As 2016 begins, so does wildfire season. The latest current large incidents map for wildfires in the US from the National Interagency Fire Center looks identical to the predictions by NOAA for areas that have weather potential for extreme wildfire conditions. Utilizing these predictive tools can prepare fire departments both nationally and regionally to be able to coordinate their wildfire response. A friend and former coworker from the Florida Forestry Department called and let us know that he is assisting in Oklahoma with the wildfire response. Part of his assistance involves helping provide residents and fire departments with information about how they can organize Firewise communities in their state. Tools provided by the NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division can enable residents and communities to learn about their risk and develop effective plans to be much safer in the event of a wildfire.
Does adopting Firewise principles and creating Firewise Communities really make a difference? We have heard about documented "saves" of properties where homeowners adopted Firewise principles in the maintenance plans for their homes and landscape immediately surrounding the homes. One recent example of a home that survived wildfire event that was from the island of Maui in Hawaii. According to Denise Laitinen, the picture that she shared from a Facebook page was that of "a structure that survived a 5,300-acre fire on Maui last week. This is in the vicinity of Kahikinui on Maui (the back side of the island where it is very dry and desolate.) This area has extremely rugged terrain on the backside of the Haleakala volcano. In fact, it's so rugged, when I did a hazard assessment with the fire department years ago we couldn't get a rig up there - we had to leave the fire truck on the side of the highway and use a firefighter's four-wheel drive truck. This area is Hawaiian Home Lands."