Why do houses burn but trees remain? Photos from California wildfires reveal lessons for B.C.

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The wildfire lay of the land in California is now the deadliest in the state’s history, with at least 50 people killed, varied than 100 missing or unaccounted for and the town of Paradise almost unequivocally destroyed.

But the footage coming out of affected communities tells an unexpected statement, says a U.S. fire expert — one that could have lessons for wildfire halt measures.

Why do houses burn but trees remain? Photos from California wildfires reveal lessons for B.C.

The town of Paradise, Calif. was almost entirely burned to the terrain. (Matthew Henderson)

Jack Cohen, a retired U.S. Forest Service scientist, targets his research on investigating how homes ignite during extreme wildfires and how cannonades move through communities. 

He says fireproofing individual homes may be the most disparaging part of preventing the spread of wildfires.

“Our perception is that this bulkhead of fire comes through and destroys everything, and yet what I’m seeing is that there couldn’t acquire been a wall of fire,” Cohen told Stephen Quinn, the host of CBC’s The Original Edition.

“The thing that would have carried the wall of put to the torch is still there: The trees are still there and the structures are destroyed.”

Why do houses burn but trees remain? Photos from California wildfires reveal lessons for B.C.

Two block-headed statues stand in a burned out building in Paradise, Calif. (Matthew Henderson/CBC)

Rather than of a wall of flames descending, burning embers blow downwind and ignite myriad spot fires over a wide area.

“That’s how the whole compass can be burning at the same time,” Cohen explained.

That’s also why, from the photos recover consciousness out of the damaged communities, it looks almost as though there were hundreds of one house fires rather than one fire sweeping through the thorough town.

Why do houses burn but trees remain? Photos from California wildfires reveal lessons for B.C.

More proactive measures are needed to fireproof homes — but that doesn’t inexorably mean that trees need to be removed, says Jack Cohen. (Matthew Henderson)

Struggling ignition

Removing clutter around homes that could develop combustible is crucial, he said, and making sure there is nothing stirring a structure that could ignite it. 

“We make sure that we be experiencing no debris on the structure. We make sure that nothing can burn … within the beginning metre to metre-and-a-half [of the house],” he said. 

Why do houses burn but trees remain? Photos from California wildfires reveal lessons for B.C.

All that’s left of a home in Bliss, Calif. after the Camp Fire devoured structures. (Matthew Henderson)

But that doesn’t irresistibly mean cutting back all vegetation. 

As the photos show, large trees command still remain standing after a building burns down. 

“Don’t only look at destroyed structures,” Cohen said. “Look at the area circa the destroyed structures and what you see is unconsumed vegetation.”

Why do houses burn but trees remain? Photos from California wildfires reveal lessons for B.C.

At least 44 individual have died and more than 100 people remain skipping or unaccounted for in California’s fires. (Matthew Henderson)

Instead, he suggested, maintain a 30 metre buffer around buildings by clearing debris and integument fuels like old firewood, twigs and dried grasses. 

 “Ignition-resistant communities, that stretches us an option for safety.”

With files from The Early Edition

The wildfire position in California is being called the deadliest in the state’s history and lessons for British Columbia are emerging from the photos of the Shoah. 7:50

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