Sound Policy: A Means to an End of Wildfire Destruction in our Communities
There are 44.8 million homes located in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) in America. According to experts, over the past three years, the nation has seen over 100 fatalities, 40,000 structures destroyed, and nearly $40 billion in insured losses from wildfire in high-risk WUI areas. The picture remains dire, experts warn, and the destruction we have seen in the past few years is not just an anomaly, but a look into the near future.
As widespread destruction from wildfire continues, many people remain unsure that what they do will make a difference. During a session at NFPA’s Conference & Expo on Wednesday morning, Michele Steinberg, NFPA Wildfire Division director, Meghan Housewright, NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute director, and Ray Bizal, NFPA Director of Regional Operations, led a panel discussion to remind attendees the safety of our communities is in our hands and comes through more sound local, state, and federal policy.
The panel, who were among a group of experts instrumental in the development of NFPA’s “Outthink Wildfire™” campaign, went on to outline the campaign’s five tenets needed for all levels of government to foster collaboration, enact change, achieve resilience, and enhance protection from wildfire, and highlighted some of the policymaking activity and initiatives already underway in states like Oregon, Colorado, and California.
But when it comes right down to it, they said, everyone plays a role in reducing wildfire risk. And just as better policy is paramount, more and continued collaboration is also needed between policymakers, the fire service, and the public if we are to move the needle in a more measurable way.
“States are taking action,” said Steinberg, “but there are still obstacles we must overcome. While we have seen a lack of political will and public acceptance about the wildfire problem, we continue working closely with communities and policymakers across the country to help address these challenges.”
More information about “Outthink Wildfire” and its five tenets is available at nfpa.org/outthinkwildfire.