Wildfire safety rooted in science: reflections on a national workshop

Blog Post created by michelesteinberg Employee on May 2, 2017


NFPA colleagues Tom Welle and Hylton Haynes joined me in Reno, Nevada, last week to participate in and present at a workshop on the (U.S.) National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (Cohesive Strategy for short). If that title seems a bit long and overwhelming, I can say that I sympathize! The workshop had 5 lofty objectives, including this one:


Reinforce that the focus of the Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy implementation is "all hands, all lands" and that seamless access to the best available and correct science is vital to success at every level and every action.

  • "All hands" encompasses the full spectrum of involved parties and includes, but is not limited to, landowners, practitioners, planners, decision-makers, line officers, local, state, regional, and national leaders from private, local, State, Federal, Tribal and political sectors.
  • “All lands” refers to just that, all lands regardless of jurisdiction or ownership.

I am happy and relieved to report that the workshop was quite successful in achieving this objective by actively demonstrating the "full spectrum" in its diversity of presentation topics and geographic spread of participants. There is nothing like meeting new people engaged in wildfire management and safety to make you energized and willing to forgive long, clunky titles that can sometimes mask the passion, hard work and intelligent research that go into tackling a long-term problem in new and creative ways.











I was especially delighted that in addition to Tom's and my presentation on the science behind Firewise and the Home Ignition Zone, many of the presenters put forth exciting findings from both the social and physical sciences addressing individual and community fire adapted behaviors and challenges. These included Dr. Eric Steffey's intensive survey of residents of Prescott, Arizona, featured in "What Can We Learn From Homeowner Associations In Promoting Household Wildfire Mitigation?"; Stephanie Nelson's "Living with Fire In Valley County: One Size Does Not Fit All,which detailed successes in a rural area of Idaho; and Tami Lavezzo's "The Marin Community Wildfire Protection Plan Science-Based Collaborative Planning and Implementation," which highlighted home ignition zone research from IBHS and Dr. Steve Quarles















A presentation on wildland fire fighting needs based on two NFPA reports met with great interest and significant comments about the challenges of dealing with wildfire response at the local level in rural communities. Hylton Haynes did a great job illuminating these key findings and engaging in discussion around what could be done to support training and equipment needs for the local fire service. Equally well-attended by engaged participants was USAA's Rob Galbraith's talk on the power of insurance incentives. One session I missed in person but knew was great was Travis Paveglio's discussion of his research on an "interactional approach" to fire adapted behaviors. His research was the subject of a recent webinar that is well worth viewing if you are trying to understand how to reach your community.


Many thanks to the Cohesive Strategy workshop partners and sponsors, especially the International Association of Wildland Fire, for creating an experience where so many could share so much important information and make lasting connections. For more, see the conference site, which includes full abstracts for presentations and posters.


Photo credits: my photos of Eric Steffey's slide (top), Hylton Haynes presenting (bottom left) and Rob Galbraith's slide (bottom right). Center photos of Tom Welle and me courtesy Rob Galbraith of USAA (Twitter.com/RobGalb) - Michele Steinberg