Mitigate, Prepare and Prevent

By Nancy Aird

The wildland urban interface (WUI) is the area where homes are built near or among lands prone to wildland fire. Homeowners value their privacy, natural beauty, recreational opportunities and affordable living created by buying in neighborhoods built in these areas. As a result, rural fire districts more often have to fight fire and protect homes and property within these wildland urban interface areas.

Mitigation accepts we cannot prevent everything from happening.  Wildfires and other disasters cannot be eliminated. They will always impact on people, property and resources.   The spark that sets the wildfire going may not be from your own hand, but Preparedness principals include acceptance that with every potential disaster the consequences should be preceded by intelligent preparations. What are some sources for Preparedness to reduce wildfire hazards and improve survivability by lessening risks?

Hilary Franz’s (Commissioner of Public Lands) goal is for restoration treatments to 1.25 million acres of forest by 2037. Some of the DNR steps to improve our forest are: “All lands, all hands,” prescribed burns, stop outbreaks of invasive insects, and rapid response. Restoration tools reduce risk of high-severity fires by reducing fast-burning fuels. Thinning overcrowded stands provides older trees more water and sunlight, creates open spaces and snags for wildlife, and enhances soil by recycling nutrients back into the ground. Prescribed fires are set to promote forest restoration by cleaning the forest floor, improve animal habitat, kill disease and lessens wildfire risks.

PREVENTION is preventing wildfire through education, burn restrictions, industrial Fire Precaution Levels, and burn permits which help people modify their activities with the level of current risk.  DNR works year-round to lessen the risk level in Washington.   Want more information on how wildfire, flood, air quality, and extreme heat may potentially affect your address.  The RISK FACTOR model at the following web site is designed to approximate risk to an address.  Note: this is not intended for active events.

Improve fire risk awareness through fire prevention education and the Firewise USA Communities programs. .   “Wildfire Ready Neighbors” is DNR educational program linking preparedness experts, fire districts, and landowners/ residents. Renters, homeowners, and landowners can sign up to have a wildfire expert visit their property and develop a detailed action plan. This plan includes mitigation and preparation steps, local resources information, and contractor lists.

Tips for Campfires and Burning. Note: If a fire escapes, the responsible party will pay for fire suppression personnel and equipment.   TIPS for Home Landscaping and Vehicle Usage in Dry Conditions.

Create a HIZ (Home Ignition Zone) barrier. Jack Cohen (research scientist with Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Fire, Fuel and Smoke program) modeled, experimented, and did case studies on wildland-urban fire interface. He defined this effective home owner way to remove fire risk by reducing fuel.   The research showed homes, vegetation, outbuildings, and neighboring structures found within a 100’ area created a HIZ. Burning embers (firebrands) and low intensity surface fires generated most of the fire damage, not the big flames of our usual beliefs.

**CHECK INSURANCE POLICIES*** Check your insurance coverage on your property. Make sure it is up to date on values and replacement coverage. More insurance carriers are adding Wildfire policy endorsement to show partnership with a wildfire defense company. The contracted agency will monitor wildfire activity and deploy preventative services when a wildfire can threaten a covered property.  Photograph or video tape your belongings for insurance coverage.

Wildfire Prepared – A program from Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety provides a Wildfire Prepared Home designation program that enables homeowners to take preventative measures for their home and yard against wildfires. It is endorsed by various insurance groups and may be a step towards better insurance coverage. This site had steps promoted in California, Colorado and other states that have experienced a high level of wildfires.

Agricultural businesses can use the following article as a starting point to mitigate and prepare for a fire.

Washington Department of Health – Mitigation of Smoke from Wildfire toolkit