Firefighters Prepare for Wildland Urban Interface Fires Through Grant Funding
The 2020 Sumner Grade Fire in Bonney Lake was a stark reminder of the increasing threat of brush fires in western Washington. Year after year, summer weather contributes to an increased risk of brush fires. In 2022, WPFR responded to 137 brush fires. So far this year, West Pierce Fire & Rescue (WPFR) has already responded to 135 brush fires and the season is far from over.
In addition to brush and grass fires, the increasingly hot, dry summers have created a new risk in the community, which are wildland urban interface (WUI) fires. WUI fires happen residential neighborhoods abut heavily wooded areas, like the Chambers Creek canyon. In a concerted effort to better prepare for the growing risk of WUI fires, WPFR has established a WUI response plan supported with specialized training and equipment. Traditional structural firefighting is very different from WUI firefighting. It takes specialized training and equipment in order for firefighters to operate safely and effectively in these hazardous environments. Fortunately, WPFR received approximately $400,000 in federal grant funding for WUI training and equipment. This has helped the District be prepared to operate safely and effectively in the WUI environment.
Another essential element of the District’s WUI program is the use of passenger truck-sized vehicles outfitted to fight brush and WUI fires. These “brush-style” vehicles are smaller and provide an off-road capable platform far more maneuverable than traditional fire engines. The District’s WUI program consists of two squads specifically designed to support this specialized type of firefighting.
Through a combination of appropriate training, equipment, and specialized vehicles the District is well positioned to manage the risks associated with the realities of longer, warmer and dryer fire seasons. To learn how to better defend your home from wildfire, please click here.