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How is your WUIEE? Here’s how to fix it

Posted 5/4/2010

Ed Smith looking at area damaged by fire

WUIEE: Slang for wildland-urban interface, the area where houses and residential landscapes meet wildland vegetation. Typically, these areas are at great risk from wildfire. In order to live safely in these areas, residents and agencies need to create wildfire-resistant communities.

By Ed Smith, Natural Resource Specialist

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

My friend’s wuiee is sick. Without treatment, his wuiee not only threatens his life, but the lives of his family members and neighbors. The prognosis is not good. Experts say that it is just a matter of time before his wuiee delivers a life-threatening blow. While an ailing wuiee is curable, it requires people to help themselves, be proactive and to take action to reduce the threat.

Unhealthy wuiees abound in Nevada. People have them in Austin, Elko, Mount Charleston, Pioche and many communities in between. But Nevadans are fortunate; we have one of the best wuiee support groups in the West. Unlike some other places, Nevada’s local, state, federal agencies, the university, and nonprofits work closely to help improve wuiee condition. But it still takes willing individuals to want help and to do their part on the home front.

The condition of our wuiees, i.e., the wildland-urban interfaces, are a significant concern to Nevada’s firefighting agencies.

So what makes a good wuiee? First, the presence of ignition-resistant houses. Houses with fire-resistant roofs, dual-paned and tempered glass windows, noncombustible siding and vents that resist ember penetration are key.

Second is creation of an effective defensible space. Defensible space is that area between a house and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been managed to reduce the fire threat and allow firefighters a place to safely work.

Next, emergency responders need to be able to locate and arrive at your home in a timely manner. This means having noncombustible, readily visible street and address signage, adequate, safe turnarounds for firefighting equipment, and bridges and culverts that can support fire engines.

Finally, at the community level, a healthy wuiee would have a fuel break. Fuelbreaks are strips of land, usually 50 to 100 feet or more in width, where flammable vegetation has been reduced or replaced with less hazardous vegetation. A good community water and hydrant system and more than one road in or out are also desirable feature

So, how do you know what condition your wuiee is in? Thanks to the Bureau of Land Management and the Nevada Division of Forestry, we have an appraisal of wuiee condition for many of Nevada’s communities. To find out, go to www.nvfsc.com, click on "CWPPs" and then find your county and community. These reports rate your community, tell you the hazards and suggest mitigation measures.

The Living With Fire program is an interagency program coordinated by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension that helps Nevadans reduce the wildfire threat to their communities. To find out how to create a healthy wuiee, go to: www.livingwithfire.info . For possible funding and support for good wuiees, contact Andrew at the Nevada Fire Safe Council, 775-884-4455. Finally, your local fire protection agency is eager to help with your wuiee problems. Asked them for advice.

The week of May 1-8 is Nevada Wildfire Awareness Week. This is great time to discover the health of your wuiee and take action. There is more wildfire in Nevada’s future. We need to create healthy, safe wuiees for ourselves, our families and our communities. Check out the Living With Fire website for a list of fire awareness week activities in your community.

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