Damage inspection and research implications on the California structure ignition problem

Damage inspection and research implications on the California structure ignition problem


Wildfire has long been a part of California’s history. However, the severity of current wildfire conditions developed as a result of the combination of fire exclusion, forest management practices and policies that led to overgrown and overcrowded forests, a rapidly changing climate, and a historic drought with the accompanying bark beetle epidemics. California experienced the most destructive wildfire seasons in state history in 2017 and 2018, enduring over 7,600 wildfires that burned 1,846,445 acres in 2018 alone. The 2018 Camp Fire was both the deadliest fire in state history, claiming the lives of 85 people, as well as the most destructive, destroying 18,804 structures and devastating the Town of Paradise. Eleven of the top twenty most destructive fires in state history have occurred in just the past five years. The reality of climate change – persistent drought, warmer temperatures, and more severe dry wind events – has created conditions that will lead to more frequent and destructive wildfires. CAL FIRE’s Damage Inspection program has been modernized to document all damaged/destroyed structures in the State Responsibility Area in an electronic database. When combined with other data sets, we can begin to analyze the effectiveness of fire safe development, defensible space, and Wildland-Urban Interface building standards.

Steven Hawks

Staff Chief, Wildfire Planning and Engineering Division



Chief Hawks has served since 1989 with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). He has promoted through the ranks from firefighter to his current position as Staff Chief of CAL FIRE’s Wildfire Planning and Engineering Division which encompasses oversight of Land Use Planning, Wildfire Prevention Engineering, CalStats, Fire Plan, and Fire Prevention Grants programs. Chief Hawks has been involved with several teaching cadres, served for 13 years on different CAL FIRE Incident Management Teams, and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forest Resource Management with a minor in Business Administration from Humboldt State University. He resides in Roseville, California with his wife and two daughters.

Seminar Recording