lunes, 24 de noviembre de 2008

Private firefighting crews gaining ground in the field

An interesting article By Catherine Saillant and Jia-rui Chong November 24, 2008, at www.latimes.com

Some residents whose homes were saved in the recent blazes credit response teams dispatched by their insurers. But public firefighters express uncertainty about the private sector.
As Southern California deals with the reality of recurring, destructive wildfires, a sometimes-controversial cottage industry of private response teams has sprung up to help save the homes of well-to-do clients.Such teams were highly visible in the Tea fire, which raged across one of the nation's costliest neighborhoods, destroying 210 homes and damaging nine others.
Peter Jacobson believes one of these teams saved his home. The palm trees towering over his Montecito estate are charred black, but the retired developer's luxurious Italian villa-style home survived the devastating Nov. 13 fire mostly intact.A few hundreds yards away, all that's left of Hollywood uber-producer Marcy Carsey's $14-million retreat is a partial brick wall, jutting jagged toward the sky, and a still-green lawn with killer ocean views.Why was Jacobson so lucky?He credits Firebreak, which coated vegetation around his home with fire retardant and moved lawn chairs and other flammable items away from the home as flames approached the area after sundown. ."They saved my house. Homes around me burned, but mine didn't," Jacobson said of the company, which was dispatched by his insurer, AIG.AIG offers the extra protection free of charge to policyholders whose homes are worth $1 million or more or who pay at least $10,000 a year in premiums. Chubb Insurance this year introduced its own response teams.
Any Chubb policyholder living in a fire-prone area can sign up for the free service, said Scott Spencer, senior vice president for loss prevention.The hired troops were a presence in the most recent round of wildfires in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Orange counties. AIG says it is providing a valuable service that supplements, but doesn't replace, the work of public fire agencies.
Homeowners are happy when homes and memories are saved, and AIG saves money in the long run, spokesman Peter Tulupman said.With wildfires a frequent worry in many parts of California, such private response teams are becoming more commonplace.But as their profile grows, so does the debate within public fire agencies about whether the private firms are more of a help or hindrance.

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martes, 18 de noviembre de 2008

California Fire Season

From Bloomberg.com

California's fire season used to start in August and end by Christmas. Now it lasts year-round, and the number of blazes across the state may double this year.
Drought, heat, electrical storms and 60-year-old forest- management policies have all contributed to a threat of fire that exists every moment for residents of the most populous U.S. state. Firefighters are currently battling three wind-whipped blazes that have burned hundreds of homes near Los Angeles.
``We are in the mega-fire era,'' said Ken Frederick, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Boise, Idaho, and a former firefighter with 13 years on the lines. ``California has definitely been the epicenter of wildfire activity this year.''
More than 1.42 million acres have burned in California in 2008, up from 1.16 million last year, according to state and federal statistics. The 9,603 fires this year compare with 5,961 in 2007 and have cost at least $464.5 million to fight, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection figures.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the threat of fire now exists all the time because of California's two-year-drought and ``climate change.'' Across the state, rainfall is below normal while temperatures are higher than average.
``They are technically in a severe drought,'' said Michael Pigott, a meteorologist at private forecasting firm AccuWeather.com in State College, Pennsylvania.

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CALIFORNIA FIREFIGHTING

I red this morning an interesting article published at wsws.org
Wildfires cause massive destruction in Southern California.
By Dan Conway and Kevin Martinez 18 November 2008

Thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes as wildfires continued to rage across Southern California last Friday night.
The fires were aggravated by a combination of low humidity, high winds, and high temperatures in Southern California. Indeed, the temperatures experienced in Los Angeles, which reached a high of 93 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, were among the highest ever recorded for the city during the month of November.
At the time of this writing, the fires have burned more than 64 square miles (or 41,000 acres) and have thus far destroyed over 1,000 houses, mobile homes and apartments. A high school in the city of Brea was also among the many buildings destroyed.
White ash and smoke have been strewn as far away as 25 miles away from the fires, leading emergency authorities to advise that residents far from the fires remain in their homes due to the extremely poor air quality.
More than 484 homes burned to the ground in a trailer park of 600 homes in the town of Sylmar, the largest number of homes to be lost to fire in the history of Los Angeles. According to press reports, high winds blasted 50-foot flames horizontally through the grounds of the park, and poor water pressure hindered the efforts of firefighters trying to subdue the blaze.

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martes, 4 de noviembre de 2008

Private firefighting company known as a national leader in field

An interesting article by:
ANNE SAKER The Oregonian
The Oregonian



State and industry officials say Grayback stresses safety and training

The Oregon company that employed the eight firefighters presumed dead in a California helicopter crash is regarded as a national leader in the private fire-combat business.
Grayback Forestry, headquartered in the Josephine County town of Merlin, has experienced calamity before: In 2002, a van carrying 11 firefighters overturned in Colorado, killing five.
State and industry officials said the company emphasizes safety and training and sets a national standard for other firms.
"Grayback Forestry is a longtime contractor for us, and they're one of the very best," said Rod Nichols, information officer for the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Nichols said the department did a quick review Wednesday of Grayback's recent safety record and found no significant accidents or safety violations.
"The majority of accidents that occur in firefighting involve transportation," Nichols said. "There have been relatively few fatalities in actual firefighting compared to vehicle and aircraft transport."
In the 2002 accident, a 15-passenger van ferrying Grayback firefighters rolled over near Parachute, Colo. Investigators concluded that the driver had swerved, then overcorrected.
The private-firefighting business is largely conducted out of Oregon, and Grayback's founder, Mike Wheelock, has been instrumental in its growth, said Debbie Miley, the executive director of the National Wildfire Suppression Association, a trade group based in Lyons.

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