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Becoming Firewise: Ways to reduce impacts of wildfires

Firefighters can help people understand the dynamics of wildland fires and how they react

Editor's note: The National Fire Protection Association's Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program celebrated its 10th anniversary in August by honoring nine original pilot sites for their continued participation and successes in reducing wildfire risks. In the following article, Dave Nuss, of the NFPA, explains how fire departments can become involved in the program.

By Dave Nuss
NFPA Wildland Fire Operations Division Manager

As well know, it's not a matter of preventing wildfires from happening — they will, as they are a natural part of the ecosystem.

It's actually a matter of making sure we adopt "Firewise" safety principles so our families and homes are ready to withstand the threat. Homeownwers, planners, developers all have a role to play in reducing wildfire damage in our communities. As a local firefighter, you, too, can make a significant impact.

As the trusted source for safety information, you can help people understand the dynamics of wildland fires and how they react. You can also explain how firefighters respond to wildfire emergencies, and reinforce the fact there are not enough of you to protect every home in a major fire.

Homeowners often ask firefighters to conduct risk assessments of their homes and property and to give them advice and guidance on things they can do to prepare their home to better withstand the effects of wildland fire.

But where can you start? NFPA's Firewise Communities Program has developed tools and techniques based on wildland fire science to advise and inform homeowners, builders, firefighters and community leaders on the most effective ways to prepare homes to resist ignition from wildland fires.

Firewise is a term coined by the National Fire Protection Association and its partners in 1993 to describe a vision of communities and homes where residents have learned to build, design and maintain neighborhoods that can survive compatibly with the natural phenomena of brush, grass and forest fires.

To date, there are more than 700 recognized Firewise Communities/USA in 40 states. Free online materials at www.firewise.org can make a difference in survival — both for the homeowner, and for you as a firefighter who defends these homes.

As an added resource, NFPA has hired six Firewise Advisors whose role it is is to support state forestry agencies, fire departments and others who want to work with communities on becoming Firewise, while providing encouragement that active communities might need to sustain their ongoing efforts. They are an on-the-ground resource to help you reach out to your community.

By sharing your expertise and offering support of Firewise principles, you and your fellow firefighters can make a difference in helping reduce the impact and effects of wildland fires in your community.

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