Thomas Welle

Tiny embers are a big problem in wildfires

Blog Post created by Thomas Welle on Dec 5, 2014

Research by Jack Cohen of the USDA Forest Service (USDAFS),  and Dr. Stephen Quarles Ph.D., of the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), have both done significant research on how homes burn in Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) fires.  But unless you have actually experienced or fought a wildland fire, you have no idea what an “ember blizzard”, as firefighters call it, actually looks like.

However, now you can.  Using technology from the new fire detection and reconnaissance aircraft purchased by the Colorado State Division of Fire Prevention and Control, (CDFPC) you can see it for yourself.

The photograph on the right is a screen capture from a You Tube video that was taken using the Screen-grab-Colo-IR-videoElectro Optical/Infrared, (EO/IR), sensor equipment on board a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft currently employed by CDFPC.  The image was taken from 30,000 feet, to give you an idea of the systems capability. 

In the center of the photograph embers are showering out of the top of the heated smoke column, transported by the convection of the fire and wind.  You can also see the heat signatures of several small spot fires caused by embers contacting flammable vegetation. Embers can sometimes carry over a mile, depending on weather conditions, topography and the species of vegetation that is burning.

In order for homes to survive these ember storms, Firewise principles must be accomplished by homeowners and communities well before a fire happens.  It can mean the difference between survival and total loss.  A Firewise home also allows a greater degree of safety for firefighters and can give them a fighting chance to protect your home, themselves, and your community.

photo credit: CDFPC

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