Multiple wildfires burning across southern Idaho, including the Elk and Pony Complex Fires and Beaver Creek Fire, highlight the continued threat to homes, property, businesses, parks, utilities and other community assets. To date, the fires have prompted several hundred residents to evacuate from communities in and around Elmore County, 40 miles southeast of Boise and according to fire officials, the fires have burned close to 300,000 acres and destroyed 38 homes and 43 outbuildings.
Continuing high temperatures and dry conditions are predicted over the next several weeks and could contribute to the growing number of wildfires across the state. The National Multi-Agency Coordination Group has raised the nation's preparedness level to Stage Four (on a scale of one to five). This ensures that firefighting resources are mobilized and ready to respond to new incidents.
Land and property owners can also do their part to prepare their homes, businesses, commercial properties and other assets at risk to the increased wildfire threat. By following Fire Adapted Communities principles -- collaboration, preparation and mitigation -- community members can take actions to increase firefighter safety and reduce risk to their families and properties.
Fire Adapted Community actions include:
- Building homes with fire-resistant materials
- Landscaping gardens using native plants
- Supporting land management practices in parks and natural areas that reduce wildfire spread to your community
- Encouraging the development and implementation of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan
- Working with neighbors to get recognized through the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program
- Encouraging your local fire department to participate in the Ready, Set, Go! Program
- Preparing an emergency planning kit and safety plan
- Meeting with your local forester to better understand your region's unique fire risks
- Locating your community's resident safety zone
- Talking to your insurance agent about your wildfire coverage and how to reduce risk
- Promoting the adoption of building codes and local regulations that address structural and site vulnerabilities to wildfire
- Identifying shared responsibilities with other community members and exploring local tools and solutions
Through the new Fire Adapted Learning Network, 10 pilot communities across the country are already doing their part to become more fire adapted. These include Santa Fe County (New Mexico), Tahoe Basin (Nevada/California), Woodland Park (Colorado), Towns County (Georgia), Leavenworth (Washington) and more. Many other towns, cities and states are also recognizing the benefits of taking the fire adapted community approach.
"The most effective way to reduce wildfire impact is through collaboration," said Molly Mowery, the National Fire Protection Association's program manager for Fire Adapted Communities. "Too often we think of wildfire as only one audience's problem to solve -- the homeowner, the policymaker, or the first responder. We need to think about how the strength of our collective actions can achieve far more than a piecemeal approach."
The Fire Adapted Communities initiative is spearheaded by the USDA Forest Service and supported by a number of national organizations, including the Fire Adapted Communities Coalition. For more wildfire resources or information about the Coalition, visit www.fireadapted.org.