Wildland Urban Interface
Glacier National Park has begun
implementing fuel reduction projects around park structures. The focus
of these projects is to decrease potential fire fuels in Wildland-Urban
Interface areas. Wildland-Urban Interface areas exist all over the
United States, anywhere where residential, business or recreational
structures are located within or near wildland settings. In other
words, anywhere buildings are intermingled with flammable natural
Fire, a natural element in any forest or wildland, can threaten buildings
when it moves out of wildland vegetation into a developed area. In
the Wildland-Urban Interface, fuel for a fire changes from wildland
timber or brush to trees near homes, landscaped plants and structures.
Thick trees and brush can carry a wildland fire to a building, threatening
lives and property. It is necessary to manage fuels between buildings
and wildlands. Priority areas in Glacier National Park include Apgar
Lake McDonald (Ranger Station and Lodge), Two Medicine, St. Mary,
Rising Sun, and Many Glacier.
Fuel reduction in wildland-urban interface areas creates buffer zones
that help control the amount of vegetation that could become fuel
for a wildland fire. Fuel reduction between the park wildlands and
developments (structures) inside the park can reduced the probability
that a wildfire, if ignited, would burn uncontrolled or destroy the
structure in these areas, reduce the risk posed by wildfire to people,
property, and other resources. In addition, by reducing the volume
of fuel, the intensity of a fire entering a treatment area can be
reduced, which may increase firefighters' ability to defend a structure.
Wildland-Urban Interface areas exist all over the United States, and
are growing. As a result of population growth, urban and suburban
communities are spreading out further into Wildland-Urban Interface
areas. In addition, increasing numbers of people are moving into forested
areas. Data from recent census surveys show that of the fifteen fastest
growing communities, nine are in wildland fire prone areas. Cooperative
approaches involving federal and state agencies, local fire departments,
homeowners and political leaders in Wildland-Urban Interface communities
Most homes destroyed by wildfire do not ignite by being overrun by
walls of flames. More typically, fire burns along ground fuels-grass,
leaves, and debris-and ignite homes built with combustible construction,
such as wooden roofing and siding.
By creating buffer zones between an area of wildlands and structures,
known as defensible space, fuel for a wildland fire is limited. This
creates self-defense for a structure. Defensible space may make it
possible for firefighters to safely protect a structure during a wildland
fire. Landowners can help firefighters protect their structures and
reduce their risks considerably by creating defensible space.
The National Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Program's Firewise Communities
team recommends that Wildland-Urban Interface homeowners improve their
"home ignition zone"-the house and surrounding area up to
Landscape and construction tips include:
· Cut back trees and brush and shrubs a minimum of 30 feet
from your home to create a "Defensible Space"-an area free
from fuels that may ignite your home.
· Use metal, Class-A asphalt roof shingles, clay tile, or slate
· Remove leaf clutter and pine needles from your roof, gutters,
under your deck and around your home.
· Use construction materials that are fire-resistant or non-combustible,
such as cement shingles, stucco, metal siding and brick.
· Remove branches that overhang your roof.
· Provide 15-foot clearance between your chimney and the nearest
tree. Make sure your chimney extends 3 feet above your roof, and cover
it with a spark arrestor.
· Prune lower branches of tress, and remove ladder fuels-plants
of varying heights that carry a low intensity fire up into the crowns
· Provide wide and easy access to your home for emergency response
vehicles and ensure the address is clearly marked.
· Periodically inspect your property and keep firewood away
from your house.
Fuel reduction projects are designed to combat both the intensity
and available fuel for fires. It has been demonstrated that when wildfires
approach treated areas, rate of spread generally slows and they are
usually much more easily controlled. While fuel reduction projects
are an important part of fire management, there are also a number
of inherent challenges. These projects are very labor intensive, with
relatively high treatment costs. They require periodic maintenance
treatments and are best supported by private landowner participation
on neighboring properties. Fuel breaks alone are not enough to prevent
wildfires, but will allow for more effective fire management and can
be valuable in community protection efforts on the wildland urban