The IAFC is issuing a call to action and distributing a new guidance document, Operational Considerations for Addressing Outdoor Fires, to assist fire departments in taking immediate action to prepare for and respond to a growing threat of fire in U.S. wildlands, forests, brush and grasslands, woods, and other outdoor areas.
The document is designed to serve as a quick-reference reminder for those with a history of dealing with large-scale fire in the outdoors and a primer for those who are not. The document outlines actions to take before, during and after a fire, as well as points to more in-depth resources for further guidance.
Outdoor fires—sparked by natural occurrences or by the carelessness of humans and subject to rapid spread—can happen at any time of year but typically begin in late spring and are most frequent in the summer and early fall. This year, the fire season has come early to many parts of the U.S. after a mild winter and early spring across much of the country has contributed to a mix of dry vegetation, high winds and drought conditions ideal for outdoor fires.
“While the early start to the fire season is troubling, the immediate concern of the IAFC is the growing number of communities facing major outdoor fire threats, who have not seen this volume or intensity of fire in nature before,” said Chief Al Gillespie, IAFC president and chairman of the board. “It’s our goal to support their operations by providing some immediate action steps and point them to additional resources that will contribute to everyone’s safety as the season progresses.”
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently nine “large” incidents burning in the United States, the majority of which are in the Northern, Eastern and mid-Atlantic regions where large-scale fires are uncommon this early, and in some cases, are rare altogether.
“The information we are getting from the field – in news reports, through online discussion and from IAFC members – raises a number of public and responder safety concerns,” said Chief Bob Roper, Chair of the IAFC Wildland Fire Policy Committee. “Our priority is to make sure that affected communities are paying attention to things like their natural environment, the equipment they have on hand, their personal protective gear and communication issues. Secondarily, we want to raise the flag for communities who are likely to face similar changes as the spring and summer progress and get them focused on preparedness.”
Operational Considerations for Addressing Outdoor Fires is now available online. Additional resources can also be found on the IAFC's wildland urban interface operations resources webpage.