Fire

Billions of Dollars of Real Estate at Risk to Wildfire, Experts Say

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 24, 2015   View Article

Seeking the beauty of nature, Americans just can’t stop building houses among trees that will, sooner or later, go up in flames.

“It is truly a when, not if,” Sean McVay, a homeowner in Evergreen, Colorado, said of the threat that a wildfire will tear through his wooded community in the Rocky Mountain foothills west of Denver. But that doesn’t mean he plans to move. McVay bought the house last year. Like most homeowners there, he’s an outdoor enthusiast.

“Being part of the wooded environment is a big draw,” he said.

McVay is not alone. More than 1.1 million properties in the western United States were identified as highly vulnerable to wildfire in a 2015 risk report from analytics firm CoreLogic. The cost to rebuild those homes would total $269 billion, according to the report, which was written to inform the insurance industry and, perhaps, sway policymakers to encourage fire-safe construction in areas susceptible to wildfires.

Environmental Consequences of Oil Train Derailment Unclear

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 17, 2015   View Article

Wreckage from a derailed oil train smoldered in West Virginia on Tuesday as environmentalists waited to see whether surrounding water and wildlife would be tainted by the train’s cargo of North Dakota crude.

For some in the area, the latest incident also brought on memories of when a coal-cleaning chemical spilled into a nearby river a year ago and shut off drinking water to nearly 300,000 people for several weeks, said Judith Rodd, director of Friends of the Blackwater, an environmental group based in Charleston, West Virginia.

How Earth’s infernos affect climate

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 10, 2011   View Article

At a glance, images of the forest fire raging in Arizona and the volcano erupting in Chile seem to suggest they are filling the atmosphere with gases and debris that will mess with the global climate, but experts say this week’s events, in isolation, aren’t much to worry about.

The Willow fire in Arizona has charred at least 336,000 acres so far, filling the atmosphere with smoke, soot, and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. It joins a string of fires that have raged elsewhere in the U.S., including Texas and Florida.

10 slices of summer science

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: June 15, 2009   View Article

From “shooting stars” to the growth of dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, there are several science-related things that occur in the summer. Check out ten.

Earthquake Proof Pipelines Tested in the Lab

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 20, 2006   View Article

The nightmare: A magnitude 6.7 earthquake rocks the neighborhood. Sidewalks buckle. Brick houses crumble. A water main snaps and floods the street.

And then, boom! A nearby house is engulfed in a ball of flames when its natural gas line ruptures.

Wailing sirens mute barking dogs and shrieking children, but with no water to douse the flames, the fire rages on unchecked.

Thomas O’Rourke, an engineer at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, is working to ensure this scenario never becomes reality.

NASA Mini Plane Holds Promise for Mars, Military

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: April 7, 2006   View Article

NASA scientists have programmed a model airplane to seek out rising columns of hot air called thermals and use them to soar like a bird.

The airplane could help monitor forest fires, guard borders, and collect weather data, according to the team.

In the future such planes could use similar updrafts to extend flight time on Mars, giving scientists a bird’s-eye view of the planet.

Controlled Burns Aid New England Forests

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: January 27, 2005   View Article

For at least 5,000 years before Europeans arrived in North America, Native Americans periodically set vast swaths of New England on fire. Settlers brought the practice to a halt by the mid-18th century. But today conservationists are again burning the forest to restore the ecosystem and dampen the fire risk to some towns.

Tim Simmons is a restoration ecologist with the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program in Westborough. Speaking of the early Native Americans, Simmons said fire “was sort of a Leatherman [or multi-tool] of their time. They used it for everything.”

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach