Wildland Urban Interface
B y T o d d M c N e a l N ow that the 2016 fire season has concluded, all of us who were engaged in suppression or deployed to assist in incident manage- ment need to take a deep breath and catch a little break. This year was once again an extremely busy wildland fire season with nearly five million acres burned, numerous structures lost, and civilian and firefighter fatalities. It should be no surprise that
the wildland fuels burn with the intensity observed
because of the status of the fuel loading and
prolonged drought in many geographic regions in
the nation. I hope that at this point personnel have
heard and read both me and many others warn of
the elevated potential of the wildland fuel bed. This
fact will continue into the 2017 season, even with
some precipitation recovery over the winter because
of the overall precipitation deficit of the past several
years. An additional carryover into 2017 is the
regional impact of tree mortality in California. This
large-scale catastrophic event is expected to signifi-
cantly change the availability and continuity of the
timber fuel models in the coming years.
These challenging issues should be some of
the many topics included in every department’s
after action review (AAR) conducted internally
or regionally with cooperators about experiences,
lessons learned, and best practices developed dur-
ing the 2016 season. The benefits of the AAR are
enumerable and impactful when conducted after
every significant event within your agency. The
same powerful take-home information can be cap-
tured and incorporated into your future wildland
responses when done at the end of season. The
process is simple by design but can be enhanced or
modified as each agency deems appropriate or nec-
essary based on unique experiences during 2016.
The basic questions addressed during the AAR
process include the following:
• What was planned?
• What happened?
• Why did it happen?
• What can we do to improve next time?
Regardless of whether your agency has a simple
conversation at the company level or an agencywide
multiday session, benefits and education will be
realized. This capturing of critical events, improvements to tactics, what went well and what didn’t is
the cornerstone of any agency’s self-assessment and
improvement plan. The AAR process is an open,
nonpunitive, supportive action that has the focus
of identifying issues in need of correction and constructive criticism to channel improvement.
WE MUST ALL LEARN FROM EACH OTHER
At the foundation of the AAR process is the
intent of learning and improving the performance
After action review at the seasonal level
at the 2016
WUI Fire Season
It should be no surprise that
the wildland fuels burn with the
intensity observed because of
the status of the fuel loading
and prolonged drought in many
geographic regions in the nation.
(Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.)