November 23, 2020

Wildland gigafires create new threat: ‘Blizzards of embers’

Blizzards of embers from fast-moving wildfires threaten the urban core.

FUSEE Executive Director Tim Ingalsbee spoke about threats from large wildfires.

Fast-moving wildfires create blizzards of burning embers far in advance of the fire front. A single wildfire threatening hundreds of homes can quickly transition into an urban conflagration. To protect ourselves, we must prevent those embers from igniting not only our own homes but those of our nearby neighbors.

That was the message from Tim Ingalsbee, executive director of Firefighters United For Safety, Ethics, and Ecology, at a recent Fire Forum sponsored by the Neighborhood Leaders Council.

Listen to the KEPW story here

“Wildfires are growing to huge size with phenomenal rates of spread driven by these blizzard of embers,” Tim said. “It’s these giant blizzards of embers: Each one landing in dry fuels either in the forest floor or in a home rooftop can ignite a new fire. And so what’s happening with these megafires is, fires are hopscotching across the landscape, leapfrogging across any fire lines or fuel breaks… The reality is that even a single wildfire can threaten hundreds of homes simultaneously and we’re just not able to stop fire spread during these kinds of weather conditions that lead to these urban wildfire disasters.”

Tim suggested that we can get the biggest bang for our buck by focusing on the home ignition zone. That effort will require the whole community, he suggested.

“You can do all that you can do to protect your own home, but if your neighbor hasn’t, their house puts your house at risk,” he said. “We’ve really got to pull this together as a community. It’s really the responsibility of the whole community.”

The Fire Forum also featured Eugene-Springfield Fire Chief Chris Heppel and Deputy Chief / Fire Marshal Amy Linder. The complete two-hour fire forum is available on YouTube in four segments:

Part 1: Eugene / Springfield Fire Chief Chris Heppel

Part 2: Deputy Chief / Fire Marshal Amy Linder

Part 3: FUSEE Executive Director Tim Ingalsbee

Part 4: David Monk asks audience questions

Their slide presentations are also available online.