The Elk Bath picture above, was taken by the Alaskan Type I Incident Management Team (John McColgan) on August 6, 2000 on the East Fork of the Bitterroot River on the Sula Complex. This picture was taken while fighting a wildland fire. The Elk seek the safety of the center of the river to escape the fire.
Cities have grown into suburbs and suburbs into what was once considered rural America. Citizens are acquiring secluded homes surrounded by forests, mountain cabins, or sprawling farms. This movement is creating an extremely complex landscape that has come to be known as the wildland/urban interface. The impact of severe wildfire on your community, your state and your federal government is staggering.
According to the National Wildland Coordinating Group, since 1970 we’ve spent more than $20 billion dollars fighting fire at the fringes of our burgeoning population centers, in the areas described above as the wildland/urban interface.. Encroaching development into forests, grasslands and farms is resulting in numerous infrastructure problems, including catastrophic wildfires which increasingly threatens lives, homes and businesses.
There are three different classes of wildfires. A “surface fire” is the most common type and burns along the floor of a wildland, moving slowly and killing or damaging plants. A “ground fire” can burn anytime the surface burns and the subsurface organic material is dry enough to burn. They may be started by lightning and burns on or below the surface floor in the humus layer down to the mineral soil. “Crown fires” spread rapidly by wind and move quickly by jumping along the tops of the trees.
Fire protection in the wildland/urban interface should be viewed as a partnership, whereas most people think government protects communities from the threat of wildland fire. Communities are reconsidering the traditional view of firefighters as “protectors” and homeowners as “victims” of wildland fire. The paradigm is shifting from “protector-victim” to “ partner-partner”.
By partnering with the fire service, each community can take on a larger responsibility for their own planning, mitigation and personnel protection before and during wildfires. So each citizen needs to be prepared for the effects of wildland fire before that fire ever starts. To further explore what you and your community can do visit www.firewise.org and follow the home and community evaluation techniques described there.
Before The Fire:
- Keep brush cut back 30 feet around your home.
- Utilize Firewise landscaping around your home, including fire resistant plants.
- Keep firewood stacked away from the home.
- Maintain all exterior wood in good condition to prevent cracks and gaps.
- Insure that there is adequate water availability for fire protection, such as hydrants or other water sources.
- Utilize non-combustible materials as roof covering.
- Several times a year, inspect and remove dead leaves, pine needles and other flammable debris from the roof and rain gutters, under decking and next to wood posts and siding.
- Work with your local government to have empty lots cleared regularly.
- Encourage utilities to be underground, gas and electric.
- Are road widths in your neighborhood wide enough to support emergency vehicles.
- Develop a community fire brigade and report and or extinguish small fires.
During a Fire:
- Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
- Keep lawn and surrounding plants watered within 30 feet of your home, wet the roof of your home too.
- If you evacuate, leave early, many deaths have occurred with citizens in their vehicles.
- Turn off gas at the meter and shut off all pilot lights.
- Remove flammable drapes from window openings.
- Lock your home and take your disaster supplies kit.
- Know more than one way out of your neighborhood.
- Leave the windows rolled up on your vehicle.
- Make plans to care for your pets in case you evacuate, or take them with you.
After The Fire:
- Rebuild to Firewise standards and ask your local officials to adopt National Fire Protection Standard 299 as a basis for measuring the potential danger within the community.
When dealing with wildfire situations the best method of wildfire suppression is to ensure that the fuel the fire needs to continue to burn is kept away from your home and other structures. By keeping a 30 foot (minimum) survivable space around your home and by doing a number of simple and affordable mitigation efforts, your home and the surrounding area will be FIREWISE.
- Remember during extremely dry conditions wildfire will spread very rapidly.
- Airborne embers can be carried for one to two miles ahead of the main body of the wildfire.
- Have CERT teams routinely look for potential fire starts during times of high fire danger.
- Quickly extinguish any and all small wildfire starts.
- Develop and maintain escape plans from your neighborhood and distribute it to everyone in the neighborhood.
- In the escape plan ensure that all residents leaving their residence close all windows and especially garage doors.
- Encourage all residents to maintain a disaster supplies kit.
- Encourage all residents to keep roofs and gutters clear of leaves and other debris.
- Encourage your neighborhood to utilize less fire prone vegetation, and encourage those with greater moisture content.
- Develop a plan for your neighborhood to ensure all vegetation is adequately watered during extreme wildfire conditions.
- Encourage your neighbors to follow all established open burning regulations.
- Incorporate FIREWISE concepts into the covenants governing your neighborhood association.
- Contact your local forestry office for published materials and educational programs that might be available for use in the neighborhood.
- Promote the use of prescribed burning, mechanical treatment or herbicidal treatment for limiting and keeping vegetation under control to limit the potential spread of wildland fire.
Wildland Fire Facts And Figures For The Year 2000
- Largest number of acres burned – Idaho – 1,361,459 acres.
- Number of wildland firefighter deaths – 21. Eleven by trauma, 5 by burns, 2 by stress, 2 by lightning and 1 by unknown illness.
- August 29th was the peak day of the year for fire activity. 28,462 people were fighting fires. 667 crews were assigned. 1,249 engines were assigned. 226 helicopters were assigned. 42 airtankers were assigned. 84 large fires (100 acres or more) were burning and, 1,642,579 acres were on fire in 16 states!
|Total Number of Wildland Fires and Acres from
January 1, 2000 to August 08, 2011 by State
|State||Number of Fires||Number of Acres|
Wildland Fire Statistics
| Total Fires and Acres 1960 – 1999
Average Number of Fires and Acres Burned By Decade
|Number of Wildland Fires and Acres By Cause
|Suppression Costs for Federal Agencies
Click here to see video of a wildland fire fighters true story!