Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Between Two Fires: Lessons Learned in Washington

These homes rebuilt after the 2012 Taylor Bridge Fire and survived the 2016 Highway 10 Fire. Photo: Kittitas County Fire & Rescue #7

In August 2012, the Taylor Bridge Fire along Highway 10 near Cle Elum, Washington burned 23,500 acres, destroying 61 homes and multiple outbuildings. The fire was driven by gusty winds and fueled by sagebrush, grass and trees.  

Four years laters in July 2016, the Highway 10 Fire ignited along the same stretch of road. The fire was wind-blown and initially threatened five homes on a steep slope – homes that had been destroyed by the Taylor Bridge Fire in 2012 and had since been rebuilt.  Firefighters were able to stage structure engines to protect each home, while wildland crews fought the flames. This fire burned 40 acres along Highway 10, no buildings were destroyed, and it was contained in hours rather than days.

In a recent blog post by Russ Hobbes, retired Fire Chief, and Carolyn Berglund, Public Education Officer, at Kittitas County Fire & Rescue #7, tell a compelling story about the lessons learned from the 2012 Taylor Bridge Fire and how their new proactive approach was tested successfully in the 2016 Highway 10 Fire. 

Rebuilt home after the Taylor Bridge Fire using fire resistant materials
and following Firewise principles. Photo KCFR#7
In 2012, fuels on the landscape, building construction and vegetation in the immediate areas surrounding the threatened homes were factors in the loss of structures in the Taylor Bridge Fire.  After being destroyed in that fire, the homes were rebuilt to the standards of Kittitas County’s new Wildland Urban Interface Code using fire resistant materials.  Homeowners also followed Firewise principles around their homes and neighborhoods. The 2016 Highway 10 Fire burned up to and around structures, yet no structures were lost or damaged. 

This is a great demonstration of a county and local residents taking responsibility for preparing themselves for wildland fire. The Cohesive Strategy strongly encourages preparedness activities at the local level by homeowners and neighborhoods as well as the development of local codes and ordinances that set building standards that lessen the risk of loss to homes from wildfire.  

Read full story here.  

 

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