Wildfires are among the worst natural and man-made disasters currently facing our nation. The damage a wildfire causes is multifaceted as it affects multiple areas of civilization and the safety and health of responding firefighters. Today, factors such as climate change and reduced land management practices are significantly contributing to the cause, the increasing frequency and the greater intensity of wildfires, particularly in the WUI.
As wildfires enter the WUI, the area between undeveloped and developed land, the issues become more numerous and complex. Additionally, as the United States’ population grows and development of wildland continues, the WUI expands, increasing vulnerability for thousands who choose to live in the space and the firefighters who respond to fight the fires that occur. This unique fire problem has become a high-risk public safety concern for life safety, public and responder health, private property and businesses, the economy, and the ecology in these regions. Without intervention, adverse consequences of wildfire in the WUI will worsen.
Our nation is on the precipice of an all-hands moment in which landowners, citizens, communities, infrastructure organizations, academia, researchers, not-for-profit organizations, governmental agencies and others have critical roles in coordinating a collaborative approach to contain and control the threat of wildfire in the WUI. It is essential that elected officials and other government leaders allocate resources and support this imperative to address the WUI wildfire problem.
FEMA/DHS/USFA developed the “Wildland Urban Interface: A Look at Issues and Resolutions” to stimulate action by raising awareness of the crisis that our nation faces related to wildfire in the WUI and lay out a unified, strategic approach to risk reduction at the national, state, regional and local levels. In developing this report, a cross-functional group of stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) from across the nation convened to identify 33 challenges within 13 key WUI issues and develop recommendations to address each challenge. In total, 112 recommendations are presented. These recommendations address challenges in firefighter health and safety, public health and safety, evacuations, forest and rangeland health and resiliency, climate change, community planning and resiliency, infrastructure and utilities, communication strategy and engagement operations, socioeconomic impacts, recovery, emerging technology, data use and modeling, and risk management in wildland fire. The recommendations should be pursued together, forming a system of strategies that require urgent, sustained and actionable implementations. These recommendations are not quick fixes, but solutions for the long term. Leadership on and commitment to the implementation of these recommendations results in a safer America.