Much of the Southwest is considered a high-hazard fire environment.
Based on recent history, the areas possess all the ingredients necessary to support large, intense and uncontrollable wildfires.
Within this hazardous environment are individual houses, subdivisions, and entire communities.
Many of these homeowners, however, are ill-prepared to survive an intense wildfire.
Since it is not a question of if a wildfire will occur, but when, the likelihood of human life and property loss is great and growing.
There is increasing recognition that our ability to live more safely in this fire environment depends on pre-fire activities.
These are actions taken before wildfire occurs that improve the survivability of people and homes.
We cannot fireproof the forest, but we can provide proper vegetation management around the home (known as defensible space), use of fire-resistant building materials, appropriate subdivision design, and other measures.
Research clearly indicates that pre-fire activities save lives and protect property.
The look of our Southwestern forests changed dramatically during the 20th Century. Our forests have experienced a huge biomass increase.
In many instances, tree size is smaller, stands are more dense, and insect and disease outbreaks rampant. Fire, which plays an integral role in our Southwester forests ecosystems, can become catastrophic due to fuel build-up.
This information is provided to homeowners, and the general public, and identifies activities that will help you coexist more safely with wildfire.
For additional information and sources of assistance, contact your nearest state land department, USDA Forest Service, USDI Bureau of Land Management, UDSI Bureau of Indian Affairs, USDI National Park Service, USDI Fish and Wildlife Service or your local fire department.
A house can be threatened by a wildfire in three ways: direct exposure to flames, radiated heat, and airborne firebrands. Of these, firebrands account for the majority of homes burned by wildfire. The most vulnerable part of a house to firebrands is the roof.
Because of its angle, the roof can catch and trap firebrands. If the roof is constructed of combustible materials such as untreated wood shakes and shingles, the house is in jeopardy of igniting and burning.
Not only are combustible roofing materials a hazard to the structure on which they are installed, but also to other houses in the vicinity. Burning wood shakes, for example, can become firebrands, be lifted from the burning roof, carried blocks away, and land in receptive fuel beds such as other combustible roofs.
Unfortunately for homeowners with existing combustible roofs, there are no long-term reliable measures available to reduce roof vulnerability to wildfire other than re-roofing with fire resistant materials.