Today, on the release day of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Report (PDF, 340 pgs., 5.34 MB), I am happy to introduce you to the nation’s Fire Chief, Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, my friend and colleague who helms the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). The USFA is a staple stakeholder of the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), and we have many efforts underway to support not only their critical mission, but those first responders on the front lines battling blazes in communities across the country. The report, which includes recommendations on resources needed to better prepare for, respond to and recover from wildfires, is an important and eye-opening look at a rapidly growing threat to our homeland security.
In a bit of an unprecedented move, I am handing the reins to S&T’s blog over to Dr. Lori so you can hear directly from her about the very critical work the Commission conducted, which she co-led on behalf of the FEMA Administrator.
* * *
At the U.S. Fire Administration, it is our mission to support and strengthen the fire and emergency medical services to prepare for, prevent, mitigate, and respond to ALL hazards. As a nation, we must better prepare for the changing landscape of what we refer to as ‘All Hazards.’ With ever increasing occurrence of wildfire and other disasters, we must redouble our efforts to prevent ignition and harden fire prone communities and the wildland urban interface—including using proper roofing materials, residential sprinklers, clearing property of vegetation and combustible debris, and widening roads. We must also better prepare our responders with more appropriate personal protective equipment for wildfire response and continuously evaluate our risk areas and disaster deployment models to assure safe, efficient, and effective deployment of resources.
The release of the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Report today marks a major step forward in recognizing the increased threat that wildfires pose to our lives and properties. The wildfire challenge we face as a nation today, and the solutions to it, are complex. We need a new holistic approach to wildfire that encompasses traditionally separate spheres, including public safety, public health, and land management. With the Commission’s report—prepared by exceptional leaders, practitioners, and experts—we now have the foundation based on science and experiential knowledge to systematically move forward to reduce the wildfire threat. I am confident that, when implemented, the 148 recommendations in the Commission’s report will dramatically reduce the threat wildfire poses to our nation today.
For now, we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do together. Solving this problem is a joint responsibility. Everyone has a role and a stake in the outcome. We need to understand that wildfires are a national and a global problem, not just a regional concern. We are increasingly seeing wildfires in the eastern United States and other areas of our nation where they were previously rare. This is no longer something happening far away from where you live.
At the local level we need to adopt and implement codes and standards. Property owners must be aware of wildfire risks and do the simple things that will keep them safe. We cannot afford to continue to build toward the risk in wildfire prone areas without considering the possible consequences and taking steps to mitigate them.
And we need new solutions. I am pleased to be partnering with S&T on a broad range of research and technology development efforts to help address the wildfire challenges. Active projects including advanced sensors for early detection of wildfire ignitions, increased effectiveness and reliability of fire warnings, development of new types of personal protective equipment to keep our fire fighters safe, new capabilities for tracking and predicting fire behavior, the National Emergency Response Information System, and more.
Wildfires are a deadly threat across the nation. Let’s move forward together on the recommendations of the Commission. By working together, as members of the fire service, the public, government officials, and across our communities, we can make the difference.
Visit S&T’s wildfire page for more detailed information about ongoing research and development efforts. Visit the First Responder/Community and Infrastructure Resilience page for additional resources about S&T’s support for front line responders and efforts to boost community resiliency. For media inquiries about the Commission’s report, contact STMedia@hq.dhs.gov.