Q&A: Wiland Urban Interface fire expert shares best practices for prevention, mitigation

Source(s)
FIRE CHIEF

Randall sat down to talk with Fire Chief about what urban and suburban fire department leaders need to understand about the WUI fire threat and how to keep it at bay.

Fire Chief: Looking at the big picture, what needs to happen to reduce the number and severity of WUI fires?

Christina Randall: Acknowledging that you have a risk is the first step – addressing it in terms of where the risk is and what you define as a risk. That starts your target area. People tend to think of WUI fires as a forest health problem or a fire department problem, and it really is a community problem. That’s who we have to engage as a fire department.

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What are the keys to getting mitigation and prevention tactics to work?

Prevention is messaging, whereas mitigation is involving the fire department with the community. It is more of a systematic approach in terms of development review, fuel management, education outreach, grants – all those resources you can bring to the community. You can ratchet it up or down as your community needs. Starting with one community and demonstration area is key. Once you engage those homeowners, they will start to work on their own.

But before you send a message to your community, you have to know what the political environment is, what they are willing to engage or not engage in, and customize it for your community. There’s no one answer for every community in this country.

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How do you get people to prepare for things like an evacuation?

That’s part of our outreach program. We raffle off an evacuation kit to get them thinking about what they should put into their kits. We have a packet with information on tax benefits, tree service providers, evacuation planning, emergency planning and outdoor burning. Everything a homeowner would have a question about is in that packet.

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