The benefits of establishing a firewise community

When homes and communities are in the path of wildland fire events they are at risk.

Photo: Michigan DNR graphic
Photo: Michigan DNR graphic

Projections based on climate change research predict an increase in extreme weather events. Extended periods of drought increase the threat of severe wildfire events which ultimately put homes in their paths at risk. Adopting Firewise practices including establishing Firewise Communities can reduce the risk of devastating fire-driven losses.

Broad-based climate change projections for the Midwest portion of the U.S., including Michigan, speculate there will be an increase in overall precipitation. This increase is not thought to be spread evenly across the year; however, as the more likely scenario indicates wetter wet seasons and extended periods of drought. Homes in the vicinity of wildlands, referred to as the wildland urban interface (WUI), are vulnerable to fire loss should wildland fire occur. The greater the periods of drought, the greater the chance of a wildland fire happening.

When homes and communities are in the path of these wildland fire events they are at risk. Wildfire pushed by winds generate firestorms that many times can only be battled from the sides or flanks with the advancing front consuming much in its path until conditions change or the fire runs out of fuel.

The Duck Lake Fire in the Upper Peninsula’s Luce County in the spring of 2012 is a good example. That fire, started by a strike of lightening and pushed by dry windy conditions, burned over 21,000 acres and consumed 49 cabins and homes before dying out as it ran up against Lake Superior. This catastrophe is reported to be the third-largest wildfire in modern Michigan history.

Firefighters and wildfire crews do not have the capacity to respond to and protect all the homes threatened by these kinds of wildland fire events. Communities and individual homeowners need to protect themselves and adopt Firewise practices which have proven successful in saving structures in the path of these fires.

The specialty Firewise Communities program from Michigan State University Extension can provide information, educational programming and materials for individuals and communities. Landscaping, construction, access and zoning are all areas of consideration when implementing research-based and proven Firewise practices and procedures.

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