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Annual mega fires in the western U.S. have businesses trying to adapt

mega fire mitigation
Posted at 6:22 PM, Jun 20, 2022

Deer Park in Napa County, California was once a green haven. Now the hills surrounding the vineyards are coated with black trees because of the Glass Fire of 2020. Alan Viader of Viader Vineyards and Winery says the Glass fire wasn't anything he ever imagined they would have to face.

"It looked like a volcano kind of erupting, shooting embers all over our property," Viader said. "Flames 150 feet high."

He says it was a wakeup call.

"I got on the phone with the fire department, the local fire department, and said, 'What do I need to do to sign up?'"

Viader became a certified firefighter and has made many changes to his property to prepare for future blazes.

"Each of the buildings have a dedicated pump that's gas-powered," Viader said. "So they don't have to rely on electricity or any of the, you know, the city water. And I can be out of power and still move that around and spray water wherever I need to do."

He says it's a lesson many Californians have learned after dealing with the power being shut off during mega fires in the past. He also has little mobile water tanks and they’re building a fire-resistant deck with concrete foam blocks that can withstand heat over 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour.

With a consistent year-round fire threat, these are examples of what businesses feel they have no choice but to do. They are taking fire mitigation efforts into their own hands.

"Fire is definitely at the forefront of everybody's mind right now," Viader said. "I mean, it's a buzzword, we're all worried about it and we all want to do something about it."

However, Viader didn’t have to do it entirely on his own. The person he called for help after the Glass Fire was firefighter Erick Hernandez with Cal Fire.

"Preparedness is what we preach on a daily basis," Hernandez said.

Hernandez is part of a consulting program that educates people in the area how to defend their property from mega fires. There are similar programs in states like Colorado, Montana and Texas.

"We come out and do an assessment of the property," Hernandez said. "We look at the structures, we look at addressing axes, fire protection systems, infrastructure, water storage tanks, pump houses. And then we also look at their defensible space. So not only do we talk about what their requirements are for defensible space, but we also make additional recommendations that will benefit the property owner and their structures."

Clearing bushes and trees, replacing walkways with gravel, and cutting the grass multiple times a year are all a part of Viader's plan to make sure the property his family has owned since the 80s is safe moving forward.

"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail," Viader said. "So we're ready for anything these days."