I read an article in Firefighter Nation that was forwarded to me by a fellow member of the NFPA research division, Hylton Haynes. The article, “Community Risk Reduction, Changing the Focus of Fire Service”, discussed the importance of fire departments implementing effective prevention plans. The author referred to how good ideas such as bicycle helmets, sprinkler systems and airbags, among other things, have been collaboratively developed to provide better public safety and ultimately firefighter safety.
It made me think about this last summer’s experience that I had working as a forestry aid for CAL FIRE in the town of Julian. My supervisors and partners were very supportive of providing good public information about what residents could do to make their homes more survivable in the event of a wildfire in Julian, California. That summer a wildfire, “The Banner Fire”, burnt up the back side of a very steep area into the east side of Julian. Because many homeowners had followed Firewise principles and worked with the local BLM office on a shaded fuel break below the steep slope, many homes were saved and firefighters were able to make a stand in a much safer area.
Ultimately it is not the event itself that creates a catastrophe but rather the steps that are (or are not) taken before the event that can make a difference in the outcome. The NFPA and their Firewise program have many tools available in their toolbox such as codes and standards, online workshops, and assessment templates that can make it much easier for departments and communities work together to ultimately create a safer community. This lasting legacy of public safety is one that departments and communities can work together to accomplish in the coming year.
I took the picture of the team that I worked with this last year at the Monte Vista station in El Cajon, California.