Mitigating the risk of wildfires in the US wildland-urban interface

Published: Thursday, 19 May 2016 14:44

The threat of wildfire is increasing in the United States. In 2015, over 68,000 wildfires in the United States burned more than 4,636 structures and ten million acres: the highest number of acres burned on record. The annual estimates on structure loss due to wildfire have increased dramatically for more than six decades. This is according to the White House, in a Fact Sheet published in support of an Executive Order on Wildland-Urban Interface Federal Risk Mitigation signed this week by President Obama.

The Executive Order aims to mitigate wildfire risks to Federal buildings located in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), reduce risks to people, and help minimize property loss to wildfire.  For new buildings and alterations to existing buildings greater than 5,000 square feet on Federal land within the WUI at moderate or greater risk to wildfire, the Executive Order directs Federal agencies to apply wildfire-resistant design provisions delineated in the 2015 edition of the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC) promulgated by the International Code Council (ICC), or an equivalent code.  These codes, which encompass the current understanding of wildfire hazard potential, will help increase safety and protect the lives of people who live or work in these buildings. 

Federal, State, local, tribal and non-Government leaders from over 39 agencies and jurisdictions have committed to a multi-scale, collaborative approach to address the challenges posed by wildfire in wildland-urban interface and to the following statement:

“As Federal, State, local, tribal and non-Government leaders, we recognize the challenges of managing fire in the wildland-urban interface, including the increased complexity of fire response, air quality and public health impacts, and loss of community infrastructure and cultural resources.  The consequences of a changing climate intensify these challenges, resulting in more severe wildfires threatening the well-being of our communities, and jeopardizing the safety of our first responders and the public they serve.

“We are committed to safely and effectively extinguishing fire, when needed; using fire where allowable; managing our natural resources; and as a Nation, living with wildland fire safely.  We are committed to advancing community resilience in the wildland-urban interface, managing the adjacent landscapes wisely, and continuing to improve the efficiency of wildland fire response.  We are committed to a multi-scale, collaborative approach to address the challenges posed by wildfire in the wildland-urban interface.”

The effort to mitigate wildfire risk to Federal facilities is part of a broader set of initiatives to build resilience throughout the Federal government, with State, local, and tribal leaders, and with non-governmental partners. 

Read the Fact Sheet.