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NIST releases wildfire evacuation, sheltering guidance from Camp Fire research

Two reports offer valuable planning information for when residents cannot safely evacuate


Civilians and first responders utilize a temporary refuge area (TRA) established in a parking lot to stay safe during the Camp Fire.


By Bill Carey

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released two wildfire reports from California’s Camp Fire, providing specific guidance that communities must take when there is not enough time to safely evacuate all residents.

“The goal of these reports is to apply lessons learned from the Camp Fire in ways that make our communities safer in the face of continuing wildfire risks,” NIST Fire Protection Engineer Alex Maranghides, an author on the two reports, said in a statement. “Tragically, we are releasing these reports in the aftermath of the fire on Maui Island in Hawaiʻi. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this terrible event.”

The Camp Fire began on the morning of Nov. 8, 2018. It spread quickly through the communities of Pulga and Concow and swept through the town of Paradise a couple hours later. The fire killed 85 people.

The first report, A Case Study of the Camp Fire: Notification, Evacuation, Traffic, and Temporary Refuge Areas, combines 2,600 observations and data points with the timeline of the spread of the Camp Fire to see how lifesaving actions were accomplished

The second report, WUI Fire Evacuation and Sheltering Considerations: Assessment, Planning, and Execution (ESCAPE), helps communities develop advance plans as well as process new information during wildfires. 

NIST has also launched a new website to help community leaders and first responders make buildings and other structures more resistant to wildfires. The website is based on the Hazard Mitigation Methodology developed by researchers at NIST, CAL FIRE and other agencies and organizations.