But time was against them.
Fortunately, there were no injuries when the
country witnessed the ferocity of that particular
wildland fire. One of the homeowners stated he
saw the plume of smoke, his neighbor warned him
five minutes later, and 25 minutes after the initial
plume was reported his home and all its contents
The local and state fire departments responded
quickly to the event, working to ensure that the
community was protected and supported, but
tremendous damage was done.
Now imagine this happening in your community.
What is the plan? How much time do you have?
How much time do you have to evacuate your
home with everything you need and love? How
much time does your fire department have? What
are the capabilities of your fire department? These
are the tough questions that need to be addressed.
A fire department needs to have a plan. The community needs to have a plan to support or be supported by the fire department.
The fire department’s job is to ensure a level of
safety is in place within its jurisdiction. Planning
for an escalated major event is our responsibility.
Coaching our team to help create a community
that can help us make it safer is what it is all about.
Each fire department must educate its customers
on the honest capabilities of its service. This will
get the conversation started on how the residents
and stakeholders can help the fire department do
its job better. Come up with a preplan. Have the
conversation on the front end of an incident to
prepare your fire department and the community
it serves. Education can start with basic mitigation
techniques that will transition into community
continuity that ensures a safer environment for
everyone. Have the community own the concepts
that support your strategies so the hard stuff is
already talked about and discussed and plans are
formulated. The homeowner can be the voice
for the street, the street can be the voice for the
subdivision, the subdivision can be the voice for
the village, the village for the community, and the
community for the district.
Understanding everyone’s wants and needs is a
conversation that must happen. Ensure that the
public knows a single-engine company cannot pro-
tect everyone when a huge threat is knocking at the
door. The fire department needs help. The commu-
nity needs help. We need to ask for that help. This
starts by understanding what our major hazards are
and having a plan for them. The customer becomes
the student, the student becomes the teacher to
other students, and the teacher becomes the voice
for the community. Soon, we have the people who
we serve as the spokespeople for a safer community,
which ensures a safer work environment for us.
Preplanning a community for a wildland-urban
interface event is something that is commonly overlooked. What are our resources? What needs to be
addressed in the first 24 to 48 hours? What are our
capabilities? How much help can come and how
quickly? How do we inform everyone? What is our
evacuation plan? How do we get help coming in
and customers going out? Each question has a host
of “what ifs” to go along with it. Answering these
questions can be accomplished by preplanning,
but this takes time—time that we are not going to
have when we need to act. The more time spent on
the front end, the more effective we can be on the
street. The roaring lion does not care how much
time you have spent on training, education, mitiga-
Above: Finding the balance of good solid prevention through preplanning is essential in our risk
analysis of our community. Below: The roaring lion does not care how much time you have spent
on training, education, mitigation, or strategy.