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New Online Article: Fighting Fires: You're Doing It Wrong!

posted Aug 23, 2015, 1:37 PM by North Topanga Canyon Fire Safe Council

New research from the US Geological Survey in this great online article: "Chaparral Fire Myths Busted"

The bottom line is that we all need to take steps to "harden" our homes and reduce the possibility that they will ignite in a wildfire. Here are some excerpts from the article..

"...The destruction will only escalate, scientists predict, until we stop fighting fires in the forests and brush. Instead, the focus should shift to securing homes and structures, as well as applying new research that overturns long-standing conventional wisdom about fire defense, experts say.

"We're losing homes in fires because homes are being put into hazardous conditions," said Jon Keeley, a fire ecologist with the U.S Geological Survey (USGS). "The important thing is not to blame it on the fire event, but instead to think about planning and reduce putting people at risk."...

...To really save homes, Fotheringham wants Californians to spend their fall weekends cleaning the nooks and crannies around their homes. Find the fire starters, she said: dryer lint, pine needles and leaves hiding in roof shingles, foundation cracks, decorative shrubs and underneath decks. "I get so fanatic that sometimes I go out and Shop-Vac my yard, trying to get the leaves all up," Fotheringham said.

California law requires all homeowners to clear a "defensible" space. The guidelines call for trimming branches, keeping tall plants and shrubs away from buildings, and spacing remaining trees and bushes to prevent fire from spreading. Some residents scrape a moonscape around their homes, removing all plants and clearing the land to the dirt.

But time after time, in infernos created by Santa Ana winds, thousands of homes with defensible barriers burst into flames. In the July 2006 Sawtooth Fire north of Palm Springs, homes with more than 100 feet (30 m) of bare dirt clearance burst into flames. In fact, the burning homes set their own shrubs and trees on fire. [Raging Western Wildfires in Photos]

That's because clearing land encourages the growth of weeds, "flashy fuels" that easily ignite from embers. Instead of aggressive clearing, a green fire barrier of irrigated, wisely chosen shrubs and trees can help absorb heat and deflect embers, Halsey said. For the most up-to-date advice, visit http://firecenter.berkeley.edu/toolkit. ..."

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