Wildland Firefighting can be a dangerous job.
Options are often limited and decisions must be made quickly. Once the call comes in, all
attention must focus on tactics and strategies and making sure everyone comes home safe at
the end of the day. The scenario we just saw is all too familiar
to many firefighters. Every fire unit has high risk, fire prone areas that present a
huge challenge, especially when conditions are extreme.
Managing risk can be difficult in this environment. But what if some of the risk could be reduced
before there was smoke in the air? As a firefighter, ask yourself these questions:
What is it about these areas that cause the concern?
Fuel loadings? Values at risk?
Human-caused ignitions? More importantly…What can be done about
it? In this video, we will discuss actions that
can be taken BEFORE the fire that can increase firefighter and public safety DURING the fire.
There are several ways to reduce risk and exposure before the fire. This video will
discuss three of them: Fuels Management
Community Partnerships and Education Fire Prevention
Fuels Management Once you have worked with your local fuels
specialist and identified the high risk areas on your unit, ask these questions:
– Is MY crew ready to fight fire in this environment?
– What kind of vegetation is present in these areas?
– What kind of fire behavior can we expect? – Is my unit experiencing abnormal fuel
loadings and conditions this year? – Do we know where the fuel breaks are and
how to effectively use them during a wildfire? – What pre-fire actions would buy us the
most during a wildfire? Reducing hazardous fuels is one of many actions
that can be taken before a fire. However, there may not be enough resources available
to even treat the areas most at risk. That’s where the public comes in…
Community Partnerships and Education As more and more people move into Wildland
Urban Interface areas, cooperation and participation from the public becomes even more critical.
As you look at the high risk WUI areas on your unit, ask yourself these questions:
– Do homeowners understand what will likely happen in the event of a wildfire?
– Are these homes defendable? – Is the community engaged and taking action?
If not, what factors are standing in their way?
– Do they understand firewise building and landscaping concepts?
Reaching out to high risk communities on a regular basis can help build trust and relationships
that can lead to action. When communicating with the public, it is important to have honest,
open, two-way communication. And, above all, to listen and hear what the community cares
about and answer questions they have about wildfires.
Another effective approach can be fire simulations
and drills in high-risk WUI areas. These can
be an excellent way to prepare firefighters and educate the public and the media before
a wildfire occurs. When it comes to creating survivable space,
many homeowners may think what they do won’t matter in the face of a raging wildfire when
in fact it’s what matters most. Often times, the public doesn’t understand that there
are simple and affordable steps they can take that will greatly reduce wildfire risk to
their home. Now that we’ve discussed fuels management
and Community Partnerships and Education, let’s move on to our next topic – Fire
Prevention Fire Prevention
When it comes to firefighter and public safety, there is probably no other program that decreases
risk more than an effective prevention program Every firefighter should be aware of the most
common causes of wildfire in their area and be prepared with short and simple fire safety
messages for the media and public. When working with your local prevention staff,
ask these questions: – Where and how are most fires starting
on my unit? – What groups of people are responsible
and how do we reach them? – What is causing the most damaging and
costly fires that threaten high risk areas? How can we reduce ignitions in these areas?
Now that we have discussed fuels management, community partnerships and education, and
prevention, let’s touch on a couple basic tips for firefighters
During fire season, there can be multiple opportunities for fire personnel to deliver
messages. In fact, the media and public often look to
Incident Commanders and fire crew members for information and expertise – especially
when there is an on-going fire in the area. Is your crew prepared for these teachable
moments with talking points and messages on ways to reduce fire risk?
Operations is only one facet of fire management. It is important to become familiar with local
and national initiatives that can educate the public on how to live compatibly with
wildfire. National efforts include programs and concepts
such as Fire Adapted Communities, Firewise, Living with Fire, Firesafe Councils and many
more. The goal of all these programs is the same, reducing risk before fire season
begins. Get involved and engaged in all aspects of
fire management at your local unit. The public needs your expertise and it can enhance your
career opportunities. Thanks for watching this short video and remember…reducing
fire risk now increases everyone’s safety later!