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Defending structures from the ravages of wildfire

REUTERS / Rick Wilking

The above photo was posted on Business Insider with the headline, "Firefighters somehow saved this house from the most desctructive forest fire in Colorado history."

It turns out the "somehow" isn't as much about arbitrary luck as the word (or photo) implies. In fact, a few days ago the city of Colorado Springs posted a video of their fire department strategically managing the fire's fuel on the grounds around a house. Doing so helped ensure the fire didn't have enough energy to transition from the woods to the house as it advanced at a rate of six inches per second.

At around 2:50 in the video the narrator explains that the homeowner has done himself a service by maintaining the low branches on the trees in such a way that the fire is not able to climb from the ground to the upper foliage. That state of California has a site called "Ready for wildfire" that describes this type of maintenance as part of "creating a defensible space." Included in their instructions is a graphic about preventing that vertical spread of fire.  

The California site has a video as well

I've lived on wooded property before but forest fire was never a greater concern than simple Smokey Bear safety and the hazard rating on the sign outside the firehouse. As a news-watching spectator cringing at the loss of life and property, I hope folks out west are familiar with the extra steps that might give their house a fighting chance while they're safely evacuated away.