The November/December NFPA Journal® is out and its Wildfire column explores social equity in wildfire preparedness and outreach. While fire does not discriminate, we need to make sure we aren’t just talking to the residents who may already be well organized and able to act on wildfire risk reduction. A great example of bridging the class divide in Hawaii points to a positive future.
For some backstory, NFPA hosted a listening session in 2018 to learn what “community risk reduction” meant to an audience of fire service and policy implementers. The attendees highlighted a range of topics, but it was a singular mention about the importance of social equity in community outreach that got me thinking about how we reach all communities at risk to wildfire.
This question is as important internationally, as it is across the United States. The example from the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization on honoring what communities have already done, as well as their existing capacity to build risk reduction, gave answers to that question. I hope the column gets you thinking too.
I am also happy to share that after 5 years and 29 Wildfire columns, this edition will be my last as its writer. Starting this January, NFPA’s Wildfire Division Director, Michele Steinberg, will take the Wildfire column to new heights as she brings her nearly 30 years of disaster safety mitigation and education experience to its voice.
5 years is a long time and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to share the diverse issues of wildfire with the readers of NFPA Journal®, and you. The column has explored wildfire evacuation lessons, post fire policy assessments, and the impacts of climate change. It has highlighted the burden on volunteer fire departments, the challenge of rebuilding on local governments, and budgeting. It’s also shown the steadfast resiliency of residents in the face of risk and the positive role NFPA plays.
As we look ahead, Michele shares that, “I’m grateful to Lucian for using the column to illuminate so many facets of wildland fire management, risk reduction, and community outreach for the past five years. A column in Journal is truly a bully pulpit to reach, teach, inspire and instigate around urgent concerns for fire and life safety. If I can help readers see things in a new way and question the status quo, I’ll have fulfilled my mission. While wildfires are inevitable, home destruction and human suffering are not. As [NFPA President] Jim Pauley says about our fire and life safety mission, “we still have work to do.” I hope readers will join me in learning about the gaps in our safety and how they can take action to change future outcomes. “
Enjoy this month’s column and the many more to come from NFPA.