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Bl ac k Ti ger Fi r e Case St udy Pr epar ed by t he NFPA9 Nat i onal Fi r e Pr ot ec t i on Assoc i at i on Sponsor ed by t he Nat i onal Wi l dl and/Ur ban I nt er f ac e Fi r e Pr ot ec t i on I ni t i at i ve Member s of t he I ni t i at i ve: Uni t ed St at es Depar t ment of Agr i c ul t ur e For est Ser vi c e Nat i onal Assoc i at i on of St at e For est er s Uni t ed St at es Depar t ment of I nt er i or Bur eau of Land Management Nat i onal Fi r e
  Black Tiger Fire Case Study Prepared by the NFP National Fire Protection Association Sponsored by the National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Protection Initiative Members of the Initiative: United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service National Association of State ForestersUnited States Department of Interior  Bureau  of Land Management National Fire ProtectionAssociation For more  information or  to order additional copies of this report, contact Fire Investigations Division, National Fire Protection Association P.O.  Box 9101, uincy Massachusetts, 02269  ABSTRACT A human-caused wildland  fire starting on July 9, 1989  in a scenic part of the Rocky Mountains near Boulder, Colorado, swept through residential areas nestled among the trees.Within the first five to six hours after ignition, 44 homes and other structures were destroyed and many others were damaged. The fire was not completely extinguished until four days later, after burning almost 2,100 acres. Loss estimates of homes and natural resources amounted to $10 million, and the cost to control the fire was another $1 million. More than500 fire fighters from local, state and federal fire agencies worked to eventually contain the fire and protect the numerous other homes built in the rustic surroundings. Some of the firefighters’ own homes were threatened or destroyed by the fire. Only a few minor fire fighter injuries were reported and one resident was hospitalized from burns.The result of this wildfire, especially the loss of the homes, represents an increasingly common example of the risks of building homes in what is called the wildland/urban interface, the term for a border zone where structures-mainly residences-are built in wildland  areas that by nature are subject to fires. This fire, which soon outran the fire defenses in difficult terrain, demonstrated the predictable effects of a combination of factors: lack of rainfall; prolonged heat spell; wind; sloping topography; buildup of forest fuels;construction factors affecting the susceptibility of the home to fire; use of combustible construction materials; poor site access for emergency vehicles; and lack of a home’s site maintenance for fire protection. These factors plus the number of homes that were quicklythreatened compounded the problems for the fire fighters. The Black Tiger Fire was the worst wildland  fire loss in Colorado history, but the conditions that led to it are still prevalent in many parts of Colorado as well as in other states. The trend of building combustible homes in the flammable wildlands continues. In manyof these areas the potential for similar or worse disaster currently exists, needing only an ignition source and the unfortunate development of hot, dry, windy weather conditions that come with dangerous regularity every year.For several years fire protection agencies have been attempting to warn affected home-owners nationwide of the risks of these wildland  areas, but most homeowners remain not fully aware of, or insufficiently concerned about, the problem. Many publications also offer guidance for homes in the wildland/urban  interface (see the Appendix for a sampling). Proposed NFPA 299, Protection of Life   and Property from    Wildland   Fire, will be a national standard that will present fundamental planning and design criteria for fire agencies, planners, architects, developers and government for the protection of life and property. Itincludes information on procedures and practices for safe development in areas that may be threatened by wildfire. To assure that it will be an acceptable document, it-as are all standards developed by the National Fire Protection Association-is being prepared by a committee of those who would be most affected: homeowners; interested individuals; architects; urban planners; and fire officials from local, state and federal agencies. 3  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS T his report has been prepared by the Na- This wildland  fire is only one of many thattional Fire Protection Association (NFPA) atoccur throughout the world each year. Underthe request and in cooperation with the Boul- the sponsorship of the Initiative, the Nationalder County Sheriff’s Department. The projectFire Protection Association will review, ana-was sponsored by the National Wildland/Urban lyze, and document additional wildland/urbanInterface Fire Protection Initiative to furtherinterface fires that cause destruction to homesthe goals of the Initiative established in 1986.   and structures.Those goals are to create general publicThe preparation of this report wouldawareness of the wildland  interface prob- not have been possible without the able lems,  to encourage the formation of partner- assistance of the following people: Sheriffships among problem-solvers and interestBrad Leach and Sgt. Larry Stern of the Boul- groups, and to focus on the development ofer County Sheriffs Office; Chief Ruth Rave-local solutions to wildland/urban  interfaceel of the Sugarloaf Volunteer Fire Depart- fire problems. The Initiative is sponsored ment;  Ron Zeleny and Dave Parker of thecurrently by the U.S. Department of Agricul- Colorado State Forest Service; Shelly Noldeture Forest Service, U.S. Department of theand Bob Wilmot of the Arapaho/Roosevelt Interior, the National Association ofState Foresters, and the National FireProtection Association. Contact in-formation for each of these organi-zations is provided in the Appendix.As part of achieving the goals ofthe Initiative, an analysis of the BlackTiger Fire was undertaken. Thepurpose of the analysis was to docu-ment the fire, determine to the ex-tent possible the variables causingthe destruction, and make recom-mendations on how to prevent simi-lar occurrences. Thomas Klem, Di-rector of NFPA’s  Fire InvestigationsNational Forest; Brooke B. Smith, Jr., Fire Protection Engineer, As-pen Engineering, Inc.; and nu-merous other people from the or-ganizations listed above who con-tributed to this report.In addition, the on-site assis-tance and technical guidance pro-vided to NFPA personnel by AlRoberts, U.S.D.A. Forest ServiceRegional Office in Denver, greatlyenhanced our ability to preparethis report. Next, technical assis-tance and input to the fire growthand intensity analysis of the re-Division, served as project manager and tech-nical advisor. William Baden,  Senior Fire Serv-ice Specialist, NFPA,  served as the technicaladvisor for the project. Dr. John R.  Hall, Jr.,Director, Fire Analysis and Research Division, NFPA,  specifically contributed the section “Sta- tistical Analysis of Factors in Damaged Homes.” The information from this report can beused to assist planners, local officials, fire serv- ice personnel and homeowners in Coloradoand in other parts of the country in developing firesafe  homes and communities in thewildland/urban interface, a term referring tothe geographical area where two diverse sys-tems-in this case, wildland  and residential-  join and affect each other.port were provided by Dick Rothermel, U.S.D.A.Forest Service Intermountain Forest Range Ex-periment Station in Missoula, Montana. Each ofthese individuals has made significant contri-butions to the technical accuracy of the report.The methodology used for the project and ap-proach used in the analysis is described stan- ing on page 37. Laurie Ruszcyk, as project secretary, served numerous functions throughout the projectincluding coordination of technical reviews,procurement of photos, and arrangement ofthe report for layout and printing.Finally, Jerry Laughlin of Books On Fireserved as technical editor and prepared the 4   layout of the final document.  e officials across the nation are reporting dramatic increases in the loss of homes towildfires. The 1980s have seen some of the most severe wildfires in this century. In 1985, for example, 1400  homes and other structures were damaged or destroyed in fires reported to the U.S. Forest Service. Every year since 1985, more than 300 homes have been lost to suchwildfires, but the tragic losses are not just to property-lives of homeowners and fire fight-ers are also lost every year. In 1987, more fire   fighters    died fighting    wildland fires   than any  other single type of fire. The fire danger to homes in the wildland/ urban interface is affected by five major fac- tors:   People continue to move to the scenic wildlands and build homes there. This trend will continue to be influenced by the less desirable factors of city and subur- ban life, as compared to the desirable factors OVERVIEW A dreamhomesitecan becomea nightmarefor theunprepared. associated with living in the wildlands.The population density of most cities is ex- tremely high. For example, Denver has ap-proximately 4,200 residents per square mile; Los Angeles and Miami both have some 6,400 per square mile; and New York City squeezesin about 23,300 people per square mile. In ad- dition, many city and suburban residents must contend with soaring property and rental costscoupled with reduced services. They say urban areas feature excessive taxes, too-restrictive regulations, and endless noise, crime and grime. As a result, people are moving from cities to the less-crowded wildlands because they offer a scenic environment with generally lowerproperty costs, more privacy, fewer regula- tions, less noise and less crime. This new trend is made possible by the availability of a combination of services previ- ously obtainable only in the cities and suburbs. Now good connecting highways allow people to retain their jobs in the cities but escape to live Photo b y    NFPA
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