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Blogs / ICMA | blog / Wildfire Preparation and Response: National Preparedness Month, Part 2

Wildfire Preparation and Response: National Preparedness Month, Part 2


The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service reported on September 8 that there are 37 large incident wildfires (100 acres or more occurring in timber, or a wildfire of 300 acres or more occurring in grass/sage) in the United States. Wildfires present a significant financial and administrative challenge for local governments. A single wildfire can damage a substantial amount of infrastructure, houses, and businesses in a community. As part of the National Preparedness Month blog series, this blog post outlines some useful resources to help prepare for and mitigate the negative impacts of wildfires on a community.

  1. This Knowledge Network document from 2009 provides a comprehensive example from Alachua County, Florida, of a wildfire mitigation program.
  2. An important aspect of preparing for any disaster is developing an evacuation plan. This premium content from ICMA and the Alliance for Innovation provides an example wildfire evacuation model from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
  3. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as part of America’s PrepareAthon, developed this resource on how to prepare for a wildfire. This document provides insights for local government officials, citizens, and business owners. On the last page of the document is a list of other useful resources.
  4. The Texas Forest Service developed this wildfire preparedness checklist. A checklist is an easy way to ensure that your citizens are prepared for disasters.
  5. This ICMA premium content outlines the Schultz Community Recovery (SCR) project. The SCR is an innovative project to mitigate the devastating effects of post-wildfire flash flooding in the area near Flagstaff, Arizona.
  6. Headwater Economics, an independent, nonprofit research group whose mission is to improve community development and land management decisions in the West, released this report in 2013 on the rising costs of wildfire protection.
  7. Headwater Economics published this online document in the spring of 2014 on local responses to wildfire risks and costs. This document provides interesting insights and lessons learned from multiple local government case studies.

In your opinion, what is the most important component of a wildfire preparation plan? Share your answers below.

Douglas Shontz

Knowledge Network Intern

Comments

Neil Britto

The above collection of resources appears to be quite valuable to leaders and practitioners working to prepare for and respond to wildfires occurring in their communities. In many cases, these planning efforts can be strengthened by working across sectors and across agencies. Recent research from Public Administration Review on collaborative wildfire management provides key takeaways for practitioners when planning with partners from other agencies:

  1. Be mindful of the impact of the varying missions of collaboration partners, and of how those missions influence perceptions of the ability to manage conflict and collaborate effectively. Cross-sector partners inevitably come to collaborations with varying organizational missions, even if they Share a Vision of Success (http://intersector.com/toolkit/share-a-vision-of-success/). We suggest that they Establish a Transparency of Viewpoints (http://intersector.com/toolkit/establish-transparency-of-viewpoints/) and have open, honest discussions about these perceived differences, which can be a powerful mitigation strategy. Collaborations that prioritize consensus building in building a common fact base (http://intersector.com/toolkit/build-a-common-fact-base/), agreeing on measures of success (http://intersector.com/toolkit/agree-on-measures-of-success/), and establishing a governance structure (http://intersector.com/toolkit/establish-a-governance-structure/) may also be better suited to address these perceived differences and mitigate the conflicts that may arise from them.

  2. Work to build decision-making and project-management structures upon which all partners agree. When partners have confidence in the process used to establish formal systems and processes, they are more likely to have confidence in the decisions made.

You can read a more in depth explanation of this research on The Intersector Project blog, Intersector Insights, “Research to Practice: Wildfire management and perceived mission alignment.”

Additionally, our case study of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) provides insights on how to work with business, non-profit, and government partners to mitigate the risk of potentially devastating wildfires. With a Flagstaff Wildland Fire Management Officer coordinating FWPP activities, the FWPP plans to manage forest fuels and restore natural ecosystem functions, thinning out dense forests and reintroducing a low-intensity fire regime. You can learn more about the FWPP by reading the case in full online, “Reducing the risks of catastrophic wildfires in Flagstaff.”

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