JAN 2017

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 48 of 83

2. Biases in the insurance discipline, lead- ing to the underrepresenting risk for property located in the WUI; 3. Global climate change, leading to lon- ger, hotter and drier fire seasons; and 4. Government decisions to allow devel- opment to occur unimpeded in some of the most hazardous WUI situations. The science is truly ir refutable, although some continue to try to contest it, and the risk to firefighters working in this theater is nothing less than extraordinary. Reviewing 2015 In my region, the Pacific Northwest, we are particularly susceptible to massive wildland fires, and nearly every project fire involves some level of urban-interface. (Note: A project fire is a fire of such size or complexity that a large organization and prolonged activity is required to suppress it.) We are not unlike any of our other nearby states, and the culture of our region has embraced an increasing desire over the past 50 years to locate permanent and seasonal homes in the wilderness. In a letter sent on June 30, 2016, from Pacific Northwest Coordinating Group Chair Brian Tonhika to all of the fire ser- vice leadership, he reflected on last year's challenge in preparation for 2016: "Following an active fire season in 2014, the 2015 fire season was one of incredible success as well as tragedy. The 2015 fire season saw the NW Geographic Area at Preparedness Levels (PL) 4 and 5 for the longest number of days (24 days at PL 4, and 23 days at PL 5, for a total of 47 days) in nearly 10 years. In response to these heightened PLs, the Northwest MAC was activated for 41 days. During that time, large fires were spread from Southwest Oregon to Northeast Washing- ton, touching virtually every sub-geo area within the Geographic Area. Six of those fires approached or exceeded 100,000 acres each. As many as 11,450 personnel (at a given time) were deployed during the peak of fire activity. Despite the high loss of acres, by far the largest loss was that of 3 firefighters near Twisp, WA. No amount of resources is worth the cost of a firefight- er's life. This loss is a sobering reminder of the risks you take when responding to wildfire. PNWCG's goal is and continues to be, zero firefighter deaths. This takes all of us, whether we are firefighters on the ground, serving as Agency Administrators or members of PNWCG. Each of us plays a part in ensuring our resources are safe and prepared to respond." During our 2015 fire season, we wel- comed agencies and personnel from every region in the United States, as well as participation from Canada and Australia. Aside from very few and isolated logisti- cal issues, our ability to move the massive amount of resources across state, regional and international borders was flawless and nothing less than exceptional. Even more interesting was the adap- tation of an incredibly diverse group of civilian, municipal, seasonal and military personnel into a national training and operationally preparedness framework that is well known to many as the National Wildland Coordinating Group (NWCG). Firefighters of all types were being trained or re-trained in operating within the wildland theater, and the structural fire resources in particular spent hours becoming reacquainted with structural protection tactics and wildland firefight- ing safety. Being prepared, or "operation- ally ready," is our collective responsibility, regardless of the risk or geography, and being situationally aware should be a pri- ority for all us. Preparing for future events Maintaining a national understanding of the level of wildland risk and situational awareness is easier now with modern technology. Agency leaders, company officers and firefighters all have the abil- ity to read the most recent intelligence on active incidents, learn about the level of risk, and make preliminary preparations for protecting their community, neighbor- ing community or a community in need anywhere in the United States. With that in mind, following is a list of important websites that provide leaders with a larger perspective of the nation's fire situation: • National 7-Day Significant Potential: • National Situation Report: www.nifc. gov/nicc/sitreprt.pdf • National Interagency Coordination Center Predictive Services: predictiveservices. Before the fire season, fire chiefs and agency administers should also estab- lish and maintain robust relationships with their federal partners, including the National Weather Service, Federal Forest Service and State Department of Natural Resources/Lands. Most federal and state organizations have access to NWCG training material, credentialing agree- ments and processes, as well as access to the Resource Ordering and Status System (ROSS). Chiefs and policymakers have the ability to enter into legal agreements with federal and state agencies that allow for entry of a municipal fire department or fire district into the federal wildland system. After all, post-9/11, we are all supposed to be speaking the same language, and that means much more than just pushing a button to talk. When developing response plans for the WUI, organizations should follow a process similar to a standard of coverage critical task analysis. January 2017 l Firehouse l 49

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Firehouse - JAN 2017