Jeffrey Peach: Fire safety on Banner Mountain
Over the last decade, the frequency and intensity of wildfires in California have increased dramatically. The recent Camp Fire in the Paradise area should be an eye opener for all residents of Banner Mountain because our terrain, fuel loadings, and communities are very similar to Paradise.
We can all work together starting now to make the Banner Mountain area more fire safe.
Forest fire intensity and spread rate depend on the fuel type and condition (live/dead), the weather conditions prior to and during ignition, and the topography. Generally the following relationships hold between the fire behavior and the fuel, weather and topography.
For a given fuel type, the more there is and the more continuous it is, the faster the fire spreads and the higher the intensities. Fine fuels like grasses and needles ignite more easily and spread faster with higher intensities than coarser fuels. Ladder fuels are typically shrubs or small trees. They help carry the fire from the surface up to the tops of trees. Heavy fuels, like trees, large limbs, downed logs, large shrubs, homes and outbuildings require more energy to ignite, but burn longer and produce more heat. They tend to loft more embers into the air.
The weather conditions affect the moisture content of the dead and live vegetative fuels; lower fuel moisture produces higher spread rates and fire intensities. Wind speed also significantly influences wildfires; the higher the wind speed, the greater the spread rate and intensity.
Topography influences fire behavior principally by the steepness of the slope.
However, the configuration of the terrain such as narrow draws, saddles and so forth, can influence fire spread and intensity. In general, the steeper the slope, the higher the uphill fire spread and intensity.
Of these three factors, the only one a homeowner has any control over is the amount of fuel surrounding their home.
The Firewise USA program is a nationwide nonprofit organization that teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and to better manage the fuels surrounding their homes. This program encourages neighbors to work together and proactively take action to prevent loss of property and human life.
Homeowners can prepare their home to withstand ember attacks and minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the home or out-buildings. This protection involves using hardscaping and landscaping techniques that create breaks in the vegetation around structures, which helps to decrease fire spread. Maintenance activities such as removing dead vegetation from the area immediately around structures, cleaning roofs and gutters of flammable debris, reducing the amount of vegetation and forest litter on the ground, and pruning trees are simple, easy steps that will reduce the risk of home ignition.
In 2008, the Friends of Banner Mountain, a nonprofit organization, organized the Banner Mountain area as a part of the Firewise Community Recognition Program. In 2019, the group expanded its Firewise Community boundaries to encompass most of the neighborhoods on Banner Mountain, thereby providing an organizational structure for diverse neighborhoods to work together on reducing fire risk. You can see the current map on the FBM website by going to: http://bannermountain.org/firewise-community/.
The Firewise program acknowledges that there are many reasons and values that lead a person to live in a wildland-urban interface like Banner Mountain, and that homeowners typically want to retain trees and shrubs on their property. The Firewise program educates homeowners so you can make informed decisions about how to protect your property while still retaining the landscape elements you value.
We are encouraging homeowners who live within the Banner Mountain Firewise Community boundaries to join our email list so you can stay informed about Firewise activities, and about resources available to support homeowners in managing fuels on their property. You can sign up at the group website here: http://bannermountain.org/newsletter/
The Banner Mountain Firewise Program relies on volunteers to work with neighbors, and we are looking for your help to organize Firewise communications and the expansion of Firewise activities within the community. The Firewise area is large (approximately 9,685 acres, and 2,300 households) and we are seeking representatives from all areas of Banner Mountain. Please contact mr, if you are interested in helping: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeffrey Peach lives in Nevada City.
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