In phase one of the research paper, Wildland/Urban Interface: Fire Department Wildfire Preparedness and Readiness Capabilities, the NFPA researchers utilized a unique (to NFPA)research method of qualitative analysis. The NFPA Journal explored this research project in an article, Local Focus. As Hylton Haynes described it at his recent presentation at Backyards & Beyond® Conference in Myrtle Beach, quantitative analysis is like using a fly-fishing rod where you are fishing for one specific target species. With qualitative analysis, you are throwing out a net and gathering all the unstructured data that is out there. This research project allowed firefighters to share valuable information in a safe setting from their experience some very candid and insightful responses on how to address the wildland fire/WUI peril. There were many areas and topics of interest identified by this information gathering process that will inspire future research. One immediate result of this research study is the question set included in the 4th Needs Assessment of the US Fire Service, which was enhanced to include several additional wildland fire and wildland-urban interface questions. This survey is currently in process, with a national report scheduled for release in the Summer of 2016!
One of many topics explored in the paper was what wildland firefighters are doing to share with residents about what their risk is in a wildland/urban interface setting. According to the research paper, “Nearly all of our interviewees (wildland fire departments) spoke to the positive effect community risk reduction efforts can have on mitigating the risks of major wildfire events and of losing homes and property should a fire occur.” The paper further states, “The vast majority of the chiefs and captains we interviewed seem steadfast in their belief in the importance of increasing community awareness of wildfire risk and community engagement in mitigation efforts.”
The departments spoke about how their communities utilize a variety of programs tailored to the community’s needs. The programs these departments and communities depend upon for guidance and materials were; NFPA’s Firewise Communities USA ®, Ready, Set, Go®, and Fire Adapted Communities®.
Some interesting statistics that have developed from the phase one report “22% (of wildland fire departments who participated in the survey) devote time to wildfire community risk reduction activities (includes prevention
and mitigation activities), 46% to structural community risk reduction activities only, 30% do the same for both (wildfire and structural) and 2% do no community risk reduction activities. Of those who do wildfire community risk reduction, 98% do public education and 69% fuels management activities. Business outreach (34%), protection of cultural and historical sites (26%) and the protection of utilities (40%) are less commonly practiced elements of community risk reduction activities.”
According to the study, interviewees unanimously agreed that collaborative efforts between departments, residents, and other partners can play a key role in the effectiveness of the mitigation program. Are you a part of a collaborative effort like Firewise Communities, in order to work towards creating a safer, more Fire Adapted community? The study is available to read online and shares the voice of wildland fire departments that can help us all gain better insight about WUI needs and successes.