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Tuesday July 28th, 2015 6:25AM

National program on wildfire safety set for Blairsville

By Ken Stanford Reporter
BLAIRSVILLE - The Chestatee/Chattahoochee RC&D (Resourced Conservation & Development) Council has been selected to host a national wildfire safety program called "Wildfire Safe, Sound & Code Smart."

It will be held at Brasstown Valley Resort on October 7-8.

"This is yet another high profile wildfire education program that is one more piece of our wildfire safety puzzle that we are putting together...and it fits perfectly with our highly successful Fire Adapted Communities and Firewise programs," said Council Executive Director Frank M. Riley, Jr. "(We) along with the National Association of RC&D Councils (are) working with our local, state, and national partners to help our citizens that live in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI or up here called "living in the woods") be prepared for the inevitable devastating wildfires that always happen in somebody else s community, but one day it may be ours."

Riley notes that last year was yet another record-setting year for wildfires, burning across deserts, mountains, and valleys, taking out houses and businesses, and charring almost 10 million acres, leaving behind "an extraordinary toll of over 2,600 homes lost.

Riley said the worst part of this year's wildfire trend is the 36 lives have been lost, both civilian and firefighter.

"Each year this trend seems to worsen," he addedd, "with more and more impacts to communities and homeowners throughout the United States.

Despite the fast-growing number of WUI areas throughout the country, Riley said study after study shows that rural areas lack proper building, fire and WUI codes.

Less than 10% of WUI communities (about 7,000 communities) have adopted a WUI code or prepared a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) Towns County was the first CWPP in Georgia. Less than two percent (about 1,200) of WUI communities currently implements wildfire prevention programs. Riley said most of communities that incorporate such programs have already experienced wildfires.

"Simply put, most communities are only taking steps after a fire incident occurs, as opposed to preventively working to protect life and property before disaster strikes. Several public awareness programs effectively work to educate communities about ways to prevent wildfires and/or deal with them once they ve started but there are currently no systemized, widespread initiatives to proactively increase adoption and enforcement of WUI building safety codes, which would serve as a critical element for mitigating the nation's WUI fire problem."

The NARC&D Council, International Code Council (ICC), DHS, (FEMA) and NIST, along with other groups are partnered to develop the "Wildfire Safe, Sound and Code Smart program,which provides a multi-faceted approach to WUI mitigation. The program guides and supports community leaders as they develop and adopt a WUI code, while actively encouraging implementation of existing WUI educational programs.
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