For those living in remote or heavily wooded areas, wildfires threaten homes where it is difficult to fight and contain the inferno. The high temperatures and dry weather characteristic of the summer season are conditions ideal for fires to start and spread. Many emergency response organizations are embracing end-to-end disaster preparedness to ensure they are ready for wildfires well in advance of an outbreak.
Agencies prepare for summer wildfires
With summer just around the corner, agencies in states frequently hit with wildfires are planning for the future. In Colorado, the National Guard conducted new training exercises to prepare for fire season. Most of these sessions consisted of new “dip-and-drop” training using military Blackhawk helicopters to dump 2,000 gallons of water on designated areas, just as they would in a real-life scenario.
The Army is also taking measures to prevent fires from spreading to land near their training facilities. The Directorate of Public Works at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy conducted prescribed burns near the base. In addition to making the training areas less susceptible to wildfires, the burns mend wildlife habitats by controlling invasive plant species and rebalancing the ecosystem.
“Prescribed burns help reduce wildfire potential in areas all around the post—especially in places where military training is taking place,” said Charles Mentzel, a forestry technician at Fort McCoy. “We make sure our firing range and training areas are at the lowest risk possible during spring and summer, which is our busiest time on post for military training.”
Collaboration improves public safety
Those responsible for taming wildfires are constantly evaluating their past emergency response practices. In addition to budgetary adjustments that could change how firefighting is funded, agencies are placing a renewed focus on cooperation.
The Colorado National Guard noted that it took months of planning to organize the training exercise. It required a cohesive effort from a number of different agencies: Buckley Air Force Base, the National Forest Service, the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Boulder County Fire and local authorities responsible for the four training sites. These departments had to coordinate with each other to prevent harm to the environment or people involved. Since time is not a luxury afforded to firefighters in the event of a real wildfire, completing these training practices ahead of time allows agencies to streamline communication and implement the best practices for fighting infernos.
Cooperation also gives first responders an opportunity to learn the strengths, weaknesses and resources of other departments, information which can prove indispensable during a natural disaster. As agencies prepare for potential summer wildfires, this foresight and the combined efforts could prove to make a major difference in the safety and lives of the civilians they protect.
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