The Southwest Coordinating Group this week released an updated guideline for fighting wildfires in the “Wildland Urban Interface” and for structural protection.
“SWCG’s first and foremost intent is to protect human life (i.e. keep our firefighters and the public safe),” states the June 17 memo sent to Southwest Agency Administrators, incident commanders and zone chairs.
“Secondly, once firefighter and public safety has been established, firefighting responders and resources will work aggressively to keep any wildfire away from structures and communities.
“All strategies and tactics will be based on this intent; fully understanding we will not be able to protect structures in every situation.
“Management of risk to responders, fire behavior, resource availability, and other critical factors will all dictate and/or contribute to the appropriate strategy/strategies implemented.”
The memo was sent to the Arizona State Forestry Division, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, New Mexico State Forestry Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
The memo concludes stating: “Wildland fire resources across the Southwest generally do not have the responsibility per policy as well as the the capability and training to perform structure fire suppression actions.”© Copyright 2016 John Dougherty, All rights Reserved. Written For: Investigative MEDIA
Kudos to SWCG for this contribution to mission clarity for WLFFs. Too many have died from mission creep and unreasonable expectations of residents and structural firefighters in the WUI. It is a timely and necessary step to assure FF safety.
However, I am disappointed that SWCG has said nothing about the responsibility of local authorities and residents to create and maintain defensible space around structures. The memo clearly states that, “…we will not be able to protect structures in every situation.” but says nothing about the ways that design, materials and maintenance influence survivability. It would be helpful to remind all residents that indefensible structures are most likely to be lost, and that even defensible ones cannot always be defended. When they are defended, it will be by local structural FFs and not WLFFs. Residents should strive to design structures to resist fire without reliance on FFs, even if it requires residents to compromise their enjoyment of their property.
Fires are burning hotter, longer, earlier and later in the season than ever before. Resources will be stretched more days than not. WLFFs must learn that their obligations end at the defensible border and not beyond.
Also, I assume that this tortured sentence,”Wildland fire resources across the Southwest generally do not have the responsibility per policy as well as the the capability and training to perform structure fire suppression actions.”
Can be translated as, “With few exceptions, wildland fire resources across the Southwest have, per policy, no responsibility, capability or training to perform structure fire suppression actions
My apologies, the full memo does emphasize this point!