Firefighters entering a community to suppress a fire are in a hurry. Clearly lettered street signs; large, well-maintained house numbers; and well defined driveways all help the firefighters get to the fire quickly. A community should require that every property have a distinct address and that it be displayed with large and legible numbers that are visible from the street.
Take a minute to think of the excitement and confusion of a firefighting crew entering your neighborhood during a wildfire. There will likely be smoke, and perhaps actively burning fire. If the streets are not well marked and legibly labeled, it can take precious minutes to find their way to the scene. As we have pointed out, in the Mid-Atlantic states most fires are surface fires, moving across the surface of the forest floor or field. Attractive street signs made of wood, or on wooden poles may well burn and fall before the fire crew can find the way.
Narrow tree-lined streets may be attractive, but during a wildfire they may be difficult to navigate with a large fire truck. Make sure streets in your neighborhood are wide enough for fire equipment to pass (no less than 10 feet in width). Allow adequate room in cul-de-sacs for equipment to turn around. Lastly, ensure that bridges, trestles, and roadways are built to take a load of 40,000 lbs. Driveways also need to be wide enough and have enough headroom (10-feet wide and with a clearance of 10 feet) so that fire equipment can pass. The closer the truck can get to the fire, the faster water can flow and douse the flames. Firefighters will not endanger their truck by driving down a driveway where the truck will be stuck too close to the house or without any escape routes.
There is a program that could be of interest to you and your neighbors. Materials exist that allow you to examine your neighborhood, rate it for fire safety and preparedness, and make changes that can help the community be better prepared for both preventing and surviving fire.
A community is a FireWise Community when it has taken appropriate measures to become more resistant to structural damage from wildfire. Communities designed with FireWise concepts help to save lives, protect homes and preserve surrounding natural resources. Communities that have earned the special distinction of being FireWise Communities/USA have followed a systematic approach to organizing and implementing a FireWise mitigation plan in their community.
The first step in achieving FireWise Communities/USA recognition status is to notify FireWise or the FireWise Communities Representative in your state of your interest in earning recognition status. To begin this process or to learn more about FireWise, please visit www.FireWise.org or contact the FireWise headquarters: 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02269 or call (617) 984-7486.