For the past 4 or 5 years, the Chestatee-Chattahoochee RC&D Council has been working with local emergency agencies in several counties in Northeast Georgia to create emergency plans to handle the fires that we have been telling you would happen sooner or later and now those fires are here. Maybe not in our backyards, but close enough to get our attention. With the unprecedented dry weather conditions that we are experiencing now we could very well have one in our backyard, all it will take is one match or spark from many sources. We had a fire last week caused by a squirrel on a power line. It only takes one small spark to start a raging inferno that can destroy ours and our neighbors stuff. Don’t be the cause of a disaster, throw your matches away, carefully!
Several counties here in the mountains have proclaimed a total burn ban that does not allow ANY type of open flame outside, not even charcoal grills. We haven’t seen these conditions in our lifetimes and we want to survive this one with everything intact so again we must be extra careful with any kind of spark or flame. Fires have been started by catalytic convertors on our cars too close to dry grass, squirrels on power lines, trailer safety chains dragging on the road, campfires, grills, and many other ignition sources that we normally would not worry about, but now is the time to worry about them.
When severe wildland fire situations occur because of extreme fire weather, wildland fires can cause extensive loss of life, property, and resources. As extreme conditions approach or worsen, wildland fire prevention and education is an excellent source of help. Because fire weather conditions are predictable, wildland fire prevention and education teams can be mobilized in advance of fires, when fire danger becomes extreme. National Forests in the Southern Region have utilized the skills of fire prevention teams for many years. Prevention/education teams are available to support any geographic area preceding and during periods of high fire danger or fire activity. Agencies in a threatened area may request a fire prevention team to come in ahead of a fire and work with residents to prepare them for what is coming at them or prepare them for changing conditions that could lead to disaster in their community.
Purpose of wildland fire prevention education teams:
Teams assist the local unit in the prevention of unwanted human-caused wildfires. This involves working together to:
• complete fire risk assessments and develop fire protection plans
• determine the severity of the situation
• facilitate community awareness and education in fire prevention
• coordinate announcement of interagency restrictions and closures
• coordinate fire prevention efforts with the public, special target groups, state and local agencies, and elected officials
• promote public and personal responsibility regarding fire prevention in the wildland/urban interface
• assist Incident Management Teams in accomplishing their objectives in working with the public
Mobilization of A Team May occur when an unusual event of circumstance warrants or is predicted:
• severe burning conditions
• unusually high fire occurrence
• majority of firefighting resources committed
• preparedness levels above normal
Benefits of Wildland Fire Prevention Education Teams:
• reduce the loss of life
• reduce resource and property losses
• reduce the cost of suppression
• improve inter-agency relations
Organization and Ordering:
A team consists of a Team Leader, a Public Affairs Officer, Prevention Specialist(s), and an optional trainee or other team members as the situation dictates (Finance Officer, Logistics Specialist, etc.). Trained interagency personnel can be mobilized through normal dispatch channels to assist in fire prevention/education at any level of an organization. The individuals ordered for prevention/education teams must already have the skills required to fill the position for which they have been chosen because there is usually not time for training.
Wildland Fire Prevention and Education Teams usually go on 14-day assignments and work in the community for 14 straight days. A lot of their activities are at night or on weekends when people are available to gather and listen to their message. There is currently a team here in Northeast Georgia presenting the Firewise message to schools, civic clubs, elected officials, fire departments, church groups and any others who will listen. When people are threatened with an impending disaster that might take away all their possessions or even their life, they need someone to tell them how to prepare to get of harm’s way and where they can go. This is where a Wildland Fire Prevention and Education team can be invaluable because they have seen these things before and know what to tell the residents to be prepared for.