Community Protection: Paragraphs Wanted!

If we were to think about a three legged stool of dealing with wildfire (or an “all of the above” strategy as in the President’s enery policy), we might think of:

1) what communities do: CWPP’s homeowners’ clearing, places for homeowners to put slash, etc.
2) vegetation treatments (prescribed fire and mechanical treatments) to change fire behavior and make firefighting safer.
3) suppression.

Do you think there is anything else? (Should it be a four legged or five legged thing?)

And does anyone have a few simple paragraphs that articulate #1 in a more articulate and comprehensive way? My usual internet searching activities did not easily find such a description. I will fund the person who locates the best paragraphs with a six-pack or monetary equivalent.

43 thoughts on “Community Protection: Paragraphs Wanted!”

    • MD, do you mean education of the homeowners, people who might be traveling through the fire zones, or more broadly through schools and the media..???

      Reply
  1. Add to:
    1) Fire safe egress
    2) Commercial Forest Management to pay for required non-commercial treatments and to provide the breakup necessary to interrupt crown fires.
    4) Public Education includes the SAF taking a public stance to expose the failures of uniformed policies brought on by political pressure applied by well heeled self proclaimed environmentalists who haven’t got a clue about what they are talking about and who let their emotions block out any interest in gaining any understanding of the complexities of the fundamental science required to have a constructive influence. We can’t let them get away with not taking responsibility for their failures by blaming the failures on global warming as they are currently doing. Global warming or not, sound forest management is the only sensible means to deal with forests. Eventually, Hands off Preservation Kills.

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  2. Turns out, despite supposedly “not having a clue about what they are talking about” “self-proclaimed environmentalists” have been a leading educational voice supporting effective management within the Community Protection Zone for more than a decade now. People like Gil can ignore what we’ve done all they want, but it doesn’t change the facts. Below are but a few examples….much of it from about 10 years ago.

    Wildfire Protection Begins At Home: effectively protecting homes and communities

    (P.S. Our organization raised $20,000 [I suppose as “well heeled self proclaimed environmentalists,” right Gil?] to get nearly 250,000 copies of a newspaper tabloid on Wildfires, Home Protection and the Community Protection Zone distributed via newspaper inserts into communities around the West, including towns in AZ, MT, CO, NM, UT, OR, WA and ID. All the newspapers included detailed info on how to effectively protect your home from wildfire and pointed people to additional educational resources they could tap into.)

    ————-

    From “A Citizen’s Call for Ecological Forest Restoration: Forest Restoration Principles and Criteria

    Community Protection Zone Principle — Distinguish between fuel-reduction treatments that restore ecological integrity and those that serve primarily to protect property and human life

    CPZ Criteria

    • Home-site treatments in the CPZ must be undertaken primarily within a 66-200 feet (20-60 meter) intensive treatment zone where fires most directly threaten structures and human life (Cohen 2000).

    • Defensible community space that may include public and private lands should be created within an additional treatment zone up to 1667 feet (500 meters), which includes the 200-foot (60 meter) home-site treatment zone, for firefighter safety and protection of other flammable community values.

    • Treatments to create defensible space may include thinning small-diameter trees, pruning, mowing, roof cleaning, as well as replacement of flammable landscape and building materials (Cohen 2000, Firewise 2001).

    • Home-site treatment is sufficient for survival of a home during a forest fire. It is critical that these treatments be implemented for a CPZ protection plan to be successful. Priority should be given to home-site treatments when resources are limited. Federal cost-share grants for home-site treatment should be increased and maintained until a comprehensive program is completed.

    • Long-term management of the community defensible space should be a cooperative partnership between the relevant agencies, communities, and homeowners beginning with the initial CPZ risk assessment and following through to future maintenance and should account for appropriate access to structures for fire fighting, fire-resistant landscaping, and consideration of construction standards and proper zoning laws for all land ownerships.

    ———

    The Community Protection Zone: Defending Houses and Communities from the Threat of Forest Fire
    By Brian Nowicki
    Center for Biological Diversity
    August 2002

    Reply
    • Matthew

      We need to tone this down.

      In my humble opinion, we differ in that:
      – You are addressing the symptoms which are certainly important.
      – I am trying to address the cause of those symptoms so that the symptoms will occur significantly less frequently and have less consequence when they do occur.

      Does this help you to trust me so that we can have a constructive conversation?

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      • Gil: I agree that we fundamentally disagree, but on a different core issue. You seem to think that nature is ultimately under human control. I prefer to think that we need to let nature happen and accommodate it, and sometimes that means “get out of the way.” An education program should provide realistic information on the cost, consequences, and ineffectiveness of human control.

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        • American Indians were experts at “managing” their forests. Why can’t we manage our forests in a similar but updated way, with more tools in the toolbox? They were able to effectively “control” their environment, on a much smaller scale. They didn’t “get out of the way” and allow fires to rage through their homes (not just houses). Once again, Tree, like others, prefer the “whatever happens” strategy (even insisting on it), accepting the damage and tragedy that often accompanies it. These first immigrants invested plenty of energy into making their homes (not just houses) safe from wildfires. It is a mistake to be insisting on a pre-human forest.

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      • Gil, Here’s a suggestion. If you want to “tone this down” I would highly suggest that you not start off your blog comments with a bunch of crap about “self-proclaimed environmentalists” “not having a clue about what they are talking about.” Got that? You will notice that I respond in kind here on this blog. If you toss out a bunch of sh*t, I’ll toss that sh*t right back in your face.

        Regrading your new desire to have a “constructive conversation” I’m happy to do that and I believe all of the information, thoughts and “solution-oriented” ideas posted above regarding some of the enviros thoughts (for over a decade now) about effectively treating the Community Protection Zone are a great place to start that discussion. What, specifically, do you object to in the documents above? And where in the discussion about the CPZ have enviros supposedly shown that we “don’t have a clue” what we are talking about?

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        • Matthew

          No one in their right mind has a problem with CPZ’s, it is common sense. Foresters have been advocating the same thing forever, but environmental pressures on cities as large as Los Angeles have caused them to enact laws against simple things like clearing brush in certain areas. There are lots of published links documenting such uninformed actions and the devastating consequences of lost homes and fires in the last five years or so in the L.A. area alone. I believe that those consequences are having a moderating effect on such laws. But as long as some influential people continue to believe that nature should rule and man stand aside and accept the consequences we will continue to experience unnecessary loss of life, property and desired local ecosystems.

          Now that we agree on CPZ’s, can we agree that CPZ’s won’t always work because crown fires can throw sparks for miles? Can we now agree that the next step is to appropriately implement the full tool bag of sound forest management in order to reduce the incidence and severity of such conflagrations in the future?

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        • Matthew

          In response to your link on Forest Restoration

          I am having a great deal of problem with the first paragraph which states

          “Decision makers, scientists, and the interested public now recognize that there is an urgent need to restore forest
          ecosystems after decades of intensive logging, fire suppression, road building, livestock grazing, mining, and invasions by exotic species (see Noss and Cooperrider 1994, Ricketts and others 1999, Pimmentel and others 2000 for reviews). Such damaging activities have compacted soils, channelized streams, fragmented forests, suppressed natural fire, assisted the spread
          of some invasive species, and caused the loss of native species and their habitat (Noss and Cooperrider 1994, Heilman and others 2002)”

          In their next paragraph they state that restoration efforts have had their problems as well. But the implication is that any of the former occurrences is a failure. That is not true science. Once they categorically declare any degree of these items as failures they then proceed to declare any occurrence of them as unacceptable and conclude that all multiple use has no positive impact and therefore there is nothing salvageable from these activities and we must start over and ignore their good.

          Unfortunately, implementing their Natural Only core principle has wreaked havoc on the very ecosystems that they want to restore. A decade later, the failure of this document and those preceding it is apparent in the news headlines. Note, from my prior link on harvest levels, that in 2003 when this forest restoration article was written, this type of thinking had already significantly curtailed USFS harvest levels for a decade and now, another decade later, it is pretty obvious that the old wasn’t so bad and we’d be a lot better off having tweaked things than ignoring somebody else’s science because it didn’t fit some impossible to achieve concept of pristine wilderness.

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    • But Matthew, those statements are not factual.. they are opinions.for example it sounds like anything over 1667 feet from a home is not necessary for protection. But as Larry says, communities are more than homes. It sounds like this is designed for subdivisions and not for actual towns. I’m with Larry on the idea of fires moving through towns/subdivisions not being desirable. Firefighters do try to protect structures even if the landowners did not do their work.

      Further, I don’t want to pay federal bucks for protecting individual houses.. that should be between the landowner, the county and the insurance company.

      “Federal cost-share grants for home-site treatment should be increased and maintained until a comprehensive program is completed.” Nope, I think that should be paid by the homeowner, and would tend more to making it a requirement.

      Did I hear that California had passed such a requirement?

      Reply
      • Sharon, Yes, I’m pretty sure I realize, without your help, that the statements from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board are opinions. My point was that that statement was from the MJS, not from me, as Gil seemed to indicate.

        My contention has always been that wildfire protection begins and home and moves out from there. It strikes me that while you want to make an issue of 1667 feet (500 meters, which is more than 1/4 mile), wouldn’t it be much better to say, “Yes, let’s make sure we focus wildfire protection for homes within 60 meters of the home and additional protections around the community within 500 meters of homes, complete all that work around every home/community in the WUI and go from there?”

        Instead, seems to me that some of you always skip a few of the concentric circles and always want to push things further and further away from the homes/community, while leaving the area immediate around the home vulnerable. That makes no sense at all. My lord, if enviros are advocating home/community protection within 500 meters, as we’ve done for over a decade now, why not just focus on that common ground, move forward and perhaps revisit the issue and future treatments once the 500 meters are treated? If saving homes and ensuring firefighter safety is truly the goal, seems to me that us enviros are on the right track. Too bad there can’t be more support for what we’re advocating.

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  3. A distinction needs to be made about the difference between house protection and home protection. House protection consists of keeping the actual structure from burning. Home protection includes the entire community as a whole, along with the entire forest that surrounds the community. This includes all the forest where residents hike, meditate, recreate, cherish, enjoy, view etc, etc, etc.

    There IS a HUGE difference. Allowing significant forest mortality, even welcoming it, into the HOME protection zone is intolerable to me, and others.

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    • I agree.. fires running through neighborhoods and houses (with explosive material potentially not shut off) can’t be very safe.

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      • What I meant is that many communities have amenities outside of housing areas that are a part of “home”. Fishing ponds, hiking trails, parts of “viewsheds” parks and other cherished human use areas should all be part of “home”, requiring protection. If those areas reach out to a mile or more away, they should still be protected. It is part of “home”.

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    • Larry, Once again I cannot understand why some of you folks won’t accept that if the goal is home and community wildfire protection the very most important work to do (given limited time, money, resources) is to focus on the home and its immediate surroundings.

      For example, I live in what would be considered the WUI right within the city of Missoula a few blocks from the center of downtown and never once has it ever occurred to me to think of my “home” as including the the entire forest that surrounds the community and all the places where any human might go to hike, meditate, recreate, view, etc. If that’s the case, my “home” is 250,000 acres in size, instead of just 900 square feet.

      Most everyone would consider a “home” and a “house” the same thing. It appears to me that you are now saying a “home” is actually the entire Wildland Urban Interface stretching miles and miles into the forest. Why in the world would you want to confuse everyone with such thoughts?

      Again, for the love of Gaia, can’t you simply agree that given limited time, money and resources the wisest, most sensible, most humane, most effective course of action is to work on the “home” (or is that “house?”) and its immediate surroundings and then go from there? If, once every single home and its immediate surrounding is treated with FireWise measures, homeowners and the community at large believe that additional measures further away from the home/community are needed they can address those additional needs at that time. To advocate work miles away from homes, while I assume that the vast majority of homes exist with less than ideal FireWise measures just seems to be lacking logic in my book.

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      • You don’t get it, Matt. “Home” includes all the amenities and qualities that residents love and cherish. Just because they are beyond your arbitrary distance, that doesn’t make it any less desirable and essential to “home“. You are talking about houses and actual built structures.

        Money appears not to be an issue if the Forest Service keeps to its Let-Burn programs. They are spending MILLIONS per day on fires that should have been put out weeks ago. You like to accuse people of creating strawmen but, here you are spouting the same crap. No one is going to consider managing all 250,000 acres in ANY part of our National Forests.

        Shouldn’t residents judge what they want saved around their communities? When people go on extended leaves, then come back “home“, that includes the view from their front porch, the clean babbling brook, the wildlife that comes and goes and all the other things they love about “home“. Without those, houses are just chunks of wood attached together that you live inside of. Not “homes”. Rebecca’s example perfectly explains my thoughts.

        Yes, there has to be limits to “home” but, that is extremely site-specific, and open to human interpretations. Some of those limits can include steep ground, rivers and streams, physical barriers, etc but, not some arbitrary line on a map. People buy or build houses, which turn into homes as their hearts latch on to everything that goes with the actual structure. If “home” is protected, then the houses are also protected. Simple as that!

        Let’s take Lake Tahoe, for example. Under your strategy, it is just fine if upper slopes, outside of your arbitrary line, burn catastrophically, with resulting erosion causing dramatic loss of water quality and clarity, Forests turn into vast snag patches with high probability of re-burn. Tourists decide to stay away, because of wildfire smoke and huge ugly fires scars, and Tahoe’s “home” economy is severely impacted. Ski areas also burn, causing even more economic turmoil. Landslides wipeout roads underneath burned areas, too. These are just the impacts I can think of off the top of my head. People who call Tahoe “home” love it, not because of a wooden structure they own or rent.

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        • Yes, Larry, you’re correct, what I don’t get is your logic. What, specifically, am I supposedly creating a Straw Man about?

          I’m trying as hard as possible to let you know what the entire environmental community has advocated for RE: Home and Community Wildfire protection. I have provided numerous links that provide numerous examples and specifics about our position in this regard.

          But instead of responding directly to our vision, seems like you want to re-define the concept of a “home” to include anything and everything around a home for miles and miles. Again, yes, I just don’t get that.

          Also, which Forest Service fires “should have been put out weeks ago?” Please be very specific and let us know the names of these fires and specifically how or what Larry Harrell would have done to put them out, especially in the context of ensuring firefighter safety.

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          • Apparently, you will never get it. Now, if we moved you to Enid, Oklahoma, would you be able to call that “home”? I didn’t think so….

            Your arbitrary line, advocated by you, is not acceptable to us rural folks. I already talked about limits but you must have missed that. The arbitrary line ignores the big picture and is only about physical structures. There are so many other things out beyond the map line that people don’t want incinerated.

            And you even continue on with the strawmen. “…anything and everything around a home for miles and miles.” Of course, I didn’t say that. I mentioned necessary limits, not defined by an arbitrary line. ” If that’s the case, my “home” is 250,000 acres in size, instead of just 900 square feet.” If that is not a strawman (and a very big one, at that!), I don’t know what is!

            I will continue to rant about the fires started by lightning in early June, allowed to burn when conditions were favorable for containment and control. If conditions were mild enough to allow them to grow to large acreages, on purpose, then it must have been safe to put them out, too. They were more concerned about dead tree “disposal”, instead of public safety, wildfire costs, the coming hot, dry and windy weather and resource availability. It’s like they were in denial about fire season and possible future weather, common to the area during the summer. Someone has to take responsibility for making these colossal, expensive, short-sighted mistakes! They already admitted to allowing them to burn.

            I will continue to post the running costs of these kinds of fires until they are contained and controlled. The media talks about “the massive Yarnell Hill Fire”, at all of 8000 acres. No mention at all of fires over 90,000 acres! I tend to think that the Forest Service doesn’t want to talk about THOSE. Well, if we get more fatalities, you can bet there will be some VERY HARD QUESTIONS from the media, then!

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            • Larry, good to know that now you are doing the heavy lifting of speaking for all rural folks…whether they know that or not…..You must be tired, Larry.

              Yep, again, Larry, you’re right, I will never understand your concept of “home” as you see it and how it specifically relates to protecting a person’s home (ie the structure they live, sleep and poop in (well, except if one still has an outhouse) from wildfire. Have to believe I’m not the only one. Either way, I have no clue what your Enid, Oklahoma reference is even about.

              And it’s not “my” arbitrary line, as you seem to claim Larry. In fact, the line also isn’t “arbitrary.” To review, the concept was supported by hundreds of leading forest and environmental protection organization and was based on the research and science of how best to protect a community from wildfire.

              So, you mean to tell me that you know for certainly that all rural people in America think the concept of home protection from wildfire starting at the home and working out from there to include a community protection zone of say, 500 meters, is just a crazy concept, especially given limited time, resources, people-power, etc? Of course, I don’t buy that line for one second.

              Larry, RE: your latest obsession with strawmen, I’d like to point out that you made the following statements about “Home.”

              A distinction needs to be made about the difference between house protection and home protection. House protection consists of keeping the actual structure from burning. Home protection includes the entire community as a whole, along with the entire forest that surrounds the community. This includes all the forest where residents hike, meditate, recreate, cherish, enjoy, view etc, etc, etc.

              And

              Fishing ponds, hiking trails, parts of “viewsheds” parks and other cherished human use areas should all be part of “home”, requiring protection. If those areas reach out to a mile or more away, they should still be protected.

              And

              “Home” includes all the amenities and qualities that residents love and cherish. Just because they are beyond your arbitrary distance, that doesn’t make it any less desirable and essential to “home“.

              So, Larry, based on the words you have chosen to use above to define what a “home” is, I came to the conclusion that using your definitions that my “home” is 250,000 acres in size, since that includes not only my home, but all the “amenities and qualities that I love and cherish” “along with the entire forest that surrounds my community”, “including all the forest where residents hike, meditate, recreate, cherish, enjoy, view etc, etc, etc.”

              You said those statements Larry, and those are your definitions and descriptions of a “home.” So don’t go and get all upset when I simply use your own words and your own definitions/descriptions and apply them to my “home” and community.

              Finally, Larry, you have again failed to provide specifics and evidence when pressed for specifics and evidence by others on this blog. That’s been part of your MO from the get-go, when you used to post here trying to hide your real identity. Rant all you want, but you’re pissing in the wind and no one really cares of listens. And please, with your running cost of wildfires, please do include the cost of everything you’d do differently. Of course, when 19 firefighters die in one day, I’m sure all those men and women working the fire lines sure appreciate a guy like you sitting behind your computer, sipping on a Coke, telling everyone what they are doing wrong.

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              • Larry, RE: your latest obsession with strawmen, I’d like to point out that you made the following statements about “Home.”

                Fishing ponds, hiking trails, parts of “viewsheds” parks and other cherished human use areas should all be part of “home”, requiring protection. If those areas reach out to a mile or more away, they should still be protected.

                You continue to miss the part about limits I described and the broader variety of features that are essential parts of “home“, and deserve protection. You are narrowly talking about houses, and I am not. That quote is definitely NOT a strawman.

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                • Larry, I guess my point is that perhaps you should come up with another word than the word “home” try and relate what you are trying to say. For most everyone out there, the word “home” refers to their “home” which is also called a “house”…not to all the ponds, forests, parks, views, or places around their home that they like to hike, recreate, meditate, etc.

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                  • Matt: Maybe everyone “out here” is really talking about their house when the word “home” is used, but certainly a lot of us also believe that “home is where the heart is,” as Larry describes. House means house. Outbuildings are outbuildings, equipment is equipment, and so on. My suggestion is that the enviros start using clearer language in their promotions, not hold Larry responsible for interpreting their choice of words.

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  4. Sounds like Sharon posted a short version of the National Cohesive Strategy for Wildlandfire Management. The connection is definitely not lost on a lot of people, and it’s quite comprehensive. Communication and implementation are challenging.

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    • Dana- if you could point me to the part where the Cohesive strategy describes the community protection that would be helpful… these documents are long and I am a retiree and don’t get paid to read them…so any help along those lines would be greatly appreciated.

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      • Current messaging on community protection is going through the Fire Adapted Communities Program. In this July 1, 2013 article about new public service announcements – http://www.multivu.com/mnr/62255-us-forest-service-and-ad-council-launch-fire-adapted-communties-psa – the message is that “Everyone has a part in helping to keep their community safe” and that “small choices… have major impact”.

        They go on to say that “Communities can adapt to wildfire by collaboratively developing and implementing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, creating defensible space around buildings, treating fuels in and near the community, using fire resistant building materials, designating safe zones, avoiding development in the highest risk areas, and working with local first responders.”

        There is still a focus on the home ignition zone, but that interest is not exclusive. Particularly community advocates and Tribal participants pushed for language that was inclusive of the whole community and broader landscape of interest.

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    • Thanks much!

      If we were to start writing about an “all of the above” strategy, with a total less than 5 pages or so, I wanted a couple of paragraphs that outlined what the general thinking about community protection is in terms of things to do, plus references for more. Sounds like the Fire Adapted Communities program is a good source.

      Being from Colorado and knowing evacuees (and having them stay at my house) I wonder if evacuation preparation and organization is part of it? For example, some groups with elders requiring special care evacuated to a similar institution for Waldo Canyon, and that institution evacuated back to the first institution for the Black Forest Fire. We also read about volunteers going back for horses and other livestock and keeping them at fairgrounds.. all of that…

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    • Oh, and also it doesn’t appear that all the different parts of county governments are all aligned.

      For example this piece:Jeffco slash collection dates slashed
      Despite wildfire threat, budget cuts reduce effort to 3 weekends
      http://yourhub.denverpost.com/golden/jeffco-slash-collection-dates-slashed/YZmMcKeTneDlLDNTNOxGbI-story?hl

      I think the Rooney Road slash collection site was closed because it was on an open space and that was not a compatible use of open space? Which made some homeowners very angry.. because they are darned if they do and darned if they don’t. As we say about the Forest Service “sometimes the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” Each subgroup can solve its own problem at the expense of the whole.

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  5. MIssing leg: How communities plan. At least with regard to future developments, local governments are the ones who make it easier or harder to build structures that will have to be defended. They could prevent situations where the owner of a new home in the woods says to owners of the forest next door, “Since I built my house here, you need to cut down your trees that are threatening it.” “And you need to pay for that.” Why can’t some of the revenues the federal government shares with local governments be earmarked for local land use planning?

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    • Jon, again, it’s not that I don’t like planning, but local governments plan anyway.
      How about if federal fuels treatment bucks were prioritized around communities whose planning included certain “best practices”. These “best practices” would be determined by a panel of community folks (planners, first responders, etc.) selected by Western Governors.(Easterners don’t seem to have the same kinds of problems, at least it appears that way to me).

      I think CWPPs are tied to local planning also. Do others know more about this?

      Also, I don’t remember exactly the details of how State and Private Forestry bucks are allocated nowadays, but part of these could be tied to proportion of communities using these generally determined best practices.

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  6. A couple of anecdotal points on this topic that might bear fruit: one of the tools that we put in the toolbox in the early 2000’s for smarter and more focused fuels treatment was LANDFIRE, a USFS Firelab (Missoula, MT) GIS-based computer program based on a variety of data layers from vegetation, topography, prevailing weather et.c that could be used as a predictive tool to identify where fire might develop and “run” to target treatment in those areas where other resources were threatened around watersheds, home protection zones and other values identified in CWPP. Not sure what the status is of that tool which was in the initial stages of testing when I left DOI in 2005. As to house protection, I spoke to a friend this week who lives in Black Forest, Colorado Springs, CO who lost all his vehicles,and outbuildings and the back of his house blew out from that wildfire. His and one neighbor’s home were the only homes that were left because of the mitigation work they did. That made me think of an experience I had in office when I went on a tour of the Hayman fire, I will always remember a very bitter homeowner whose house stood alone in a blackened landscape– all his trees gone, his viewshed gone, his home value, but not his home, gone and his neighbors were gone. He was angry that he had mitigated to protect his property and was now, in his mind, in a worse condition then if his home would have burned and he could have taken the insurance money and left. Today, I live in the redzone in CO in a foothills community with 500 acres of open space and large lots covered in P-pine and fir. Our subdivision is working with the Jefferson County Forestry Dept and the State using EQUIP grant money to mitigate targeted areas that are particularly fire prone, pursuant to a CWPP. Individual landowners are treating their own property. But it was a surprisingly steep educational curve for those living in this forested community to accept fuels treatment, even as we lived through the fire of last spring where 3 were killed 10 miles from this subdivision. Education and discussion community by community must be part of community protection, but I am not confident that all will agree on what needs to be done. In fact, I am confident that is not the case.

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    • Rebecca-

      On our drive back from Waldo Canyon on our field trip we drove by the Hayman and other fires in that area and saw some of those houses.. some folks get used to it, but some would prefer to be gone. I think in this case a picture is worth 1,000 words. I’ll have to work on getting Larry out here.

      What’s interesting to me about the Black Forest and the Front Range is that, for the most part, using trees is off the table. So we can look at what’s going on without the “timber wars” overlay and see some things that might be obscured where that is a factor.

      I have seen in journals and presentations a great deal of social science research on communities and wildfire protection.. maybe someone might want to highlight their research on this blog?

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    • It is very refreshing to see this non-partisan truth, Rebecca. We are both on the same page in wanting to exclude partisan politics on these issues, in favor of forest realities that include humans. A house that stands alone in a scorched and decimated landscape isn’t a “home”, anymore.It seems that many people cherish their shade more than their (and firefighters) safety. Property inspections should lead to decisions on whether to supply fire suppression services. Official notices should be delivered explaining the consequences of not complying. Also, peer pressure from neighbors might come in handy when decisions are made about entire streets. Rebecca is right about some militant home owners not complying. Of course, one option is to hire one’s own fire suppression services. *smirk*

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    • Rebecca: Your friend’s results may have been for reasons other than mitigation treatments. For example, I interviewed a longtime landowner who’s home was saved from the 2005 Deer Creek Fire in southwest Oregon because: 1) his neighbor maintained irrigated crops, forming a solid fire boundary that required no action, and 2) because he had a swimming pool full of water that firemen could pump from (starting at 1:20 mark): http://www.orww.org/Wildfires/Deer_Creek/MPG/Fire_Suppression.mpg

      Cory also makes some comments regarding local fuel treatments (“logging”) and wildfire behavior here (starting at 2:40 mark): http://www.orww.org/Wildfires/Deer_Creek/MPG/Forest_History.mpg

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  7. This 2008 report @
    http://www.forestsandrangelands.gov/communities/documents/CWPP_Report_Aug2008.pdf
    discusses, what area is relevant to fire planning, the need to prioritize treatments within that area, the connection to local planning and zoning (unfortunately the ‘z’ word still can’t be spoken in some rural communities), and the need to include in national forest planning (my other point). Suppression response is then supposed to be consistent with the forest plan. Here’s some quotes.

    “According to HFRA, the wildland–urban interface is considered ‘any area within or adjacent to an at-risk community that is identified in recommendations to the Secretary in a community Wildfire Protection Plan.’ Communities have the ability to establish the definition and boundary of a localized WUI. Community-established WUI boundaries can help meet local management needs, can include both public and private land, and can help improve access to funding sources.

    “All CWPPs should use a credible risk assessment to identify the community’s
    highest priorities for fuels treatment. These priorities may include actions
    such as installing defensible space around homes, building strategic firebreaks
    near a subdivision, or using mechanical thinning or prescribed fire to
    reduce fire risks within a watershed.

    “Although the CWPP is not a federal planning document, the CWPP-determined WUI boundary can and should be used as part of the development phase of a Land and Resource Management Plan/Land Use Plan (LUP) and a Fire Management Plan (FMP)
    for federal lands.”

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    • So, “at-risk communities””have the ability” to define their own WUI via the HFRA, as long as they use a “credible risk assessment” for their CWPP, which can then also be used with their LUP and FMP. Good to know. Who selects these at-risk communities, and who is therefore responsible for bounding their WUIs, and who covers the costs for such bounding? And do they get extra credit when their work is integrated into an LUP or FMP?

      Not that this sounds like a lot of Jabberwocky when Plain English is called for, but it is also difficult to follow the logistics in this. Sounds like a whole lot of committee meetings to put some new zoning lines on a map that can be readily challenged and are unlikely to remain in use for any extended period of time.

      What’s wrong with subbasins and basins with traditional watershed boundaries? And putting people back to work in the woods instead of dealing with government acronyms in office buildings?

      Reply
  8. Surprise, surprise, everyone wants Uncle Sam to do all of the heavy lifting which means that they get to have everyone else pay for their poor decision to live in a high risk area whether it is in or adjacent to a forest or a flood zone.

    Who needs to have a universal standard policy of a buffer of X number of feet. Every situation is different depending on slope, stand density, density of community flamables, and etc. Each community needs to be responsible for its own defense and work together with the owners of adjoining property to come to an amicable solution. Their are plenty of experts available to help them plan in order to minimize risk whether it be local foresters, local/state planners, state forestry departments and associations, local forest owners, and even Google.

    People who want to take on risk shouldn’t expect others to have to dig into their pockets to provide them the benefits of a beautiful mountainside view. In the mid ’70s, I remember standing above Oakland, California in a beautiful stand of trees and looking down on more of the same filled with houses. I was horror stricken to think of the disaster that one day would come on that community. Sure enough, the disaster struck sometime within the next 15 to 20 years. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to want what they want and stone the prophets which eventually kills the golden goose. 🙂 Ugh, that was horribly trite – did I really just say that? 🙁

    Reply
    • Yes, we CAN design multi-goal projects, which trade logs for non-commercial work, improving stand health and fire resilience, etc. Much of the Pasadena area is close to the National Forest. Should we blast all of those people for living where they live? In some parts of the west, there wasn’t a place to put a town where there was no forest. We have to accept much of “what is”, as what it is. Even if communities are burned to the ground, insurance companies will pay them to rebuild. We cannot remove communities already in place so, let’s move on and decide what we need to do, moving forward.

      I remember that day, seeing the horizontal smoke plume as I drove through the Delta. Just this morning, I was going for a walk at my brother’s this morning and saw a eucalyptus tree, with long tinsel-like slabs of bark hanging down, making for perfect ladder fuels.

      Reply
      • Larry

        You said: “We have to accept much of “what is”, as what it is”
        –> Yup, if someone lives in a fire or flood prone zone then they and the rest of their community better accept “what is” and do something about it with their own collective money. The rest of us don’t need to decide what they need to do. I said nothing against multi-goal projects nor did I say we should blast or remove communities. We have no place in governing them. Each situation is different. There is plenty of info available to them already as mentioned above. Was my second paragraph above that unclear?

        You said: “Even if communities are burned to the ground, insurance companies will pay them to rebuild”
        –> Yup, and the rates for the rest of us go up accordingly even though we have chosen to live in lower risk areas further from the woods and the flood zone. The pioneers who founded those towns in the west, east, south and north didn’t expect anything from anyone else except community coordination to provide for common needs and kindness from the fellow members of their local community when they were in need. If they didn’t live in a community, they knew that they were on their own and accepted the tradeoff between independence and safety. What is different now?

        Reply
        • One could say the same thing about crime, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. We also pay for the impacts of where they live. It sounds like you are saying that a poor rural town, like Yarnell Hill, must pay for its own fuels reductions, or face the flames on their own?!?!? I rent a trailer in a town of 125 residents. How can we pay for needed prescribed fires around our town. Does it come down to pay up or pack up?!?!? I’d bet that law enforcement in Chicago costs more than fuels reduction programs on entire multiple Forests.

          Yes, there are many variables to deciding specifics of the buffers. Yes, there are even more variables to keeping the peace in a large metropolitan area. The subsidy to living in other places is much higher than simply installing fuels projects where logs can offset some of the costs.

          If we are going to blame people for where they live, blame us all, equally, making us all pay our “fair share”.

          Reply

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