Fire safe communities begin with the residents and the individual efforts of private landowners to maintain defensible space and reduce the potential for home ignition. This can consist of conducting fuel reduction thinning and prescribed fire near homesites, cleaning gutters, removing flammable building materials such as wooden shakes, screening vents into attics and maintaining safe ingress and egress to homes. Many of the most essential fire safe precautions depend on the actions of individuals who live in fire-prone areas like the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains.
Municipalities, counties and government agencies can also assist communities by providing grants for landowners to conduct defensible space work, by instituting fire safe building codes, protecting open space, and implementing appropriate zoning measures. In some cases, not building homes is the most responsible and effective fire safety measure available.
Backcountry logging and aggressive backcountry fire suppression provide no benefit to nearby communities, and in some cases, can make fuel loading and future fire severity substantially higher due to missed fire cycles, the removal of large, fire resistant trees and excessive canopy reduction that can increase the growth of understory shrubs and the development of heavy fuel loads.
Only efforts that reduce fire severity adjacent to communities, encourage prescribed fire near communities, improve ingress/egress, and eliminate home ignition sources can adequately protect homes from wildfire.
The primary goal of fire suppression is the protection of communities and public safety. We support that goal and believe it should also be the primary focus. All too often fires are suppressed in backcountry areas for political reasons, rather than because they were threatening rural or even urban communities.
In many cases, fire managers utilize resources fighting fires in the backcountry, trying to keep the fire small, instead of actively protecting and preparing communities. In other cases, private industrial timberland is prioritized for protection above remote residential properties. At times, out of control backburning operations intended to “contain” the fire, instead roar away from fire crews and towards nearby communities.
We acknowledge that fire crews protect the vast majority of the thousands and thousands of homes threatened by wildfire each summer in the West. These crews work hard to protect communities and should be given credit for the incredibly dangerous job they do protecting homes—often even those that are not fire safe.
We believe that implementing fire suppression strategies that facilitate community safety and protect our environment are possible. We also believe that by restoring more natural fire regimes in wildland areas and implementing fire safe community practices near towns, rural communities and remote rural residences, our landscape will become more fire safe and our communities themselves can adapted, evolve and co-exist with the natural process of wildfire in our midst.