The apathy of private landowners discussed earlier may be due to the feeling that one may not feel that individual efforts are important. However, the case in Waldo, Florida demonstrates just how important the actions of one individual can be in averting danger.
Bend, Oregon has developed large community efforts to help reduce fuel in the area. They open up the landfill several times a year free of charge to allow citizens to dispose of debris from thinning and pruning (NCRS, 2003). Thinning and pruning around houses creates a barrier of defensible space should a fire threaten. The landscape and fire resistance efforts in Bend have become a social factor.
These case studies demonstrate how communities can be spurred into action. The study conducted by Reams, Haines, & Renner et al., (2005) found owner apathy as the number one obstacle that they faced in preparing communities in case of a fire. The communities of Gunflint, Waldo, and Bend demonstrate how citizens can be called upon to take it upon themselves to take action on their own behalf. The difference in these two perspectives is that the citizens of Gunflint, Waldo, and Bend took it upon themselves to protect their communities. These communities are characterized by a keen sense of independence and self-reliance. The difference between these communities and those mentioned earlier is the sense that one cannot rely on someone else to take care of them, it is up to the individual to make their own decision to take action. A feeling of self-reliance is an important part of community action and the development of community programs that work.
Another key finding of the study was that citizens responded to the need for a defensible area around their homes when they felt that the risk of fire was sufficient. If they did not feel that their homes were directly at risk, they were often opposed to planting defensible landscapes and the work needed to reduce fuel. The impact of measure on the monetary value of their home ranks second as the most important factor determining the likelihood of homeowner compliance with fire reduction methods (NCRS, 2003).
The literature review examined the successes and obstacles associated with the development of community measures to help reduce the risk of property damage and loss of life at the wildland/urban interface. The National Fire Plan encourages involvement on a local level through the actions of individuals and communities that are directly impacted by the risk of wildfires. The greatest obstacle that was discovered during this exploration was apathy in the community towards the measures that need to be taken around their own homes to reduce the risk of property damage.
The exact reasons for this apathy were not found, and need to be considered in future research efforts. However, it is surmised that these feelings come from a sense that they are not at risk, or that if something does happen, it is the job of the Federal Government to protect their homes. This attitude is a result of past policies, which placed mitigation of fire risks in the hands of Federal authorities. The difference between communities that took action and had excellent plans in place, as well as community participation was the feeling that they could make a difference. Many of these communities had experienced fires and the risk was real to them. It hit them on a personal level. This knowledge will help in the development of more effective strategies for engaging communities and individuals in the effort to initiate affective community fire mitigation plans. This literature review demonstrated what is wrong with current programs and what is right with those that are working well.
The literature review tells us that the most important element in the National Fire Plan is the individual and their willingness to take actions in an around their own homes. Without this level of individual response, the plan does not achieve its goals in reducing the risk of property loss from wildfires. Case studies reveal what is working and what is not regarding the risk from fires in communities at-risk.
According to the National Fire Plan website, many success stories can be found. A majority of the cases involve reduction of fuels in the communities. Community assistance and rehabilitation also constitute successes of the national efforts (Forests and Rangelands, 2007b). these three activities comprise the current application of the plan thus far. The National Fire Plan was intended to tae 10- Years to implement (Forests and Rangelands, 2007c). However, the success of the plan has resulted in a number of community successful community level strategies and a real rise in public awareness and participation from individuals and entire communities.
There are hundreds of case studies available that highlight the success of the National Fire Plan in action. Project Wildfire represents another example of the National Fire Plan in action. This model program for wildfire loss mitigation provides a framework that can be implemented on a community level all around the globe (Stutler & Lighthall, 2007). Community Wildfire Protection Plans grew from the Healthy Forests Initiative and Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which dedicated resources to help restore the natural fire resistance of Ponderosa Pine forests in the Western United States (Stutler & Lighthall, 2007). Project Wildfire provides support to local agencies in the event of a fire. It also provides information regarding the necessity for defensible space around homes (Stutler & Lighthall, 2007).
Project Wildfire is the National Fire Plan in action and provides a framework that could be used and changed to fit many different situations. In order to be applicable on the community level, the National Fire Plan must provide this type of framework so that communities can develop a plan that best suits their needs and situation (Forests and Rangelands, 2007c). At each level, the framework must provide the following in order to result in an action plan within the community. It must involve planning, prioritization of actions and responsibilities, timely decision making, measurable performance tracking, and public communication of goals and tasks (Forests and Rangelands, 2007c). These are necessary steps that will enable the National Fire Plan to become actionable within the communities.
The National Fire Plan helps communities develop their plans and achieve their goals in several manners. Firewise is a community-level education program to help citizens become aware of actions that they can take to help reduce their risk from fire (Forests and Rangelands, 2007d). It provides rural, state, and volunteer fire assistance (Forests and Rangelands, 2007d).
It assists in the development of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan and offers a community guide regarding how to prepare and implement the plan (Forests and Rangelands, 2007d). These activities represent application of the plan and the collaboration of communities, states and the national government in an effort that benefits everyone.
Future Issues and Concerns
Thus far, the National Fire Plan has many success stories and has resulted in communities that are more prepared to defend themselves, should a wildfire threaten them. However, the study revealed concerns that not every community is getting the message. The first and most important obstacle that must be overcome is gaining homeowner cooperation in communities where interest in participation is lacking. These communities and individuals are still at risk of property damage and loss of life in the event of a fire.
The study revealed that this lack of concern stems from the old fire prevention plan that depended on the federal government to step in and take care of the citizens. As we discovered, this diverts resources during a fire away from the central fire, as firefighters struggle to preserve private property (NCRS, 2003). In this situation, the focus is on the individual and not the community as a whole. In a fire, when the focus is on the individual, resources are too spread out to tackle the main problem.
This brings us to the second obstacle in implementing the National Fire Plan. The need to develop and adhere to a plan on a community level begins with making the message personal. When the message talks in terms of "we" and "they" it distances the individual homeowner from the real risks posed by wildfires on the wildland/urban interface. One community that was able to do this was Incline Village, Nevada. This village initiative made it everyone's responsibility to plan landscapes that were fire friendly. They worked to make fire consciousness a part of community society. This example is an excellent example of how to overcome the second obstacle. However, there are many more communities that need to create a personalized message and make fire consciousness a part of the social norms.
The third obstacle discovered in the course of this research is the need for personnel. Technical personnel are in high demand, but so are other jobs, such as education and community advocacy. There are…