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The Outthink Wildfire Initiative

As Wildfires Burn Across Parts of the US, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association Endorses Outthink Wildfire, an Initiative Aimed at Significantly Reducing Risk to Communities

BY LISAMARIE SINATRA

The relentless tally of wildfire losses makes it increasingly clear that the U.S. is facing a serious wildfire problem. During the first week of August, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported seven new large fires, bringing the total number of fires currently burning in the U.S. to around 91.

As wildfires continue to seriously affect much of the west, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro Chiefs) in its latest resolution action, unanimously approved support of Outthink Wildfire™, an NFPA initiative aimed at eliminating the destruction of communities by wildfire in 30 years. The resolution emphasizes the fact that the U.S. has witnessed a steady increase in frequency and intensity of wildfires, a trend that experts predict will continue. The number of homes lost in wildfires per year has increased by 163 percent and wildfires now cost the U.S. billions of dollars each year in losses. In the past three years alone, metropolitan fire departments in the western U.S. have seen over 100 lives and thousands of structures lost to wildfire, and these fires have caused billions of dollars in direct damage to property and local economies.

Launched in February 2021, Outthink Wildfire lays out five policy changes that must occur at all levels of government that will make it easier for communities to foster collaboration, enact change, achieve resilience, and protect themselves from wildfire. Leveraging this information, the resolution calls for support of the five tenets that form a complete wildfire mitigation approach, including the need for more and better training and protective equipment to ensure fire departments are properly prepared to respond safely and effectively to wildfire.

According to an NFPA report, Fourth Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service, 88 percent of U.S. fire departments—some 23,000 departments—provide wildland and/or WUI firefighting services. Of those, 63 percent have not formally trained all their personnel involved in these activities. Only 32 percent have all their responders equipped with appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE), and 26 percent do not have any of the necessary PPE at all. For the years 2011 to 2015, wildfires caused an average of 1,330 fireground injuries to local fire department personnel each year.

“Metropolitan fire departments are continuing to face the threat of wildfire to their communities and the residents they serve,” said Chief Don Lombardi, President, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, in a recent press release from NFPA. “While wildfire response efforts have increased significantly, spending on resource management and community preparedness activities has not. We endorse Outthink Wildfire and its five tenets as a holistic approach to end the destruction of communities from wildfire.”

As the average number of acres that burn in wildfires each year rises over time, it is imperative that communities in wildfire hazard zones put into action practices to lower the risk to lives, homes, businesses, and overall prosperity. Through collaboration that begins with policy implementation in the U.S., we can work to better protect our neighborhoods, citizens, and our first responders.

Learn more about Outthink Wildfire at nfpa.org/wildfirepolicy.

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