The wildfire problem in California requires that every resident living in or near the forest take action to reduce the fire hazards on their property. This includes clearing, trimming and pruning vegetation that poses a direct threat to structures and increasing the potential for a ground fire to climb into the tree canopy. The primary goal of California's Fire Safe program is to educate the public about living in the "Interface" of wildland and human settlement. Two strategies provide the best level of protection for residents and their communities:
- Defensible Space — an area surrounding a structure where the vegetation (or fuel load) has been modified or removed to
- reduce the fire hazard and
- provide an opportunity for firefighters to safely defend the structure in the path of an approaching wildfire.
This provides the key point of defense from an approaching wildfire or structure fire that escapes into the adjacent vegetation. Residents must accept the responsibility of self-protection by implementing the recommendations for creating defensible space (see Tools for Action for ideas and help).
- A Shaded Fuel Break (SFB) is defined as "a defensible location to be used by fire suppression resources to suppress oncoming wildfires." Fuel breaks are strategically located to maximize their effect in protecting an area as well as to provide a location for fighting fire. Though a fuel break alone will NOT stop a wildfire, these are some of the important benefits they provide:
- Protection to communities, forest resources, watersheds and wildlife
- Deal with fuel loading conditions at the appropriate scale and pace
- Provide cooperative opportunities with adjoining property owners
- Reduce road side fire ignitions
- Provide safe areas for fire fighting activities
- Provide safety areas for fire fighters
- Serve as outdoor forestry educational classrooms
This project implemented a Shaded Fuel Break in one neighborhood, strategically placed by scientific analysis to improve fire protection for the City of Colfax, its two public schools, and residents. Additionally, it brought neighbors together in a cooperative and beneficial endeavor (see Neighborhood Cooporation for more details). This web site and the CD produced as a result of the project can inform the public and lead to more community fire safe collaboration in the Sierra Nevada and wherever the threat of wildfire is present (see Community Opportunities).
"Although wildfires will start in spite of the best possible efforts of fire prevention and some of those will grow to be large destructive infernos, it is far from inevitable that homes and towns in the fire path must be destroyed . . . intense, destructive fire behavior can be prevented and neighborhoods made more defensible if wildland-urban intermix residents can be persuaded to install and maintain fire safe landscapes and provide structures and neighborhoods with defensible space."
— U.S. Forest Service
"At the Forest Service, we learned the lesson long ago and ended the war against fire. Today, we work with fire to promote resource diversity and restore fire-adapted ecosystems. We stress homeowner fire-safety programs, but we also protect the surrounding landscape, because a home is more than just a house.
"Your home is the community you belong to. It's the surrounding landscape with everything it gives you, such as scenic beauty and clean water from your municipal watershed. If you've saved your house in a community devastated by fire — in a landscape blackened by fire — you've still lost your home."
— Dale Bosworth, U.S. Forest Service (2004)