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CAL FIRE Local 2881 Releases Report on the Future of Fighting Wildfires in California

 

Last updated 9/28/2015 at 9:17am

Photo From Wikimedia Commons

The Valley Fire that began burning on Sept. 12, 2015, is now officially the third most destructive fire in California history. Governor Brown has said that these kinds of fires are the new reality for the future.

CAL FIRE Local 2881 agrees.

CAL FIRE Local 2881 is releasing this week a review of wildland fires and how we prepare and respond. A Comprehensive View on the Future of Fighting Wildfire by a Team of Experts is the result of experts throughout the country gathering in Sacramento to discuss wildfire issues. The results of this symposium were recently published.

The observations and recommendations are timelier than ever, highlighting something that California's firefighters already know: California's landscape has fundamentally and profoundly changed and the state is not prepared. Standing at the threshold of what is arguably one of the most violent fire years, the ability to respond to this unprecedented risk was encumbered by rapid growth, poor land use decisions, environmental change, budgetary constraints, and politics.

The 2014 Symposium had several notable observations:

1) Despite our best efforts, wildland firefighting is easily decades behind urban strategies for fire suppression and response. This risk has not received the attention it demands, particularly with regard to research and education.

2) The expression "Fire Season" is an antiquated term that refers to annual discrete periods where patterns of temperature, precipitation, and humidity facilitate conditions for wildfires; modern trends indicate that the nomenclature be changed to "Fire Year."

3) The term "Wildfire" has similarly become a misnomer. Fire is rarely isolated to wildland areas; fires now impact highways, houses, businesses, etc. collectively referred to as a "Wildland Urban Interface" fire, or WUI Fire.

The conclusions of the Symposium cannot overstate the obvious need for a change in how people deal with WUI fires in California and the United States:

1) A change in the frequency, intensity, and distribution of wildfires has, and will continue to occur throughout California. It is imperative that people acknowledge this change and identify ways to avoid, minimize, and mitigate the risk and impacts.

2) People need to create a comprehensive wildfire/WUI research, education, and training program that meets the diverse needs of urban and wildland fire agencies with an emphasis on providing new tools, technologies, and operational strategies to meet the evolving risks and demands.

3) People must create a "Blue Ribbon Commission" on Wildland/WUI fires that follows in the spirit of the work done in 1973 (America Burning). The results of that work significantly reduced the risks of fires in our cities, businesses, and homes. America is still burning, worse than ever, and we need a paradigm shift that fundamentally changes how we deal with wildland and WUI fires in California and the US.

4) People need to develop a long-term firefighter health study that addresses key factors associated with exposure and injuries and better understand the short- and long-term consequences.

The symposium can be accessed on the CAL FIRE Local 2881 website or by going to http://www.calfirelocal2881.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/WhitePaper_revised7_21.pdf

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