What should residents do when wildfires approach?
August 2, 2010

Australian officials are trying to figure out what to tell residents to do when wildfires happen again. They're reviewing that guidance after a report on the response to fires in 2009 that killed 173 people -- an extraordinary number for a wealthy nation like Australia. The recommendations in the commission report include advice to reconsider how people are told to protect themselves and their property if they choose to stay and fight a wildfire rather than evacuate. It's been a quieter-than-average year for wildfires in the US, which means it's a good time to assess what strategies will work best in coming years that aren't so quiet. Portable pumps for home fire protection can provide some degree of protection when a large volume of water, as from a lake, pond, or swimming pool is nearby. But the reliability of those supplies can be limited in years of major fire activity, which can leave homeowners inadequately prepared to protect their property -- and can put them at great risk if the water runs out as a fire intensifies. But the drive to protect one's own property can be very strong, and fire departments sometimes value the assistance of residents who can add labor capacity to the firefighting force. Having clear guidelines that are well-established in advance of fire season is the best way to prevent confusion and keep people safe.

August 2010
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last revised August 2010