Surviving Wildfires Newest Resource Area on National eXtension Site

On October 20, the national Cooperative Extension Web site, eXtension.org, added information on fire risk, prevention and fire safety, and land and home recovery after a fire to its list of resources. Each year wildfire threatens lives, property and natural resources. For most people living in wildfire prone areas, it is only a question of when, and not if, a wildfire will threaten their homes.

Extension educators, land-grant university faculty, government researchers and other technical and fire-fighting professionals assembled research-based information to teach homeowners how to live more safely in wildfire prone areas. Educators can use the information for teaching aids.

“People living in wildfire-prone areas will find accurate and current information on all aspects of wildfires,” said Steve Quarles, University of California Cooperative Extension and co-chair of the new eXtension resource.

At the close of 2008, the wildland fire community in the United States completed an assessment and pledged to create new content, mediums and networks for information sharing and public education using the Internet. The eXtension site, http://www.extension.org/surviving_wildfire, works toward that goal.

“I’m excited about joining forces with my Extension colleagues across the country to help teach homeowners how to live more safely in high-fire hazard areas. We possess a lot of real world experience and knowledge that helps save lives and property,” said Ed Smith, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

eXtension topics

The Wildfire Information Network resource from eXtension (pronounced E-extension) covers topics including

* Pre-fire actions that reduce the wildfire threat to homes and other property;
* Homeowner actions when the wildfire threat is eminent, including information on evacuation and staying to defend a home;
* Post-fire actions pertinent to homeowners and their property; and
* Social science aspects of implementing plans to reduce the wildfire threat to homes.

The National Interagency Fire Center year-to-date report in early October shows Alaska leads the nation with nearly 3 million acres burned. The other top wildfire states in acres burned are Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah.

Five driving forces

The U.S. wildland fire community conducts a strategic assessment every four years to evaluate strategies and capabilities against best estimates of the future environment for fire management. That group named five driving forces:

* The effects of climate change will continue to result in greater probability of longer and bigger fire seasons, in more regions in the nation.
* Cumulative drought effects will further stress fuels accumulations.
* There will be continued wildfire risk where wildlands meet urban areas despite greater public awareness and broader involvement of communities.
* Emergency response demands will escalate.
* Fire agency budget resources – federal, tribal, state or local – will be strained by increased demands and rising costs during a period where government budget revenues will be very tight or falling.

Contributors

“The Surviving Wildfire section of the eXtension website will be invaluable for Extension and natural resource professionals, as well as homeowners, who are looking for information on all aspects of wildfire in the wildland/urban interface,” Yvonne Barkley, University of Idaho Extension, noted.

“When you visit this website, one question can lead to many aspects of wildfire risk, survival, and recovery and the knowledge to be prepared and know what actions to take,” added Ron Mahoney, also with University of Idaho Extension.

The wildfire section of eXtension provides information that’s easy to access and is frequently updated with the latest reliable research. Experienced researchers and extension personnel in the United States contributed to the new site. The experts are based in 1862 and 1890 land-grant universities, other universities and education centers.