The first day of CFSI's 21st Annual National Fire and Emergency Services seminars began with "Emerging Challenges in the Wildland Urban Interface" presented by Tom Harbour, director of fire and aviation management for the U.S. Forest Service.
Harbour talked about the responsibilities of the fire service as wildland fires continue to grow in intensity and devastation. Predicting the increase of natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes and major wildfires, Harbour said, "We're going to continue to have large, wildland fires in this nation and it's something we are going to have to endure."
Harbour said a focus on educating individuals and communities to manage the potential for wildfires in their area is needed. He emphasized that firefighters are among the most trusted individuals in the nation and they must speak out about the interface issues. "Our mission is to make sure they talk about the right issues and that has to be that individuals and communities must take responsibility for those wildfires," He said.
Harbour explained that in the southeast, the west and the northeast he could "guarantee" that over the next few years there's going to be fire impinging on these homes. "We will continue to see photos of fires burning down hills and citizens gathering their belongings to evacuate their homes," he said.
According to Harbour, more than 90% of the wildland acres that are burned on the federal side come from fires that were not controlled on the initial attack. He also predicted that another 20 million homes will be built in interface areas by 2030. There continues to be a problem with "residual" homes in wildland areas; homes with cedar shake roofs, natural wood designed to fit into the environment and not covered by new standards and codes.
In closing, Harbour said, "We have to design effective, efficient programs that sell themselves. One hundred million citizens are facing this problem."