ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Wildfires Rage Out of Control This Season

NFPA Reports 2002 Wildfire Numbers Set Record Highs

New York, Jul 10, 2002

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, nearly 4 million acres of woodland are burned every year, but this year that number is about to skyrocket. In the past month alone, North America has seen three of the biggest fires in its history: the Rodeo-Chediski fire in Arizona which has charred nearly 500,000 acres; the Hayman fire in Colorado which has burned over 140,000 acres; and the nearly 4,000 forest fires burning simultaneously in Canada that have consumed over 530,000 acres. And the bad news is these numbers may still increase, as all of these fires remain uncontained.

"In the U.S. to date, there have been over 45,000 wildfires this year," said Jim Smalley, manager of wildland fire protection at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). "The situation is so bad this year that we have already approached the ten-year average for wildfires. In fact, we are six weeks ahead of the normal wildfire season and currently have 22 major fires burning in 10 states."

With more and more people making their homes in woodland settings near forests, rural areas, or remote mountain sites to enjoy the beauty of the environment, the very real danger of wildfires increases. NFPA, an ANSI member and ANSI-accredited standards developer, reports that four out of every five wildfires are started by people, mostly due to negligent behavior such as smoking in forested areas or improperly extinguishing campfires. Many wildfires often begin unnoticed and spread quickly to ignite brush, trees, and even homes.

NFPA has created standards to help fight these wildfires effectively while protecting human life and the environment. NFPA 1144 Standard for Protection of Life and Property from Wildfire, 2002 edition, which is being considered as a draft American National Standard, provides basic Firewise concepts and principles that should be incorporated into minimum planning criteria for housing construction and development. This standard, which is expected for publication in late August, will supercede ANSI/ NFPA 299, Standard for Protection of Life and Property from Wildfire.

Mr. Smalley added, "Encroachment is the cause of many fires, but homes designed, built, and maintained with the Firewise concepts in NFPA 1144 should withstand wildfire damage without the need for fire department intervention."

Although humans cause a majority of wildfires, natural occurrences such as lightning or dry weather may be another contributing factor. NFPA 295, Standard for Wildfire Control describes fundamental information to fire department personnel on controlling wildfires burning in forest settings. It includes information on incident command and strategies, and aerial operations. The standard is currently being revised for 2003 to include the broader scope of wildland fire management, including mitigation and prescribed fire.

NFPA in conjunction with the National Disaster Education Coalition has created a publication, entitled Talking About Disaster, that teaches people of all ages how to make safe choices when faced with catastrophic events. One section addresses the importance of understanding what causes wildfires and tips such as reducing fire hazards, evacuation procedures and developing a family disaster plan. Copies of this publication are freely available from the NFPA website or by contacting

Additional Sources

 Homeland Defense and Security Standardization Collaborative