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Community reporting of Woolsey Fire provides lessons in preparedness post Marshall Fire

 An aerial view of the 2018 Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles.
Keegan Gibbs
An aerial view of the Woolsey Fire that burned in Los Angeles and Ventura counties on November 8, 2018 shows the widely felt impact of the wildfire. Independent journalist Adriana Cargill covered the fire and says there are lessons Coloradans can learn from her reporting.

This year marks the five-year anniversary of the Woolsey Fire that devastated much of southern California. The blaze began on November 8, 2018 and destroyed 1,600 structures, according to the National Park Service. Three people died and over 295,000 residents were forced to evacuate.

Adriana Cargill,an independent journalist and founder of Wave Maker Media, has produced a five-part serieson the aftermath of the Woolsey Fire andthe impact wildfires have had in parts of Southern California for her podcast "Sandcastles." Cargill says there are lessons Coloradans can learn from her reporting as residents continue to grapple with the aftermath of the 2021 Marshall Fire.

 Independent Journalist Adriana Cargill.
Adriana Cargill
Courtesy of Wave Maker Media
Adriana Cargill is an independent journalist in Southern California and the founder of Wave Maker Media. She recently launched a five-part podcast series titled "Sandcastles" that features over three years of Cargill's reporting on the 2018 Woolsey Fire and the aftermath.

"One of the interesting things is during the Woolsey Fire, Point Dume was a neighborhood that was hit quite hard," said Cargill. "And one of the guys that I featured in my podcast was named Keegan Gibbs. He lost his home in the fire but his recording studio survived.

Cargill said Gibbs later discovered that his studio had survived because it had a number of home hardening measures including ember-resistant screens, double-paned windows, and brush clearance in the first 5 feet around the studio. The podcast dives into what home hardening is and why it's so important for homes that exist in areas with wildfire risk.

Former U.S. Forest Service fire scientist Jack Cohen has spent decades studying how homes ignite during wildfires. "(Cohen) said that according to his research, 85 to 90% of homes burn from ember fires," said Cargill. "He says home hardening is the most effective way to reduce home loss. It looks different for every property so he encourages homeowners to get in contact with an expert who can visit their home and give them individual recommendations."

Cargill said the five-part podcast features over three years reporting from the scene of the Woolsey Fire. It includes interviews and reactions from historians, firefighters in southern California and local council members.

"There was unusual winter fires this past season in Colorado," said Cargill. "They're not going away. The communities can help themselves in sharing safety tips about these fires and how to contain them because it's clear that local and state resources will not be enough to help the cause."

"Sandcastles" is available for download on Apple Podcasts.

Correction: This article has been updated on July 28, 2023 to reflect changes made to correct several inaccuracies. This article previously indicated that Cargill met one of her podcast subjects through a discovery about ember resistant vents. Cargill met her podcast subjects through other reporting. It was also stated that Cargill found that residents should install five feet of concrete and damp plants around their homes for home hardening purposes but those measures would be different for each individual home and homeowner.

I serve as the afternoon host for KUNC’s All Things Considered. My job is to keep our listeners across Northern Colorado informed on the day’s top stories from around the communities we serve. On occasion, I switch roles and hit the streets of northern Colorado digging up human interest stories or covering a major event that’s taking place in our listening area.
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