through forest growth and mitigate damage to the
atmosphere. ( 4) These findings suggest that the
practice of prescribed burning not only reduces the
impact of PM on air quality but can also significantly
reduce wildfire events. ( 11)
WILDLAND FIREFIGHTING FACTORS
Because of the dangers and unpredictability of
wildland firefighting, prevention planning must include
firefighter safety. Local laws should include addressing
defensible space, ingress, egress, and water supply with
the focus of creating a safer environment for firefighters.
Between 2002 and 2012, an average of four wildland
firefighters died in the United States at wildland fires
annually. ( 1) Tools are available to predict the spread
of wildland fires and their intensities, but they are
based on assumptions of steady flame spread that have
limited or no physical basis. ( 1) The fire dynamics used
to analyze structural fires are also limited when applied
to WUI fires. There are new tools under development aimed at eliminating these gaps, such as a WUI
Fire Dynamics Simulator. However, the technology is
incomplete and the interactions between climate, fire,
and vegetation growth provide a great uncertainty in
projecting future fire activity. ( 4) One thing is certain:
Regional warming, extreme wind and weather events,
and human expansion are creating conditions that
amplify wildfire dangers into the WUI.
FIRE DEPARTMENT WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS
AND READINESS CAPABILITIES
In January 2017, the NFPA issued a report designed
to improve wildland firefighter safety response based
on interviews with 46 fire chiefs and senior line offi-
cers. The following was one key finding of the report:
“The majority of fire officials interviewed said
that experiencing a large wildfire event has increased
their awareness of the need for additional wildland
firefighting training and stricter fitness requirements.
However, even when senior officers recognize these
needs, they still face obstacles including availability of
resources and funding, organizational structure and
culture, and personnel resistance.” 12
The following are key highlights from the report:
• Budget constraints prohibit the purchase of full,
up-to-date wildland personal protection equip-
ment assemblies for every wildland firefighter.
• Urban, rural, and volunteer fire departments are
increasingly comanaging fire in the WUI but need
to transition from traditional training practices to
wildland fire training.
• Standard requirements for health and fitness vary
by jurisdiction and among career vs. volunteer
The following are key report statistics:
• 30 percent of departments surveyed do not have a
wildfire preattack plan.
• 37 percent of fire departments surveyed do not
have a firefighter fitness program.
• 54 percent of departments surveyed that have
fitness programs do not use the USFS pack test
designed for wildland firefighters.
• 68 percent of departments surveyed have firefighters who use chainsaws who aren’t certified fallers.
Other findings from the report include the
• Consensus reported a positive effect that commu-
nity risk reduction efforts had on mitigating the
risks of major wildfire events and preventing the
loss of homes.
• Many departments stressed the importance and
effectiveness of meeting in person and talking
face-to-face with residents, businesses, and political leaders.
• Radio technology is critical for departments
responding to WUI fires.
• There is a need for volunteer firefighters to receive
• There is inconsistent adoption of WUI fire train-
ing among local and regional responders.
• Firefighter fitness levels at times are inadequate for
the rigors of WUI fires.
A review of several recent wildfires necessitating
response from multiple jurisdictions all indicated a
need for better communications. A need for region-wide communication to coordinate team efforts and
reduce duplication of efforts was cited as one of the
greatest lessons learned at the fall 2016 Party Rock
fire in North Carolina. Google Drive was used during
this event to help disseminate information among all
SUCCESS HAS LED TO PROBLEMS
Paradoxically, wildfire suppression and exclusion
aimed at eliminating damaging wildfires has ensured
the inevitable occurrence of these fires. A combination
of human settlement into fire-prone areas (WUI), fuel
accumulation, and climate change has contributed to
more severe and more difficult to control wildfires.
Because the primary responsibility for preventing
WUI home destruction lies with homeowners, wildfire
mitigation can only be successful with the collaboration of private homeowners, firefighters, federal, state,
and local authorities. The North Carolina fire service
has a course, “Wildfire Suppression for Volunteer Fire
Departments,” that is conducted across the state when
requested. Prevention has the greatest potential to
reduce the incidences of wildfires and to protect the
lives of firefighters and homeowners living in the WUI.
Fire-adapted communities are designed to educate
residents and firefighters on methods of working