Author(s): Scott Sutherland. Published on July 1, 2015.

My Neighbor, Wildfire
Backyards & Beyond event looks at how to co-exist with wildfire. 

THIS IS THE “Year of Living Less Dangerously from Wildfire” for NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division, and the theme is being carried to the division’s biannual “Backyards & Beyond” Wildland Fire Education Conference.

“We want everyone to embrace the idea of living in a safer way from the threat of wildfire,” says Michele Steinberg, the division’s manager, “whether they’re residents of the wildland/urban interface, firefighters, or people who visit wildfire danger areas.”

Those are some of the important groups targeted by the upcoming Backyards & Beyond event, which will be held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, October 22–24. The conference is regarded as a premier event for wildland fire safety information and brings together a diverse audience of leading wildfire experts, emergency responders, Firewise® community representatives, community planners, civic leaders, homeowners and residents, insurance professionals, landscape architects, and others. The conference offers attendees a chance to connect face-to-face with like-minded professionals and share best practices that they can take back to their communities and workplaces.

The conference will offer five featured presentations and 50 breakout sessions that will cover four educational tracks to explore key issues in saving lives and property from wildfire and in preparing homes and neighborhoods to cope with brush, grass, and forest fires. The event will also include highlights from this year’s Wildfire Community Preparedness Day activities, the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition sites that have achieved five- and 10-year longevity, and people who have dedicated their careers to making our world a safer place.

In addition, a pair of preconference seminars will be held October 20–21: “Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone,” and “Prepare, Mitigate and Respond with GIS.”

With increasing spending on wildfire suppression, continued home destruction, ongoing firefighter injuries and deaths, and dire wildfire warnings for an array of communities in drought-stricken parts of the country, there is no shortage of urgency to drive wildfire preparation, Steinberg says. “Ultimately we have to change our behavior as a society to see anything change, including land use, development decisions, home construction and design, and the way we live in wildfire-prone areas,” she says. “Our conference is dedicated to the idea that there is something every person can do to live less dangerously from wildfire—or help someone else to do so.”

SCOTT SUTHERLAND is executive editor for NFPA Journal.