required back up resources were called to battle the mega blaze. She adds it is an ongoing problem regarding using prescribed burns for fire prevention.  “I really think it shows just our exact dilemma. It's hard to get ahead of disasters because you're busy responding to disasters,” advised Kocher. “So, we just need to do everything we can to try and burn at all times of year to try to get ahead of these tragic wildfires that are happening.”

https://www.mymotherlode.com/news/local/513777/camp-fire-impacted-local-prescribed-fire-training.html

The New Abnormal: A Town Hall on California's Fires and the Future

(Commonwealth Club) Dec. 4, 2018

… To address some of these critical and urgent questions, please join The Commonwealth Club for a special free town hall on California's fires and what can be done in the short and long term to prepare for them. 

Guests:

J. Keith Gilless, Chair, California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection; Professor of Forest Economics, UC Berkeley

Thom Porter, Chief of Strategic Planning, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)

Kurtis Alexander, Water, Wildfire and Climate Writer, San Francisco Chronicle

Maggi Kelly, Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management 

https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/video/new-abnormal-town-hall-californias-fires-and-future

Valley's Gold: Food Safety

(Valley's Gold) Dec. 4

Learn about the economic engine that drives the region, Agriculture. With host Ryan Jacobsen

UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Specialist Elizabeth Lopez shares food safety tips and tools in this PBS episode starting at the 18:32 mark.

https://www.pbs.org/video/valleys-gold-food-safety-bqfgv4

San Diego County wants to build 10,000 new homes in fire-prone areas

(San Diego Union Tribune) Joshua Emerson Smith, Dec. 3

…What these building codes and other rules don't take into account is whether a particular project should be built at all, said Max Moritz, a cooperative extension specialist in wildfire at the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara.

“There's all these hazards that we use to guide our building and our zoning from floods to landslides, and fire is not one of them,” Moritz said.

“In the end, the taxpayer is left holding the bill for all this,” he added. “The developer may do a really good job at designing and convincing everybody that it's the right thing to do, but after they walk away, the public is left doing fuels maintenance for decades, and the public picks up the bill when there's a disaster.”

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/public-safety/sd-me-wildfire-housing-protection-20181203-story.html

California is managing its forests — but is the president managing its federal lands?

(NBC News) James Rainey, Dec. 2

...Scott Stephens, a University of California, Berkeley professor of fire science, said the fire cataclysms of the last two years seem to have ended a long era of inattention.

“We will start to change the trajectory,” he said, “so we won't have tragedies like we had in Paradise.”

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/california-managing-its-forests-president-managing-its-federal-lands-n942581

Subfreezing temperatures predicted for early Monday in Modesto area

(Modesto Bee) Deke Farrow, Dec. 2

...The University of California Cooperative Extension in Sacramento County offers more

Posted on Thursday, January 3, 2019 at 1:23 PM

What can we learn from the 14,000 homes lost during the Camp Fire?

Remnants of a burned trailer park in Paradise after the Camp Fire.

Shades of brown and grey cast over bricks, cement, remnants of metal roofs and steel beams from manufactured and modular homes, collapsed stucco walls, BBQs, shells of washers and driers, along with an occasional tea pot — that is what you can see in and amongst living, but singed Ponderosa pine and California black oak trees where the Camp Fire burned. How did California's most deadly fire happen and what might be done differently to ensure a better outcome? These are difficult questions that California will wrestle with for a long time to come.

Surviving home with recently upgraded roofing, vents and combustible materials separated from the house. Every home surrounding this house was lost to the Camp Fire.

Last week I was able to tour some of the burned area in Paradise and Magalia to evaluate why some homes survived and others did not. This gave me a chance to look at homes that survived largely on their material selection, design details, the owner's maintenance efforts, and not necessarily with the aid of a fire crew or resident that stayed. Many of the buildings that were burned were lost on the first day or two of the fire while emergency response was focused on evacuating the communities. It will take months to make sense of this mess and tragedy, but during my tour some conditions rang true to me.

A well-maintained forested area in Paradise that had minimal tree mortality from the Camp Fire.

Wildfire is not uniform

Not all fires are the same and not all houses experience the same type of fire. When you are looking at home losses and survivors, keep in mind that each home may not have had the same fire exposure. Some homes experienced significant ember exposure, while others ignited because their neighbor's home succumbed to fire and the heat of their neighbor's house caught their house on fire, while others were protected from the wind and its deadly embers. Paradise and Magalia have blocks and blocks of nothing but foundations, but amongst these bleak conditions are a few intact or partially damaged homes that have a story to tell.

California building code

A homeowner holds a foundation vent found in the rubble of her home. Her house, built before the 2008 construction standards, had ¼-inch mesh screen that may have allowed embers to enter her home.
We saw homes that survived that had upgraded attic and foundation vents that meet the California building code for construction in wildfire prone areas. Some of these houses also included some extra efforts where vegetation and combustible mulch was virtually eliminated in the area immediately adjacent to the home. Our inspection team included UC's Dr. Steve Quarles, a national expert in fire-safe construction, who interpreted this to mean that meeting the 2008 Chapter 7 A standards, coupled with the enhanced defensible space, likely made the difference to ward off the assault of the ember-driven Camp Fire. We found evidence that burned homes in Paradise had ¼” mesh foundation and under-eave vent screens. Research has shown that these larger size screens let embers penetrate the attic and ignite the house from within. The 2008 California building code standards specify screen mesh size between 1/8” and 1/16”-inch, or vents that demonstrate their ability to resist embers and flames.

Wood mulch and landscape plants

Our tour also confirmed that landscaping plants and wood mulch placed right next to the house creates vulnerability. While looking at the rubble of a home, it can be difficult to tell what happened; however, we saw several surviving houses with broken glass or otherwise damaged dual-pane windows that experienced heat exposures sufficient to crack glass in the windows, but the home still survived during these first two days when fire crews were rightly focused on community evacuation and not structure protection. For the houses that did not survive, we can interpret that in addition to the vulnerabilities in vents or a roof, heat can easily break glass in windows, especially if those windows are single pane, and can likely created a pathway for fire to enter the houses.

This house met new construction standards. Several windows were broken from the heat of the fire. It likely would not have been damaged if there had been a 5-foot zone around the home that did not contain combustible plants or other materials.

Home placement makes a difference

A home at the top of a canyon or gulch can easily be overwhelmed by wildfire by taking on additional heat as the fire approaches and being blasted with embers. This is not a new concept, but the homes in the broader Paradise region were especially vulnerable when they were located above these gulches and canyons. Enhanced vegetation management is highly recommended that includes a 5-foot non-combustible zone immediately adjacent to the home.

Charred remnants called “embers” found in a lawn were drivers of the Camp Fire. The large size suggests that these embers were generated from burning buildings, not from vegetation.
Our team, which also included Dr. Eric Knapp from the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, has been able to do a quick analysis of home losses by year of construction in Paradise. This cursory analysis shows that many homes built after the 2008 wildfire standards were adopted were lost during this fire, however, without knowing the specific details of each home (e.g., maintenance practices, proximity to other building, etc.), these statistics can be misleading. We will continue to work through the available data to try to look for patterns, however, in the meantime, it seems clear to me that the new construction standards can reduce the probability of ember intrusion and may have helped for some homes in Paradise. This week a new study reported that complying with these standards was not considerably more expensive. Additionally, the codes that help guide construction in California's wildfire-prone areas are dynamic and will be informed by the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons.

For me, thinking about Paradise in the abstraction was easy. Visiting it was different. The name says it all. After my visit I could understand why someone would choose Paradise or Magalia; the views are awesome, the air is clear, the forest and woodlands are amazing. I can only imagine that the community was (almost) perfect. Rebuilding a more resilient community will take considerable thought, effort, and some radical new ideas.

 

 

Posted on Friday, December 21, 2018 at 7:42 PM
  • Author: Yana Valachovic
Tags: wildfire (121), Yana Valachovic (15)

UC ANR scientists contribute to California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment

The California Natural Resources Agency released California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment today (Monday, Aug. 27), at http://www.ClimateAssessment.ca.govUC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists contributed substantially to the report.

The Fourth Assessment is broken down into nine technical reports on the following topics:

  • Agriculture 
  • Biodiversity and habitat 
  • Energy 
  • Forests and wildlife 
  • Governance 
  • Ocean and coast 
  • Projects, datasets and tools 
  • Public health 
  • Water 

The technical reports were distilled into nine regional reports and three community reports that support climate action by providing an overview of climate-related risks and adaptation strategies tailored to specific regions and themes.

The regional reports cover:

  • North Coast Region 
  • Sacramento Valley Region 
  • San Francisco Bay Area Region 
  • Sierra Nevada Region 
  • San Joaquin Valley Region 
  • Central Coast Region 
  • Los Angeles Region 
  • Inland South Region 
  • San Diego Region 

The community reports focus on:

  • The ocean and coast 
  • Tribal communities 
  • Climate justice 

All research contributing to the Fourth Assessment was peer-reviewed.

UC Cooperative Extension ecosystem sciences specialist Ted Grantham – who works in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley – is the lead author of the 80-page North Coast Region Report.  Among the public events surrounding the release of the Fourth Assessment is the California Adaptation Forum, Aug. 27-29 in Sacramento. For more information, see http://www.californiaadaptationforum.org/. Grantham is a speaker at the forum.

Other UC ANR authors of the North Coast Region Report are:

  • Lenya Quinn-Davidson, UC Cooperative Extension area fire advisor for Humboldt, Siskiyou, Trinity and Mendocino counties 
  • Glenn McGourty, UC Cooperative Extension viticulture and plant science advisor in Mendocino and Lake counties 
  • Jeff Stackhouse, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties 
  • Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties

UC Cooperative Extension fire specialist Max Moritz contributed to sections of the main report on Forest Health and Wildfire and to the San Francisco Bay Area Report

UC ANR lead authors of technical reports were:

  • Economic and Environmental Implications of California Crop and Livestock Adaptations to Climate ChangeDaniel Sumner, director of UC ANR's Agricultural Issues Center 

  • Climate-wise Landscape Connectivity: Why, How and What NextAdina Merenlander, UC Cooperative Extension specialist 

  • Visualizing Climate-Related Risks to the Natural Gas System Using Cal-AdaptMaggi Kelly, UC Cooperative Extension specialist 
Dan Stark, staff research associate  for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, contributed to the pest section of Fuel Treatment for Forest Resilience and Climate Mitigation: A Critical Review for Coniferous Forests of California.
Posted on Monday, August 27, 2018 at 3:23 PM
  • Author: Jeannette Warnert
Focus Area Tags: Environment

Houses likely burned from the inside out, says UCCE forest advisor

Fire damage from the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. Buildings can burn quickly if embers get inside and fall on flammable materials.

Preventing embers from getting inside may save homes

Photos and video of the Northern California communities that have been hit by wildfires this week show buildings reduced to ash. How could so many homes and businesses burn so quickly in Wine Country fires? Many houses that burned to the ground in the Northern California fires likely burned from the inside out, says Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Red hot embers carried on the wind can enter the attic via the venting. “In the case of the wind-driven fires on October 8, these fires created ember storms that blasted little coals into everything in their pathway,” Valachovic said. These embers also create small spot fires near the home that fuel new sources of embers.

Weather played a large role in these fires and generated a fire storm of embers that ignited grass, shrubs, trees and anything in its path. “While the landscape can be the fuse, the homes really can be the most burnable part of the landscape,” Valachovic said. “These embers likely lodged in the small spaces and openings of homes and buildings. A common location is for the embers to enter via attic venting or HVAC systems distributing little fires into the buildings.

“Embers also landed on receptive leaves, outside furniture, and other flammable materials outside the buildings that created fires adjacent to the buildings. Once enough buildings were engulfed in fire, the radiant heat of each building fire led to exposures on the neighboring buildings, creating a house-to-house burn environment.”

Embers carried on the wind can ignite dry plant material like pine needles and create more embers that may enter homes through vents.

Residents can reduce the risk of embers setting their house on fire by removing dry plants around the structure.

“These fires remind us that everyone in California could help the fire situation by managing the vegetation, leaves in the gutters and decks, newspaper piles, brooms and other flammable sources near to their houses now before they get the evacuation call,” Valachovic said. “If you are likely to have to evacuate soon, temporarily covering or sealing up the vents with metal tape or plywood can help harden your home to an ember storm.”

Steve Quarles, UC Cooperative Extension advisor emeritus, who spent his career studying fire behavior on building materials and around homes, created an online Homeowner's Wildfire Mitigation Guide at http://ucanr.edu/sites/Wildfire. Quarles, who now does research for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, demonstrates how embers can ignite and quickly engulf a house in flames in a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvbNOPSYyss. After the 3-minute mark, video shows embers drifting up and flying through a screened vent into the house, where they could ignite combustible materials in the attic resulting in fire starting on the inside of the home.

“If you have time to prepare your home, use the wildfire last-minute check list at http://disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/IBHS-Wildfire-Last-Minute-Checklist.pdf,” Valachovic said.

Valachovic has co-authored publications in home survival in wildfire prone areas http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8393.pdf and how landscape plants near homes can create more vulnerability to wildfire http://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8228.pdf.

Once these fires are extinguished, a more detailed analysis will be possible.

“Past wildfire events have shown that this is the common way homes in the wildland urban interface (WUI) burn, and this scenario was likely translated to the urban environment,” she said.  

Posted on Friday, October 13, 2017 at 10:54 PM
Tags: wildfire (121), Yana Valachovic (15)

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