Structure protection on a wildland incident

A video made by the Colorado Springs Fire Department, shows, from a firefighter’s point of view, how they assessed and initiated structure protection tactics for a home in a portion of the Black Forest Fire that is burning in CO.

As noted in the video, the homeowner placed a layer of mulch around their home.  It is small actions like this that further endanger lives of firefighters, who are already in a dangerous situation while engaged in fire suppression efforts.  Had the trees around that home not been thinned, as a lot of homeowners neglect to do (“keep it natural” and “let nature take its course” are two common, yet wrong justifications for not thinning trees in a community within a fire-dependent ecosystem), this house would probably not have been selected to be saved.  That mulch should be replaced with gravel ASAP!  With recent budget cuts by the federal government causing a 19% loss of federal firefighters for the 2013 fire season, structure triage becomes stretched even more thin than it already is.

An aerial look at the Black Forest Fire.  Notice the patchiness of the burn, but also notice how close the fire got to various structures.  Most people think wildfires are continuous walls of flame that consume everything in its path.  That rarely happens in high wind-wildfire incidents, especially in forested areas.  Most homes are damaged and ignited by embers; burning material the size of nickels and quarters, which are blown up to a mile ahead of the flaming front of the fire.  (AP Photo/John Wark)

All the more reason to “thin and burn”.  Fire belongs there in the Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) ecosystems, as well as all other coniferous dominated western landscapes, and it is not going away; for fire is always a matter of when, and not if. People the world over, the Rocky Mountain West especially, must learn to live with fire, for they share the land with that ancient chemical reaction.

Residents of the Rockies must learn to support the region’s ecological needs through proper forest management activities, striving for diversity over sawlog production, increasing prescribed burning operations, and building houses that are less combustible and incorporate more defensible space.  It is a homeowner’s responsibility to have the trees around their home thinned, and to utilize the other nationally recognized Firewise princicples within their communities.

Living in a scenic area does not give anyone the right to wish away natural and cyclical processes of Mother Nature, she has the upper hand.

Note: While no management techniques and options will prevent a wildfire, they will certainly lessen the intensity.

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