ENCINITAS, Calif., Aug. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- With the arrival of fire
season, fire management professionals are hard at work responding to
emergency calls, preparing for inevitable wildfires, or positioning
themselves on the front lines fighting blazes.
More recently, however, fire departments are turning to urban foresters
and technology to augment their arsenal against wildfire. Foresters, with
their technological toolkit, identify high-risk areas with dangerous,
overgrown vegetation or narrow buffer zones and develop targeted plans for
reducing these hazards.
The City of Del Mar Fire Department is on the forefront of this trend.
With the help of urban foresters and state-of-the-art geographic
information system (GIS) based modeling software, fire professionals can
analyze hazard areas to clearly identify high-risk zones and prepare an
attack plan to remove hazardous fuels, lower potential threats to persons
and property, and provide firefighters with "defensible space" with which
they can more effectively control a fire's spread.
While better known for its beautiful beaches and quaint downtown, Del
Mar also has narrow and steep brush-covered canyons located next to
multi-million dollar homes.
"Fire prevention is a science," said David Ott, Del Mar Fire
Department's fire chief. "It's not about clearing hundreds of feet of
vegetation and facing environmental consequences; it's about thorough
research to identify target areas and allocating an appropriate level of
resources to mitigate risks."
Unlike the Del Mar Fire Department's previous plans that called for
broad prevention efforts, this new technology shows precisely where to
target fuel volume and fuel continuity reduction efforts. With this
information, Del Mar's crews now strategically reduce wildfire hazards
while maintaining soil stability, sensitive species' habitats, aesthetics
and resident privacy.
"Fire prevention officers are familiar with the high-risk areas," said
Michael Huff, urban forestry manager with Dudek, an Encinitas-based
engineering and environmental consulting firm that works with numerous fire
departments including Del Mar. "We combine their knowledge with our
research and analysis, mapping this in GIS databases and running
computerized fire behavior modeling programs. This output graphically
represents high-risk areas for use in planning and designing
environmentally-friendly fuel reduction efforts as well as in educating the
community and decision-makers."
In Del Mar, for example, it became evident that some ridge-top homes
and primary evacuation routes did not have enough buffer area to reduce
fire intensity to levels that would allow fire fighters a safe zone to
defend homes and evacuate residents during a wildfire emergency. Dudek's
field assessments and fire behavior modeling identified priority areas to
receive targeted brush removal. Once completed, fire risk was reduced and
defensible space was increased.
As an added benefit, fire departments find the graphical
representations assist in communications with city officials and community
members. "These visuals are easy-to-understand," added Huff. "It makes the
threat very apparent to the average citizen." This helps fire departments
secure grants and additional city funds to continue their efforts in
maintaining safe communities.
Dudek is a leading Southern California-based engineering and
environmental consulting corporation that creatively solves regulatory
challenges for municipal agencies and major land owners. The firm helps
clients plan, design, construct and manage successful infrastructure and
environmental projects that balance regulatory mandates and technical
requirements within financial and scheduling goals. Founded in 1980, Dudek
is headquartered in Encinitas in San Diego County with offices in Orange,
Riverside and Santa Barbara counties. For more information, e-mail