Picture of poorly maintained property taken by Faith Berry of property in Lakeside, California
In light of this year’s potential and growing number of current wildfires, the New York Times posted an interesting article about the importance of communities taking action to protect themselves before large wildfires occur. The Times article interviewed Arizona’s State Forester, Jeff Whitney and talked about his perspective on the importance of managing vegetation around homes as one means of wildfire preparedness.
The article also shared the thoughts of two incident commanders at separate, recent Arizona fires; the Goodwin Fire near Prescott and the Frye Fire in southeastern Arizona. Both shared that they made the hard choices not to protect an observatory and homes because they felt that they would be placing their firefighters in unreasonably dangerous situations because the structures were not prepared properly before the fire.
The article also explored the idea that many wildland incident commanders are reexamining how they deploy firefighters during an incident. Some are making the hard choice not to put firefighters in their command in harm’s way if communities have taken no wildfire hazard preparedness actions.
It shared that the area of Yarnell, where 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew lost their lives, experienced another fire in 2016 and this time wildfire prevention efforts taken made a difference. After the disastrous loss, the community of Yarnell had received a grant to do a vegetation management project around the community. The chief said that before the project the brush was so thick that you could not walk through it. These were the conditions faced by the Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew in 2013.
Picture of good home maintenance taken by Faith Berry in Lake Almanor, California
As I read the story, I thought about how much difference some simple maintenance projects completed can make, not just to protect structures but also to help make it safer for wildland firefighters. As we take a hard look at our homes, have we made them worth taking the risk to protect? Have we raked up leaves and pine needles from around our homes, cleaned out the gutters, trimmed back dead branches and mowed our lawns? We can make it safer for those who put their lives at risk to protect what is important to us. For tips on how to make our homes safer visit NFPA’s Firewise USA website.