In a pivotal moment in our nation learning to live with wildland fire and understand the need for fire adaptation, the much-anticipated report from the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission was released last week. This report, mandated by President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and announced in December 2021, contains a comprehensive set of recommendations to address the escalating wildfire crisis that threatens communities across the United States.
The Commission, composed of representatives from federal agencies, state, local, and tribal governments, as well as the private sector, worked diligently over the past year to craft these recommendations. While the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) did not have a specific representative on the Commission, the IAFC Wildland Fire Policy Committee (WFPC) actively engaged with Commission members and submitted recommendations for consideration. Today, we celebrate the release of a report that reflects the dedication and expertise of many stakeholders.
The increasing significance and prevalence of wildland and WUI fires in the United States cannot be ignored. Multiple factors contribute to this concerning trend: the densification of our forests, a changing climate characterized by hotter and drier conditions, and a rising number of homes in high-risk areas. The data underscores the urgency of the situation, with larger wildfires, more homes lost, and escalating costs for fire suppression and recovery.
The IAFC believes in collaborative efforts to reduce risks in communities and enhance preparedness for wildland and WUI fires. We are pleased to report that the themes and recommendations within the Commission's report closely align with our core beliefs and past positions. The Commission's report is organized into seven general categories, each addressing critical aspects of wildfire mitigation and management:
- Urgent New Approaches: Recognizing that wildfire is not solely a land management issue but also a matter of public health, safety, and emergency management. The report advocates for innovative strategies, increased accountability, and greater investments.
- Collaboration: Emphasizing the need for stronger partnerships and collaboration across all jurisdictions, including federal, state, local, non-governmental entities, and the private sector. The report calls for simplifying and standardizing national agreements, ensuring timely reimbursements, and enhancing authorities for data collection and resource tracking.
- Shifting from Reactive to Proactive/Rebalancing Priorities: Supporting pre-fire planning, mitigation, and post-fire recovery efforts, with a focus on recognizing the role of fire in the built environment.
- Modernizing Tools for Informed Decision-Making: Advocating for the integration of science, data, and technology across agencies to support decision-making throughout all phases of fire management, both in the built and natural environment.
- Investing in Resilience/Scaled Investments: Increasing spending across all aspects of wildfire risk management and community risk reduction to address the urgency, scope, and scale of the wildfire challenge.
- Enabling Beneficial Fire: Promoting greater use of prescribed fire, cultural burning, and wildfire managed for resource objectives, including the development of a national plan for prescribed fire.
- Workforce: Improving wildland firefighter pay and benefits, fostering a year-round, cross-trained workforce, and enhancing physical and mental health programs for all response levels.
The IAFC supports the shared framework established during the Commission's process. We are eager to implement these recommendations within the IAFC's scope of interest. For a detailed understanding of the recommendations and our collaborative approach, please access the full Commission report and IAFC’s Policy Response and Recommendations. Stay tuned for further updates and insights as we navigate this crucial issue together.
View Full Report
IAFC's Policy Response and Recommendations