Overview Of Wildland Fire Fighting and Management
Wildland fires are extremely complex and potentially dangerous to the ecosystem hence the need to understand the fighting mechanisms as well as management efforts to contain such an occurrence (Nix par 1). When approaching the issue of wildfires, our basic foundation remains on the premise that wildland fires are neither innately destructive to the forest nor are they in the best interest of the forest (Nix par 2).
However, wild land fire operations are contained in a high risk environment where firefighter and non fire fighters can incur severe injuries in a matter of seconds especially due to burn overs (Nix par 2). Therefore, it is crucial for the relevant authorities to device mechanism and strategies aimed at improving their response to wildland fires and promote effective management to ensure that they protect life and resources from the negative implications associate with occurrence of wildland fires.
Wildland fires result may result from human activities or from natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and lightening (Goldammer Ahern & Justice 20).
Historically, frequent and low intensity wildland fires occurred in short fire return interval ecosystems and their elimination in various regions have resulted in build up of uncharacteristically high fuel loads consequently posing a greater risk of severely intense wildland fire occurrences (Goldammer Ahern & Justice 20).
Increased intensity of wildland fires has prompted various authorities to establish mechanisms aimed at transforming the response approach towards an approach that focuses on minimizing intensity and adverse negative effects. United States wildland fire programs have worsened over the past decades evidenced by the increases in annual acreage burned (Dalton 1). This has prompted the agencies responsible to take necessary measures to improve the fire management programs in the country.
Steps towards implementation of new approach towards managing wildland fires effectively in America
Although it has widely been recognized that wildland fire could be beneficial in certain ecosystems, the increased number of damaging fires in the 90s led to the establishment of federal wildland fire management policy (Dalton 5). This policy recognized that wildland fires as not only being beneficial to some regions, but also an inevitable part of the landscape (Dalton 5). Further, earlier attempts to put out all wildland fires had been in part responsible for increasing the severity of recent fires (Dalton 5).
Consequently, this policy dictated agencies to abandon their attempts to put out every wildland fire and sought to reduce the vulnerability of communities and resources to the negative effects of wildland fires (Dalton 5). Further, the policy enhanced agencies’ response such that their main focus was to protect communities and people at risk while taking into consideration the cost and long term effects of such a response (Dalton 5).
Adoption of this policy ensured that agencies focused on land management rather than suppressing all fires as well as utilization of less aggressive fire fighting strategies which minimize overall cost and provide safer mechanisms for fire fighters by reducing exposure to unnecessary risk (Dalton 5).
In addition, agencies started developing fire management plans for various areas which further facilitated their improvement in response to wildland fire (Dalton 7). In 2006, about 95% of the agencies had completed the required plans and maintained the standards required by the federal wildland management policy.
In recent years, the forest service and interior agencies embarked on reduction of hazardous fuels in susceptible ecosystems in an attempt to reduce the intensity of wildland fires in order to manage the extent of wildland fires and protect life and resources (Dalton 5). This served to contain wildland fires as well as minimizing its negative effects. To achieve the end, the agencies reduced fuels on more than 29 million acres from 2001 through to 2008 (Dalton 2006).
In addition, the agencies developed LANDFIRE, the geospatial modeling data and modeling system which had been recommended in 2003 (Dalton 2006). The system served to produce consistent and comprehensive maps and data describing the ecosystems relevant in wildland fires across the United States and serves to identify the extent, predict the severity and location of wildfire (Dalton 6). This was an important step towards ensuring effective management of wildland fires.
Agencies and forest services are developing processes for allocating fuel reduction funds to different areas of the country and for selecting fuel reduction areas through the most efficient methods available (Dalton 6).
The agencies currently prefer consistent and systematic process of fund allocation and they are abandoning the traditional allocation means (Dalton 6). Rather than relying on historical funding patterns and professional judgment, the agencies are developing processes that considers risks effectiveness of fuel reduction treatments (Dalton 6).
In 2009, agencies began to use new analytical tools known as wildland fire decision support systems which helps line officers and fire managers to analyze various factors in order to determine tactics and strategies to adopt (Dalton 7). This has significantly improved fire management decision making since the tool provides information that will help fire managers and line officers to determine the resources at risk as well as the resources that may be threatened further promoting effective management of wildland fires (Dalton 7).
In addition, agencies developed strategies aiming at acquiring and using fire fighting assets effectively (Dalton 7). In 2009, the agencies adopted the fire program analysis which integrated their budget planning system (Dalton 9). The agencies continue to improve the FPA to enhance its ability to analyze various funding strategies and improve its data quality (Dalton 9). This has enabled them to cost effectively protect communities and resources from the adverse effects of wildland fires (Dalton 5).
Outcome of the new approach
The measures applied by agencies and forest services have significantly reduced intensity of wildland fires and improved fire management in the region. However, it is essential to ensure that agencies’ efforts to reduce negative implications are directed to the most susceptible regions (Dalton 6).
The agencies lack a standard measure of effectiveness of fuel reduction treatment and adequate information to ensure that fuel reduction funds are managed efficiently to minimize risk to communities and resources (Dalton 6)
However, the agencies and forest services have acknowledged this shortcoming and the efforts to counter it are underway (Dalton 6). Extensive research is necessary to facilitate these long term efforts which should have the potential to improve the agency’s ability to assess and compare the cost effectiveness of potential treatments in deciding how to optimally allocate scarce resources (Dalton 6).
Further, the agencies need to develop cohesive strategies outlining various approaches for reducing fuels and responding to wildland fires and all the decisions involved should be informed and cost effective (Dalton 10). It is clearly evident that even though the agencies have taken necessary steps in ensuring containment of wildland fires, a lot still needs to be done to ensure effective management of resources and protection life.
Dalton, Patricia. Wildland fire management; federal agencies have taken important steps forward but additional action is needed to address remaining challenges, NY: Diane publishing, 2010. Print.
Goldammer, Johann; Ahern, Frank & Justice, Christopher. Global and regional vegetation fire monitoring from space; plans a coordinated international effort, Kugler publication, 2001. Print.
Nix, Steve. Wildland firefighting in forests; introduction to firefighting in forests, About.com, 2010. Online publication.