An experienced fire loss adjuster, William Welsome serves as director of operations with Atlas Adjusting, Inc., a company that represents businesses and homeowners who deal with insurance firms after experiencing a large insured loss. William Welsome recently helped more than 150 families and businesses with their claims as a result of the butte and lake fires in California. The butte fire killed two people and burned more than 70,000 acres and 900 structures.
A wildfire is an uncontrolled blaze often made more intense by droughts and high winds, and which can burn acres of land in just minutes moving at speeds of up to 14 miles an hour. Every year, more than 100,000 wildfires burn up to 5 million acres in the US. Hot, dry winds often aggravate wildfires in California. Dead trees in the state, estimated at 66 million, are also another factor for California fires.
Firefighters eliminate one of the three factors which make up the so called fire triangle: fuel, oxygen, and heat. A single wildfire may char tens of thousands of acres and involve the efforts of hundreds of firefighters to get it under control. Once a wildfire starts, the damage is hard to predict, with thousands of trees being destroyed, as well as ground cover, houses and other structures. Wildlife and human life are also lost.
Humans cause four out of five wildfires, so it’s natural to conclude that most wildfires could be prevented. People should always remember to be smart where fire is involved in high risk areas, and never leave any kind of fire unattended, or use fireworks in prohibited places, as even a single spark or ember may be carried by a strong wind, starting a wildfire unbeknownst to its originator.
William Welsome is director of operations at Atlas Adjusting, Inc. As an advocate for those who have experienced a large insured property loss, Atlas Adjusting has achieved settlements for a number of clients who have lost property through fire in the $1 to 3 million range. William Welsome also supports Fire Dogs, an organization which donates an acceleration detection canine, or arson dog, to a local fire department each year.
Arson dogs detect arson-caused fires and have been used. Firemen and policemen use the dogs’ abilities to sniff microscopic quantities of chemicals. This is done to determine if a fire may have been started intentionally.
An arson dog’s sense of smell is so acute that it can detect traces of a flammable substance after fire has consumed nearly all the materials in a blaze – one dog is known to have detected an accelerant on a piece of wood that had been burned in a fire 15 years ago. Arson dogs can detect traces of gasoline, brake fluid, charcoal starter, turpentine, and numerous other chemicals which can be used to deliberately start a fire.
These dogs help investigators detect the presence of accelerants beyond the ability of machines engineered to detect the presence of chemicals, which cannot match a dog’s level of sensitivity. Only dogs with a special gift for identifying such chemicals are selected for this purpose. Arson dogs are not commonly found among fire departments or police forces, and so they are frequently loaned by their keepers to other agencies. The dogs also make appearances in court when it is necessary to present evidence of arson and to demonstrate the dog’s ability.