On Sunday, the Dixie Fire in California became the state’s second largest wildfire in history, having consumed 463,000 acres across northern California and destroying over 400 homes. It has impacted the lives of many and as firefighters work valiantly to confront its spread, it stubbornly rages at 21% contained. If there is a familiar sound to this record achievement, it’s because the last, “2nd largest wildfire in California’s history”, was the Mendocino Complex extinguished in January 2019. Then it was when the SCU Lightning Complex and the Creek Fire contested for the “2nd largest” record in late 2020.
Much like the recent Olympics, we can’t be surprised anymore when wildfire records are also routinely broken. This plain reality lead NFPA to develop Outthink Wildfire™, a policy initiative that outlines five tenets for all levels of government to greatly enhance protection from wildfire. It is rooted in two facts - wildfires are going to happen, and the fire service will not be able to extinguish these fires at a pace to save people and property in their path going forward. This isn’t a knock against fire services. In many cases, they need more resources, but it’s a realization that they need all of us to not expect them to shoulder the burden alone.
Outthink Wildfire™ calls for a holistic-approach solution, spanning where and how we build, fire service needs, land management, and public education. It is simply unfair and increasingly unrealistic to expect firefighters to “just put out the fires”, while we continue to live in places without reflection of the risks, allow lands to go unmanaged, and leave wildfire education only for those with the time and resources to engage at their own pace.
This holistic-approach solution seeks a balanced wildfire response ecosystem to achieve the goal of eliminating the loss of communities from wildfire in the next 30 years. It means:
Getting all homes and business in the wildland urban interface (WUI) more resistant to ignition from wildfire embers and flames. This means incentivizing retrofitting, providing support to those residents most at risk but least able to build resiliency, and ensuring a fire ground for the fire service that is safer and less likely to become an urban conflagration.
Using and enforcing current codes and standards, as well as sound land use practices, for new development and rebuilding in wildfire-prone areas.Local leaders and planners can make sure the loss of communities from wildfire is a part of our past and not the next event of our future.
Ensuring fire departments for communities in the WUI, especially rural and volunteer departments, are prepared with the right equipment, training, and operational funding, to respond safely and effectively to wildfire every time.
Working with Federal, state, and local governments to increase resources for vegetative fuel management on public lands and maintaining robust cross-boundary, cooperative, data driven agreements to maintain healthy forests and natural lands.
Building and sustaining a public that understands its role and takes sustainable action in reducing their risk.
As records continue to be broken, we can no longer lean upon a few to solve the problem alone for everyone else. A holistic-approach solution is needed in policy development and regulatory action at the Federal, state, and local levels. Learn more about Outthink Wildfire™’s call to action and play your part in the solution.
Photo Source: Pixabay