2016 Arson Awareness Week
Prevent Wildfire Arson – Spread the Facts Not the Fire
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and its partners will use the week of May 1 – 7 to focus attention on wildfire arson, particularly in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). Arson and other human caused wildland fires pose a serious threat to lives, property, and natural resources in WUI communities.
Conditions are predictably precarious in this area where homes intermingle with forests and grasslands.
There are more than 45 million homes near or in the wildland urban interface. The National Association of State Foresters cites more than 72,000 U.S. communities are now at risk from wildfire.
This year the USFA is partnering for the first time with the U.S. Forest Service, National Wildfire Coordination Group, National Association of State Foresters and the Department of the Interior’s Office of Wildland Fire and is also partnering with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, International Association of Arson Investigators; National Volunteer Fire Council; National Fire Protection Association; Coalition Against Insurance Fraud and the Insurance Committee for Arson Control.
What is Wildfire Arson?
Arson is the willful, malicious, intentional and/or reckless burning of someone else’s, or one’s own, property. Wildfire arson takes place on wildland which is undeveloped or uncultivated land comprised of forest, brush or grassland. Not all wildland is comprised of forests. In many places the wildland is grassy plains resulting in the evolution of the term forest fire to the more accurate wildfire. Even Smokey Bear adjusted. In 2001, his catch phrase was changed from “Remember… Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires” to “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” in response to a massive outbreak of wildfires in natural areas other than forests.
Preventing Wildfire Arson
Wildland arson fires are usually set on the fringes of where wildland is accessible providing the arsonist a quick escape coupled with an area less frequently traveled reducing their chances of being detected. It is nearly impossible to predict where an arsonist will strike, the best things a WUI homeowner can do is be vigilant and follow the advice to reduce the chances that their home will catch on fire. These include:
- Install a residential fire sprinkler system in your home – working smoke alarms and fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of dying in a fire by more than 82 percent.
- Support adoption of local wildland-urban interface building codes and weed abatement ordinances for structures built near wooded areas.
- Use fire-resistant materials when building, renovating, or retrofitting structures.
- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, particularly near and in sleeping areas.
- Create a safety zone or defensible space to separate the home from combustible plants and vegetation.
- “If You See Something, Say Something™” It takes a community to protect a community. Informed, alert communities play a critical role in keeping our nation safe. Report unfamiliar vehicles to local law enforcement
- Be Prepared – Build a disaster emergency kit
- Make evacuation plans from your home and from work and plan several routes in case the fire blocks an escape route.
They are called grass fires, forest fires, wildland fires, or by a variety of names. Yet, no matter the name, they pose an evolving threat to lives and property in an increasing number of communities across the United States. Homes near natural areas, the wildland/urban interface (WUI), are beautiful places to live. These pristine environments add to the quality of life of residents and are valued by community leaders seeking to develop new areas of opportunity and local tax revenue, but these areas are not without risk.
Click here to learn more about Your Role in Fire-Adapted Communities and How the fire service, local officials, and the public can work together.