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Lessons From (Building Science) Summer Camp: Wildfire Season Is HUGE

Trees and shrubs are fuel, but your neighbors are a greater risk
October 24, 2022

The Westford Symposium on Building Science is an invitation-only symposium featuring top experts as speakers and top-notch builders, architects, developers, product manufacturers, engineers, and scientists in the audience.

Days are full of classes; evenings are full of food, beer, and networking opportunities. This year, I was allowed to film the sessions, which totaled about 20 hours. Not all of the sessions are deeply relevant to residential construction and remodeling, so I'm going to excerpt the handful that are.

One thing that both Michael Anschel and I noticed is how often speakers used the word "Resilience" in their presentations, which made us feel like our show, Building Resilience, may have some long legs.

I'll begin with wildfire because I feel like beginning with wildfire.

Answers from the Ashes

Jeff Berino, BS, AAS, CFEI, CCFI, INVF, Advanced Engineering Investigations Corporation

From the program:

Jeff Berino is a firefighter. The real deal. Firefighter I, II & III. He has worked in every position in the fire service, from Wildland Hotshot to Fire Marshal to Fire Chief with Summit Fire, CO. He was the Colorado Fire Chief of the Year. He currently investigates wildland fires for a forensics firm in the Denver area. He is going to cover how wildfires are investigated for their origin and cause using modern forensics. He will discuss how community planning/zoning and building construction are changing the tactics involving wildfire suppression in suburban settings. He will discuss solutions involving reducing structural ignitability.

I skipped much of the investigation parts because I am more interested in showing protradecraft readers/viewers how to prevent the fire than how to figure out where and how it started.

The general highlights from this segment are:

  • Wildfire season is year-round now, and it's worldwide
  • Houses have become the fuel—it's not just the trees, anymore
  • General strategies for reducing risk
  • Fire codes offer guidance, but the code is the worst you can legally build
  • Weak links in residential design (vented attics and roofs, overhanging decks, indefensible space...)

The video includes a clip from the Insurance Institute for Building and Home Safety featuring Daniel Gorham, who was a guest on 7 Minutes of BS: Wildfires. You should listen to that for a deeper understanding of how the fires work and how to sidestep their effects.

More on wildfire resistance:

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