The January/February NFPA Journal is out and in its latest WildfireWatch column, I argue that while historic fires helped shape a resilient urban structural fire environment, we’re missing lessons from wildfires today that should help us shape a resilient wildland-urban interface for the future.
Titles like “The Great Fire of Chicago”, the “1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire”, and the "Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire” have meaning because changes to structural and urban firefighting arose from the ashes of previous building and fire-life safety practices.
The 1870s – 1920s provided lessons for a progressive period to reflect on its relationship with the built environment and fire.
The next cycle of fire-risk learning is upon us, with major conflagrations caused by wildfire. Yet, our political environment makes it increasingly impossible for local elected officials to embrace long-term progressive change when faced with the immediate need to make communities and budgets whole again.
In the column, I ague for a collective conviction to support comprehensive responses to wildfire so we do not miss the lessons being set before us.
The January 2016 edition of NFPA Journal also shares other lessons from fire that shape our response to the common risk:
In the First Responder column, NFPA’s Ken Willette explores lessons learned from the need for fire attack hose improvements.
In the Outreach column, NFPA’s Lorraine Carli highlights the importance of personal stories about fire loss to drive home the advocacy message.
Finally, in the Journal’s Looking Back segment, NFPA’s Mary Elizabeth Woodruff returns to the 1972 Hotel Vendome fire and building collapse in Boston, in which 17 Boston Firefighters became trapped and nine died. The collapse lead to lessons learned about excessive stresses on load baring walls in building collapses.
Photo credit: The Charles S. Morgan Technical Library, National Fire Protection Association