|By John Myers, Duluth News Tribune|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
How far were they from the forest? And how wide was the driveway?
Crews from the
To an untrained eye, the pattern of destruction might seem random. But fire officials say that clearly was not the case. Home and cabin owners who had cleared space around their buildings and who had a wide access onto their property stood the best chance of seeing their homes or cabins survive.
The DNR study looked closely at 96 of the 100 homes and cabins that were in the path of the fire. The average structure that survived the flames was 27 feet away from "unmanaged" heavy vegetation in the woods, the report concluded.
Buildings destroyed were an average of 19 feet from the woods.
"We know the national literature has keyed in on that 30-foot clearance number, and the
The "wildland-urban interface" is where the forest meets buildings.
Nearly as important as open space was how far homes and cabins were from other "outbuildings." While the home itself might be
30 feet from thick vegetation, sheds, garages and even outhouses closer to the woods often ignited, carrying the fire to the house itself, said Ackerman, who led the post-fire analysis.
"In one case, we could just follow the ash pattern across the yard," she said. "The fire essentially stopped at the yard, but the shed was right up against the trees, so it burned. Then it (the shed fire) caught the garage on fire. Then the fire jumped from the garage to the house and the house was destroyed. ... It was like a fuse that leads from the trees to the home.
"That building-to-building distance is just as important, because a burning building carries so much heat and flame, longer than a burning tree. People don't think about it, but you need that 30 feet around your shed, too," she said.
Indeed, the fire analysis showed the average distance between forest and outbuildings that burned was just 6 feet. Outbuildings that survived averaged 17 feet from heavy or "unmanaged" foliage.
Ackerman found the same situation after the 2005 Cottonville fire in central
Not a single home or cabin was lost to the