A Basic Guide to Pre-Fire Management

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Firefighter working on wild brush fireBetween 1990 and today, more than 17,000 homes have been destroyed in wildfires in California alone. Numerous lives have been lost in the process and many left with lifetime injuries. For this reason, there is a growing need to stop fires before they begin. Pre-fire planning can minimize loss of property and cost of firefighting while improving firefighters’ safety and contributing to a healthier ecosystem.

The term “Pre-fire Management” refers to the collective effort to minimize the destructive impacts of unplanned fires on lives, property, and resources. It involves but is not limited to;

  • Minimizing or preventing unwanted fires through participatory planning and preparation as well as identification of appropriate suppression and mitigation systems.
  • Responding promptly and safely to unwanted fires.
  • Actively managing any fires with the aim of protecting lives, property, and resources.
  • Engaging in environmentally sensitive control measures in order to lessen long-term impacts.
  • Influencing local planning, building and construction projects to minimize the risk of fires.

Different institutions have adopted different strategies for pre-fire management. The state of California, for instance, has developed an elaborate pre-fire management document from which residents and institutions can borrow.

Here is a simplified 5-step guide to pre-fire management:

Fire and resource management planning

This should be the very first step in pre-fire management. Ensure that the completed plan provides a basis and structure for strategic and tactical planning and implementation. Effective fire and resource management plans should be based on legal, institutional, and policy framework.

These plans elaborate the management, protection and restoration of land and resources. At the top is usually the resource management plan which sets out the activities and procedures used to fulfill institutional or individual mandates. And, just below it is the fire management plan that addresses all actions that can be taken, with safety as a principal component. However, it is possible to have the resource management plan without the fire management plan.

Fire awareness and education

Fires can only be fought successfully when everyone is involved. From schools to universities, NGOs, the government and everyone else, awareness and education are critical if the society is to manage fires successfully.

Fire awareness activities are important in engaging the community as a responsible partner. A well-informed public is more likely to act appropriately both when using and when fighting a fire. These people can help to prevent, detect and report fire incidences, as well as collaborate with fire personnel to control unwanted fires.

Planned fires

Planned fire or what is commonly referred to as “prescribed fire” is a strategy used in Vegetation Management Programs (VMPs) to remove unhealthy and dangerously grown vegetation in a bid to prevent fires.

In some areas, planned burning can be used to remove unwanted vegetation to meet certain objectives. For instance, fire is an established tool in crop and animal husbandry and land clearing. Also, flora may be rejuvenated by using fire, which can go a long way in benefiting the fauna. Burning for restoration should, therefore, be encouraged as long as the smoke is controlled.

Fire-safe landscaping

In fire safe landscaping, individuals and the community in general plan landscape around their homes or institutions to prevent fires or make fire control easier.

There are several fire-safe landscaping projects to explore. For instance, fire-safe landscapes always have a defensible space to help protect the structure and provide a safety zone for firefighters. To create a defensible area, you need to remove vegetation and create a fire-safe region at least 100 feet around the structure.

Other possibilities include; planting fire-resistant plants, native species, green lawns, using rocks, etc on the landscape. Trees should be spaced at least 10 feet apart. Ensure to remove all tree branches within 6 feet of the ground, and keep all trees trimmed at least 10 feet from your chimney and away from the roof.

Fuel management/Creating fuel breaks

Fuel management refers to the control of fuels for purposes of fire risk reduction, community protection, debris removal, and ecosystem restoration. Fuels can be moved, altered, or compacted. An excellent example is when homeowners use a variety of methods to remove bushes and debris from around their homes. Removing such combustible materials may not necessarily reduce the risk of a fire but it will most certainly reduce the intensity.

Remember that in fire management, safety is paramount. Whatever you plan for, always think about the safety of yourself, your loved ones, your neighbor, the firefighter and everyone else who might be involved.

Learn More

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Image Source: http://www.nps.gov/fire/wildland-fire/resources/photo-gallery/planned-fire/anti-ottofarmrx-20090324-billspinrad_3.jpg