Nearly 70,000 US communities are at risk this wildfire season, and with an average of 6.5 million acres burned each year, it's important for people to be prepared.
Pam Leschak of the U.S. Forest Service talked to UPR's Mackinzie Hamilton about the Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) Initiative, a national public service campaign that helps individuals, communities, and land managers to prepare for wildfire season.
60,000 acres burned in Utah last year and Leschak says, "This year's gonna be a lot more active than last year. It's early in the season and we're already seeing a lot of activity."
There are a lot of factors that affect the fire season. Fuels have built up because we haven't had a big fire year in awhile. Leschak adds that the "challenges of fighting wildfires in the wildland/urban interface, where people actually live in areas that are likely to burn" makes things even more complicated.
the FAC program is all about preparedness:
"Firefighters can't be everywhere when there's a fire. Their primary concern is public and firefighter safety and then protecting infrastructure and homes, but that doesn't mean there's always someone who can be at every structure, so the best thing for people to do is to prepare for a wildfire before it happens."
The first step is to create defensible space around your home. Make sure you have a class-A roof, not cedar shake shingles, and make sure there are no combustible materials around your home.
Your town/community should have a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. If there isn't one, Leschak says get people together and make one.
"In most cases, these are things government doesn't have the capability to do for you. It's something you can do for yourself. On private property you are the only one who can do this for yourself. It's up to individuals to take that action."
The impact of wildfires is far-reaching. There are huge economic, environmental, and human costs to being unprepared. Not only are natural resources lost, but things like watersheds, businesses, power grids, transmission lines -- these factors cause an exponential increase in the cost of wildfires.
- To evaluate the risk of your home being destroyed by a wildfire, you can look at the Fire Adapted Communities' Homeowner's Assessment Sheet.
- The Utah State University Extension program has Firewise Landscaping information.
- More about the Fire Adapted Communities Initiative is at www.fireadapted.org