How Oslo can plan for fires / Columns / The Foreigner

How Oslo can plan for fires. Current blazes in Colorado could help Norwegians come up with strategies for tackling fires in the capital at home. The eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, known as the Front Range, is alight with forest fires. Hundreds were evacuated around Fort Collins in the north. Estes Park, the tourist gateway to the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park, also then lost two dozen buildings to flames. Manitou Springs, south of Denver, and also Colorado's town at highest risk of flash floods, was evacuated. Boulder, home to some of the USA's top climate scientists, was threatened next.

oslofires, coloradofires, climatechange



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How Oslo can plan for fires

Published on Friday, 29th June, 2012 at 15:37 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

Current blazes in Colorado could help Norwegians come up with strategies for tackling fires in the capital at home.

Fire evacuation route Boulder, Colorado (2006)
Fire evacuation route Boulder, Colorado (2006)
Photo: Ilan Kelman


The eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, known as the Front Range, is alight with forest fires. Hundreds were evacuated around Fort Collins in the north. Estes Park, the tourist gateway to the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park, also then lost two dozen buildings to flames.

Manitou Springs, south of Denver, and also Colorado's town at highest risk of flash floods, was evacuated. Boulder, home to some of the USA's top climate scientists, was threatened next.

I lived in Boulder for 2.5 years, regularly cycling past fire warning and evacuation route signs. Studying disasters, I was aware of the major flash flood threat to Boulder as well. I ran a community group about 'relocalisation', aiming to involve ordinary citizens in disaster preparedness and response.

Now I think about Oslo. Could the forests surrounding Norway's capital, beautiful for hiking in all seasons, become ablaze? Major differences between Oslo and Colorado's Front Range include altitude, climate, ecosystems, and fire history.

Colorado's Front Range is expected to get drier while Norway is expected to become wetter under climate change. Saturated soils and wet woods are less likely to burn.

Yet scenario planning is always essential. A scorching, drought-ridden summer could create a Nordmarka tinderbox. All fires, including all smoking in the forest, would need to be banned while providing resources to monitor and enforce that ban.

Sections of the city will need to be evacuated if the forest ignites,. Those with breathing difficulties should be identified and prioritised.

Some tunnels and roads might be open; others might be enveloped in smoke or too near the flames. Boats on the fjord provide another escape route. Many parts of the city might remain safe from fire and smoke, avoiding the need for mass displacement of residents.

What provisions exist to call for external assistance, nationally and internationally? Norway and other northern European countries should look into joining the EUR-OPA Major Hazards Agreement as part of regional cooperation for disaster planning and response.

Although more for Colorado than Oslo, plans are also needed for the post-fire seasons when rainfall leads to mudflows pouring off the scarred, treeless landscape. Thinking about one type of disaster such as fires can help to be ready for others, such as floods.

Don't be worried. Don't be scared. Just be prepared.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).



Published on Friday, 29th June, 2012 at 15:37 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

This post has the following tags: oslofires, coloradofires, climatechange.





  
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