Wrap-up of the National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Education Conference
NFPA Journal®, January/February 2007
By Ken Tremblay
The return to Denver, Colorado, for the second National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Education Conference was a success on many levels. Feedback and encouragement received from our last conference in 2004 provided the foundation for this year’s event, as we welcomed back some folks and introduced many new attendees to Firewise Communities.
Nearly 450 fire and emergency professionals along with many interface residents, community leaders, and attendees from as far away as Australia and South Africa joined many of our recognized Firewise Communities/USA representatives in the three-day conference called “Backyards & Beyond.”
Alan Dozier, Chief of Forest Protection for the Georgia State Forestry Commission greeted everyone during the opening general session. Dozier challenged everyone to share in the learning experiences, create new friendships based on common goals and take back valuable information to their community or workplace. Dozier is also the new chair of the Interagency Working Team on the Wildland/Urban Interface.
In his opening remarks, Dozier provided a retrospective of Firewise’s history and accomplishments of the program. “Since the first national meeting in 1986, the Firewise program, the people, and the organizations involved have amassed incredible accomplishments year after year,” said Dozier.
The national Firewise Communities/USA recognition program, based upon the Working Team’s most fundamental vision of future interface communities in which wildfires can occur without the disastrous loss of homes and lives, was highlighted during the opening general session. Eleven Firewise Communities/USA communities were honored for having five continuous years of recognition. To date, 202 communities in 34 states are recognized, and more are being recognized every month.
“Since 2003, these folks have invested approximately $10 million dollars in their own safety – an investment in the form of volunteer labor, loaned equipment, and sweat equity as well as grants,” Dozier said.
Dozier highlighted many of the program’s accomplishments since the 2004 conference including the establishment of the Firewise Learning Center, available at www.firewise.org. The learning center opened its virtual doors in June 2006 and has fulfilled its promise to provide learning opportunities for everyone interested in becoming Firewise.
Future learning center courses include Firewise Construction and Using GIS in the Interface. Assessing Wildfire Hazards is another offering that will provide more tools and information needed to help prevent disastrous interface fires.
Attendees who gathered for the conference explored specific solutions for protecting lives, property, and resources from interface wildfires. The conference provided countless opportunities to learn, explore, and expand personal as well as collective knowledge.
In future issues of the Firewise Newsletter, available from the Firewise Communities Web site www.firewise.org, additional reports will cover the various topics based subject matter driven by the conference. Work to update the conference website, allowing access to the many handouts and presentations and further comment on important issues, if expected to be completed soon.
The next conference is scheduled for the fall of 2008 when our next Backyards & Beyond conference will be held in Tampa, Florida.
The National Wildland/Urban Interface Fire Education Conference was organized by the national Firewise Communities program, a multi-agency effort designed to reach beyond the fire service by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, and others in the effort to protect people, property, and natural resources from the risk of wildland fire - before a fire starts. The Firewise Communities approach emphasizes community responsibility for planning in the design of a safe community as well as effective emergency response, and individual responsibility for safer home construction and design, landscaping, and maintenance. To find out more, please visit the website www.firewise.org.