By Kwuan Guerrero
As the intensity of the four North Bay fires decrease and reach full containment, fire fighters begin to return home. Daniel Urbina, a fire fighter for Angwin Fire Department and student at PUC, is just one of many first responders we get to thank for their service in combating wildfires. After his return to PUC, he agreed to speak with me briefly about some aspects of fighting fires that many people are unaware of and gave me some precautionary tips regarding fire safety.
Simply, how or why do these fires occur?
“In the instance of these recent North Bay fires, we were under a red-flag warning for about a week, and it so happened that these fires initiated on the worst day of the red flag warning. When we have consecutive days of high-temperatures, humidity levels drop increasing the possibility for fires. The unpredictable 60 mph winds we experienced were a rare occurrence, making fighting fires more difficult.”
How are these wildfires fought strategically, and on such a grand scale?
“Containment is the primary concept for fighting fires of this scale. We use a technique called “backfiring,” where we purposely place a fire down in order to prevent further loss. We go ahead of the fire, build a containment line, and set fire to all the fuel so that the main fire has nowhere to go. Containment is simply removing fuel from the perimeter of a fire.”
Where do those that were displaced go to find help?
“There are relief agencies, church organizations, the American Red Cross, FEMA— all these agencies have groups or divisions that come in to bring aid. One organization, Hope City, is actually here looking to help rebuild homes after this disaster.”
Are ordinary people blindly contributing to wildfires?
“There are certain things you must be aware of, such as when camping, look for a pre-built fire pit. If there is not one you can make your own with instructions from where you are camping. Clear vegetation from the area that will be burned for a contained fire. But, fires can start from just a car driving by, cigarettes being flicked out the window.”
A car driving by!?
“Sometimes hot pieces of metal can pop off your exhaust, the wind will catch it and it will ignite. It doesn’t happen often but it’s possible if the conditions are right so keeping your car well maintained is a factor as well.”
What are some things we can we do in preparation for fires?
“Having a containment lines around your property is great for helping fire fighters protect your home in the event of a fire. Removing the vegetation around your home in the event of a fire will give fire fighters a greater chance to protect your home.”
Fire fighters in the North Bay further progress the containment of the four different fires burning in Napa, Sonoma, and Solano counties. Daniel has returned to classes and says that they plan to have the fires fully contained by Friday. Thank you, Daniel!