WildfireIntel.org is Quickly becoming a Trusted Source

Late June and early July added several new ignitions to a wildfire season that was already off to an ominous start. So far in 2018 major fires have already igniting across Texas, Oklahoma, and the Southwest. The recent heat wave that swept Red Flag fueled wildfires across the US resulting in evacuations and structure loss in Colorado, California, Utah, and  As we move deeper into the summer months, increasingly warm and dry conditions will continue to fuel the threat of wildfires. The National Inter-agency Fire Center released their fire potential outlook for summer months, predicting an above average fire season for all of the twelve western states making wildfire intelligence gathering even more essential.

A New Source for Wildfire Intelligence

Understanding the need for real-time wildfire intelligence, a conversation started between group of devout users and former moderators. This group came together to revive a forum that once popular among the fire community. For a variety of reasons they ultimately decided it was best to spin-off a new website. This new website, branded wildfireintel.org, was created as a non-profit with the mission to create a free public forum for discussing “topics important to the fire community”. Relevant subjects include fire related “incidents, jobs, industry, safety, and health”.

Wildfire Intelligence Forum Example

An example of how the forum is structured based off geographic regions.

Recent Fire Activity Drives Traffic and Additional Users to the Website

Although it’s still in the initial stages of development, wildfireintel.org is up and running and gaining traction. WildfireIntel.org is quickly becoming a trusted source for accurate, real-time information. Recent fire activity is helping increase traffic to the forum, with the last 30 days adding over 200 new users and almost a million page views. Knowing that forums survive by the active participation of its users the founders of the website are encouraging the fire community to continue to contribute to the site. The founders hope that with increased participation an “active and sustainable wildfire community” will again foster and provide much need wildfire intelligence. For more information, please visit the wildfireintel.org website and/or become more involved by registering.

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osaka eq

Osaka Earthquake Rattles Whole Prefecture

Monday morning, began with a bang six hours south of Tokyo when a preliminary 6.1 magnitude earthquake rattled the Osaka Prefecture, killing five and injuring hundreds more. This is yet another for the list of “Ring of Fire” activities early this year, including the Guatemala and Hawaii Volcanic Eruptions. The Osaka earthquake was later downgraded by the Japan Meterological Agency (JMA) to a 5.9 Magnitude and to 5.5 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake classified as a “6 Lower” at five observation stations in the Osaka-fu Hokubu Region and a “5 Upper” at another 14 stations in the Kyoto-fu Nambu. All 19 stations are located in the Osaka Prefecture.

osaka earthquake 1

Osaka Earthquake from June 18th and shaking intensity across the nearby Sub Regions of Southern Honshu

Osaka Earthquake Tragedy in Takatsuki

Later in the week, an interesting story developed regarding one of the quake-related deaths. According to local news in Osaka, it was reported by the local education board that school authorities had known for three years a “substandard concrete wall” would be a danger if a major earthquake happened near the Juei Elementary School in Takatsuki. Unfortunately, as predicted, 9-year-old Rina Miyakewas was tragically crushed to death after the wall collapsed.  Miyake was merely headed into the school when the quake struck Monday. In a related development Friday, the Japan Times reported the local education board in quake-hit Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, also said it had discovered another 15 public schools where substandard concrete walls on their premises could pose a danger to students in the event of powerful earthquakes.  Seen as a major wake up call to the rest of the schools, the board added that the remaining walls “will be removed in a few weeks”.

osaka earthquake shakemap

Shakemap showing the Osaka Earthquake and Juei Elementary school near the epicenter

Officials Warn Threat May Not Be Over

Worried that the earthquake could be the predecessor to a bigger one, officials warned the public to be on their toes. It was determined this week’s Osaka Earthquake was part of the same fault line that produced the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. That tragic event claimed more than 6,400 lives. Luckily, experts are claiming the probability is low for another, larger seismic movement in the coming days. They did, however, cite a magnitude 6.5 earthquake two years ago in Kumamoto Prefecture and surrounding areas of Kyushu which preceded a magnitude 7.3 temblor two days later. 50 died from the Kumamoto quakes.

Sources:

CNN

The Japan Times

United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Japan Meterological Agency

 

CalFire Finds Cause for Fire Siege, But Questions Remain

The legal battles begin as California still reels and begins to recover from what became the worst fire season in living memory last year. CalFire released a report on the first of several fire investigations from 2017’s northern California fire “siege”. The investigation specifically covers the four fires in Butte and Nevada Counties: La Porte, McCourtney, Lobo, and Honey fires. Investigators determined that tree branches coming into contact with power lines caused all four fires. In three of the fires, with La Porte being the exception, CalFire found Pacific Gas and Electric in violation of Public Resources Code section 4293, which concerns tree clearance management along power lines.

The ramifications of these and future investigations could end in big payouts by Pacific Gas and Electric for structure losses caused by the fires. The Napa/Sonoma Fire Siege, which included about 170 individual fire starts, caused an estimated $15 billion in damages. If Pacific Gas and Electric is found responsible for the fire starts, they could be on the hook for a large chunk of those damages. Property law can get pretty tricky when dealing with privately run public utilities. In the past, utility companies were able to pass the cost of damages along to ratepayers as part of providing service, but a recent case with San Diego Gas and Electric may put an end to this practice.

Historical Precedent: San Diego Gas and Electric

2007 Witch Fire

Regulators, investors, insurers, and homeowner victims are closely following the now decade-long legal process following three massive fires in San Diego County in 2007. The Witch, Guejito, and Rice fires together destroyed 1,300 homes and left San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) with a $2.4 billion bill. The utility company and its insurers already paid the damage claims, but SDG&E is trying to recoup about $379 million of its losses through a structured increase in the ratepayer bill over 6 years. They argued that the wind event was unprecedented and so severe that the fires could not have been avoided. The California Public Utilities Commission disagreed and rejected the plan, stating that SDG&E was not a prudent manager of its infrastructure. CPUC was clear in their statements that their decision does not represent SDG&E’s current wildfire management. SDG&E has since invested heavily in wildfire planning, intelligence, and response.

The positive changes at SDG&E are precisely the reason that the California Public Utilities Commission does not want to allow utilities to pass the damages to the ratepayers. It would disincentivize the utility companies to invest in better wildfire prevention.

Investors worry that the SDG&E decision will set a precedent to determine if PG&E will be held liable and if they can force ratepayers to cover the cost. Whether Pacific Gas and Electric will be found responsible for a majority of the losses in the larger Napa/Sonoma fires is still unclear. Even if they are found liable, who will pay?

 

Source(s):

http://calfire.ca.gov/communications/downloads/newsreleases/2018/2017_WildfireSiege_Cause%20v2%20AB%20(002).pdf

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-utility-wildfires-20171017-story.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-28/for-a-look-at-pg-e-s-fate-after-fires-watch-this-san-diego-case

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/energy-green/sd-fi-sdge-wildfirecaseruling-20171130-story.html

http://www.cbs8.com/story/37043932/lilac-fire-powerful-debate-over-sdge-cutting-off-electricity

 

A New Source for Wildfire Intelligence and Discussion

The 2018 wildfire season is already off to a strong start. So far this year major fires have already igniting across Texas, Oklahoma, and the southwest. As we move into the summer months, increasingly warm and dry conditions will continue to fuel the threat of wildfires. The National Inter-agency Fire Center released their fire potential outlook for summer months, predicting an above average fire season for all of the twelve western states making wildfire intelligence gathering even more essential. This foreboding outlook comes on the heels of an oft dubbed “unprecedented” 2017 wildfire season that shattered multiple records.

A Trusted Source Lost

2017 thrust the threat of wildfires back into the public spotlight. Numerous fires across the United States grabbed nationwide media attention but none more than the two most significant California fires; The October Fire Siege in Napa/Sonoma and the Thomas Fire in the Ventura/Santa Barbara area. With broadcast and social media flooding in, one trusted source of wildfire intelligence was surprisingly absent from the conversation. Without notice, during the late season chaos of the Thomas fire, the WildlandFire.com forum was taken offline and all the data was lost.

What was WildlandFire.com?

WildlandFire.com was conceived in the early nineties as a way to provide, “a quick, reliable system to allow firefighters and other employees (and their families) the ability to voice their thoughts, ideas, experiences, or even ask a few simple questions.”. By the late nineties the forum gained traction, soon becoming a trusted source within the firefighting community.

Wildfire Intelligence Forum

Understanding the essential role this type of web forum plays, a conversation started on how to revive the website. A group of “devout users and former moderators” ultimately decided it was best to spin-off a new website. This new website, branded wildfireintel.org, was created as a non-profit with the mission to create a forum for discussing “topics important to the fire community”. Relevant subjects include fire related “incidents, jobs, industry, safety, and health”.

Wildfire Intelligence Forum Example

An example of how the forum is structured based off geographic regions.

For More Information and How to Register

Although it’s still in the initial stages of development, wildfireintel.org is now up and running. Knowing that forums survive by the active participation of its users the founders of the website are encouraging the fire community to contribute to the site. The founders hope that with increased participation an “active and sustainable wildfire community” will again foster. For more information, please visit the wildfireintel.org website and/or become more involved by registering.

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Wildfire Intelligence Logo

This Friday, May 4, 2018, aerial image released by the U.S. Geological Survey, at 12:46 p.m. HST, a column of robust, reddish-brown ash plume occurred after a magnitude 6.9 South Flank of Kīlauea earthquake shook the Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaii. The Kilauea volcano sent more lava into Hawaii communities Friday, a day after forcing more than 1,500 people to flee from their mountainside homes, and authorities detected high levels of sulfur gas that could threaten the elderly and people with breathing problems. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Kilauea Volcano Continues to Erupt

The Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii erupted last week Thursday, May 3rd, breaking open rifts and opening lava vents. While Kilauea has been continuously active for the last 35 years, this recent episode occurred alongside a 6.9 earthquake. Nearby neighborhoods were evacuated as fissures began releasing lava that spread throughout Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens.

This Friday, May 4, 2018, aerial image released by the U.S. Geological Survey, at 12:46 p.m. HST, a column of robust, reddish-brown ash plume occurred after a magnitude 6.9 South Flank of Kīlauea earthquake shook the Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaii. The Kilauea volcano sent more lava into Hawaii communities Friday, a day after forcing more than 1,500 people to flee from their mountainside homes, and authorities detected high levels of sulfur gas that could threaten the elderly and people with breathing problems. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Kilauea Eruption – Friday, May 4, 2018, 12:46 p.m. HST (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Due to the rate that lava spreads compared to other typical natural disasters such as hurricanes or wildfire, people were able to safely leave their homes. Photos and videos show the progression of destruction through the neighborhood as the lava pushes through homes and new fires ignite. One homeowner had been working on a car on his property and was unable to move it out of the way, but the true loss — the R2D2 mailbox his daughter had made him for Christmas. The impact was caught in this time-lapse video.

Fissure locations under Leilani Estates

Fissure locations under Leilani Estates east of the main active crater

Confirmed losses from Kilauea

As of May 10th, 36 structures have been destroyed, mostly in the Leilani Estates area. Despite the overall ongoing spread of lava, scientists are now warning area residents that ballistic projectiles may be emitted in the next few weeks. This would occur as the lava sinks in the crater lake and interacts explosively with the groundwater. The “projectiles” could range in size from pebbles to boulders weighing several tons. With so many unpredictable dangers from these ballistic projectiles to poisonous gases of the lava and ash to earthquakes, homeowners who still have a home to return to will not be sleeping easily any time soon.

USGS is alerting nearby residents about the possibilities of ballistic rocks.

USGS is alerting nearby residents about the possibilities of ballistic rocks.

 

Read Further

  • http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/38087728/new-kilauea-eruption-triggers-house-fires-as-hundreds-evacuate-area
  • https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/10/us/hawaii-kilauea-volcano/index.html
  • https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2018/05/us/hawaii-kilauea-volcano-eruption-cnnphotos/index.html

Earthquake Shakes Southern California, Reminding Residents to be Prepared

The largest earthquake to jolt Southern California in over four years struck just after noon near Santa Cruz Island on Thursday. The 5.3 earthquake shook the California coast from San Luis Obispo to San Clemente. Local fire departments quickly scrambled engines to survey damages and prepare for any aftershocks but there have been no reports of injuries or damage. So far, no aftershocks have been recorded but there is a small chance that Thursday’s tremor could be the catalyst for a larger quake to occur.

Epicenter and shakemap of the 5.3 Earthquake – 29km SW of Santa Cruz Is., CA

  • Magnitude: 5.3
  • Origin Time: 05 Apr 2018 12:29:16 PDT
  • Epicenter: 853, -119.695
  • Depth: 9 km
  • Location: 26km SW of Santa Cruz Island
  • Impact: No casualties or significant damage.
  • Incident Page: USGS Overview
  • News Article: KTLA News

New Early Warning System Being Developed

A still underdevelopment earthquake early warning (EEW) system, from Caltech’s Seismology lab in Pasadena, gave some Southern California residents roughly 10 seconds to prepare for the tremors. The earthquake early warning system called ShakeAlert provides real-time earthquake information which will eventually generate alerts via mobile apps, email, and text. The warning time of these EEWs normally range from 0 to 20 seconds but this is time can be critical in saving lives and infrastructure. Early warnings alerts can also be integrated onto public utilities and industrial systems, automatically shutting down vulnerable systems. The crucial seconds provided by early warning systems is another layer of protection which is further multiplied by individuals taking the necessary steps to be prepared.

Be Prepared

Fortunately, Thursday’s earthquake impact was minimal but it serves as a reminder that earthquakes happen with little to no warning and in California it is not a matter of “if” but “when” the next one will come.

4 Step Plan to Become More Earthquake Safe

1:  Secure your space.

2:  Plan to be safe.

3:  Organize disaster supplies. 

4:  Minimize Financial Hardship

Learn More

To learn more about earthquakes and how to prepare for them, visit these informative websites:

ShakeOut.org. The central website for the ShakeOut event also has a wealth of additional resources.  The website contains information on how to hold drills suited for different environments, as well as specific safety recommendations for people with disabilities.

EarthquakeCountry.org. ECA provides information and resources to help improve preparedness, mitigation and resiliency for everyone who lives, works, or travels in earthquake prone areas.

US Geological Survey.  The USGS Hazards website houses information on real-time seismic activity and information on earthquake prone areas, in addition to may other tools to help monitor the causes and effects of earthquakes.

Ready.gov.  Official website of the Department of Homeland Security which has a section on earthquake specific emergency preparedness.

Sources

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2018/04/05/earthquake-california-los-angeles-channel-islands/

http://ktla.com/2018/04/05/earthquake-with-preliminary-magnitude-5-3-hits-off-channel-islands-is-felt-in-los-angeles-area/

http://www.scsn.org/index.php/2018/04/05/04-05-2018-m5-3-near-santa-cruz-is/

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/california/la-me-la-quake-explainer-20180405-story.html

RedZone Disaster Intelligence

RedZone Hits the Conference Trail This Spring

RedZone was one of twenty vendors showcased in the Cat Risk Management Conference this week in Orlando. The conference, hosted by the Reinsurance Association of America (RAA), was focused on scientific and theoretical developments related to the increasing risks confronting the catastrophe and disaster industries.

RedZone booth Orlando

RedZone’s booth this week at the RAA Conference in Orlando.

RedZone has been working hard for years to tailor our RZRisk products, non-stop wildfire monitoring, and newly touted RedZone Analytics to address the developing hot issues and long-term challenges. As part of our participation, Co-CEO of RedZone Analytics, Ellie Graeden, presented on a couple of our solutions for addressing key hot issues. Our ideas  aim to tackle policy accumulation in risky areas, decision-making as wildfires break out, and underwriting moratoriums. The successful conference concluded for RedZone on February 15th.

RZExposure example

Example of RedZone’s Accumulation Solution RZExposure

Look for RedZone at Other Conferences

  • RedZone will also be attending Reno’s WUI Conference at the end of this month. We look forward to networking with fire officials and planners, with whom we work side by side. We are also very excited about hearing how our friend and colleague Pat Durland’s class “Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire” goes during the preconference. Highlights for RedZone from the WUI lineup include reports from both this year’s Napa area fires and last fall’s Gatlinburg fires, WUI management and mitigation techniques, and lastly the ongoing collaboration between Fire and insurance.
  • In June RedZone has been invited to speak at the CAS conference in New Orleans
Napa Sonoma Fires

2017 Fire Season, A Short and Sweet Review

Fire Season in 2017 was yet another headline-filling wildfires across the US and North America. Data reported by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) for the 2017 calendar year showed 66,131 total fires (+3,277 from 2016) and 9,781,062 (+4,365,941 from 2016) acres burned across the fifty states. In recent blog posts, we highlighted the two major wildfire events, which were the pinnacle of this fire season in terms of destruction and acreage burned. October’s Northern California Wildfires included the Tubbs Fire that burned the most structures (5,000+) in recorded history and the equally significant Thomas Fire (in Ventura/Santa Barbara) that burned the most acres in California history, in December!

2017 Fires

Major Fires from Fire Season 2017 reported by GEOMAC and NIFC

A Look Back at 2017 Fire Danger

Like most years, 2017 saw high fire danger transition across the country, coinciding with regional climate and conditions. High fire danger started in the Midwest and South in March and April, crept into the Southwest in May and June, moved into the Mountainous West and California by July, before finishing with the Southern Appalachians towards the end of the year. The nearly 10 million acres was the second most since NIFC began recording totals across the country. 2017 ranked higher in number of acres burned compared to the 10-year average.

2018 Early Fire Season Outlook

January:

La Niña conditions are likely to continue drying the southern third of the U.S., although occasional storms will bring some helpful moisture. Nonetheless, an elevated threat of large fires along the southern California coast will continue. Dry conditions in the Southwest and southern Plains will worsen but conditions in January are not likely to support much fire activity.

Feb/March:

Drying continues across the southern third of the U.S. Transition to early spring across the southern Plains will bring increasing wind events that could spread fire quickly across the dry grasslands of the southern Plains and the Southwest. The increased potential will spread across Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, eastern Colorado, southern Kansas, western Arkansas and Missouri, and southern Arizona by March. Increasing potential for dry, windy fronts in the northern Plains and poor snow cover could contribute to elevated risk of large fires across eastern Montana and western North Dakota in March. Persistent dryness and potential for offshore winds will keep an elevated threat in coastal southern California.

2018 early fire season

An early look at the Fire Danger in the first three months of 2018

Sources: NIFC, GEOMAC, Predictive Services

Thomas Fire Set to Become Largest in CA History

UPDATE 01/03/18 @ 4:49 p.m. – The fire is now 92% contained at 281,893 acres.

Thomas Fire Summary

The Thomas Fire began in Ventura County just north of Santa Paula around 630pm on Monday December 4th. Under Red Flag and Santa Ana Conditions the fire quickly made a push along Hwy 150 to the south and parallel to Hwy126 to the west threatening Santa Paula and Ventura the first night. The fire continued its push west, crossing Hwy 33 and reaching the ocean at Hwy 101 shortly after. Over the course of the next week the fire slowly boxed in Ojai, eventually surrounding it, and pushed its way further west towards the Santa Barbara County line. By this time, the majority of the 1,330 structures impacted already had been. A few days later, the fire used a new round of overnight wind gusts to make a big run on the morning of Sunday Dec 9th, establishing itself above Carpinteria and Montecito. The following Saturday another round of morning winds forced the fire down into the fringe of Montecito, forcing a wall of engines into a several hour battle to push stall its progress. Luckily, by this time over 8,000 firefighters were assigned to the fire, and up to the task of suppression the big morning run. Thanks to their efforts, of the reported 1,300 homes threatened on Dec 16th, only 15 or so were impacted.

thomas progression

Thomas Fire’s progression from Dec 4th (green) through Dec 22nd (red)

Since that push, the fire’s progress has stalled and containment has increased to 65%. Still over the last 17 days, the fire is only 500 acres shy of topping the Cedar Fire for largest in California history. A burn operation is expected to add the acres needed with a few thousand more before all is said and done. Luckily, the firefighters necessary to see the fire out have been halved since the peak last week, but the suppression costs could eclipse last summer’s costly Soberanes fire in well short of the time. The full containment of the historic fire is not expected until after 2018 has begun.

Thomas Fire Major Developments:

  • Yesterday’s wind event produced 50 mph gusts, but fire activity remained minimal.
  • The firing operation was stalled yesterday due to high humidity and some snowfall. It was able to continue in the afternoon, and further firing is planned today for the Rose Valley area.
  • The fire area effectively endured two straight weeks of high to extreme fire weather conditions. Over that period, RH dropped as low as 3-5% and wind speeds were recorded over 60mph.
  • The fire is 500+ acres shy of passing 2003’s Cedar Fire for largest (in terms of acreage burned) in recorded California history.
  • Total fire suppression costs have ballooned to $170 million in just 17 days. It took last year’s Soberanes Fire twelve weeks to cost its total of $236 million.
top ten acres burned

Thomas Fire is 2nd all time in California’s history for acreage burned, but not for long.

Thomas Fire Facts:

  • Location: Fillmore all the way to Santa Barbara, both Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties
  • Size: 272,800 acres (as of 1/3/18 – 281,893)
  • Containment: 65% (as of 1/3/18 – 92%)
  • Fire Behavior: Light fire behavior with interior burning on the northern portions of the fire
  • 1,063 structures have been destroyed and 267 more have been damaged.
  • 18,000 Structures remain threatened.
  • All Mandatory Evacuations have been lifted.
top four ca fires

California’s four largest fires in history (update 01/03/18 : Thomas is now number 1)

Sources:

NIFC.GOV

CalFire Incident Page

Inciweb

Wikipedia – List of California Wildfires

Santa Ana Conditions This Week for Southern California

Red Flag Warning Possible through Saturday

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for Southern California beginning in the early AM hours on Monday through (at least) Friday 1200 PDT. The areas will experience a significant Santa Ana conditions with the strongest winds expected Monday night and Thursday night into Friday. Offshore winds will exacerbate the problem by drying the air and reducing humidity to the single digits. This will likely be the strongest and longest Santa Ana event we have seen in the 2017 season.

Around this time two years ago we discussed what the thresholds are for a Red Flag Warning in Southern California. In this case, the National Weather Service sees the region’s relative humidity ≤15%, with sustained winds ≥ 25 mph and/or frequent gusts ≥ 35 mph (duration of 6 hours or more). The early event projections have even stated this could extend into next weekend. Specifically, wildfire danger will be most critical in the mountains and valleys of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The combination of Santa Ana winds, low humidity, warm temperatures, and dry fuels will increase the risk for the rapid spread of any new fire starts. In response for this week, extra strike teams, and brush engines have been strategically staged in case of a big wildfire ignition.

RFW stats

This week’s expected Red Flag Warning statistics

Areas Impacted by Santa Ana Conditions:

Ventura County Mountains, Orange County, Los Padres National Forest, Los Angeles County Mountains, Angeles National Forest, Santa Clarita Valley, Cleveland National Forest, and San Diego County.

Click for official Santa Ana Conditions information: Red Flag Warning

santa ana conditions Dec 4

This week’s Red Flag Warning covers Southern CA from Santa Barbara to the border