Thesent two staffers to Los Angeles County to conduct a post-fire evaluation of the Station Fire, said Alexander Maranghides, fire-protection engineer and co-program manager of NIST's Reduced Risk of Fire Spread in Wildland-Urban Interface Communities program. The program generates research tools to assess and mitigate communities' wildfire risk.
"The objectives of the deployment and collaboration with Los Angeles County was to extend the knowledge base of WUI fire incidents that will support ongoing laboratory experiments, computer modeling, field measurements and the development of field-deployment procedures to assess burned WUI communities," Maranghides said.
Maranghides and his colleague William Mell deployed to the fire scene in partnership with the Los Angeles County damage inspection team. He said their objective was threefold: test NIST's ability to rapidly deploy to an incident and seamlessly integrated into the incident command systems; gain technical knowledge of the fire; and determine the benefits or limitations of current data collection methodologies used by the Los Angeles County damage inspection team.
While on the scene, the benefits and limitations of the current data collection methodologies used by NIST and the Los Angeles collection team were examined. Maranghides said he then compared the Station Fire to the recent Witch Fire where he found similarities, including the amount of acreage burned.
However, there were differences between the two fires' behaviors. The Witch Fire burned with the help of Santa Ana winds from the coast, where the Station Fire had fewer wind-driven fires. In addition, the Station Fire had steep canyons with mature forest that hadn't burned for more than 30 years.
"That significantly affected how quickly the fire moved throughout the WUI," he said. "This is a different fire [from the Witch Fire] and conditions were dramatically different."
Maranghides said he only wanted a snapshot of the Station Fire to help test its scientific methodology and work on a standardization process for data collection. Unlike the Witch Fire, he did not send a team of data collectors who often spend weeks to study fires. Instead, they focused on how to seamlessly integrate into the local incident command structure to gather data. They also concentrated on the developed of guidelines for data collection process that it currently is reviewing with the county's damage inspection team that may prove the need for legislative action to combat wildfires, such as establishing standardized residential building codes for structures along the WUI.
"Our hopes it that we can develop standardization data collection processes across all agencies in order to better understand these fires," he said.