Reflections on WUI 2017
Authors: Wendy Fulks
Wildland-Urban Interface: noun | areas where homes and forests meet | “WUI”
This year’s WUI Conference, an annual event hosted by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, started on a somber note, with a moment of silence to remember Christina Randall (wildfire mitigation administrator for the Colorado Springs Fire Department who had recently died) and other fallen firefighters.
FAC Net has been at the WUI Conference every year since the network launched in 2013. It’s always a great opportunity to meet new fire adapted communities (FAC) practitioners, network with partners, and catch up with members. A significant portion of the agenda is typically devoted to FAC, so it’s also a good opportunity for our members to learn about new initiatives, as well as share what they are doing and learning with hundreds of career firefighters, agency staff and other wildland fire professionals from across the country.
Expanding Our Reach
This year, FAC Net staff and members co-delivered a training on how fire departments can engage their communities in becoming more fire adapted. We also led sessions about the 2016 FAC Net-sponsored Pacific Northwest learning exchange, home wildfire assessments, and community mitigation assistance teams. Several people and organizations affiliated with FAC Net were recognized with Wildfire Mitigation Awards. From our booth near the center of the exhibition hall — next to our friends from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, Ready, Set, Go! and Firewise U.S.A. — we handed out materials and networked with attendees and fellow exhibitors.
Exploring Solutions to WUI Issues
Tom Tidwell, chief of the USDA Forest Service, was one of the keynote speakers at this year’s meeting. Not surprisingly, he talked about the urgent needs for more prescribed fire and more managed (rather than immediately suppressed) wildfires. He also made the point that the U.S. needs to commit to maintaining treatments on public lands into the future. Chief Tidwell and the other speakers emphasized that our worsening wildfire seasons require better agency cooperation, land use planning and public outreach — especially before fire season starts.
Despite concerns about federal agency fire budgets, this year’s conference participants were, as usual, committed to working together at all scales to improve wildfire outcomes for people and nature. I’m hopeful that when we get together next year, we’ll be able to celebrate some impressive accomplishments and continue to strengthen the relationships that are at the heart of what we do.