Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NIST study of Colorado wildfire shows actions can change outcomes

10.11.2015

A new study of Colorado's devastating 2012 Waldo Canyon wildfire demonstrates that prompt and effective action can significantly change the outcome of fires that occur in areas where residential communities and undeveloped wildlands meet. The study by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the most comprehensive examination in history of a wildland urban interface (WUI) fire.

"WUI fires are very different from earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados where the hazard cannot be controlled," said NIST fire researcher and principal investigator Alexander Maranghides.


Photo taken during the 2012 Waldo Canyon wildland urban interface (WUI) fire showing homes in a Colorado Springs, Colo., neighborhood that were ignited as a result of structure-to-structure fire spread, a distinguishing characteristic of WUI fires.

Credit: Colorado Springs Fire Department

"Our study showed that WUI fires also are distinct from either urban or wildland fires alone. We provide strong evidence that defensive measures designed specifically for the wildland urban interface and administered early can significantly reduce destruction and damage."

For example, the study found that because the Waldo firefighters tailored their response to the specific WUI conditions, 75 percent of their attempts to extinguish ignited structures were successful and 79 percent of their efforts at fire containment were successful in preventing rampant fire spread.

... more about:
»Canyon »Colorado »NIST »earthquakes »wildfires

The details of the NIST study are described in a report released today in Washington, D.C., during the Fire Chiefs White House Roundtable on Climate Change Impacts at the Wildland Urban Interface.

The number of WUI fires, particularly in the western and southern regions of the United States, has grown as housing developments push into wilderness areas. According to the Bureau of Land Management's National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the 10 years since 2002 saw an annual average of nearly 71,000 WUI fires recorded and 1.9 million hectares (4.7 million acres) burned.

Today, more than 32 percent of U.S. housing units and one-tenth of all land with housing are situated in the nation's 89 million hectares (220 million acres) of WUI, putting approximately 72,000 communities and more than 120 million people at risk.

The physical and monetary toll from WUI fire destruction is staggering. The NIFC calculates that nearly 39,000 homes--more than 3,000 per year--were lost to wildfires from 2000-2012 and that federal, state and local agencies spent an average of $4.7 billion annually during that period on WUI fire suppression.

The Waldo Canyon WUI fire started on June 23, 2012, just southwest of Colorado Springs, Colo. By the time the blaze was declared contained on July 10, 2012, it left two people dead, destroyed 344 homes and damaged more than 100, burned 7,384 hectares (18,247 acres) and cost an estimated $454 million in insured losses.

The NIST study, conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the federal Joint Fire Science Program, documented and assessed the chronology, behavior and outcomes of the fire, as well the firefighting activity against it.

In their investigation, Maranghides and his colleagues focused on the Mountain Shadows community in Colorado Springs, the location for all of the homes destroyed in the Waldo Canyon fire. The scientific analysis of the fire's impact on Mountain Shadows and the effectiveness of defensive measures taken to suppress it took two years to complete. Researchers spent 4,500 hours on data collection, conducted more than 200 technical discussions with first responders and made more than 4,500 distinct fire and defensive action observations.

Along with the most detailed timeline for a WUI fire ever created, the Waldo Canyon investigation yielded 37 technical findings that served as the basis for 13 technical recommendations aimed at improving community resilience to wildfires.

Among the key findings:

  • WUI fire dynamics change rapidly and require special consideration.

    "For example, if your home is nestled deep within a neighborhood away from the leading edge of a fire, you might not be at risk early on," Maranghides said. "However, the danger to your home dramatically increases if a neighboring house, the surrounding landscape or a nearby vehicle catches on fire."

  • WUI fires create "cascading ignitions."

    The intensity, spread and destructive power of a WUI fire increases rapidly as more and more structures are ignited. In the Waldo Canyon fire study, the researchers found that only 48 of the destroyed homes were ignited directly from the wildfire. Structure-to-structure spread from these early ignitions resulted in the cascading ignition of the other 296 destroyed homes.

  • Defensive measures were very effective in suppressing burning structures and containing the Waldo Canyon fire because they took WUI conditions into account.

    First responders were able to contain fire spread or "box in" much of the fire because they effectively assessed fire behavior, exposure risks to structures from fire and embers, and potential responses by structures to the changing conditions.

  • There was not a nationally accepted system available for preplanning the response to the Waldo Canyon event.

    Although firefighter response to the fire was effective, the researchers believe that pre-fire planning could have further enhanced the effort. Unfortunately, there currently is not a nationally accepted system on how to do preplanning for WUI fires. Such planning requires an intimate understanding of exposure risks and vulnerabilities--both for individual structures and the community as a whole. To help first responders and others to gain this understanding, NIST is developing both an in-the-field, two-tiered system for collecting data after WUI fires and a WUI Hazard Scale for predicting and mapping the ranges of exposure risks to fire and embers from a WUI event throughout a community.

Among the key technical recommendations:

  • Fire departments should develop, plan, train and practice standard operating procedures for responding to WUI fires in their specific communities.

    These procedures should result from scientifically mapping a community's high- and low-risk areas of exposure to both the fire and embers generated during WUI events (as will be possible using the WUI Hazard Scale).

  • A "response time threshold" for WUI fires should be established for each community.

    Fire departments have optimal "time-to-response" standards for reaching urban fires. Similar thresholds can, and should be, set for WUI fires.

  • High-density structure-to-structure spacing in a community should be identified and considered in WUI fire response plans.

    In the Waldo Canyon fire, the majority of homes destroyed were ignited by fire and embers coming from other nearby residences already on fire. Based on this observation, the researchers concluded that structure spatial arrangements in a community must be a major consideration when planning for WUI fires.

NIST's work on WUI fires is part of its ongoing programs for enhancing disaster resilience by reducing the risks of fires, earthquakes, windstorms and coastal inundation on buildings, infrastructure and communities, including facility occupants/users and emergency responders.

###

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. To learn more about NIST, visit http://www.nist.gov.

Media Contact

Michael E. Newman
michael.newman@nist.gov
301-975-3025

 @usnistgov

http://www.nist.gov 

Michael E. Newman | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Canyon Colorado NIST earthquakes wildfires

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht How to design city streets more fairly
18.05.2020 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH

nachricht Insects: Largest study to date confirms declines on land, but finds recoveries in freshwater – Highly variable trends
24.04.2020 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Biotechnology: Triggered by light, a novel way to switch on an enzyme

In living cells, enzymes drive biochemical metabolic processes enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very ability which allows them to be used as catalysts in biotechnology, for example to create chemical products such as pharmaceutics. Researchers now identified an enzyme that, when illuminated with blue light, becomes catalytically active and initiates a reaction that was previously unknown in enzymatics. The study was published in "Nature Communications".

Enzymes: they are the central drivers for biochemical metabolic processes in every living cell, enabling reactions to take place efficiently. It is this very...

Im Focus: New double-contrast technique picks up small tumors on MRI

Early detection of tumors is extremely important in treating cancer. A new technique developed by researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from normal tissue. The work is published May 25 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

researchers at the University of California, Davis offers a significant advance in using magnetic resonance imaging to pick out even very small tumors from...

Im Focus: I-call - When microimplants communicate with each other / Innovation driver digitization - "Smart Health“

Microelectronics as a key technology enables numerous innovations in the field of intelligent medical technology. The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT coordinates the BMBF cooperative project "I-call" realizing the first electronic system for ultrasound-based, safe and interference-resistant data transmission between implants in the human body.

When microelectronic systems are used for medical applications, they have to meet high requirements in terms of biocompatibility, reliability, energy...

Im Focus: When predictions of theoretical chemists become reality

Thomas Heine, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at TU Dresden, together with his team, first predicted a topological 2D polymer in 2019. Only one year later, an international team led by Italian researchers was able to synthesize these materials and experimentally prove their topological properties. For the renowned journal Nature Materials, this was the occasion to invite Thomas Heine to a News and Views article, which was published this week. Under the title "Making 2D Topological Polymers a reality" Prof. Heine describes how his theory became a reality.

Ultrathin materials are extremely interesting as building blocks for next generation nano electronic devices, as it is much easier to make circuits and other...

Im Focus: Rolling into the deep

Scientists took a leukocyte as the blueprint and developed a microrobot that has the size, shape and moving capabilities of a white blood cell. Simulating a blood vessel in a laboratory setting, they succeeded in magnetically navigating the ball-shaped microroller through this dynamic and dense environment. The drug-delivery vehicle withstood the simulated blood flow, pushing the developments in targeted drug delivery a step further: inside the body, there is no better access route to all tissues and organs than the circulatory system. A robot that could actually travel through this finely woven web would revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of illnesses.

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny microrobot that resembles a white blood cell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

New 5G switch provides 50 times more energy efficiency than currently exists

27.05.2020 | Information Technology

Return of the Blob: Surprise link found to edge turbulence in fusion plasma

27.05.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Upwards with the “bubble shuttle”: How sea floor microbes get involved with methane reduction in the water column

27.05.2020 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>