Last June, the Yarnell Hill wildland fire in Arizona killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Over the past century, we have come to see events such as the Yarnell Hill fire as infrequent but inevitable, says NFPA President Jim Shannon in "First Word" in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal. We treat the wildfire problem as though it is some sort of fluke, when it is a problem that will grow steadily worse over the next generation, inflicting death on the scale of Yarnell Hill again and possibly much sooner than in the past.
The federal government's response has been uneven, pulling resources away from the most basic needs of communities threatened by wildfire. While the government supports excellent programs to help communities adopt policies to make them safer, such as the Firewise and Fire Adapted Communities, programs, those efforts are not enough. To prevent another Yarnell Hill, we need a better coordinated national effort to deal with fundamental changes in the nature, scope, and consequences of wildfires.