RedZone Announces Matthew Wood as New Director of Software Development

Boulder, CO, 07/06/2020

RedZone is pleased to announce the appointment of Matthew Wood as the organization’s next Director of Software Development. Matt brings to the position a wealth of knowledge and experience in software development.

 

Matthew Wood – RedZone’s new Director of Software Development

With over two-decades of software and development experience, Matt has built and led numerous development and engineering teams across the globe. Prior to RedZone, Matt has held leadership and engineering roles at Cognizant, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and the Nations Center for Atmospheric Research.

 

Matt feels this is a tremendous opportunity in building new platforms to model and visualize natural disasters. “I’ve been a python developer for 21 years. I love GraphQL, data-analytics, architecture design, and mentoring others. I am excited to bring my past skills and passions to the RedZone team as we continue to define the wildfire and hurricane solution landscape.” As a Director of Software Development, Matt will oversee the RedZone software engineering team working on our growing suite of catastrophe monitoring and underwriting applications.

 

Clark Woodward, Founder and CEO of RedZone, says he and the rest of the team at RedZone are thrilled to have Matt join the team. “Matt’s background in building platforms that can scale rapidly is perfectly suited to the challenges that RedZone faces. Plus, he has an infectious enthusiasm and natural leadership style which makes him really fun to work with.”

 

About RedZone

By providing the most accurate, reliable, and up-to-date wildfire intelligence, value added analysis and field support, we serve our clients and their clients by aiding in the protection of property and assets, enhancing customer engagement and improving financial performance. RedZone is on a mission to help companies to build more resilient portfolios from wildfires in a changing climate and world.

Wildfire Outlook: July 2020 – Oct 2020

Below are summaries from the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, provided by the National Interagency Fire Center, for the period of July 2020 through October 2020. The full outlook can be located here.

Read more

Saharan Dust Helps to Temper Hurricane Development

The 2020 hurricane season started out at a record pace, but Saharan Dust blowing off the west coast of Africa will keep conditions relatively quiet over the next couple weeks. The dust cloud reached the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday morning, blanketing an area roughly the size of the United States and stretching over 4,000 miles across the Atlantic. 

Although these dust storms are a common yearly occurrence, this particular cloud is massive. “In terms of concentration and density and size, it is the most dust we’ve seen in 50 or 60 years,” says Pablo Méndez Lázaro, from the University of Puerto Rico. The dust cloud is so large it has gained the nicknames Godzilla and Gorilla. Atmospheric Scientist Michael Lowry tweeted, “The ongoing Saharan dust outbreak across the tropical Atlantic is by far the most extreme of the MODIS satellite record — our most detailed, continuous record of global dust back to 2002,” 

Hurricane Killer

The dust particles will produce stunning sunsets, but are also a visual indicator of hot dry air over the area. It is extremely difficult for storms to form under these conditions because hurricanes feed off moist air. The Saharan Dust will bring a temporary reprieve from what NOAA has predicted will be an “above-normal” hurricane season.

Hurricane Outlook

The dust plume is expected to move over much of the gulf coast and southeastern United States over the next couple days. The dust plume could possibly reach as far north as Illinois and Ohio. As the dust travels it will begin to disperse and dissipate. By the end of June most of the dust will have thinned, allowing moisture to return over the progressively warm waters of the Atlantic and Caribbean. June and July are normally slightly calmer in terms of tropical activity. Although the historic Saharan Dust cloud has had an impact on the season, it will do little to temper the chance of the season being extremely active in the late summer and early fall. All experts are still forecasting a very busy Hurricane Season

NOAA Infographic

A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA’s 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.

 

Smoke Column

Five Areas with Higher Wildfire Risk Than You Might Think

RedZone has highlighted five lesser-known areas where homeowners have increased wildfire risk

  1. Mid-slope areas
  2. Areas Adjacent to Wildland Fuels
  3. In the Ember Zone
  4. In Urban Canyons
  5. Proximity to Highway Grade

Mid-Slope

Mid-slope is an area commonly thought of as midway up a hillside, in this case, were using in terms of how it’s viewed in a wildfire-prone area. Homes are built and bought in these areas which are one of the least safe places to be during a wildfire. Typically, wildfires burn up a slope faster and more intensely than along flat ground. The steeper the slope the longer the flame lengths and faster-moving the fire.  Any slope can potentially increase the amount of heat a structure will be subject to during a wildfire, enhancing wildfire risk.

Not only is a home in this area more at risk, fire-fighting operations there are increasingly dangerous as well. Just one example from a few years ago, a mid-slope fatality is now a lesson learned from the Coal Canyon Fire in Fall River County, South Dakota. Essentially, firefighting orders will not allow for crews to work mid-slope assignments above a fire without large defensible space or a barrier/structure. Due to the adherent wildfire risk, both Fire Prevention Divisions and Underwriting guidelines suggest an aggressive vegetation modification and maintenance plan if the home or business is located mid-slope or at the top of a steep slope. The insured must also be aware of building materials used, especially if the structure is set back less than 15 feet.

mid-slope home is a wildfire risk

A worrisome home built along a mid-slope road near Lake Elsinore, CA


Adjacent to Wildland Fuels

It is well known that neighborhoods in or bordering the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), have a greater risk for impact by wildfire. In depth studies have learned that within those neighborhoods, homes on the outskirts have a higher risk than those located more interior. One of the main reasons why homes bordering the natural vegetation are at a higher risk of ignition is the lack of any buffer between the structure and the surrounding vegetation. These homes are located in extremely close proximity to the natural vegetation of the surrounding area and, thus, vulnerable to more direct flame impingement. This effect is exacerbated if the individual property owner has not taken the time to prepare his or her land for the occurrence of a wildland fire threatening their property.

Conversely, homes within the development have defensive barriers surrounding them. The inner structures have roads separating them from the structures bordering the surrounding natural vegetation and topography. These interior homes also are more likely to have moisture-rich vegetation such as, lawns, gardens, and manicured brush, making for more difficult sources of ember ignition.

The Sage Fire, near Simi Valley, CA is a good example of the homes located on the outskirts of these neighborhoods being at higher risk than the ones located within. As the fire made a push upslope to the ridgeline, it also spread out following property barriers on the outskirts of the neighborhood. The homes bordering the flame front were at a very high risk of the fire finding an ignition source to endanger it. Homes deeper into the neighborhood were less vulnerable because of the barriers aforementioned and those provided by the outlying homes. In the case of the Sage fire, no homes were impacted due to a small fire break in the vegetation immediately bumping the properties.

sage fire map wildfire risk

2016 Sage Fire burned between dense neighborhoods in Simi Valley, CA


In the Ember Zone

The “Ember Zone” can be defined as the area that could potentially have ember fall out due to a fire burning in the near vicinity. This zone can be up to a mile away from an active wildfire, depending on the size of the fire and wind speed. These embers are thrown from the fire and carried by the wind in the direction that it is blowing. If embers are hot enough and land in a receptive fuel bed, this can lead to an ignition of a spot fire ahead of the active fires edge. Spot fires caused by embers pose a threat because they sometimes go unnoticed for an extended period of time by fire personnel. This is especially the case when spot fires ignite at a distance away from the head of the fire.  The longer the new start has to become established, the harder it is for firefighters to respond effectively to save structures in the path of the newly ignited spot fire.

Another way the Ember Zone can pose a threat to a homeowner would be the process of the embers being blown into uncovered vents on the home, or an ignition source located near or inside the home, resulting in a fire starting in the structure itself. An example of how the Ember Zone proved catastrophic is in the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado. This fire experienced a drastic wind shift during the second operational period. This wind shift threw embers upwards of half a mile in the direction of the structures located in Colorado Springs. 346 homes were lost in the tragic fire of 2012, some of these were a direct result of ember fall out. Others were lost because of their direct contact with the active fires edge.

waldo 2013 wildfire risk

Embers contributed to many of the 346 homes lost on the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2013 in Colorado Springs, CO


In Urban Canyons

San Diego is known for its mix of wild canyons in between urban, even historic, developed neighborhoods. Most canyons have homes butting up adjacent to the canyon walls, due to San Diego’s unique mesa and valley/canyon landscape. These canyons offer convenient hiking trails and a natural landscape that is unique in an urban environment.  They also provide heavy fuels, steep slopes, and human activity that lead to dangerous fires that often threaten homes. A relatively small wildfire can threaten many homes in these environments.

Examples of wildfires starting in urban canyons:
  • Poinsettia Fire – Destroyed 22 homes and burned 400 acres. Fire started on a golf course and rapidly spread up the canyon.
  • City Heights Fire – Less than 2 acres, but came within a few feet of homes within an hour of a fire being reported.
  • Manzanita Canyon – Several instances of homeless cooking fires getting out of control in the canyon.
urban canyon brings wildfire risk

Homes with little to no defensible space in a San Diego Urban Canyon


Proximity to Highway Grade

If you are considering buying a home near a highway grade, you may get a nice view but could also be at higher risk for wildfires. Steep highway grades add additional complexity and stress on vehicles. Traffic collisions, mechanical failure, electrical issues, and fuel system malfunctions can cause vehicle fires that can extend to vegetation as well. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there is an average of 152,000 vehicle fires per year in the United States. Poorly maintained vehicles, put under stress while climbing up or braking down grades, can break down. As the driver pulls over to the shoulder or off the road entirely, catalytic converters, brakes, dragging exhaust parts, or cigarette butts can ignite dry grasses along a highway. Also, improperly loaded trailers can drag chains; creating sparks that can ignite grasses as the vehicle passes by unknowingly. All of these things can happen at any point along a highway, but the added stress and heat generated by steep grades increases the likelihood of a fire starting and therefore wildfire risk.

Examples of large wildfires starting on major highways:
  • Blue Cut – Highway 15 along the Cajon Pass. Destroyed 105 homes and burned over 36,000 acres.
  • Springs Fire – Highway 101 along the Conejo Grade. Caused by an undetermined roadside ignition. Fire burned 15 homes but threatened 4,000 and burned 24,000 acres.  The fire burned until it hit the coast.
  • Grade Fire – Ridgewood Grade on Highway 101. Caused by a vehicle fire spreading to grass. Burned 900 acres.

SOURCES:

http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_protection/downloads/redsheet/Jesusita/JesusitaReviewReport.pdf

http://www.firehouse.com/article/10469914/which-factor-is-present-in-most-wildland-firefighting-fatalities-and-burnovers

https://apps.usfa.fema.gov/firefighter-fatalities/fatalityData/detail?fatalityId=3935

http://www.firesafemarin.org/topography

http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Vehicle-Use/

http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/by-topic/property-type-and-vehicles/vehicles

http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/TechnicalNotes/NIST.TN.1910.pdf

https://books.google.com/survivingwildfire

Critical Fire Weather Conditions Early This Week

Large fire activity picked up over the weekend, especially in the Southwest and Alaska areas. Currently the 30 active, large fires across five states have burned more than 65,000 acres bringing the total for the year to 550k, well below average for this time of year. This week could increase that total as high pressure is approaching the West Coast and will provide a warming and drying trend for most of the southern West. Breezy westerly winds are expected across Arizona and New Mexico and strong northeasterly winds with some of the lowest RH readings of the year across California. In tandem, the conditions will lead to elevated and critical fire weather concern (including red flag warnings) in many places.

Read more

Aerial View of Hurricane

2020 Hurricane Season Outlook

Recently, NOAA released the 2020 Hurricane Season Outlook. Expect a more active and busy hurricane season this year. Below is a summary of the report NOAA released.

Read more

Tropical Storm Bertha Becomes the Second Named Storm Before Hurricane Season Officially Kicks Off


Tropical Storm Bertha

Just a couple weeks following Tropical Storm Arthur forming off the Atlantic coast, another storm system formed off the coast of South Carolina. Prior to formation, the storm caused flooding in Florida after dumping almost 15 inches of rain over Miami. Read more

East Desert Fire Sparks Evacuations In Northern Phoenix

The human-caused East Desert fire ignited Sunday afternoon near 24th Street and Desert Hills Drive in Cave Creek, Arizona. The fire originally only prompted the evacuation of a few homes west of the fire. However, due to wind and slope, the fire quickly grew to 1,000 acres by Sunday Night. Consequently, the forest service ordered additional crews, engines, and aircraft support. Then by Monday morning, the fire spread close to 1,500 acres into the Cahava Springs area, sparking additional evacuations of 130 homes immediately east of the fire. Thankfully overall, the fire has not destroyed any structures or caused any injuries.

Read more

Superb Performance by RZRisk3 on 2018’s Camp Fire

Here at RedZone we take pride in how our technology empowers stakeholders to make informed decisions about wildfire risk. Especially since 2017. Other models often don’t provide an accurate wildfire risk assessment. As a result, Underwriters and Catastrophe Managers spend more time researching additional data. RZRisk delivers the exact resources and information underwriters need to efficiently and confidently assess wildfire hazard, saving them time and money. One of our favorite things to do is to take a step back and evaluate how our risk model performed after wildfires cause losses. RedZone did this recently with California’s most destructive fire ever, November 2018’s Camp Fire.

Read more

Storm Chasers Face COVID-19

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has wreaked havoc on too many activities to count. Add storm chasing to the list! Springtime usually brings all the excitement for the daredevils running towards monstrous storms and tornados. This year, storm chasers not only face the danger of unpredictable weather events, but also the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has shaken several types of storm chasers. Solo goers who chase as a hobby, businesses that chase with tours, meteorologists and/or professors that chase for research and reporting.

Read more