The Oakland Berkeley Hills Fire by yaofenji

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									                                         This report has beenpreparedby the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in coop~
                                         eration with the Oakland and Berkeley, California Fire Departmentsand the California State
                                         Fire Marshal's Office. The project was sponsored by the National Wildland/Urban
                                         Interface Fire Protection Initiative to further the goals of the Initiative, established in 1986.
                                         Those goals are to create general public awarenessof the wildland interface problem, to
                                         encourage formation of partnerships among problem-solvers and interest groups, and to
                                         focus on the developmentof local solutions to wildland/urban interface fIfe problems. The
                                         report is the fourth in a seriesof reports preparedand approvedby the Initiative sponsors. It
                                         is not the intention of NFP A nor of the Initiative to have the report passjudgment on, or fix
                                         liability for, the loss of life and property resulting from the Oakland/Berkeley fire. The
                                         Initiative is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service; U.S.
                                    5     Department of Interior, including the Bureau of Land ManagemeQt, Fish and Wildlife
                                          Service,National Park Service,and the Bureau of Indian Affairs; U.S. Fire Administration;
                                         the National Association of State Foresters,and the National Fire Protection Association.
                                          Contact information for eachof theseorganizationsis provided in thisleport.
     the Wildland Fire              7
                                         This analysis was undertakenas part of efforts to achieve the goals of the Initiative. The
       Vegetation                   7
                                         purpose was to document the fire, determine to the extent possible the variables causing
       Residentialconstruction      8
                                         destruction, and make recommendations on how to prevent similar occurrences. Thomas
       The Weather                  9
                                         Klem, director of NFPA's Fire Investigations Department,was report managerand techni-
                                         cal editor and advisor. William Baden, senior fire service specialist at NFPA, is the NFPA
                                         Initiative project managerand was the technical advisor for this report.
     The Fire                      ll
      Intensity                    12    The infonnation in this report is provided to assistplanners,local officials, fire service per-
      Response                     13    sonnel, and homeowners in developing firesafe homes and communities in the
      Cornmunications               14   wildland/urban interface. That interface is where wildland and residential systemsjoin and
      Water                         14   affect eachother.                                                                             ~
      Narrowroads                  15
      Mutual aid                   15    This wildland fire is only one of many that occur throughout the world eachyear. It is the
      Utilities                    16    fourth such fIre the Initiative has reported on. Under the Initiative's sponsorship,the NFPA
      Evacuation                   16    will review, analyze, and document additional wildland/urban interface fires that cause
                                         destructionto homesand other structures.

                                         The preparation of this report would not have been possible without the assistanceand
                                         cooperation of the Oakland and Berkeley, California fire departments,and the California
                                         State Fire Marshal' sOffice. Particularly, we want to thank Fire Chief Lamont Ewell of the
            ~---   .
                                         Oakland Fire Department, Fire Chief Gary Cates of the Berkeley Fire Department,State
                                         Fire Marshal Ron Coleman,and former StateFire Marshal JamesMcMullen.

                                             addition, on-site assistanceand technical guidanceand insight was provided to NFPA by
                                         Division Chief Joe Garcia and Art Cota, California State Fire Marshal's Office, Jack Snell
                                         and Ken Steckler, National Institute of Standardsand Technology, and various representa-
                                         tives of the California Department of Forestry, California Office of Emergency Services,
                                         cities of Oakland and Berkeley, and the Department of Forestry, University of California
                                         Berkeley.

                                 ...24   Each of these organizations has made significant contributions to the technical accuracy of
                                                                                                                        of
                                         the report. Further, the extraordinary work of Maureen Tobin in the preparation the docu-
                                         ment, and Chris McCusker for design,layout, and graphics,are acknowledged.

                                         Finally, Paul E. Teague,associateeditor of Design News and former editor of Fire Journal,
                                         was principal writer.

                                             PHOTOS: NASA. KTVU-TV/OAKLANO
                                         COVER

In
A devastating   conflagration                  Oakland suddenlylose a substantialtax         drought had dried out overgrown grass,
                                               base in these poor economic times, but       bushes,trees, and shrubs,making them
occurred in the scenichills                    they have since discoveredthat 30 per-       easily ignitable. The parched leaves of
abovethe cities 01Oakland    and               cent of the homeowners have decided          closely spacedeucalyptusand Monterey
Berkeley,              on
            Calilornia, October                not to rebuild in the Hills.                 pine trees touched in certain areas and
                                                                                            overhung homes in others. Untreated
20, 1991.Burningembers                         The conflagration that day was so            wood shingles were the predominant
carried by highwindsIrom the                   intensethat fIre fighters were helplessin    roof covering for homes in the area.
                                               their attempts to suppress it, and the       Unprotected wood decks extended out
perimeter01a smallbut grow-                    affected residentssuddenlyfound them-        from many of the homesand over slop-
ing dull lire ignitedovergrown                 selves encircled in flames, blinded by       ing terrain that was covered with easily
                                               smoke,and helplesslylooking for escape       ignitable combustible vegetation. That
             and
vegetation led to the lurther                  routes.One crew of fIre fighters felt they
                                                                                            day, unseasonably high temperatures,
ignition01tree crowns andcom-                  would be overrun by the fire storm, but      low relative humidity, and strong winds
bustibleconstructionmaterials01                made a defensivestand when they real-        pervaded the area, further setting the
                                               ized they could not escape. Theymanned       stage for potential disaster. The only
  adjacent   homes,  including                                               a
                                               their hoselines and gathered clusterof       atypical factors not found in other major
manywith wood-shingle     rools.               trapped civilians into a home that soon




                                            .
                                                                                            wildland fires studied over the years
                                               becamethreatened,    and fought for their    were the prolonged drought and a
The result was a major wildland/urban          lives. Using large caliber hose lines to     December freeze the year before that
interface fire that killed 25 people           protect themselvesand to prevent igni-       killed much of the native and ornamental
including a police officer and a fIre fight-   tion of the home, they successfullysur-      vegetation,making them evenmore sus-
er, injured 150 others, destroyednearly        vived the fIre.                              ceptible to fire and adding to the total
  ,449 single-family dwellings and 437                                                      fuel load in the area.
  partment and condominium units,              While fIre officials labeledthe causeof
burned over 1,600acres,and did an esti-        the original fIre "suspicious,"the reasons   With these factors at hand, once open
mated $1.5 billion          in damage.         for the fire's rapid spreadwere neither      flaming occurred, the fire was pushed
Furthermore, not only did the city of          suspicious nor surprising. A five-year       beyondits original boundariesby fierce
                                                                                                     up. In addition,the suddenand massive
                                                                                                                                        to
                                                                                                     buildupof fire fighters,summoned the
                                                                                                     fIfe froni neighboringdepartments,  soo~
                                                                                                     overwhelmed    radio and telephonetraffi...
                                                                                                     making it nearlyimpossiblefor the inci-
                                                                                                     dent commanders to coordinate fire
                                                                                                     fighting activities.

                                                                                                     These were the conditions confronting
                                                                                                     fire fighters on the scene.The massive
                                                                                                     firestormconditions kept fIre fighters on
                                                                                                     the defensive throughoutthe conflagra-
                                                                                                     tion, giving them no chanceto mount a
                                                                                                     sustained and effective attack until
                                                                                                     weatherconditionsimproved. Their only
                                                                                                     hope until then was to slow the fire
                                                                                                     spread  whereand whentheycould.

                                                                                                     The weather,which greatly affected the
                                                                                                     growth and helped sustainthe flTe,even-
                                                                                                     tually changedand ultimately helpedthe
                                                                          S. RINGMAN,   SIPA PRESS   flTe fighters bring the flTe undercontrol.
                                                                                                     By earlythe flTstevening,the winds died
winds that averaged 20 miles per hour          confronted and which they would face                  down to a five-mile-per-hour breeze,
and gusted up to 35-50 miles per hour.         for over 6 hours. Indicative of this                  nudging the flames back over areas
The flames then fed on the unbroken            described  rapid growth development and               already burned and giving fire fighters
chain of dry vegetation and the com-           spread of the Oakland Hills fire is the               the time they neededto begin to bring
bustible construction materials of the         fact that 790 homes were consumedin                   the flTe undercontrol. Fire fighters drew
homes.The fire was virtually out of con-       the fIrst hour of thefire!                            a perimeteraroundthe flTe earlythe next
trol within only a few minutesof its start.                                                          morning, declared it contained by f- ,/
On-scenefire fighters tried to retreatto       It is not surprising that the fire quickly
                                                                                                     third day,and had it undercontrol by the"
the border of the fire but found that it       overwhelmed the initial fire fighters,
                                                                                                     fourth day.
was moving fasterthan they could repo-         who fought valiantly. No fire depart-
sition their apparatus. Then with the          ment, however, could have effectively                 The wildfire in the Oakland and
additional affects of the topography of        intervenedat this point in suchan intense             Berkeley Hills was the worst in
the land, the fIre beganto move in sever-      fire. Further complicating its control                California's history. It, like all fires,
al directions involving more homesand          were the narrow winding roads and the                 holds many lessons. While the 1990
vegetation   and soonbuilding into a mas-      fIre's turbulent fury and blinding smoke              StephanBridge Road fire in Michigan
sive fIrestorm. Whenthis critical level of     conditionsthat restrictedand evenhalted               showed that wildland/urban interface
a wildland fIre is reached,not only is its     the fIre fighters' accessto the fIre area.            fIfes can spreadrapidly over flat terrain,
intensity difficult to suppress, also its
                                but            Furthermore,the steepslopeswithin the                 the Oakland Hills fire reminds us that
potential for spreading far beyond its         hills, some at a 30-degree pitch, also                similar spread phenomenoncan occur
current boundaries is inevitable. A            facilitated fire spreadand further ham-               evenin urban areasnot typically thought
fire storm involves massiveburning and         pered fIre fighting; Congestionon those               of as being included             in the
needsan abundant      amountof air in order    roads, downed power lines, and flying                 wildland/urban interface. Oakland is a
to sustainitself, and sincethe fIre had no     embers swirling along exit paths from                 large city, and while there are wooded
natural bounds,thereis plenty of air and        severaldirections at once causednear-                areas within its boundaries, residents
fuel for its continuedrapid, uncontrolled      panic conditions amongresidentstrying                 may have thought they were immune to
growth. Then, this phenomenon       creates    to flee the fire. Faced with this, some               wildfires. Unfortunately,wildland/urban
its own "wind" to supply air to the fIre,      residentsabandoned    their cars and start-           interface fires can affect city residents
and when thesewinds combine with the           ed running, worsening the congestion.                 too, so they, like the population in rural
strong prevailing winds, a turbulence          Unfortunately, 25 people, mostly those                America, have to be aware of the dan-
results that causesthe fIre to be unman-        with little warning,were overrun by the              gersandbe prepared.
          As
ageable. the combustibles      bum, buoy-                    of
                                               rapid spread the fIre.
 ant forces carry burning embersupward                                                               In its aftermath, many have qUestioned
where they eventually cool and deposit         Where defensive standswere made by                    whetherthis fIfe typifies the fire of .
                                                                                                                                           th
the still flaming materials on unaffected      the fIre fighters,high winds overpowered                                 is
                                                                                                     future.The answer that it might.
areascreatingnumerousadditional fIres.                       gas
                                               fire streams, lines ruptured,electrical
This was the chaosthat f11'e  fighters fIrst   power failed, and water reservoirsdried


                                                                   4
     Thegeneralarea in
    whichthe fire occurred
     is near the cities of
              and
    Oakland Berkeley,
                The
    California. area
              the
    includes major
    commuting     routes,
                24
    Highways and13, to
                                                                     CUBE
                                                    J. SMALLEY/PICTURE                J. SMALLE
    thesecities andto San                                                                      (/PICTURE   CUBE                          NIST



                                                face.The "interface" is whereman-made              their homesfrom wildfIres worsened.On
    Francisco,   less than 20 miles                             and
                                                developments wildland fuels meetat                the same day as the famous Great
    from the site. Thehighways                  a well-defined boundary. It is also an            Chicago Fire, October 8, 1871,a lesser
    alsoconnectto the Caldecott                 area where, becauseof its dense fuels,             known but equally intense wildfire
                                                wildland fires can and do occur. The              destroyed the community of Peshtigo,
            that
    Tunnel providescommuters                     impact of wildfIres in the wildland/urban        Wisconsin.An isolated lumber town sur-
    accessto the bedroomcommu-                  interface has increased proportionately           roundedby woods,Peshtigohad wooden
                                                 with the dramatic surge of people mov-           sidewalksas well as combustibleroofs.
    nities further north.                       ing to theseareas.   The numberof people           A dry summerand fall made vegetation
   The various residences within the            movingto andbuilding in wildland areas                              to
                                                                                                  more susceptible fIre, and high winds
   Oakland and Berkeley Hills are located       has grown dramatically over the last 25           spreadit rapidly. Whenthe fire wasover,
~ong       the mountain-liketerrain that rise                      the
                                                years increasing risk of a devastating            the community had been leveled, and
    from the base of their cities. To the       fire. Our population has glorified the             800 people in and around Peshtigohad
   casual observer,the homes are camou-         tranquility of life in the woods.Nowhere          died. That day approximately300people
                                                is that more evident than in California.          perishedin the GreatChicagofIre. This
   flaged by vegetation and perhaps only
    narrow windy roads are detectable. The      But this tranquility is not without associ-       combination of dry vegetation, com-
   homesitesprovide a panoramic view of         atedrisks.                                                              and
                                                                                                  bustible construction, high winds has
   SanFrancisco,Oakland,the GoldenGate                                                            been a factor in virtually every wild-
                                                Before such wildlands were settled,               land/urban interfacefIre.
    Bridge, and the San FranciscoBay, thus
                                                wildfIfes would commonlyoccur but the
   providing an ideal setting for a home.
                                                fires would have a cleansing effect on            One wildland fire of more recent times
   Becauseof its setting, the Oakland and
                                                the forests,clearing out thick standsof           was the Santa Barbara "Paint" Fire in
   Berkeley Hills have been a magnet for
                                                trees and consumingweakenedor dead                June 1990, which had many similarities
   people seekingto "get away from it all"
                                                vegetation.They would spawnnew life               to the fire in the OaklandHills. Preceded
   while still having accessto it all. Many
                                                into the forest. As man began to move             by a four-year drought,the arson-caused
   peopleworked a lifetime to afford hous-
                                                 closer to the forests, many of the fires         fIre was ignited during a time of record
   es in the area, most of which cost more
                                                also beganto consume    homesand some-            heat and was spread by fierce winds,
   than a million dollars each. The homes
                                                times lives along with vegetation.With            some as high as 60 miles per hour.
   varied in designand construction,but, in
                                                                  the
                                                man's entrance, cleansingbenefit of               Flammable wood shingle roofs were a
   general, most were wood frame con-
                                                the fires and other natural effects were          major factor in the fire that killed one
   struction and most were single-family
                                                          We
                                                changed. beganto suppress fIfes,the               person and destroyed $250 million of
   detacheddwellings. There was, howev-
                                                                                 this
                                                as we well should,but in a sense can              public and private buildings, including
   er, a 400-unit apartment complex near
                                                                             the
                                                have the effect of increasing severity            438 family dwellings, a 28-unit apart-
   the entranceto the CaldecottTunnel and
                                                of wildfires if other measuresare not             mentcomplex,and 15businesses.
   a cluster of hundreds of townhomes in
   the Hiller Highlandarea.                     imposed.
                                                                                                  Closerto Oaklandand also similar to the
                                                Even in colonial times, when virtually            1991 fire was the wildfire northeastof
a'erhaps    not known to those moving into
                                                every settlement formed its own mini              Berkeley, which began in September
.r     already living in the Hills was that
                                                wildland/urban interface, wildfire must           1923.It spreadquickly, moving from the
    they were living in an area having the
                                                have terrified the settlers.As towns and          fields to structuresin the city within two
                   of
    characteristics a wildland/urbaninter-
                                                villages grew, the dangerto people and            hours of ignition. The fire burned 130


                                                                            5
acres, 584 buildings, and caused $10           and "backfiring" to remove adjacent            urban fires are likely to be structural,
million in damages.                            fuels. This procedureworks againstthe          people put their emphasison preparing
                                               need to protect individual homes.              for those fires and forget the dangers
Furthennore, in September1970, a fire          Committing major resourcesto protect-          they'll face in a fast-moving wildlance
in the East Bay Hills southeastof the          ing individual homescan lessen abil-
                                                                             the              fire.
University of California Berkeley cam-         ity to controlthe wildfire.
pus destroyed38 homes,damaged7 oth-                                                                           for
                                                                                              To compensate thesespecialproblem
ers, and caused$3.5 million in damages.        Another serious problem in wildland            areas,someareasin California are legal-
Ironically, some of the homesdestroyed         fIres is that wildland fIre-fighting tactics   ly designated as hazardous fire areas
in that fire were rebuilt, then destroyed      differ from structural fire-fighting tac-      where special fire protection measures
againin the 1991blaze.                         tics, and expertsin one type of fIre may       are required. The law defines a haz-
                                               not be trained or equippedto handlethe         ardous fife area as any land covered by
December1980 sawyet anotherfIfe, this          othertype. The fIrst responding   units in a   grass,grain, brush,or forest, privately or
one emerging from Wildcat Canyon               wildland/urban interface fire are some-        publicly owned, that is so inaccessible
located just north of the 1991 fire in         times from agencies   primarily concerned      that a fire there would be abnormally
Berkeleyto destroy6 homesandinjure 3           with wildland fires. However, they can         hard to suppress.In practice, however,
peoplewithin 20 minutes.                       also come from agencies whose main             areas wherebuildings canbe accessed    by
                                               experience and expertise is in battling                                       to
                                                                                              pavedroads aren't considered present
After the 1923 wildflTe in Berkeley,the        structuralfIres.                               abnormally difficult fire suppression
City Council passedlegislationrequiring
                                                                                              problems,and so they aren't considered
fire-resistive wood coverings for roofs,       It is not unusual for people in major          hazardous under the law. All the resi-
then rescinded the legislation before it       cities like Oaklandand Berkeleyto have         dences in the Oakland Hills fire were
could take effect. The Oakland area            difficulty believing that a major wildfIre                by
                                                                                              accessible paved roads,howevernar-
destroyed in the 1991 fire had no local        can happen in their area. Most city            row and winding, so they were not desig-
flTe protection regulations on flTe-resis-     dwellers consider their surroundingsto                             fife
                                                                                              natedashazardous areas.
tive roofs. Ironically, this issue still has   be more urban than rural. Since most
not beenfully resolvedin this country.                                                        Cross-training of fire fighters can go a



                                                                                                                                     .
                                                                                              long way toward solving these tactical
                             a
In 1982,Berkeleydesignated sectionof
                                                                                              problems.Justas important,however,is
the city as the HazardousHill Fire Area.
                                                                                              passageof sensible fire safety regUla
This designation included a rigorous                                                          tions that prohibit dangerousbuilding
inspection program. In June 1991, four
                                                                                              practices and mandate regular inspec-
months before the fire, Berkeley passed
                                                                                              tions to ensure adequateclearance for
an ordinancerequiring ClassA roofs in a
                                                                                              vegetation.Too often,public supportfor
specific area. However, the area of the
                                                                                              those requirementsis lacking. Finally,
                by
city consumed the fITewas not part of
                                                                                              residentshave a responsibility for their
that designated area.
                                                                                              safetyas well. At a minimum, they must
Aside from their susceptibilityto dry, hot                                                    make themselvesaware of the wildfire
air, abundantparched vegetation, high                                                         potential in their areas and seek out
winds, and combustibleconstruction,all                                                        appropriate vegetation and design for
these wildland/urban interface areas                                                          their landscaping.
sharedone other risk factor: a different
level of fire protection. One of the
ironies of the migration out of cities and
into rural areasis that amongthe things
people "get awayfrom" are city services
like fire protection. People take it for
granted in the city, tend to balk at its
extra cost in rural areas,and don't even
miss it until they need it, when suddenly
they realize it may not be as quickly
                               it
availableas theyhad assumed to be.

Fire protection agenciesface special
problemsin wildland/urbaninterfaceset-
tings. Established           for
                  procedures control-
ling wildfires include sacrificing some
acresby preparinga perimeterfIre break


                                                                    G
    Severewildland/urban
    interfacefires are
    seldomdueto oneor
    two physicalfactors.
               a
    Generally, combina-
    tion of factors work in
    tandem,   spawning and
    nurturing the catastro-
                                                 J. SMALLEY {PICTURE CUBE          J. SMALlEY/PtCTURECUBE
    phe.Those   factors in
    anygivenfire are rarely                    Besideshaving a high resin contentlike          vegetationadjacentto combustiblepor-
                                               the Monterey pine and chaparral, the            tions of the homeswas a significantigni-
    unique.                                    eucalyptus has long, dry, shaggy bark           tion scenarioin this flfe.
                                               that can ignite easily. Further,its lower
    The elementsat play in the Oaklandand
                                               limbs often barely clear the ground and         The chaparralis native to California and
    Berkeley Hills included the usuaf high
                                               provide a "ladder-fuel" arrangement   that      grows on more acrid sites. Its leavesand
    temperature, low-humidity, and high-
                                               can spreadfIre (by convectioncurrents)          needleshold low levels of moisture,and
    wind conditionstypical of all suchfIres;
                                               quickly up to the crowns, which ignite,         it has a widely known and well-deserved
    a mix of easilyignitable duff-or forest-
                                               greatly increasethe intensity of the fIre,      reputation for ready flammability and
    floor material; shrubs and trees; inade-
                                               and rapidly spreadit beyondestablished          fastrate of fIfe spread.
    quate vegetation clearance; and.
                                               fIre department perimeters. The eucalyp-
      ood-frame homes, some with wood                                                          The burning of the chain of fuels in wild-
                                               tus treeswere the most prevalentof the
     hingle roofs and overhanging wood                                                         land fIres usually begins with the igni-
                                               tall vegetationin the fIre area,and were
    decks. Together they combined to pro-                                                      tion of grass, which is a light-weight,
                                               estimatedto have releasedover 70 per-
    ducea fIrestorm of suchgreatmagnitude                                                      easilyignited fuel.
                                               cent of the energyproducedby the com-
    that it could not be stopped.
                                               bustionof the vegetation.
                                                                                                Grassy areas respond more quickly to
                                               Monterey pine, chaparral, grass, and             precipitationchanges than forestedareas
                                               ornamentalspeciessuchas junipers and            do. In the rITearea,a sharpfluctuation in
   The fields of native oak trees that once    cedarswere also commonin the mix of             precipitation occurred in the spring and
   occupied the Oakland/Berkeley Hills         vegetationin the Hills. All but the grass                 of
                                                                                                summer 1991.Marchhad beena rainy
   beganto be harvestedas the population       have high resin content and can ignite           month,providing the moisturenecessary
                                   in
    in the areagrew and prospered the late     readily. Eachhas the ability, once ignit-        for the grassto grow. But, the summer
    1800s. In their place were planted mil-    ed, to produce fire intense enough to           was hot and dry, making the once-lush
   lions of eucalyptustrees thoughtto be a     ignite othercombustibles arecapable
                                                                        and                    grass, which covered wide stretchesof
    fast growing, hard wood, perfect for use   of producing airborne embers that are           the land, a rich source of dry fuel. Dry
   as railroad ties and furniture.             carriedfar from the burning site.                              a
                                                                                               grassenables rITeto move quickly over
    Unfortunately,this was not the caseand                                                     the land, but it is when the grass fire
   large standsof eucalyptustreesare com-      The Monterey pine, also characterized           comes in contact with "heavier fuels"
    mon in the Hills. Farmers also planted     by its low-growing limbs, is present            that the chain continues. While grass
   the trees to take advantageof their stur-   throughoutthe Hills in thick stands.Not         fires don't easily ignite tree canopies,
   diness as windbreaks. The wind they         only canthe Montereypine "crown" eas-           they do ignite the ladder fuels, and the
   protected against spread their seeds        ily, it will also sustain a crown fire,         flames thenquickly move up to the inter-
   throughout the Hills, so that now the       which again can out pace fire suppres-          mediate limbs, eventually engulfing the
   eucalyptuscoversthe areain thick, large     sion crews. The juniper and cedar are           tops of the trees.
   stands.  Man beganto encroach   more and    mostly presentas ornamentalvegetation
_~ore     into the Hills and eventuallybegan   around many homes. A dry-climate                Another item that played an important
wu     build homesthere and further brought    species,the juniper also ignites easily         role in the continuity of the fuel chain in
   with him an assortment of additional        and bums intensely.Cedarsare similar.           this fire was the assortmentof brush,
   vegetation.                                             of
                                               Placement theseand otherornamental              which is also a heavierfuel and tendsto
smolder, burn longer, and spew off              Clearances.One of the fundamentals      of
embers.In the Hills there was an abun-          residential fire protection in wildland
dance of scrub brush known as French            areasis the creationof safety zones,or        Combustible construction materials o~
broom.This fuel also helpedincrease  the        fire breaks, around individual homes.         the homesin the fire areaalso played ~
                              of
intensityof and further spread the fIre.        Reducingthe amountof fuel immediate-          importantrole in the devastatingeffects
                                                ly around the home helps prevent fire         of the fire. Specifically,the combustible
Thenthere are the treesthemselves,    very      spreadto the structureor from the struc-      materials used for porches, siding, and
heavy fuels which sustain burning for           ture. In the OaklandHills area,however,       roofing finish wereidentified.
long periods of time. When fire climbs          many homeowners did not take that
the fuel ladderto the tree crown, it easily     basic precaution. The result was that         Roof construction in the Oakland Hills
ignites adjacenttree tops with heatradi-        embersignited vegetation,which in turn        area varied and included asphalt shin-
ated and convectedto them. Thoseareas           ignited homes,and massiveembersfrom           gles, ceramic tiles, and wood shingles.
of the Hills that experienced crown fife
                              a                  burning structures were driven by the        Despitethe variety, the vast majority of
showed the area had an intense fire.            winds to other areas where they, too,         the homeshad combustibleroofs. Roofs
Heavier fuels, characteristically, once         ignited the fuel chain that led to destruc-   are not all created equal. Some offer
 ignited, can bum for days until con-           tion.                                         more protection from fire than others.
sumed or extinguishedthrough a labor-                                                         Class A roofs protect againstfIre brands
intensiveeffort.                                Juniper and other vegetation were in          weighing more than four pounds.Class
                                                somecasesright up against and touching        C roofs offer much less defense,with-
Further contributing to the available           homes. Eucalyptus and Monterey pine            standingbrands weighing no more than
fuels of this fire were the leaves and          treestouchedeachotherand spreadover           one third of an ounce, or aboutthe size
branches of the eucalyptus trees and            the roofs of houses. Further, shrubs,         of a kitchenmatch.Untreatedwood shin-
ornamental vegetation in the fire area          small trees, and other vegetation were        gle roofs offer evenlessprotection.New
that had beenkilled by an unusualfreeze         allowed to grow under the overhanging         treatments  suchaspressure  treatmentcan
the previous December.This made the             wood decksof somehomes,providing a            improve the ignition resistanceof wood
trees easyto ignite, which addedto the          ready path for fire spreadto the build-       roofing. Yet, even roofs whose wood
 already abundant and volatile natural          ings. Steepslopes also acceleratedthe          shingleshave beendipped in fire retar-
 fuel mixture in the area.                      fIre spread.                                   dant (another current method) can lose
                                                                                                                        due
                                                                                               their protectivetreatment to weathera
             of
Regardless the way in which this just           The Hills residents who thought they           ing. To maintaintheir protectivecoatin.
describedmix of fuels becomesignited,           werefar awayfrom the rising smokecol-          theseshinglesshouldbe treatedvirtually
it is not only the intensity of the resulting                              by
                                                umnbeganto be bombarded a shower               everyyear, which is, of course,impracti-
                 the
fIre that causes rapid spread,but also          of burning embersthat ignited the vege-        cal.
their ability to cause "spotting" that          tation around their homes.Many tried to
makes wildfires so dangerous.Spotting           extinguishthosefIres with gardenhoses         The roof is the mostvulnerablepart of a
is the carrying of burning leaves and           to no avail.                                  building in a fire. That vulnerability is
embers by the wind or the convection                                                                                   if
                                                                                              dramaticallyincreased the roof iscov-
column from the fIre to unaffectedareas,        Evidence of the benefit of adequate           ered with untreatedwood shingles.Over
which then ignite combustible roofs,            clearance was abundant in the aftermath       time, rain, weathering, and the sun
 ornamental  shrubsand bushes,     and other    of the fIre. In some cases,homes facing       crackedthe shinglesand curled them up
vegetation.Strong winds and the in-rush         one street survived the fire, while homes     so they became    effective embercatchers.
 of air needed for the fire's combustion        also facing the street on the opposite        In more than one case,a home with a
process are the driving forces behind           block were destroyed. That is because         wood shingleroof was severely      damaged
spotting. The long leaves of eucalyptus         the combined backyard distance, when          or burnedto the ground,while homeson
trees are especially susceptibleto spot-        not filled with an overgrowth of vegeta-      either side of it with clay tile roofs were
ting. Their shapeand light weight give          tion, slowed the fIre enough for effective    relatively undamaged.    Many of the roofs
 them airfoil characteristics. They float       fire suppression. Among the common            were flat or sloped with overhanging
 along easily in a wind. Spotting was a         factors that surviving homes shared was       eaves.Overhanging      eavesposea danger
 major factor in the spread of this fire,       a large, clear yard.                          becausethey are exposedon the under-
 and a major reason initial fire crews                                                        side to burning vegetation.Further, flat
 could not containthe fIre. Thesenumer-          Large thick stands of the trees can also     roofs were able to collect fallen leaves
 ous secondaryfires caused by spotting           benefit through proper clearances.           and needles,  and burning embers.Roofs
 can combine into a massive firestorm            Thinning of the stands to reduce the like-   on the three-story, wood-frame
 and/or spreadfIre suppression      forces so    lihood of heat radiating from a fire and     Parkwood Apartments were flat and
 thin, over a suchwide area,that they are        igniting adjacent trees has proven to be
                                                                                              illustrated such an ignition scenari6
 ineffective.                                    an effective method to slow the spread of     when many of the roofs beganto bu.
                                                 a wildland flfe.
                                                                                              intensely.



                                                                     8
     Some roofs were built of clay tile and       Fourth, homes on steep slopes were               Rainfall in the Oakland and Berkeley
     terminatedat the edge of exterior walls.     extremely vulnerable. Due to preheating          Hills area had been particularly low
IAThis type of roof covering performed            of vegetation, the fIfe ran up steep slopes      before the fire. For five years prior to
 .-:nuch better in the perimeter areas            like flames up an upturned match. Some            1991, the area had experienced drought
     because fire fighters could extinguish       of the slopes in the fIfe area were at a 58      conditions. Coupled with the lack of pre-
     embers before the roof could become          percent, or 30-degree,pitch. That made it        cipitation was especially low relative
     ignited.                                     as difficult for fIfe fighters to traverse as    humidity-the     ratio of the amount of
                                                  it was easy for the fIfe to travel. Further,     moisture in a volume of air to the total
    Virtually every major wildland/urban          building on a slope often means there is         that the air can hold at a given tempera-
    interface fIre in recent years has spread     an open area under the house. This open          ture and atmospheric pressure.
     faster than it otherwise might have or has   area poses a major exposure to flame
    increased the amount of damage because        fronts and radiant energy, and provides a        Relative humidity and temperature are
    of wood shitigle roofs.                       clear path for fIfe spread to the structure      interrelated. As the temperature rises,
                                                  itself. In this fIfe, there was another criti-   relative humidity drops. If the tempera-
    There are five other noteworthy points        cal factor in building on slopes. Once the       ture rises by 200F, the relative humidity
    about residential construction and this       fIfe reached, ignited, and consumed the          will drop by about 50 percent. Relative
    wildflfe:                                                                                      humidity controls the moisture content of
                                                  home, structural collapse occurred,
                                                  allowing burning automobiles to roll             fuels, and therefore their susceptibility to
     First, most of the townhouses in the
                                                  from garages and down the slopes. These          fIre. Fuels with 20 percent moisture can
     Hiller Highlands subdivision were
                                                  automobiles blocked the roads for sup-           catch fire; light fuels with 2 percent
     attached. Vegetation spread throughout
                                                  pression crews and evacuating residents.         moisture can bum like gasoline. Relative
     many of the open areas and touched
                                                                                                   humidity in the Oakland and Berkeley
     some of the buildings. The fire took         Fifth, the contribution of wood framing          Hills on the day of the fIre was 16 per-
     aboutan hour to move throughthe com-         to the overall spread of the fire was            cent, while the temperature was 920F, a
     munity and destroy every building in
                                                                         to
                                                  insignificantcompared the role of eas-           record high that surpassedprevious highs
     sight. But, largely due to the spacingof
                                                  ily ignitable vegetation, combu&tible            by 6 degrees. The combination             of
    the units, the burning was more charac-
                                                  roofing and siding, and burning brands.          drought and low relative humidity dried
    teristic of an urban conflagrationthan a
                                                  Failure of wood-framingmembers to  led           out the vegetation, eliminating whatever
     typical wildland/urban interface fire.       structural collapse,but only after a long        potential it might have had to resist or
.nce       a unit or severalunits were ignited,   and intense exposure that far exceeded            slow down flames. Any open flaming
    the raging fire easily negated the one-
                                                  conditionshumanscould havesurvived.              held the potential of causing a disaster.
     hour fire walls separating the units.
     Soon,blocks of the building burned,and                                                        Wind. Of all the weatherelements   affect-
     that, too, affected the conflagration's                                                       ing wildland fIres,wind is the mostvari-
    spread.                                       Weathercontributesas much to the life            able and leastpredictable.The shapeof
                                                  of a wildfire as the fuels do.                   the terrain and local heating and cooling
             the
    Second, lower floor of the Parkwood
                                                  Temperature,lack of precipitation, and           affect wind behavior. In turn, wind
    Apartments included a concrete-rein-
                                                  humidity provide the conditionsfor a fire        affectsfIres by carrying away moisture-
    forced garage for cars. That concrete
                                                  to start, and wind nourishes the blaze,                               the
                                                                                                   ladenair, hastening drying of vegeta-
    structure survived the fIfe well, and the
                                                  spreadingit throughspotting or by caus-          tion, adding oxygen to a fire, carrying
    cars parked inside incurred little or no
                                                  ing direct flame impingement on com-             burning embers that ignite other com-
    damage, showing the benefit of fire-
                                                  bustibles.                                       bustibles, and pushing flames in the
    resistiveconstruction.
                                                                                                   direction of virgin fuels. Wind, in short,
    Third, the fire provided further evidence     Like the vegetativefuels themselves,the          strongly influences the direction of
    that double-pane windows appear to            different weather characteristics work           spreadof a wildfIre. Nearly 90 percentof
    resist breakageand reducethe transmis-        togetherto form a systemthat is either           the large southernCalifornia wildfire~
    sion of radiant energyin a fire, especial-    hospitableor inhospitable wildfIre.
                                                                            to                                  in
                                                                                                   documented the lastthreequartersof a
    ly in the perimeter areas of the burn.                                                         century have taken place between
                                                  Moisture. The moisture content of fuels          September   and December-the season
    Such windows in dwellings in the
                                                  is a critical variable. Naturally, the drier     of the Santa Ana winds. Those winds
    Oakland Hills for the most part helped
                                                                                  it
                                                  the fuel, the more susceptible is to fife.       come less frequently to northern
    protect the interiors of the homes. Even
                                                  The moisture in fuels comes from rain-           California,but they do occurthere.
    in areasof maximumfire intensity,they
                                                  fall andrelativehumidity. Averageannu-
    showedtheir protectivepotential. In one
                                                   al rainfall along some parts of the             Dry easterlywinds that average8 to 25
    case, even when the outer panes of a
                                                  northernCalifornia coastcan be as low            miles per hour, and dry northeasterly
.indow        crackeddue to intenseheat, the
                                                  as 20 to 30 inches, althoughother areas          winds that average 15 to 30 miles per
    interior panesremainedintact.
                                                  in the state can experienceas much as            hour are prevalentin northernCalifornia
                                                   150inches.                                      from July throughSeptember.  That peri-


                                                                        9
od is one of critical fire danger. So-       The Red Flag program deals with the           minute, and then the next minute it was
called "Diablo" winds occur in the area      extremeend of the fIfe rating system-         behind them. The winds preheated
in May and October.Thesewinds occur          when the CDF foreseesextremecondi-            everything in their path. These condi-6-
when an inversion layer builds up in the     tions they put up red flags and broadcast     tions createda totally unmanageable  sit-.
Bay area and forces air moving west          warnings so fIfe officials can take extra     uation rife with terror for residents
from the San JoaquinValley to speedup                     As
                                             precautions. the CDF anticipated,     the     caught up in it and struggling to find a
as it movesdownthe west,or lee,side of       Diablo wind phenomenon occurred               way out of the area.
the hills. When it can go no furtherlater-   October 20. Early that day, the winds
ally, it moves up and over the ridges and    shifted to the northeastand the relative      Another phenomenonthat led to rapid
then down. As it flows downward, it          humidity dropped. Wind velocity               spreadof the fIre was developmentof a
increases temperature.
           in                                increased the high teensand low twen-
                                                       to                                  thermal inversionlayer. The smoke and
                                             ties. By the time the fIfe rekindled, the     heat from a fire will rise only until their
Therewas virtually no wind on Saturday,      wind in the Oakland Hills was blowing         temperature  equalsthat of the surround-
October19,the daybeforethe conflagra-        at 17 miles per hour, with gusts to 25        ing air. Then,the smokeand heat flatten
tion, just a five-mile-per-hour breeze       miles per hour. Somereports of condi-         out and spreadhorizontally. The thermal
from the northeast. Nevertheless, the        tions later in the day said winds were        inversion layer during the OaklandHills
California Departmentof Forestry and         gustingto 38-58miles perhour.                 fIre was at 3,500 feet. The layer trapped
Fire Protection(CDF) issueda Red Flag                                                      heat from the fire and spread it out,
warning that day and the following day.      The Diablo winds are "foehn" winds that       adding to the preheating of vegetation
The reasonwas that a stronghigh-pres-        force the convection currents down                           in
                                                                                           and structures the area.
sure area in Oregonand the Great Basin       against the natural flow that normally
on Saturday was threatening to send          blows up the hills. The result in this fIfe   By approximately7 p.m. on Sunday,the
strong northerly winds to the Hills area     was wild turbulencethat sentembersin          winds slowed to about five miles per
and lower the relative humidity.             severaldirections.The phenomenon      was     hour. They also shifted and began to
Actually, precursorsof those winds had       a swirling effect much like a tornado,        blow over the areasalreadyburned.The
moved into the area a week before and        picking up embers from one place and          combination of decreasedvelocity and
replacedthe moisture-laden that nor-
                            air              depositing them in another. From the          changein directionto an areaof virtually
mally would have swept in from the           perspective of the fire fighters on the       no live fuel helped fIfe fightersbring the
Pacific.                                     scene,the fIfe was in front of them one       fIfe undercontrol.




                                                                 10
                                                                                                                           KlVU-lV/OAKlANO
                    I
  Originandspread.Thearea                      around the perimeter. Only one section       growing fire. By 11:15 a.m., the fire
                                               of fIre-line constructionwas undertaken.     blew out of the canyonand within min-
  where the fire started was a                                            the
                                               Fire fighting forcessoaked restof the        utes it was out of control.
  "box canyon"with steepslopes                 perimeterwith water from hoselines and
                                                                                            At fIrst, the fIre ran uphill from its point
  andcontoursthat hadformed                    helicopterdrops.
                                                                                            of origin to Grizzly Peak Boulevard.
  over the years from wind and                 Within and outside the burn there was        Then, the winds changedand blew the
  water drainage.Once   ignited,               densecoverageof Monterey pines, and          fire in several directions at the same
                                               duff underthose pines was abouta foot        time. A classic foehn wind also pushed
                       are
  fuelswithin a canyon pre-                    deep. Further,the heatfrom the fife pro-     the fire downhill toward Buckingham
.heated, canmore easilyignite,                 duced greater-than-normalneedle cast         Place as fast as it was going uphill. In
                                               from the pine trees, which added fresh       minutes,the winds shifted again and the
_nd are more apt to further                    kindling to accumulatedduff about the        fire spread eastward toward the
  ignite adjacentcombustibles.                 fire area. It is known by wildland fire      ParkwoodApartmentsnearthe Caldecott
                                               fighters that fire burns freely in the top   Tunnel. Another wind shift sent the
  Strongupslopewinds arealso common            layer of duff in such fife scenarios,but     flames southwest    toward the townhomes
  in canyons. Winds are drawnin from the       smoldersdeepwithin the duff because     of   in the Hiller Highlands.Pine trees in the
  bottom (especiallyon warm days)which         the lack of oxygen. Water extinguishes       areacrowned and other vegetationburst
                  and
  further preheat dry fuels. The               the surfaceflames but combineswith ash       into flames. Soonhomeswere threatened
  "walls" of the canyonthen containthe         and charcoalto form a crust; the smol-                                      to
                                                                                            and fIre fighters scrambled containthe
  heatfrom a fIre. As a result,fIres in        dering continuesunder the crust, some-                                     the
                                                                                            fIre. Then,spottingspread fIre across
  canyonsare an efficient mechanism     for    times for days.                              Highway 24 and pointed it toward Lake
  intenseburning.                                                                           Temescal. Meanwhile, another flame
                                             When the fIfe fighters thought they had        front rushed northwest toward the
   The fIre in this canyonmight haveerupt-   extinguished the fire early Saturday           Claremont Hotel and into the city of
   ed a day earlier than it did had the day  evening, they left the scene. Early
   not beenunusuallycalm for that time of                                                   Berkeley.
                                             Sundaymorning, they returnedto "mop
   year. On Saturday,October 19, a fIre of                                                  The spotting soon turned the fire into
                                             up."
   suspicious origin started near 7151                                                      numerous  large fIfes. The winds causeda
   BuckinghamDrive; an areanear the top      Overnight, however, the heat buried in         downward acceleration as the fire
   of the Hills near Grizzly PeakBoulevard.  the duff at the fIre site intensified.So too   descended along the ridge between
   But the almost pleasant,five-mile-per-    did the local winds. By IO:45.a.m.             Marlborough Terrace and Hiller
   hour breeze was too gentle to push the    Sunday,while fire fighters were on the         Highlands consuming everything in its
   flames very far from their point of ori-  scenemopping up, sparks burst out of           path. The fIfe burned with suchintensity
   gin. Sixteen engine companies, four       the duff. They were quickly picked up by       that it consumed 790 structures within
   patrol wagons, and a helitac unit from~reaconvectivecurrentsandcarriedby strong          the first hour, arid spread about 1.67
         fire departments aggressively       winds out of the northeast    portion of the   metersper second.
yttacked the 5-acre fire and brought it      fIre areato nearbyvegetation.     The winds
   under control in about three hours. Fire  (17 miles per hour, gusting to 25 miles        The fIre also sweptaroundthe mouth of
   fighters relied heavily on wet lines      per hour) actedlike bellows on the now         the CaldecottTunnel into the area south



                                                                   11
of Highway 24. Parts of the Upper            mind that the OaklandHills wildfIre was       However,before reachingthe fIrestonn
Rockridgeareaignited due to winds and        not particularly intenseand hot as wild-      level, a fire passes through another
spotting. By noon, the fire had burned       fIres go. WildfIres of this type, with the    phase.The fuels combine with wind and
about40 percentof the areaultimatelyto       mix of fuels primed to burn and the high                   to
                                                                                           temperature build a fIre into a confla-
be affected. Included at this time were      winds to nourish and spreadthe flames,        gration,typical of the kind that occasion-
the ParkwoodApartmentsand the Hiller         can easily reach 2,000 degrees F and          ally devastates cities. Examplesinclude
Highland townhomes. But as the fire                                      can
                                             spreadfasterthana person run.                 the Chelsea,Massachusetts,     conflagra-
spread south and west, it slowed some-                                                     tion in the late 1970s and the Great
what becausethe land there was flatteI       The Oakland Hills fire, as many other         Chicago Fire of the last century.
and there was more open space. By 5          wildland/urbaninterfacefIres, developed       Conflagrations need the right weather
                           and
p.m., coolertemperatures decreasing          fIrestormconditions. Within 15 minutes        and climatic conditions to continue
wind velocity halted the fire's advance,     of ignition of the fIrst structure,the fire   building in intensity. When the intensity
but the intensity of the fire, much of it    developedinto at leastone and possibly        reachesconflagrationand then fIrestonn
                        of
coming from thousands burning struc-         two firestorms.                               proportions, the fire can develop a fire
tures,would require manymore hoursof                                                       front that will actuallymove away from
burning before it would subside.            Firestormsdevelopwhenthe heat,gases,           the directionof the wind.
                                            and motion of a fIfe build up to the point
                                            where they begin to create their own           The OaklandHills fire achievedall three
                Intensity                   weather and wind, independent of the           of theseconditions. The hot, dry, high-
The fire that raged in the Hills was terri- external conditions. Firestorms pull air       speedwinds, and dry, overgrown,close-
fying. It reachedtemperatures high as1,000
                                 as         into the baseof the ft;re,the fIfe beginsto    ly spaced vegetation triggered a
        degrees F, hot enough to boil       feed itself, and towering convection           ~onfl~gration that built up to firest°nf
                                                                                           mtenslty and eventually developedsev- -
asphalt.Temperatures      reachedcremato-   columns result in long-distancespotting
rium-level. Still, it's importantto keepin  andtornado-likevortices.                       eral fife fronts. The combinationof spot-



                                                                 12
         ting and wind-driven flames spreadthe         the streetat 7200and the houseat 7235.        spread of the fire. Additional units
         fIfe in severaldirections at once. But as     They fought valiantly, holding positions      responding to the area found adjacent
         the fire swept west, it slowed when it        until the last possibleminute. The wind       areasbuniing too, and began to engage
         reached flatter terrain and less open         was so strong that it bent500-GPMhose         those fires. However, they also found
         space. Still, the topography in other         streams(at 100 psi) 90 degrees. Seventy-      that the fires were overrunning their
         areas, such as Broadway Terrace, kept         five-GPM streams    were completelyinef-      positions. That was the early picture
         the fIfe burning fiercely. By 5 p.m., cool-   fective. Air attackswere also ineffective,    being relayed to the incident command
         er temperatures   and a dramaticdecrease      at leastduring the fJrstthreehoursof the      structurefrom all respondingunits. Such
         in wind halted the fire's progress. In        fIre due to strong winds, the continuous      unprecedented and rapid fire spread
         effect, nature gave the fire back to the      fuel chain, and heavy smoke that              made it impossibleto establisha coordi-
         fIfe fighters so they could bring it under    obscuredvisibility. Residents,off-duty        natedattack.
         control. In the 10 hours the fIfe roared      teachers, and other civilians helped fIre
         through the Oakland and BerkeleyHills         fighters, and the Oakland and Berkeley          Coordination of the attack by the inci-
         it ignited one building every11 seconds.      departmentsused wildland tactics like           dentcommandwas alsohampered the     by
                                                       bulldozing fIre breakswhere that seemed         inability to directly communicate with
                                                       advantageous.   Thosetactics only helped        mutual aid fire departments arriving
                                                       alongthe eastand westflanks of the fIre.        from aroundthe state.There was plenty
          Public-protection-agency  response the
                                            to                                                         of fIre for all arriving units, however,so
          fire was massiveand swift. But the fire            fighters' fIrst reactionto the fIre wasto they beganto stakeout areasfor a defen-
          was, too. Fire behavior was so extreme           retreat to perimeter areas, attack the      sive stand. The efforts of mutual aid
       .~at fire fighters could not savethe resi-      fIre, and summonhelp. While additional          companies   were complicatedhoweverby
       9dence at 7151 Buckingham Boulevard,            alarmswerebeing sent,however,the ini-tial the lack of compatibility of their hose
          near the point of its origin. They were,          crews could not establisheffective         connectionswith Oakland's hydrantsys-
          however, able to save the house across       perimeter areas because of the rapid            tem.



                                                                           13

Fire
                                                     One fire fighter died while shielding a      The steep hills interfered with radio
                                                     woman from a live power line that fell       transmissions, especially those from
                                                     on both of them. A police officer waskilled  hand-held radios. Finally, communica-a
                                                             while trying to lead residents ofthe tions between Oakland and Berkeley.
                                                           Hiller Highlands neighborhood to       were hamperedbecausethe direct-dial
                                                     safety when they were overrun by the         tactical line (TAC) that links East Bay
                                                     fIfe.                                                         was
                                                                                                  fire departments down.

                                                                                                      Despite the many hindrances,    fIfe fight-
                                                                                                      ers did their bestto control this blaze.In
                                                          Incident Command System (ICS)               the end, however, the fire followed its
                                                     developed by the Southern California             own course. There really was little fIfe
                                                     Fire Serviceand the U.S. ForestService           fighters could do until the winds subsid-
                                                     in the 1970sallows for unification and           ed.
                                                     coordination of multiple jurisdictions
                                                                to
                                                     responding a fIfe.

                                                                                                      Virtually no water-supplysystemmighthave
                                                                                                                             for
                                                                                                            beenadequate a wildfIre of this
                                                                                                      magnitude. Eleven pressurezoneswere
                                                                                                      in the district, nine of which were affect-
                                                                                                      ed by the fire. There were one or more
                                                                                                      reservoirs per zone, each with between
                                                                                                      400,000 and one million gallons of
                                                                                                      water.Pumpingstationslinked the reser-
                                                                                                      voirs, and draw-downs from the reser-
                                                                                                      voirs activated  them. However,therewas
                                                                               E. LEDESMA,SIPAPRESS
                                                                                                      no auxiliary powersupply.
                                                     The coordinationof the activities of this
                                                     manyresponders   was extremelydifficult          The entire systemhad beendesignedf04
      Commandand coordinationof fife units           due to the intensity and rapid spreadof          nomlal operations. Emergencyreserves
      improved as time went on, but they were        this fire. Coordination was worsened             were in placeto minimize temporarydis-
      never ideal. As weather conditions                      the
                                                     because communications       systemwas           ruptions, and f!re fighting reserveswere
      improved,it became    possibleto establish     quickly overwhelmedby the volume of              among them. The fire fighting reserves
      perimeter areas. Fire crews were still         telephoneand radio traffic generated  by         were designed for "nomlal" fires. This
      subjectedto the full intensity of the fife,    responding           and
                                                                 elements the public, who             wasno nomlal f!re.
      but they were now able to effectively          werepleadingfor information.
      suppress  ignition of homes.Crews could
      break the chain of combustiblesthat had        During the first 12 hours of the fire,
      earlier led to the total destruction of        conimunications after fire spread,were
      homes.Hosestreams      became  effective in    the biggestproblem that public agencies
                                                     faced. The result was uncoordinated
      extinguishing burning vegetation,wood
       siding, and spotfifes on roofs. Still, they   action,losing requestsfor resources,and
      were helpless in extinguishingthe rapid                                         to
                                                     an inability of field commanders get
                                                     an accuratepicture of overall suppres-
      propagation caused by the ignition of
      homeswith wood shingles.                       sion efforts and resources committed or
                                                     available.Field commanders   resortedto
      There is little doubt regardingthe effec-      self-assigning their units where they
      tive role fIre fighters played in the reduc-   thoughttheywereneeded.                   The rapid spreadof fire causednumer-
      tion of loss of life and property in this                                               ous power failures. As housesincinerat-
      fIre. The fIre scenariothey fIrst encoun-           Oakland Dispatch Center had notelephone
                                                                                              ed, their water service lines ruptured.
      tered stackedthe cards againstthem, yet                   lines reserved for outgoing   The result was a drain on reservoirs,
      in spite of this they fought the fire          calls. As available incoming lines were  sincethe water kept flowing. For exam-
                                                     flooded with calls, dispatcherscould not ple, ruptured water lines at the burning
      assumingthey would not survive. Their
      valiant efforts began to payoff as the         make outgoing calls. Radio frequencies, Parkwood Apartments complex draine~;i
      winds subsided and the fire spread             including the mutual aid frequencies,    reservoirsin that zone. That led to aban-WJ
      sloweddown.                                    were saturated.Somefield elements  tried donmentof suppression    efforts in other
                                                     reachingdispatchon cellular telephones.  areasof the zone becausehydrants ran


                                                                        14

The
  dry. In one area,watertendersand other
  fire engines transported water to fire
             on
t companies the scene.

  Eight pumping stations and 10 residen-
  tial reservoirswere lost in the first half-
  hour of the fIre due to power disruptions
  to pumping stations. By 5 p.m. on
  Sunday,the fIrst day of the fIre, 10 key
  reservoirs were dry. It is estimatedthat
  more than 20 million gallons of water
  wereusedto extinguishthis fire.

  Oakland's fire hydrants have one or
  more standardthree-inch-thread    outlets.
  Other California cities and towns have
  hydrantswith two-and-a-half-inch-thread
  outlets. Except for those departmentsin
  cities immediately adjacentto Oakland,
  to whom Oakland had previously sup-
                                                                                                               OAKLAND
                                                                                                     R. WARWICK.      TRIBUNE
  plied the appropriateadapters,  respond-
  ing fIfe departments could not connectto
  the hydrants.Those few departments    that
  did have the required adapters usually
  left thembehind whenthey were overrun
  by the fire, and therefore did not have
  them when they got to their next posi-
  tion.

.ven     if the water supply system had
   beengreater, therehad beenan emergen-
   cy power supply, and the hydrants all
   had the two-and-a-half-inch       offi-
                              threads,
   cials question whether it would have
   mademuchdifferencein a fire as violent
                  as
   and widespread this one.

             Narrow roads
  Another major hindranceto fIfe fighting
  was the systemof narrow,winding roads
                                                                                                      M. MAGOR, OAKLAND TRIBUNE
  in the fIfe area, manyof which endedin
  cul-de-sacs. Fire apparatus could not      Road.Eight othersdied on narrowstreets   requested one engine company each
  pass each other or the cars filled with    in the samearea.                         from Alameda,Alameda Naval Station,
  fleeing residents. Traffic jams devel-                                              Emeryville,LawrenceBerkeleyLab, and
  oped,especiallynearthe large apartment                  Mutualaid                   SanLeandro.It then askedContra Costa
  complex. Many apartment residents                                                   and SanFranciscofor 10 enginecompa-
  abandoned their cars in frustration so     Mutual aid for the Oakland Fire                                       one
                                                                                      nies each.Berkeleyrequested engine
  they could run to safety.The abandoned Department is secured through the            companyeachfrom Albany, Emeryville,
  cars,in turn, servedas roadblocksto fIfe   Alameda County Fire Mutual Aid Plan.     and Lawrence Berkeley Lab, and two
  fighters and other residents. Downed       Inter-regional resourcesare mobilized    strike teams from Alameda County.
  power lines further impeded evacuation     through the State Fire and Rescue        Between11:40 a.m. on October20 and 5
  down the narrow roads. Someapparatus Coordinatorof the Office of Emergency          p.m. on October23, fIfe officials placed
                                             Services.
  and private vehicles were trapped for(I'°urs                                        17separate         for
                                                                                                 requests mutual aid.
        on theseroads.
                                             Within an hour after the fire erupted,   In total, the Oakland and Berkeley fire
  Elevenof the fIfe victims died as flames   Oakland requested mutual aid in the      departments   were assistedby 88 engine
  caught up with them while they were        form of air attack from the California   strike teams, 6 air tankers, 16 helitac
  trappedin a traffic jam on Chafing Cross   Department of Forestry. The city also    units, 8 communications units, 2 man-


                                                              15
agementteams, 2 mechanics,and more             left on their own without waiting for         and police officials hamperedevacuation
than 700 searchand rescue personnel.           assistance.                                   coordination.
                                offi-
Additionally, 767 law-enforcement
                   the
cers supplemented efforts of the two           On the other hand, the fIfe fighters had to   The majority of the fatalities occurred tot
cities' police departments, and the            force some residents to evacuate. Other       individuals who had little warning of the
California Office of Emergency                 residents returned to the area to check on    pending disaster. As a result, their posi-
Services,       Federal       Emergency        friends, relatives, valuables, and the sta-   tions were overrun by the rapidly spread-
Management Agency, the Red Cross,              tus of their homes, and fIfe fighters had      ing fire. One fire fighter and a police
and the Salvation Army pitched in to           to re-evacuate them. Some civilians, pos-      officer sacrificed their lives trying to
help.                                          ing as volunteers, entered the fire area      save residents. The police officer gath-
                                               and looted homeE.                             ered several individuals into his squad
                                                                                             car hoping that they would survive the
                Utilities                      Evacuations were conducted on a per-           fury of the fire. Unfortunately,    their
                                               sonal, one-on-one basis. Oakland chose        escape route was blocked and the fire
When the power lines were knocked
                                               not to use the Emergency Broadcast            moved past them.
down by the fire, electricity was not
                                               System, feeling it was inefficient. The
available to the pumping stations set up
                                               lack of a common radio frequency at the
to refIll reservoirs. Also, as the fIre rav-
                                               operational level between Oakland fire
aged homes it also destroyed gas lines.
The ruptured lines sent plumes of flame
upward from the meters. While the burn-
ing gas mayor may not have contributed
to fIre spread, officials were not able to
turn off the lines for several hours after
the fIre began.

              Evacuation
Evacuation of the fIre areas was a major
problem. Imagine the situation: Swirling
winds blowing embers from all direc-
tions at once, making no area really safe;
thick clouds of smoke taking away visi-
bility; congestion as residents fleeing in
cars and on foot clogged narrow roads
that fIfe apparatus was trying to traverse.
It was a nightmarish scene. Evacuation
was impeded by narrow, steep roads,
high winds, and heavy smoke. In fact,
the smoke made it difficult to locate the
fire. Fleeing residents did not know
 which way to go, and fIfe fighters had a
hard time directing them because they
could not see beyond their immediate
areas. The rapid fIfe spread made it hard
to distribute evacuation personnel effec-
tively.

During the early stages of the fIre, offi-
cials opted for fire control rather than
evacuation. However, residents turned to
fire fighters for evacuation assistance.
Police using loud speakers moved
through the area. Little time was avail-
able for anyone to instruct residents on
how to evacuate, what to take with them,
or how to secure their homes before they
left. Eventually, after sensing the grow-
ing magnitude of the fIre, many residents


                                                                    16
                                                                                                                          KTVU-TV/OAKLAND

Fire is part of the natural ecolo-          years, include mismanagingvegetation          Life and Property from Wildfire. The
gy of forests andwildlands. It's            by ignoring "ladder fuels," not cleaning      standard was developed through NFP A's
                                            out brush and allowing vegetation to          broadly participatory consensus stan-
              and
predictable, evencleansing.                 grow up to and over dwellings, building       dards-making process, and presents fun-
For thousands years, wild-
                 of                         homes with wood shingle roofs and             damental planning and design criteria for
                                            untreatedcombustible siding, construct-       fIfe agencies, planners, architects, devel-
fires haveperiodically  raged               ing combustibledecks on pilings buried        opers, and government on development
throughwooded      areas like the                           and           on
                                            in steepslopes, depending narrow              in wildland/urban interface areas.
         and
Oakland BerkeleyHills,                      roads that can hardly accommodate   two-
                                            way car traffic for accessand egress,         Fires like the one in the Oakland and
clearingout combustible     vegeta-         making it virtually impossible for large      Berkeley Hills will continue to burn
         making   room for new                                        to
                                            vehicleslike fIfe apparatus pass.             wildland areas periodically, but future
                                                                                          wildland fires neednot be asdevastating.
growth. In fact, centuriesago,              People need to be aware of the natural        Residents in interface areas can take
NativeAmericans     populating  the         fIre risks in wildland areas.Fire officials   steps to make themselves and their
                                            and others can offer guidance in con-         homessafer.
Oakland  Hills,whichthendid
                                            struction,landscaping,   and other factors
haveoaktrees, practicedburn-                that reduce those natural risks. Many         For the personwho intends to build in
ing in the area to improvehunt-                           like
                                            suggestions theseareincluded in the           interfaceareas,the fIrst stepis to choose
                                            Recommendations      sectionof this report,   the housesite wisely. Flat sitesare better
ing.                                        and in reports the Wildland/Urban             than hills because fires move uphill
                                            InterfaceInitiative has producedon pre-       rapidly. Also, narrow, steep,or winding
Throughouttime, fIfe has beenan impor-
                                            vious fIres, suchas the Black Tiger Fire      roads slow and sometimes block fire
tant factor in nature's rejuvenation and
                                            of July 1989nearBoulder,Colorado;the                    and
                                                                                          apparatus makeevacuation        difficult.
man's efforts to modify the natural envi-
                                            StephanBridge Road Fire of May 1990
ronment.Today,large numbersof people
                                            in Crawford County, Michigan; and             Next is the houseitself. The roof is the
and the homes they have built in these
                                            "Firestorm 91," a study of a series of        most vulnerable part of the house in a
lush, beautiful areashave addeda com-
                                            fIres that occurredduring October1991         fIre. Noncombustibleroof coveringsare
ponent that makes wildfires far more
                                            near Spokane, Washington. Further,            a must. So, too, are noncombustible sid-
grave than they were 300 yearsago. The
                                            there are publications similar to the         ing, decking, and trim. The chimney
                 is
humanpresence not likely to diminish.
                                                                    of
                                            California Department Forestry,"Fire          shouldextendabovethe roof line and be
For a large number of people, moving
                                            Safe-Inside-And Out," that provide            topped with a spark arrester. Eaves
out of the city and into areas like the
                                            detailedinformation on lowering the risk      should be boxed and vents should be
Oakland and Berkeley Hills provides a
                                            from wildfIres.                               screened.No part of the house should
                          to
desirablecounterbalance the crush of
                                                                                          rest on poles or pilings.
city life. Sometimesthesepeople make
                                            Based on data gatheredfrom those and
unsafe choices when they make such a
                                            other fires, and on the experience and        The yard can and should act as a fire
                                            advice of fire officials, foresters, other    break. Decorativemasonrywalls free of



                                                                                                                    .
Someof theseunsafechoices,asfIre and        public officials, builders, architects,and              are
                                                                                          vegetation an effective barrier. A 30-
forestry officials have pointed out for     average citizens, NFPA has published          foot safety zone around the house,free
                                            NFPA 299, Standardfor Protection of           of flammable vegetation, is preferred.


                                                                17
     Special attention should be paid to the
     ladder fuels. Low-lying brancpes must
     be cut off and hauled away and grass
     mustbe low in thatarea.Hardwoodtrees
     are a good additionbecause   they are less
     flammable than conifers. All trees need
     to be at least20 feet from eachotherand
     any structure.Limbs shouldbe prunedto
     a heightof 15 to 20 feet from the ground,
     never over the roof, and not within 15
     feet of or directly above a chimney.
     Shrubs are best planted at least 15 feet
     from the house.

     Maintenance is important. Structures
     should be kept free of vines and roofs
     shouldbe clean,i.e., no leaves,pine nee-
     dles, moss, or twigs. Keep leaves and
     needles more than 30 feet from the
     house. Residents should mow grass
     closely when it has stoppedgrowing,and
     collectthe clippings.

     Not every dwelling in the Oakland and
     BerkeleyHills wasburnedto the ground.
     Several survived with minimal damage.
     Hereis what theyhad in common:

     1. Class A or Class B roof coverings.
     Many were clay or concretetile, or cov-
     ered with mineral-surfacedasphaltshin-
     gles. Some had a mineral aggregate
     overlay, and a few had metallic tile
     roofs. These roof coverings were espe-
     cially important at perimeterareaswhere
     fire fighters could extinguish small roof
     fues before theyignited the dwelling.

     2. Stucco exterior walls. They are non-
     combustible. Again, the delay in the
     ignition of the home brought aboutmore
     effectiveextinguishment.

     3. Small double-panewindows. Just as
     they keep out the cold air, they resist
     breakage when subjected to fire and
     reduce the transmissionof radiant ener-
     gy.

        Few overhangsor projecting elements
                       to
     like roofs exposed burningvegetation.

        Adequate clearances,or fire breaks.
     Where there were cleared,clean separa-
     tions betweenhousesand vegetation,or
     between                   flfe
             housesthemselves, did little
     damage.
                                                                        CUBE
                                                       J. SMALLEY/PICTURE




                                                  18

4.
~
5.
                                                                                                                              KlVU-TV/OAKLANO


   Thewildfire in the Oakland  and                casein manysimilar settingsthroughout         are in a unique position to ensurepublic
                                                  the United Sta.tes.                           safetybefore a disasterrather than after
   BerkeleyHillsin October1991
                                                                                                it has occurred.That can mean enacting
   was the worst in California's                  No one can predict exactly when or
                                                                                                unpopularregulationsattimes.
                                                  where the next fire will be, but nature
  history. It killed 25 people,                   gives us clues.Prolongeddroughtcondi-         Tragic lossesof homes in the wildlands
   injured 150others, and                         tions, high temperatureswith low rela-        are usually preventable.However,com-
                                                  tive humidity, and extreme winds              bined efforts of the communityorganiza-
   destroyedmorethan 3,000                        blowing hot, dry air are amongthe warn-       tions, fire services, federal, state and
  structures. Yet,for all that                    ing signs of potential disaster.Fire offi-                        and
                                                                                                local governments, individual home-
  horror andtragedy,it was a                      cials everywhererecognize these signs                               to
                                                                                                ownersarenecessary minimize losses.
                                                  and base their declarationsof "fire sea-
eelativelY smallfire by wildfire                  son" on themas well aslocal fIre history.     The Oakland/Berkeley Hills fire has
  standards.Thearea it burned                     The public mustlearn to recognizethose        resulted in a greaterlocal and statewide
                                                  signsaswell.                                  awarenessof the problems associated
  was two-and-a-half-miles
                                                                                                with the wildland/urban interface.
  square.Hadthe winds not sub-                    Just as every wildland/urban interface                       a
                                                                                                Nevertheless, continuingand expanded
                                                  fIre is the result of a combination of fac-
  sidedSunday             this
                  evening, fire                                                                                               to
                                                                                                effort must be undertaken inform the
                                                  tors rather than a single event, prevention   nation of the potential hazardsinvolved
  couldhavebeenmuchworse.                         of those fIres and protection against them                        to
                                                                                                in interfaceareas, inform them of how
                                                  requires the cooperation of everyone in                         the
                                                                                                they can assess hazardsin their area
    The Oakland/BerkeleyHills was a pic-          the community. Urban/interface resi-          andto assistthem in eliminating the haz-
    turesque setting for thousands of resi-       dents must learn to adopt fIresafe habits
    dents who called the area home. But in                                                      ards. Clearly, this effort cannot be
                                                  and fIre safe lifestyles.                     accomplished by just the individual
    fact, the areawas ripe for a major disas-
    ter and on October 20, 1991, it finally                                                     efforts of one of the listed groups.
                                                  Those who chooseto move to interface
               The
    happened. long history of fIres in the        areas have an obligation to use good
    area should have beenwarnings that we         judgment in construction their homes,
                                                                          of                              Thefire service
    must be vigilant regardingthe identified      in choosingtheir landscapingdesignand
    factors constant in most of these prior                                                     Wildfires require different tactics than
                                                  materials, and in maintaining their
    fIres. But we were not. Slowly over time                                                    structuralfIres do, and experiencefight-
                                                  homesandthe vegetation  aroundthemin
    the Hills were allowed to integrate the                                                     ing one kind of fIre is not readily trans-
                                                  a firesafe condition. Once a wildfire
    factors that led to a build-up of a sub-                                                    ferrable to another. Yet, the very nature.
                                                  starts, the survival of individual
    stantial fuel load about the homes. But                                                     of an interface fire requires knowledge
                                                  dwellings will depend, in part, on the
    then, when the predictable yearly                                                           of bothtypesof fIre fighting.
                                                  preparationsthat were made for such a
    "Diablo" winds that quickly dry out the       catastrophe.                                  The fire service should ensure that all
    normally plush vegetationdon't produce
                                                                                                personnelreceive regular cross-training
.isaster,    perhaps beginto believe that
                     we                           Legislators at the local and state level
                                                                                                in fighting both wildfIres and structural
W1tisaster cannotoccur. We might, in fact,        havean obligationtoo. Theirs is to make
                                                                                                fires. That cros-s-training should be a
    even forget that we are in a                  sure that well-known and proven fire
                                                                                                required component of the regularly
    wildland/urban interface area. But this       protection methodsand practicesare in
                                                                                                scheduled training activities in each
    was not the casefor the Hills nor is it the   place in their communities. Legislators

                                                                      19
department that may be called on to         fighting strategies,reporting protocols,    Communitiesshould establish      communi-
respond to a wildland/urban interface       commandand functions of the Incident        cations systemsthat allow allocation of
fire.                                       Management System, staging areas,           radio frequencies by function, opera-
                                            deployment of personnel, supporting         tional division, and supportservice.The
Urban departments, in particular, should    activities,anddemobilization.               systemshould be compatible with other
recognize the need for such tactics as                                                  local departments' systems and with
working inside the perimeter with hand      Drafting detailed mutual aid plans is       county and state systems.And, the sys-
tools to break up charred crust, churn up   only a first step.The next crucial stepis   tems should be able to transmit to all
vegetation, and mix water with vegeta-      regular practice in carrying out those      areas,regardless of topographical fea-
tion to ensure fires are totally extin-     plans.                                      tures such as hills. The public apathy
guished. This procedure is commonly                                                     aboutfIre in general,and wildland/urban
referred to as "mop-up."                    The fIre serviceshould schedule  regular    interface fires in particular, is under-
                                                                              so
                                            and frequentmutual aid exercises that       standable.People have other things on
No single fIre departmentwill likely be     when the next fire occurs that requires     their minds, like raising families and
able to handlea wildland/urbaninterface     mutual aid personnelthey will be pre-       making a living. The fIre service has to
fire on its own. Local departmentswill      paredto work together.Good communi-         break through that apathy to educate
                     of
needthe assistance sisterdepartments        cations facilities,     systems, and        people, including public officials, about
and agenciesin their areas,and perhaps                  are
                                            procedures essentialfor the coordina-       the potential dangersthey face and how
evenoutside their areas.Close coordina-     tion of fire fighting resources.            to prepare for them. The fire service
tion of the efforts of other responding     Communitiesshouldplan those systems         shouldfund and plan regularpublic edu-




                                                                                                                              .
              is
departments essentialfor effective fIre     for a worst-case scenario-because all        cation campaigns,  including the distribu-
fighting, life safety operations,and the    too often in a wildland/urban interface      tion of pamphlets,  visits to homeowners,
safetyof the fIre fighters themselves.                                 The
                                            fIre the worstcasehappens. Oakland          and even public meetings, to make
                                            and BerkeleyHills fIre overwhelmed   the    homeowners    awareof wildfIre risks and
Further,the fire servicein interfacecom-    establishedcommunicationssystemand          the stepscitizens can take to minimiz
munities should developa specificmutu-      resulted in a lack of coordinationof all    those risks. In particular, they should
al aid plan for coordinatingresources  to   responding  forces.
attack wildfires. Plans should cover fire                                                explain practical fuel-management   steps
                                                                                         that residentsshould take and make reg-

                                                               20
     FLAMMABLE
HIGHLY       PLANTS
                                                                             in
Theseplantsare amongthoseknown for the amountof deadfuel thataccumulates them,andthe high oil, high resin,or
low moisturecontentof their leavesandbranches.If you're plantinga new landscape,most shouldn'tbe used. Native
plantscanbe plantedsparinglyif spaced widely. All plantsareflammableif not prunedperiodically,andthe risk attached
to anyone plant canbe greatlydiminishedwith maintenance.

Trees: Acacia, Arborvitae, California bay, Cedar, Cypress, Douglas fir, Eucalyptus, Fir, Juniper, Palm, Pine, Spruce, Yew


Grasses, shrubs, ground covers: California buckwheat, California sagebrush,Dry annual grasses,Juniper, Laurel
sumac, Manzanita, Pampas grass, Rosemary, Scotch broom, Scrub oak, Spanish broom, Sugar bush, Toyon



WHATYOUCANDO

          Your
Rearranging Plants
.Eliminate fire ladder configurations.
.Make sure the landscape within 30 feet of the house is adequately watered and well maintained. Keep vegetation next to
  the house under 1-1/2 feet. Trees put the house at greater risk than low-growing shrubs and ground covers.
.Create a transition zone 30 to 50 feet from the home. Remove most major plants (leave enough shrubs to stabilize a
  slope). You can hydroseed with so-called native grassesand wildflowers or plant low-volume herbaceous perennials like
  gazania, poppy, and common yarrow. Keep watered and green year-round, or let dry out and cut back.
.Arrange plants 50 to 200 feet from house into islands (make distance between shrubs three to five times plant height).
.In heavily wooded areas, cut out weak or diseasedtrees; thin healthy ones if more clearing is needed.
.Get rid of stumps to prevent stump sprouting except when slope stability is a concern.



.Clean up leaves and other plant litter.
.Cut grassesto about 4 inches when they turn brown.
.Remove brush that grew with the winter rains.
.Clean off all vegetation from the roof. Clean gutters several times during the year.
.Keep plants near the house watered.
.Work with neighbors to clear common areas and prune heavy vegetation between houses.

Everyfew years:
.In early spring, prune or mow down low-growing ground covers. Fertilize and water afterward.
.Periodically cut back native vegetation plants severely.
.Budget for pruning, maintenance of trees you keep.
.Thin crowns of clustered trees (keep 10 feet apart).
.Trim limbs up off the ground 20 feet or more.
.Cut branches back 15 to 20 feet from the house.
.Prune out all dead branches; remove all dead plants.
.Along the driveway, clear out overhanging tree branches and prune back bushy shrubs for fire truck access.




                                                           21
ular visits to interface communities to      of NFPA 299 provides important guid-          Oakland/Berkeley Hills admitted to a
 check for overgrown, closely spaced         ancein this area,but it is fully effective    lack of knowledge about the wildfire
 vegetation that may brush up against        only whenadoptedby local lawmakers.           risks wherethey lived.
dwellings and other fuel-management
problems. Public officials should fund       In the absence of clear and meaningful        Potential homeownersshould determin~
those efforts to the fullest. Finally, the   regulations for the common good, the          the wildfire hazard potential of the
fIfe service should intensify its training   practices of uninformed developers may        immediateareabeforebuying or moving
efforts on conducting fire prevention        create potential hazards. Fire protection     into any home. This information can be
inspections,tailoring thoseefforts to the    features, or their costs, may not be appre-   obtained from the local fIre department.
hazards prevalent in wildland/urban          ciated by uninformed buyers. However,         NFPA 299 providesguidelinesfor rating
interfaceareas.                              decisions made at the early stages of a       the wildfIre potential of anarea.
                                             development will affect a home's fire
                                             safety for many years in the future.          Homeowners should contact federal,
             Legislators                                                                   state, and local fIfe and forestry agencies
Although the public determines accept-       All developments should have more than        for educational programs and materials
able levels of risk from fIre in wildland    one ingress-egress route and employ           to address the fire hazard in general.
                                             looped road networks. Roads should be         Information should also be shared with
areas, lawmakers react to the perceived
needs of constituents and enact the regu-    wide enough for simultaneous access for       children. Information and publications
lations controlling that level of risk.      emergency vehicles and the evacuation         covering numerous wildland home fire
                                             of residents. In consideration of the long    safety details are available free from
Therefore, it is generally up to home-
owners and fire protection agencies to       wheelbase of tankers and other emergen-       many sources, but until individual apathy
articulate and justify acceptable and        cy vehicles, roads should be constructed      is overcome the homeowner may not be
                                             with an adequate curve radius. Homes          motivated to take proper precautions.
unacceptable levels of risk. When losses
occur, they usually focus attention on the   along dead-end roads and long drive-          Here, the fire services can function as
risks, but preventive actions are prefer-    ways provide extra privacy for residents      fire protection resource centers for the
able. Legislation for such actions may       but also provide the potential for fire       public.
be necessary for homes that are to be        apparatus to become trapped by spread-
                                             ing fire. These roads and driveways            It is the responsibility of the individual
located in high hazard areas.
                                             should allow access by large emergency        property owner to provide a defensible
Lawmakersshould take the initiative to       vehicles.                                     spacearound structuresto help prote.
examine existing laws, regulations, and                                                                              to
                                                                                           them. Extra measures provide addi-
standards from other jurisdictions that      Developersshould reconsidertheir fre-          tional spaceare required for structures
are available for local use in mitigating    quentuse of combustibleexteriorbuild-         built on steepslopes or above canyons,
fire hazards associated with wildland        ing materials,or at leastoffer options for    and near combustible materials, and
ftres.                                       more fire safe materials for potential        exposures.
                                             buyers who may not yet understand     the
Lawmakers are encouraged to adopt            differences.                                  Whenhomeowners     becomeawareof the
NFPA 299 as one part of the protection                                                     wildfire risk of their own areas, they
provided for new construction in the         Developers should also consider the           should join forces with other interested
wildlands.                                   long-rangeimp~cations of siting unpro-        individuals and groups to urge lawmak-
                                             tected homes on slopes or where water         ers to respondwith legislative assistance
Authorities should provide strongbuild-      supplies for fire fighting are low or         to require appropriate fire safety mea-
ing regulations restricting untreated        nonexistent.                                  sures by all of those who live in the
wood shingle roofs and other practices                                                     affectedareas.
known to decreasethe fire safety of a        Developerscan provide a valuable ser-
structure in the wildlands. In the past,     vice to newbuyers,who may initially be        Theseare but a few of the recommenda-
untreated wood shingle roofs have            distracted by other moving details, by        tions that have beenproposedfollowing
repeatedly been shown to be a major                             fuel
                                             creatingappropriate breaksor green-           the fife. There are manyothersand cQn-
contributing factor in the loss of struc-    belt areas.                                                                    to
                                                                                           cernedparties are encouraged access
tures to wildfires, yet today some resi-                                                                               of
                                                                                           the others.But regardless the specific
dential subdivisions actually encourage,                       public
                                                         General                                               they
                                                                                           recommendation, haveone common
and somecasesevenrequire,wood shin-                                                         thread-prevention of devastatingwild-
gle roofs for aesthetic
                      reasons.               The people who choose to live in the          land fifes is not one group's responsibili-
                                             scenic wildlands have the responsibility                                     .
                                                                                           ty. It is all our responsibility
                                             of taking necessaryprecautions when
                                             facing predictable hazards. Informed
This eventhas also focused on the need       homeownerswould be better prepared
to have constructionstandards homes
                             for             for surviving a wildfire, but some
in the wildlands. The published version      homeowners in the area of the


                                                                 22

								
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