The past two years of California fires have really given the West Coast a run, by having record-breaking natural disasters back to back years in 2017 and 2018. According to NASA, the Thomas Fire (2017) burned areas in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties in California, consuming 281,893 acres and was the largest wildfire in California history… until 2018. (1 Bagwell, Ross E.)
While we know that these fires will have a larger impact on our West Coast customers than most, it’s always smart to know why it’s happening, make a plan for dealing with disasters, and keeping your family and business safe!
California Fires | Recent History
The 2018 wildfires came blazing through California burning an area of 1,667,855 acres, the largest amount of burned acreage recorded in a fire season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), as of November 11. The fires have caused more than $2.975 billion (2018 USD) in damages, including $1.366 billion in fire suppression costs. The wildfires were so deadly and moving at a rate of nearly 80 football fields per minute! (5)
Initial concerns start at the fire and how to contain it. Post-wildfire emergency, California officials are now announcing evacuations for areas that were destroyed by the wildfires just weeks ago. The concerns begin when the heavy waterfalls followed by the immense disruption (wildfire) and the water is not absorbed into the ground, but it runs right down hydrophobic soil causing a mudslide. Hydrophobic soil is soil that repels water and reduces the ability of water in infiltrating the land. Now just because there was a wildfire, that does not necessarily mean the water will have trouble with absorption, but the key characteristics were present in California. The influential conditions are as follows: a thick layer of plant litter prior to the fire, high-intensity surface and crown fires, and prolonged periods of intense heat and lastly coarse-textured soils.
Wild Fires Lead to Mudslides
There are a handful of reasons why this occurs. For starters, there is essentially a new layer of debris from all the different materials that have been moved around and are loose/ slick from the fires. Then, heavy rains will come to wash away the debris. The diagram below shares some examples of mass movements and describes mudslides in further detail. LINK (2).
The California fires are no phenomenon but seem to be getting worse. There have been thousands of fires over the past few decades, and we can witness that disasters have become more serious. Some speculate that human disruption is the main cause, others blame global warming and climate change, and some even place eyes on forest management as there may have been ways to prevent some of this ahead of time. According to a study in 2015 (fig2) by Raymond Davis at Forest Ecology and Management 390 (2017), there may not be a huge increase in the number of fires, but that the area of effect is increasing based on the ideal conditions becoming more prevalent for fires. (6) “In 2015 the US Northwest Climate Division and our study area had its warmest fire season on record in over a century (www.ncdc.noaa.gov) and experienced its highest number of large wildfires and forests burned since 1971”.
Tips for our Customers
Make a list! We know… it sounds simple, but that’s because it is. Take a look at some of the preparation list items from wunderground.com.
- Make a disaster supply kit and have a business emergency plan
- Design and landscape your business with wildfire safety in mind: select materials and plants that can help contain fire rather than fuel it
- Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the roof and exterior structure of the dwelling, or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking or trim with fire-retardant chemicals evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
- Plant fire-resistant shrubs and trees (for example, hardwood trees are less flammable than pine, evergreen, eucalyptus or fir trees)
- Regularly clean roof and gutters
- Inspect chimneys at least twice a year. Clean them at least once a year. Keep the dampers in good working order. Equip chimneys and stovepipes with a spark arrester that meets the requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 211. (Contact your local fire department for exact specifications)
Obviously, you can’t always save your home or your business during natural disasters, but rest assured that Satellite|PolyPortables has your safety and best interest in mind.
We have many customers dedicated to assisting in disaster relief efforts from coast to coast, providing much-needed sanitation equipment to the brave men and women who risk their lives for our safety.
If you have any questions on preparing for California fires, or any other natural disasters, would like more information on our customers who help, or anything in between – please contact us at any time.