Steps To Enhance Home Safety Ahead of a Wildfire Event

The state of Hawaii has been devastated by extensive wildfire activity that has scorched thousands of acres and destroyed nearly 300 structures in Maui County, forcing thousands to seek emergency shelter, injuring dozens, and killing at least 36 people in the historic town of Lahaina, according to news reports. 

The relentless tally of losses makes it increasingly clear that the U.S. is facing a deep wildfire problem. Today there are nearly 45 million homes in the wildland/urban interface (WUI). According to the National Interagency Fire Center, some 71.8 million properties in the U.S. are at some level of risk from wildfire. Each year some of the largest-loss fires occur in the WUI.

In the past five years, wildfires have destroyed nearly 63,000 structures in the U.S., the majority of which were homes. Record high temperatures, crippling drought, and high winds from severe weather events such as thunder and lightning storms have been blamed for the recent increase in wildfire activity in Canada, Europe, and in high-risk areas across the U.S. Officials predict more wildfires will erupt in the coming months due to continued dry heat and increased storm activity, prompting residents to look for information on what they can do to reduce their risk before a wildfire.

The National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) has many resources for reporters to assist their coverage of wildfire events, including valuable information for the public and community leaders working to help reduce the risk of losing homes and communities to wildfire damage.

As media outlets continue to cover wildfire activity and its related issues, NFPA resources that may support your news coverage include:

Expert interviews regarding wildfire safety preparedness, community activities, firefighting, and statistical data:

• Michele Steinberg, Wildfire Division Director at NFPA, oversees national policy, development regulations, and community safety, and supports wildfire-related projects that cover a broad spectrum of safety education, advocacy, training, and certification. 

• Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan is a program specialist, responsible for the management of the Firewise USA® recognition program.

• Curt Floyd, NFPA senior specialist, technical lead, Engineering Technical Services, oversees NFPA standards that address the needs of the fire service and emergency responders.

• Birgitte Messerschmidt is the director of the NFPA Applied Research Group, responsible for NFPA’s research strategy, research on fire problems and other safety issues, data collection efforts, and the NFPA research library. 

Subject matter expertise:

• Steps residents can take to enhance home safety ahead of a wildfire event.

• How wildfire spreads and why we must adapt to living with wildfire.

• Simple, but effective steps people can take to reduce the chances of wildfire damage to homes and property.

• Information about the Firewise USA® recognition program that empowers residents to work collaboratively in reducing wildfire risks.

• Information about Outthink Wildfire™, a comprehensive strategy that lays out five key policy changes that need to be made at the federal, state, and local levels and if followed, will end the destruction of communities by wildfire over the next 30 years.

• Facts every resident should know about protecting themselves and lowering their risk of property loss from wildfire.

Additional information, resources, and articles:

• Prepare Your Home for Wildfire Fact Sheet

• Home Ignition Zone Checklist

• Wildfire Preparedness Tips

• NFPA/IBHS Wildfire Research Fact Sheet Series

• Blog: Clearing the Five-Foot Zone Around Your Home is Critical to Safety from Wildfires

• NFPA Journal, May 2023 Wildfire Column: Inflection Point

For additional resources and information, and to learn more about how to keep families safe and reduce homeowners’ risk for wildfire damage, please visit NFPA’s wildfire division webpage.

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