The National Blue Ribbon Panel on Wildland Urban Interface Fire
Wildfires have long been feared for their catastrophic destruction, causing both environmental damage and loss of life. In the United States, human population densities in wildfire-prone ecosystems are rising. Consequently, the impact of wildfires on communities, both in human and economic terms, is escalating.
This area of intersection between population and wildland, termed the “wildland urban interface (WUI),” has been recognized and addressed by the wildland firefighting profession for well over a decade. Many different programs at various government and civic levels have been developed to help individuals and communities cope with the WUI challenges with varying degrees of success. In spite of these efforts, however, firefighting costs are increasing to staggering proportions.
Fatalities, both firefighter and private citizen, as well as property loss are rising rapidly. In order to examine why current programs are not resulting in a decline of these numbers, the International Code Council (ICC), in collaboration with other national organizations, spearheaded the formation of a National Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP) to consider all issues relevant to the WUI fire issue. The BRP was brought together to help identify improvements in national, state and local management of this escalating problem. The group includes representatives from over 40 national organizations and first met in June 2007, hosted by the National Association of Counties (NACo). A second meeting hosted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) was held in October 2007. The final Report was completed with the organizational review occurring in January and February 2008 and the final report being released on April 7th, 2008.
This report summarizes areas of discussion and consensus arrived at by the BRP. Representatives of the organizations that participated on the panel designated five key areas to examine, and the following pages include their findings and recommendations.In addition, as a result of the June BRP meeting, a national email was established to encourage input concerning this problem. The final Report was completed with the organizational review occurring from December, 2007-February 2008 and the final report being released on April 7th, 2008.
Blue Ribbon Report
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National Blue Ribbon Panel on Wildland Urban Interface Fire Background Information
Bend (Ore.) Fire Department Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal Gary Marshall (second from left) leads the discussion about wildfire education, mitigation, suppression, regulation and incentives during an October 2007 meeting of the National Blue Ribbon Panel on Wildland Urban Interface Fire held in Washington, D.C. From left: Will May, Chief/Emergency Services Director, Alachua County, Fla.; Marshall; Taylor Robinson, Sisters (Ore.) Fire Department; Tom Fay, Project Wildfire (Oregon); Rick Prausa, U.S. Forest Service and Russell Riggs, National Association of Realtors.
The National Blue Ribbon Panel on Wildland Urban Interface Fire, sponsored by the International Code Council, brings together organizations from the national, state and local levels to assess the effectiveness of current U.S. wildland urban interface programs.
With a focus on collaboration, the Blue Ribbon Panel appraises current guidelines and look at the effectiveness of the current wildland urban interface efforts among governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The panel considered the availability of community preparedness and emergency planning codes; community wildfire protection planning methodologies; and public education campaigns. The results of Blue Ribbon Panel provide key recommendations and actions for the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the and the U.S. Department of the Interior to best address the national issue of wildland urban interface fire.
More than 40 organizations are involved in the Blue Ribbon Panel.
Support from Capitol Hill
The International Code Council received several letters from Capitol Hill in support of the Blue Ribbon Panel.
The first meeting of the National Blue Ribbon Panel on Wildland Urban Interface Fire convened June 25-26, 2007, in Washington, D.C.
The second meeting occurred October 24-25, 2007, in Washington, D.C.
At the June 2007 Blue Ribbon Panel meeting to address the wildland-urban interface fire problem, ESRI Health and Human Services Representative Jennifer Schottke explains the benefits of GIS mapping systems to address issues such as evacuation, alternate routes and location of fire hydrants.
Share your Ideas
The Blue Ribbon Panel/Summit values your input. If you have thoughts on ways to better deal with the U.S. wildland-urban interface fire issue, share your ideas.