Firefighter ‘Work-Place’ Safety
While not typically thought of in this way, when a wildfire occurs in a wooded community, that community becomes the firefighters’ ‘work place’. Firefighter safety, like the safety of any other employee, is governed by the Occupational Safety & Health Agency (OSHA), which prohibits placing a firefighter at unreasonable risk of death or injury. While firefighting is inherently dangerous, those in charge of a firefighting operation (typically a fire chief or Incident Commander) have a legal duty to avoid putting their firefighters into situations where conditions are too unsafe to work in.
When homeowners in a wooded community or neighborhood fail to take steps to make their community reasonably safe for firefighters in the event of a wildfire, this puts the chief or Incident Commander in the painful position of choosing between trying to save homes or placing firefighters at unreasonable risk. While this decision is painful to make, firefighter lives and safety always take priority over property.
When homeowners and communities work with their local fire departments to help make their homes and communities ‘fire safe’ by planning for the possibility of a wildfire in advance, they also help create a safe ‘work place’ for firefighters.
HOW TO CREATE A SAFE ‘WORK PLACE’ FOR FIREFIGHTERS
1. Perform fuels reduction and mitigation work around your home to create ‘defensible space’ (See FireSafe Montana web site for more information).
2. Make sure that access roads and driveways are safe for travel by fire trucks in the event of a fire. This may require removing trees and bushes that are too close to roads or block fire truck access to roads and driveways.
3. Have your home address numbers clearly displayed at the entrance to your driveway with reflective material so they can be seen at night.
4. Have a household and community plan for what to do in the event of a wildfire.
5. Communities should have emergency escape routes for both residents and fire departments.
t. Work with your local fire department on ways that your community can provide a safe ‘work place’ for firefighters in the event a wildfire occurs.