Why WUI matters: a fire chief's perspective

Blog Post created by michelesteinberg Employee on Aug 18, 2014

In a recent article in the online magazine Fire Fighter Nation, Chief Rich Cowger of the Columbus (Montana) Fire Rescue Department provides a compelling argument for fire departments to pay attention to wildfire, regardless of whether they are east or west of the Mississippi.

Chief Cowger recognizes that "the wildland/urban interface," is not a place on the map but a set of conditions that can exist almost anywhere. "WUI is no longer limited to isolated homes in the woods, but rather whole developments, neighborhoods and communities, whether situated on the mountains of Wyoming, the plains of Nebraska, or the Florida peninsula," he states.

A long-time member of the IAFC Wildland Fire Policy Committee, Chief Cowger calls on his fellow fire service leaders to re-examine their assumptions about wildfire and wildland/urban interface development. In particular, he urges departments to train members to deal with wildfire as it may impact homes in their communities. His examples from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and other places serve as a sober reminder that nature's fire can drastically affect our human-made environments. These examples also bear out NFPA's research in its 3rd Needs Assessment of the US Fire Service, which found in 2010 that nearly 60% of all fire departments dealing with wildfire had not fully trained all involved personnel. 

Read Chief Cowger's article here. Fire service personnel and others seeking to improve their understanding of wildland/urban interface fire, using water effectively, and fighting WUI fire safely can check out NFPA's free educational resources on our online catalog of materials or in our Firewise online training site.  NFPA's Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone is available as a live classroom training for those who want to take the next steps in becoming savvy about wildfire risk reduction.