NFPA Journal - May/June 2013 - (Page 48)

>>WILDFIRE WATCH News from NfPA’s wildlANd fire oPerAtioNs divisioN MOLLY MOWERY Not Where, But How I t’s common in the wildfire safety profession to hear people say, “It’s not if a wildfire will enter a community, but when.” I’d like to propose another truism for fire-prone areas: “It’s not where development occurs, but how.” The questions of where and how are central to our consideration of community development, future risk, and the changing dynamics of the wildland/urban interface (WUI). Creative planning solutions need to focus not just on where future The WUI Is noT a fixed place until we actually develop it. The right tools can help us think strategically about how we do it. development occurs, but on how it accounts for wildfire risk as it is built or retrofitted. For starters, consider the impact of a changing climate. Earlier this year, the National Climatic Data Center reported that 2012 was the warmest year on record, since 1895, in the contiguous United States. Key findings from a Climate Central report last year reveal how these temperature changes affect wildfire activity. The report found that, since 1970, the biggest wildfire years were typically those with above-average spring and summer temperatures. Rising temperatures mean that the burn season is two and a half months longer than it was 40 years ago. These changes bring more uncertainty for wildfire-prone areas. They mean that tree species and other vegetation will change, longer periods of 48 NFPA JOURNAL MAY/JUNE 2013 drought will emerge, and suppression budgets will soar if we don’t find better solutions to address this issue. The National Research Council reports that for every degree Celsius (1.8oF) of temperature increase, the size of the area burned in the Wildfire threatens a community in Southern California. western U.S. could quadruple. best practices to address wildfire More acres burned annually also risk at different scales—commumeans that more communities will nity, neighborhood/subdivision, be threatened by wildfire activity. individual property, and structure. Communities with a WUI—an area Appropriate to each scale is a set where vegetation and developof WUI tools ranging from comment mix together, typically on the munity overlay hazard zoning to urban fringe—will have to consider approaches that address building with even more foresight the type and roofing materials, fences, decks, of development they are willing to and other structural attachments. allow. Even so, it’s unlikely that comA number of codes are at the munities can steer all development user’s disposal for implementing away from high-risk wildfire areas. such WUI tools and include a jurisThe scale and scope of these areas diction’s building, fire, land use, across the country is extensive and and subdivision codes. The WUI is will only increase as temperatures not a fixed place until we develop continue to rise. it, and tools such as these can help But there are ways to address the us think strategically about how we uncertainty through better land use do it. planning and regulation. To accomThese and other NFPA resources, plish that, NFPA has been working on including the Safer from the Start resources to equip land-use planners DVD and pamphlet, provide and other professionals engaged in needed guidance on how to address different forms of development with development in a way that better the right information. Last year, we prepares us for climate change and released a study that assessed how wildfire risk. For more information, a dozen communities in the United visit and click on the States were approaching the imple“designers/developers” box. mentation of wildfire regulations (see A Molly Mowery is program manfollow-up report provides planning ager for fire Adapted Communities and international outreach. professionals and regulators with Photograph: Shutterstock New tools to help ensure development in fire-prone areas is done right

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NFPA Journal - May/June 2013

NFPA Journal - May/June 2013
First Word
In a Flash
Heads Up
Structural Ops
In Compliance
Electrical Safety
Wildfire Watch
Treasurer's Report
Work in Progress
Amping It Up
Drill Team
Working Together
Code Process 2.0
Routine Maintenance
Here, There, Everywhere
Section Spotlight
Expo Preview: Exhibitors' Showcase
Looking Back

NFPA Journal - May/June 2013