We all want to prevent another loss of firefighters like the 19 young men killed during the Yarnell Fire in Arizona. And like the 5 killed during the 2006 Esperanza Fire.
Change the objective.
Protect lives (including firefighters) and property rather than attempt to stop wildfires in the backcountry. The two are often mutually exclusive.
Spending millions of dollars engaging in battlefield-like tactics against an uncontrollable force and attempting to modify the natural environment miles from developments is not working. Instead, we need to create communities that are firesafe through zoning, fire resistant construction and retrofits, appropriate defensible space, and strategic fuel breaks (within 1,000 feet of homes) in conjunction with firefighter safety zones. For those communities in indefensible locations, evacuate the residents and then focus firefighting resources on communities that are defensible.
The Esperanza house (lower left), an isolated structure in the backcountry on a hilltop above a steep canyon. Indefensible. Five firefighters were killed defending it in 2006. A statement made at the time: It was a “freak area ignition.”
The Yarnell Fire fatality site, on the edge of a rural subdivision and near an isolated home in the backcountry. The 19 firefighters were killed in a small bowl area surrounded by rocky hills. A statement made at the time: “It was erratic… a freak of nature.”
No one wants a number three.
Fighting wildland fire and saving lives and property are not the same thing.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
– Albert Einstein
Arizona fire deaths prove no one should die for a house
By Crystal A Kolden
For the Washington Post
“Wildfires are not preventable. Like earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes, they are inevitable. Unless we fundamentally change the way we view wildfires, brave men and women will continue to put themselves in harm’s way to protect our homes. And we will have to explain to the families and loved ones of those lost why we thought our houses were more important than their lives.”
For additional information on the best way to protect communities from wildland fire, please see the Chaparral Institute’s page on Protecting Your Home.