Nine out of ten wildfires are preventable. In other words, nine out of ten wildfires are caused by people from carelessness. But homeowners and others are not powerless against wildfires. In fact, homeowners who exercise common sense tactics, such as clearing brush and debris away from structures, play a vital role in slowing the spread of fire and protecting their property.
Right now, moisture and cool temperatures in the Western United States are holding off the Western wildfire season. At the same time, the Southwestern United States is experiencing extensive wildfire activity in forestland and on private property, most notably in Texas.
“One of our jobs at the Forest Service is to keep wildfires away from homes and communities and to reduce fire severity to manageable levels,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “But individual homeowners also play a key role—they have a responsibility to make their properties as safe as possible from fires.”
The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Communities program teaches homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters and others about ways to protect people and property from wildfires. Firewise suggestions include:
Remove trees, brush and grass from around your structures
Clear anything flammable from within 3 feet of the base of your structures
Clean the roof and gutters of pine needles and other debris
Remove tree limbs less than 10 feet from the ground around your structures
Replace a shake-shingle roof with a non-flammable alternative
Keep your lawn clean and green
In addition to urging homeowners to make their properties as safe as possible from fire, the Forest Service’s overall strategy is to work through cross-jurisdictional partnerships before fires start rather than relying on suppression tactics alone. The agency’s community partners have an array of tools at their disposal, including:
External fuel buffers, internal safety zones and community wildfire protection plans
Fire departments with the capacity to mitigate, educate and protect at-risk communities
Codes and ordinances that address wildfire threats
Forest management and fuels mitigation techniques
Cooperative fire agreements
Wildland fire management response in the United States has evolved into an increasingly complex and multifaceted system. The nation’s Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy cites as one of its goals that human populations and infrastructure can withstand a wildfire without loss of life and property. To do that, the strategy calls for individuals and communities to accept their responsibility to prepare their properties for wildfire.
Nearly 650 communities in 40 states are part of the national Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program and thousands more are using Firewise principles. But there are still many communities nationwide that are at risk to wildfire. Go here to read the latest newsletter from Firewise.org, which is co-sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of the Interior and the National Association of State Foresters.