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Home>Topics>>Week in Review: Wildland Interface Fires

Week in Review: Wildland Interface Fires

Thu, 9 Aug 2012|

Chief Bobby Halton comments on wildland inteface fires and visits the scene of some wildland fires in Oklahoma.



Thanks for click anonymous on Bobby Alton on the editor in chief of fire engineering magazine. And this is a special update on wildfires. Right now the countries experiencing tremendous -- all across the midwest and southwest. And and the West Coast we're seeing record droughts. Incredibly dry conditions. And also were suffering from my policy. That the fire service instituted probably. Almost 5060 years ago of a no burn kind of policy which is being reversed right now. But we're still -- working through the after effects of that they can change that policy back in the eighties. But more importantly what we're seeing is a huge growth in what's called the wild urban interface. And what we're seeing there. Folks are moving out of the cities and they're moving into these more rural areas. And so we're running into tremendous issues especially as regards the more rural fire departments responding to these massive wildfires -- -- -- The Colorado wildfires. Tragic results many many people lost their homes. We -- the fires in California recently. And now the fires in Oklahoma. Where hundreds of homes were lost and tragically one's a civilian to die. Down in Norman trapped in their homes -- in while -- So what should we do with these wildfires how can we prevent these wildfires how we respond to these wildfires -- -- engineering has published two wonderful articles for you. -- by -- right in this month's fire injuring magazine please take the time to read it. And the second one we've got on line right now -- Todd McNeil both dealing with wild land issues and interface issues. We also went down to Medford Oklahoma just to get a look at what was going on down there over the weekend. And what the devastation looks like up close and personal and you'll see that video and a second. But a few things right off the top. Firefighters need to be prepared to handle these types of emergencies the publics expects -- -- We saw him on Long Island so whether you're New York City and Staten Island with the you're. Pittsburgh. -- the -- Denver. Doesn't really matter what part of the country you're in you we need to be able to respond to these types of fires so what -- we have we should have wild land fire fighting equipment. We -- wild land fire fighting protective clothing. Those are critical pieces of equipment that should not be nets who fighting fires -- structural here. He's absolutely one of the most dangerous things you can do in terms of what does your core body temperature and fatiguing you also reducing your mobility in case you would need to move quickly. While Maingear is radically different there are structural gear and I highly recommend that any department doesn't currently while -- gear goes out purchases. The second thing is we need to be educating our public defensible and survivable space. One of the things we now know that even when you have defensible space around your property. The brands that come off of these wind driven wildfires these these brands of fire can travel. Far far distances. Half mile mile. And and cause fires to erupt in what we thought was defensible space so we need to educate our public on defensible and survivable spaces. What type of roughing up in the wild land interface how much clearance they need to have -- property where put there would piles. And then we need to educate them on the evacuation routes just like we do for floods. And hurricanes and things of that nature how to get out of their communities when these wildfires -- pinching on their residences. These are critical issues education is a huge part of being a firefighter. All firefighters -- teachers what do you want to be or not. And the best firefighters end up being true instructors for their communities true leaders for their communities where -- your career volunteer combination. It doesn't matter we need to get the word out that when these wildfires erupt that folks need to get out. People grossly underestimate and many firefighters grossly underestimate. The amount of energy and heat that are generated. By a fire in just medium range -- -- -- 45 inches they could have potentially fatal results. We've seen that -- firefighters and overcome we saw that in Oklahoman in 2007. We're young firefighters structural gear was overcome a grass fire. And died tragically. So we can't play fast and loose just because the fuel doesn't look that dangerous it's the perfect arrangement of fuel it's bone dry. It's it's finely divided and when the wind kicks up and the temperatures yours devastatingly high as they are right now. The results can be catastrophic. So we wish -- rushed a short video for you enjoy right now about what happened out Medford. We hope it illustrates some of the points we've just spoken about. It's time -- to get prepared it's time -- to get ready. The far service needs to do more to educate we do need to do more to prepare ourselves. And we need to understand. Potential catastrophic results of wild -- fire fighting. One quick note if you look back at source spike year's pro line of duty deaths those were particularly bad one homeland -- -- years. Where we lost groups of -- and firefighters storm king mountain -- case in point. And several others so we need to be prepared we need to be ready we need to work with our forestry partners are -- and partners are -- governments. Our inner agencies agreements you're gonna have huge contingencies of numbers of people to coordinate these -- -- -- you're gonna get help. So be prepared to manage that well. Well I hope this helps a little bit to get you thinking about what you need to be getting prepared on your wild -- interface issues or your wild -- issues. I hope you're ready -- to take on this challenge because what you're ready or not it's headed your way. Now please enjoy the short video. Hi his volley -- -- fire engineering and -- in Medford Oklahoma where a devastating wildfire over the weekend. Claimed dozens of homes officials have not give us an official count yet. But the numbers believed to be about sixty residences and other buildings were destroyed. In a three day wildfire. -- -- ground fire with grasses and grasses and forest debris burning but it was intensely hot as you can see behind me the structure was totally -- We still have many embers burning. Still some hot spots going to crews are still active the Red Cross shelters are open and books are being evacuated. It brings to mind some of the fire safety things we need to remind all of our residents. When you're living in a true wild land urban interface or even just a rural settings such as this. What wild fires happen rapidly unexpectedly. They can have devastating results fortunately -- been no loss of life reported here in the men for fire. But the devastation to property is extensive. And probably won't know the dollar amount for weeks yet to come as people try to assess what they've lost here. The firefighters had to -- heavy heavy -- also -- firefighters from Oklahoma City. -- and from numerous surrounding communities including -- area the council of governments mobilized and they did an excellent job. As of any fire initial stages were very chaotic and confusing. So quickly it was brought under control command -- control was established incident command system was set -- the commander from Oklahoma City arrived. Bringing calm to a chaotic scene and helping to organize and manage the hundreds of resources that turned out to fight this fire. Including the roses themselves many on the garden hoses. Another storm water tanks and rural areas which are very common. Of course we don't recommend people do that that's -- of the community -- program. To educate people as to what to do in these kind of things occur. As you can see behind me this house is gone for just a short ways up -- driveway here -- -- house is relatively untouched. For the trauma that's gonna go on survivor's guilt and others issues such -- that gonna happen here in Medford Oklahoma. When -- go around mr. some of the sights and sounds today as a small community about thirty miles outside of Tulsa Oklahoma tries recover from a devastating. And tragic weekend. And as you can see a -- heard tender truck waiting to. Load up the brush trucks that were just here a few minutes ago they're gonna go out hit this hot spot you can see over my shoulder just flared up looks to be about. Three of four acres right now but it's growing pretty fast we just sought to brush trucks take off out of here. This is how this has to be done in these wild land interface -- find a place we can position your your tanker there's a water supply. Over my other shoulder here where their fill on this stuff that comes this high ground they can access off load their water -- -- -- walk into the brush trucks. How the brush trucks go out trying to make a stop on this behind us before it gets any larger. The jobs far from over your map for they'll be doing this for the next week or so. It's -- it's dirty it's dangerous work but these guys have done a great job so far. And our expectation is they're gonna continue to exceed everybody's expectations. -- -- -- -- -- I'm Bonnie -- -- remember defensible survivable space that's the message we need to get out to our residents and all the wild land urban interface. The summer's just in the middle of summer right now we've got too long hot dry months ahead of us now's the time to get your community ready. Don't be caught unaware prepare. Well we're wrapping up by day -- map for Oklahoma you can see behind us the -- crews are still mopping up some hot spots. Some pesky hotspots been plagued them all day. You may have noticed during the shuttle operations at some of those now for firefighters were structural gear. In some of these rural areas the funds are just not there available to buy them the proper while land here. It is never recommended that you Wear structural gear when doing wild land -- -- That's why that -- Eric grant money is so critical that it gets the tools equipment and proper PPE two firefighters who actually needed. We need to continue funding that -- -- grant. To us that the folks who need that. That equipment and those tools get it. These firefighters are extreme risk for all kinds of problems wearing a structural -- the amount of heat that they're building up inside that -- Is going to be ungodly and you need to be an incredible physical condition to put up with that kind of insult to your to your body. I'm Bobby -- were out here Medford Oklahoma and please let's be careful out there. Well as our experience -- Medford Oklahoma yesterday looking at the devastation there. We hope you know the training is the key to being ready to do this having the right tools the right equipment and developing those relationships with our partners. That we absolutely need to have whether it's forestry. The community the interfaith groups the politicians. All that needs to be done in advance during the fire is not a time to develop relationships. We hope you ready for the wild land season it's upon us it's going to be a long hot summer. -- Bobby hall and remember please.

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