27 August 2012

Learn not to burn

The photo shows a house that was not burned by the wildfires near the city of Cle Elum in Washington.  The photographer, a member of the family, said it looked like a force field surrounded the house, but as a Reddit thread indicates, this escape is a result of following proper preventive procedures in wildfire-prone areas, including -
"In rural areas, clear a fuel break of at least 3 times the fuel length around all structures."
In other words, clear the brush and trees around your dwelling to a distance of 3X the height of the trees or brush.   By that criterion, virtually every cabin I've ever seen in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin would be doomed, because the ethos here is to preserve as many trees as possible.  I grew up in a home that was sited after plotting the location of the trees so that the house could be fitted among them with branches overhanging the roof; as a kid my annual autumn job was to crawl to the roof edges to clean out the leaves that had fallen in the gutters. 


  1. Not as many raging forest fires in MN, either. I grew up in Ohio and was thinking the other day of how close the forest is to my parents' house. But there's never even once that I know of been a forest fire around there. Tornadoes, yes. Floods, yes. Blizzards, yes. But no massive fires.

    I live in CA now and while I'm not in an earthquake area, we've had quite a few days in teh last few years when we weren't supposed to let the kids play outside because the smoke was so bad - and that's from fires that are 20, 50, or more miles away. See, there's no rain here from May to October and I think there've been only one or two years out of the last ten that haven't been classified as a drought year.

  2. I live in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia where hot, dry summers are the norm. Forest fires are also regular occurrences. We have several each summer. Some are small and easily contained. Others are horrendous. See the Firestorm of 2003: http://www.kelowna.ca/CM/page129.aspx

    To quote the study "Fire in the Pines", the paradox of fire is that the more often forest fires burn, the less damage they do.


    Thankfully in our region we -- in conjunction with local First Nations -- have begun using prescribed fires early in the spring to clear dense brush. This should help reduce the opportunity for firestorms to develop -- while helping maintain the native landscape.

  3. Piling on the Reddit thread: Hey, Cle Elum. I've been there. I even know how to pronounce it. (Cle has a long E and rhymes with 'free', Elum is ELL-um.)

    I'm also paranoid about large trees standing near houses, but that's from watching them come down in ice and wind storms. Modern stick construction vs. pine tree = flat house. If the tree falls on a bedroom, well, there's enough wood in it for a coffin.

  4. I live in Southern California also. Too many people fantasize that they live in a rainier climate and build wood houses with shake roofs, neglect basic brush clearance, etc. It costs the taxpayers a fortune.


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