As my NFPA colleagues have pointed out in earlier blogs this week, Fire Prevention Week began early in the 20th century as a response to the 1871 Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire. Major urban conflagrations at the end of the 19th century and on into the early 1900s also informed the scope and mission of the newborn National Fire Protection Association. Notably, Boston burned in 1872, and Baltimore lost 1,500 buildings in its downtown over two days in 1904, in spite of more than 1,200 firefighters on scene.
In Baltimore's case, heroic efforts by firefighters arriving from as far away as New York City, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and Washington, DC, via rail were not enough to stem the losses. The hose couplings from the other fire departments did not fit the Baltimore hydrants, and this lack of prior planning undermined the collaborative efforts on-scene.
As urban conflagrations like Chicago, Boston and Baltimore fade into history, we need only look a few years past to realize that wildland/urban interface fires are the new fire threat that requires careful planning and collaboration to avoid disastrous home loss. An excellent case study of a modern community spurred to action by wildfire threats is Prescott, Arizona and surrounding areas of Yavapai County.
Case Study: Broad Collaboration for Community Protection
The Prescott Area Wildland/Urban Interface Commission was born in 1990 from the flames of an earlier fire in the region. The 1983 Thumb Butte fire was a catalyst for a long-term effort to improve communication and standardization of equipment among area firefighting agencies. This broad collaborative approach blossomed over the years to include participation by dozens of entities in all aspects of fire adaptation across the City of Prescott and Yavapai County.
The Prescott area example is just one of many case studies featured in the new Guide to Fire Adapted Communities reference document available at www.fireadapted.org. Read more about how cooperative alliances and mutual aid agreements can help your area become better prepared and more well-adapted for wildfire.