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U.S. Fire Administrator: Building code enforcement key to addressing wildfire threat

  U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell
Murphy Woodhouse
U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell

Boise, Idaho, home to the National Interagency Fire Center, was the first stop on a recent tour of fire officials and experts to discuss the U.S. Fire Administration's new report on fire prevention and control.

A key concern voiced by officials during the April 18 event was the many places in the West, especially, where the built environment borders the backcountry — the so-called wildland urban interface, or WUI — where wildfires can be especially destructive.

U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell said that roughly a third of Americans live in the WUI, and current strategies do not match the magnitude of the growing problem. Part of resolving it, according to the report, is enforcing building codes that protect homes and other structures from fire.

“We need the general population and certainly the builders and decision-makers … at the state and local level to understand the science and not take the cheap route, because taking the cheap route does not build resilience in our communities,” Moore-Merrell told the Mountain West News Bureau. “And in those particularly fire-prone areas that we know are likely to burn again, how many times do we need to replace it with lack of or no-code buildings?”

Other key issues identified in the report – which came out of last year's Fire Prevention and Control Summit – are climate change and its impact on wildfires, addressing risks of cancer among firefighters and promoting firefighter recruitment.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Murphy Woodhouse