According to a recent survey commissioned by Seattle-based Safeco Insurance, more than eight of 10 respondents in three of the country’s top hotspots said they were concerned about the threat of wildfires, but less than half were able to recall prevention steps they could take to defend their property in the event of a wildfire. The combination of low awareness levels of the defense steps and a longer-than-expected fire season in 2003, make for a potentially dangerous year for fire officials and homeowners alike in fire-prone areas.
The wildfire awareness survey, conducted by The Gilmore Research Group in the areas of Bend, Ore., Flagstaff, Ariz., and Denver, Colo., is part of Safeco’s ongoing commitment to fire prevention and homeowner defense. To raise awareness of wildfire threat and defense measures, local fire officials across the country have partnered with Safeco through the nationally recognized “FireFree” program, which encourages community involvement, personal responsibility and homeowner education on the steps consumers can take to mitigate wildfire damage.
“While the survey confirms most residents in these high-risk areas are concerned about wildfires, a large portion of residents are still not taking the steps necessary to protect their homes from fire damage,” said Rose Lincoln, Safeco Community Relations director. Safeco is not only looking to educate consumers in areas that have experienced wildfires, but also those in areas that have not experienced wildfires but are at risk, she said.
Safeco’s FireFree program, which was honored with a Golden Smokey Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, National Association of State Foresters and The Advertising Council, Inc., in 1999, offers to local fire agencies for distribution a detailed brochure and video explaining ten effective ways to reduce residential forest fire damage. To date, more than 152,000 brochures and 745 videos have been requested and distributed around the nation.
Wildfire disasters in 2002 constituted the second-worst fire season in half a century (2000 was the worst).
More than 74,000 wildfires charred 7.4 million acres across the United States last year. Present weather forecasts don’t promise any relief in 2003. El Nino brings not only warmer temperatures and an early spring to the western United States, but an even longer fire season, according to the National Interagency Fire Center’s National Wildland Fire Outlook for 2003.
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