Ponderosa West Project, creating a fuel break for wildfires
“Ponderosa West Project is a shaded fuel break.Unlike a fire break, a shaded fuel break does not remove all vegetation to bare mineral soil. Rather, living vegetation will be modified or reduced to limit a fire’s ability to spread rapidly. The California Native Plant Society, CAL FIRE and Fire Safe Council are collaborating with property owners to create a custom fuel reduction plan for each property.”
Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.
View all posts by jeffpelline
One thought on “Ponderosa West Project, creating a fuel break for wildfires”
When Jane and I first heard about the Ponderosa West Project a few months ago, we were encouraged to realize that it looks very much like the sort of clearing we have done here on our 2.5 acres. When we first moved here, we researched fire, and we learned about a guy down in San Diego, a retired physicist named Joseph Mitchell who studied fire, and came to the conclusion (and he’s not alone in this this) that the main risk to homes are clouds of embers flying ahead of the fire … embers that get into the eaves and soffits. In fact, in watching some YouTube videos of the recent Paradise firestorm, we noticed an amazing thing: many homes burned to the ground while the trees all around them didn’t burn. Not in all cases, but in many cases. This supports Mitchell’s ember theory.
Mitchell invented something he calls WEEDS (Wind-Enabled Ember Defense System), which is nothing more than a series of ordinary shrub nozzles (the kind used in lawns), mounted about every six feet under the eaves of the house, all the way around. Water is fed to it via PVC pipes. The series of sprays overlap and form a continuous barrier against flying embers, all the way around the house. A year or so after Mitchell installed the system on his own house in a rural area of San Diego County, there was a big fire in his neighborhood, and his was the only home that survived it. He describes it here:
Click to access fire-WEEDS.pdf
We were so impressed that I wrote to Mitchell and got his plans, right down to the specs on the shrub nozzles, and we installed it here. Several thousand dollars later we had two new 2600-gallon backup water tanks, with a special underground water line from our well house to the PVC-supported WEEDS installation under our eaves. Our well pump is supported (when PG&E fails) by our 12kw backup generator tied directly into our underground 250-gallon propane tank. If we ever have to evacuate, we plan to turn on the WEEDS system and run for our lives.