A short NPR interview aired today that included perspectives on home destruction during wildland fires. A Colorado firefighter who experienced the loss of his own home during the Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder in 2010, was a first-hand witness to the power of embers to take down a home. Dr. Jack Cohen, a preeminent fire scientist recently retired from the US Forest Service, spoke to his own years of research on the home destruction phenomenon, particularly his home destruction assessment as part of the Fourmile Canyon Fire Findings published by the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.
For nearly three decades, Cohen's research findings have belied what we see on the screen. As firefighter Rodrigo Moraga observes in the interview, "In Wildfires, Big Flames Attract Attention, But Watch Out For The Embers," the big wall of flames is what catches our attention on television, but it is not usually the culprit in home destruction. Rather, as Cohen points out, because firefighting resources are stretched thin and embers are igniting homes ahead of the flames through wind and spot fires, nobody is on the scene when the small ignitions start - and hours later, homes are destroyed.
For more about what you can do now to protect your home from flames and embers before a fire ever starts, visit www.firewise.org. To bring top wildfire experts to your region to train you to spot home ignition hazards and assist residents with sound wildfire safety advice, visit our page on NFPA Home Ignition Zone training.