Factors associated with home survival in the 2018 Camp Fire, California

The 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed 18,804 structures in northern California, including most of the town of Paradise, provided an opportunity to investigate housing arrangement and vegetation-related factors associated with home survival. We obtained some relatively simple measurements from a randomly selected subset of homes in Paradise, including the distance to the nearest destroyed home and structure, and nearby pre-fire overstory canopy cover at different spatial scales, from aerial imagery. The findings, corroborated by photographs taken of damaged but not destroyed homes, indicate that both structural fuels (burning homes, sheds etc.) and wildland fuels influenced the likelihood of home survival, and point to changes that could substantially improve outcomes.

Presenter Biographies

Eric Knapp is a research ecologist with the US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, and based in Redding, CA. He obtained a BA in Biology at UC Santa Barbara and graduate degrees at UC Davis (MS in Agronomy and a PhD in Genetics). His interest in fire and forest ecology came later, partly through a stint leading a prescribed fire research effort in Sequoia National Park. He has been with the USFS for the past 18 years, working on a wide range of research topics, including quantifying long-term forest change in the absence of fire, evaluating the ecological outcomes of different forest thinning and fuel management options, and understanding the controls on severity in wildfires. The massive home losses in Redding and surrounding communities with the Carr and Camp Fires led to his interest in figuring out how we co-exist with wildfire under the current realities, prompting the topic of the seminar presentation.