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Update on Forest Fire Research and Reconstruction of the deadly ‘Camp’ Fire: California. USA

The ‘Camp’ Fire ignited on November 8, 2018 in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Butte County, California. The first 24 hours were characterized by a fast-moving fire with initial spread driven by high winds up to 22 m/s (50 mi/h) and long-range spotting up to 6.3 km (3.9 mi) into the community. The fire quickly impacted the communities of Concow, Paradise, and Magalia. The Camp Fire became the most destructive and deadly fire in California history, with over 18 000 destroyed structures, 700 damaged structures, and 85 fatalities.

After a preliminary reconnaissance, it was determined that abundant data was available to support an in-depth case study of this devastating wildland-urban interface (WUI) fire to increase our understanding of WUI fire spread, fire behavior, evacuation, and structure response. The methodology guiding the case study and a detailed timeline reconstruction of the fire progression and fire behavior will be presented. Over 2200 observations about fire spread and behavior were collected during the case study headed by Alexander Maranghides. Subsequent reports will detail additional aspects of the incident including emergency response and evacuation, and defensive actions and structure response.

This study has identified that Butte County and the Town of Paradise were well prepared to respond to a WUI fire, that the Camp Fire grew and spread rapidly and that multiple factors contributed to the rapid growth and spread of the Camp Fire. Additionally, this study identified the importance of the wildland fire ignition location relative to the community, that multiple parcel-level fire spread pathways caused structure ignitions, and that WUI fire spread impacted the affected communities in multiple ways beyond the destruction of residential and commercial properties.

This is a follow-up from a presentation made to SFPE about 10 years ago

In this virtual presentation for SFPE BC,  Alexander Maranghides of NIST will present the highlights of his research and reconstruction of the disastrous’ Camp’ Fire in California and lessons to be learned by fire protection engineers, foresters and regulators in Canada- in the light of recent Guidance on the Wildfire Urban Interface published by NRCC.

The intent of the NIST WUI group is to “reduce the toll of wildfires”, introducing or highlighting that statement should hopefully bring a lot of attention from our local Fire Services.

Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Program conducts research to reduce risk of fire hazard in WUI communities.  This research includes mission-related measurement science research and services to develop wildland-urban interface fire risk exposure metrics; predict the spread of fires in WUI communities, assess fire performance of structures and communities, and mitigate effects of WUI fires on structures and communities through science-based codes and standards. 

NIST - WUI research

Start date: 
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - 12:00

Signups closed for this Event

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