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In a previous report, I pointed out that America’s more wildfire prone Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) zones contain 46 million single family homes, several hundred thousands of businesses, and a population of more than 120 million.

So the notion that your home can’t possibly be at risk of wildfire danger is something many Americans may need to rethink. A growing number of fire science researchers and responders are certainly are working to better understand the issue.

A new study illustrating the need to be more prepared was recently published by the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) zeros in on some key specifics:

  • Since 2000, in the U.S., over 3,000 homes on average per year have been lost to WUI fires. This is compared to about 900 homes per year in the ’90s, and 400 homes per year in the ’70s.
  • In 2011, in Texas alone, over 2,000 homes were destroyed during WUI fires.
  • In Colorado, from June 2012 to June 2013, three fires, the Waldo Canyon, the High Park and the Black Forest destroyed a total of 1,103 homes and burned a total of 119,811 acres.

This new NIST “Case Study of a Community Affected by the Waldo Fire-Event Timeline and Defensive Actions” demonstrates how WUI fire events differ from either urban or wildland fires.

Researchers believe the information generated from this case study can provide input, together with additional research, to improve WUI building and landscaping (construction) codes and standards, and best practices.

Furthermore, the report found that extensive research is also needed to provide first responders with effective pre-fire, during-fire and post-fire tools and operational protocols to efficiently tackle WUI fires.

To that end, a separate report on understanding the science behind wildland fires was chartered under the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction. This report proposes mechanisms to improve coordination between fire-science experts and the fire-management community.

As this issue becomes more relevant to home and property owners across the nation, I will continue to bring you regular reporting and updates on wildfire protection and safety.

For more information, click here.

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