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Future Measures for Wildfire Protection

Introduction

For many years, wildfire has been a major threat to the United States. Many fatalities and injuries have resulted from this problem. In the last decade, about seventy-seven firefighters and twenty-three civilians perished with over half a million citizens being left homeless as a result of wildfire. Some of the issues that have been blamed to cause these adverse effects are lack of adequate fire fighting skills from the public and firefighters and lack of adequate firefighting equipment. The fire fighting agency must provide the public and firefighters with the necessary skills to help them overcome problems caused by wildfire. The purpose of this report is to explore some of the firefighting skills provided by firefighting agencies, look at their current trends, challenges and provide solutions to improve them.

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Background information

Wildfire is a natural happening in most parts of North America. The ecology of most parts of western America comprises fire adaptive species of plants making them vulnerable to fire outbreaks during dry seasons. Even as topography, vegetation, and climatic conditions vary in various regions, incidences of wildfire are inevitable. One of the main reasons for the eruption of these fires is the encroachment by human beings into areas reserved for forests. During the last few decades, people have established themselves in natural fire environments, erecting buildings and other structures. This has led to great losses in terms of property and life in case of a fire outbreak. Occurrences of a major wildfire in America have made many civilians and firefighters lose their life, tens of thousands of homes destroyed and the economy suffering from loss of billions of dollars (Bibby, 2003, para. 2). The case of a fire eruption in Southern California where twenty-four people lost their lives and three thousand, seven hundred and ten others left homeless, implies that despite there being advanced fire fighting equipment, a lot still needs to be done to overcome the problem. Experience has proven that with the current trend of wildfire outbreaks, there will never be enough suppression forces to overcome the fire. With the escalation in loss resulting from this fire outbreak, there is a need for fire agencies to reconsider improving some of their current fire fighting techniques.

Current methods of fighting wildfire

In the United States, fire fighting agency has trained the public as well as firefighters on various methods of fighting wildfire. The effort to offer training to the firefighters and the public occurred after the National Fire Protection agency learned of the devastating problems caused on the nation as well as civilians by wildfires. In 2001, Congress ordered for establishment of a ten years program to educate the public on various methods of controlling wildfires referred to as the National Fire Plan (NFP). The main aim of the plan was to educate the public on various ways to minimize the occurrence of fire outbreaks, methods of fire suppression, reduce hazardous fuels, develop a fire-adapted environment, and foster community assistance in case of a fire outbreak. To facilitate fire suppression, the community is educated through electronic media, programs, and publications from the fire agency on ways to suppress fire in case of an outbreak. The program paves room for collaboration between the public and fire-fighting agencies in developing wildfire mitigation plans. The public is educated on how to construct their homes for those who live around forests. As most of the fire outbreaks result from ignorance by the public when handling fire at home, the public is advised on the need to leave a defensible space between their homes and the forest (Bibby, 2003, para. 3-5). This helps in ensuring that fire from home does not get its way to the forest. In case of a fire outbreak, it can not be able to destroy public property. There had been an assumption that most of the homes are destroyed as a result of the flame attack. This is not the case; research has proved that great destruction results from ember attacks. This calls for the public to be educated on ways of erecting ignition-resistant structures to prevent damages caused by wildfire.

The federal Healthy Forests Initiative and Restoration Act has made the fire agency look for ways of helping the public in developing hazardous fuel mitigation schemes. Fund has been provided to improve the condition of forests and reduce the accumulation of perilous fuel on public lands. People living in risky areas have been taught how to treat their lands to reduce the accumulation of dangerous fuel which can trigger fire (Boura, 1998, p. 62). The public is also taught how to construct their structures in a way that would not hamper efforts by firefighters during fire suppression. These include ensuring that there is enough space around their buildings where firefighters can stand or walk around as they fight the fire. For residents to take ownership of firefighting, they need to understand the numerous threats posed to them and their property by wildfire. They also require understanding that there are several measures available to them that they can use to overcome these threats. American fire agency has gone to great lengths of understanding the public’s general knowledge in wildfire and then come up with informative programs to cater for the deficiencies in knowledge. As many people move from urban to rural areas, they are becoming vulnerable to wildfire. This underlines the reasons why fire agency has to establish fire education programs even in secondary schools to cater for these people who have minimum knowledge on wildfire suppression and prevention techniques. Despite there being a lot of books and journals educating the public on wildfire protection mechanisms, the agency has taken little effort to ensure that the public is aware of these materials. Regular evaluations are not done to ascertain the effectiveness of the materials in adding knowledge to the public. As a result, most of the people have not been aware of the materials thus having little knowledge about fire prevention and suppression methods. This has greatly led to cases of death and property destruction in case of wildfire outbreaks ((Boura, 1998, p. 64).

Conclusion

It is the responsibility of the fire agency to furnish the public with the necessary knowledge on wildfire protection. The nature of the ecosystem in western America makes it more vulnerable to an outbreak of wildfire. As more people move from urban to rural areas, they have little knowledge on how to react in case of fire outbreaks. This has made fire agencies in America opt to provide programs on wildfire protection methods in secondary schools. People are also trained on how to erect their homes and the need to leave defensible space when building their homes. Numerous resources have been provided by fire agencies to help the public gain knowledge on the dangers of wildfires and how to overcome them. The public has been educated on methods of reducing fuels that may trigger wildfire in their lands. Despite this effort by the agency, the public still lacks adequate knowledge of firefighting techniques. Fatalities and property destruction are still reported in case of wildfire outbreaks. This underlines the need for fire agencies to put more effort into devising new techniques and passing them to the public.

Recommendations

Having looked at the various approaches used by fire agency in America to educate the public on methods of wildfire protection, still, there are various techniques that the agency needs to adapt for it to provide effective training to equip the public with adequate skills on fire prevention. This process will take years to be accomplished and requires concerted efforts from all departments within the fire fighting agency and also the public living in risky areas. Some of the steps that the agency should take are to ensure that all the efforts directed towards managing wildfire are based on sound and realistic research. There are numerous and viable methods of fire control used by other countries such as Australia. The agency should be willing to adapt these techniques and stop depending on its old paradigms. This includes educating the public on new methods of fire fighting and their effectiveness. The efforts need to be made bearing in mind that wildfire is an ordinary occurrence and not a disaster. As such, the agency should come up with methods of managing fuels at various intervals on public lands to help in restoring a fire ecology that will help in reduction of fatalities and property destruction that results from wild fire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection [CDF], 2005, para. 3).

As more people move to rural areas, there is a high probability that these people have little knowledge on methods of preventing or suppressing wildfire. In case of fire outbreak, these people are likely to suffer a lot of damage due to their poor knowledge on fire fighting techniques. Fire agency need to conduct regular survey of residents living in risk prone areas to gain insight into their present understanding level of wildfire and how to control its occurrence. This will help in ensuring that the agency comes up with education programs that will meet all the knowledge deficiencies that these people suffer from (Cohen, 2000, pp. 15-21). Fire protection programs offered in secondary schools need to focus on changing the attitude among the people that wildfire control methods need only to be taught to people living in areas vulnerable to fire outbreaks. The education needs also to focus on firewise issues to reduce fire intensity and successive radiant heat. It should also ensure that it has reduced chances of home ignitability by educating the public on various ignition resistant concepts to follow when erecting their homes.

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The community lacks knowledge and capacity to evaluate the effectiveness of wildfire protection policies. This leads to their efforts not being effective despite them being trained by fire agency. The fire agency should support the community in evaluating the effectiveness of their fire protection policies by providing them with the necessary staffs or training. They should help in ascertain the outcomes of the policies and in aligning them with community goals and objectives. This will help the community in developing collaborative projects that will facilitate in reducing fatalities caused by wildfire (McLeod, 2003, para. 2).

Reference

Bibby, A. (2003). Working Towards Community Safety. International Fire ProtectionMagazine. Web.

Boura, J. (1998). Community Fireguard: Creating Partnerships with the Community to Minimize the Impact of Bushfire. Australian Journal of Emergency Management, 13, pp.59-64.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection [CDF]. (2005). 20 Largest California Wildland Fires (by structures destroyed). Web.

Cohen, J. (2000). Preventing Disaster: Home Ignitability in the Wildland-Urban Interface. Journal of Forestry, 98 (3), pp.15-21.

McLeod, R. (2003). The Inquiry into the Operational Response Bushfires. Web.

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