In its latest resolution action, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro Chiefs) unanimously approved support of Outthink Wildfire, an initiative of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) aimed at eliminating the destruction of communities by wildfire in 30 years.
The resolution emphasizes the fact that the US has witnessed a steady increase in frequency and intensity of wildfires, a trend that experts predict will continue. The number of homes lost in wildfires per year has increased by 163% and wildfires now cost the US billions of dollars each year in losses. In the past three years alone, metropolitan fire departments in the western US have seen over 100 lives and thousands of structures lost to wildfire, and these fires have caused billions of dollars in direct damage to property and local economies.
Launched in February 2021, Outthink Wildfire lays out five policy changes that must occur at all levels of government to make it easier for communities to foster collaboration, enact change, achieve resilience and protect themselves from wildfire. Leveraging this information, the resolution calls for support of the five tenets that form a complete wildfire mitigation approach, including the need for more and better training and protective equipment to ensure fire departments are properly prepared to respond safely and effectively to wildfire.
‘Outthink Wildfire is rooted in two realities – wildfires are going to happen, and the other is that fire departments will never be staffed or equipped to save property in the path of a wildfire,’ said Jim Pauley, NFPA President and CEO. ‘Given the size and scope of the US wildfire challenge before us, local fire departments must have the proper resources, training and personal protective equipment to be effective in fighting these fires.’
According to an NFPA report, Fourth Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service, 88% of US fire departments—some 23,000 departments—provide wildland and/or WUI firefighting services. Of those, 63% have not formally trained all their personnel involved in these activities. Only 32% have all their responders equipped with appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), and 26% do not have any of the necessary PPE at all. For the years 2011 to 2015, wildfires caused an average of 1,330 fireground injuries to local fire department personnel each year.
‘Metropolitan fire departments are continuing to face the threat of wildfire to their communities and the residents they serve,’ said Chief Don Lombardi, President, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association. ‘While wildfire response efforts have increased significantly, spending on resource management and community preparedness activities has not. We endorse Outthink Wildfire and its five tenets as a holistic approach to end the destruction of communities from wildfire.’
In preparation for a future with more wildfire activity, collaboration that begins with policy implementation in the US can work to better protect its neighbourhoods, citizens and first responders.
Learn more about Outthink Wildfire at nfpa.org/wildfirepolicy