We live in region celebrated for breathtaking natural beauty – mountains, rivers, and forests that share their abundance in many beneficial ways. The recreational, ecological, cultural, and economic rewards of our Pacific Northwest forests are boundless but not invulnerable, especially to the increasing likelihood of wildfire. The increase in in wildfire occurrence in western Washington, and the Pacific Northwest at large, has magnified the need for communities in King County to prepare for the possibility of wildfire in their area.
What is the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)?
The Wildland Urban Interface, or WUI (woo-E), is the zone of transition between unoccupied land and human development. It is the line, area, or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.
The WUI can be further broken down into areas defined as interface and intermix. Interface areas are those in which development and structures are bordered by wildlands on at least one side. Intermix areas are defined as a development or structure that is surrounded on two or more sides by wildlands.
A large portion of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) in King County is located within the boundaries of Eastside Fire & Rescue (EF&R). Communities within the WUI will benefit from implementing strategies to reduce wildfire risk as part of King County’s comprehensive, integrated approach to wildfire preparedness which also includes increasing forest resilience and strengthening emergency response.
Is your Neighborhood in the Wildland Urban Interface?
If you live within EF&R's service area, your home could be located within the WUI – but it is important to remember the WUI is only one component to assessing risk and should not be considered the sole measure of wildfire risk. The WUI is where additional protective actions benefit those living in these areas by creating defensible space around their dwelling. Defensible space within the “home ignition zone” is defined as the area around a structure where the landscape is designed and maintained to decrease fire danger. Creating defensible space also gives firefighters a chance to safely protect your home.
Responsibility for identifying and assessing potential hazards and mitigating the relative fire risk begins with the homeowner and/or resident. For example, you can mitigate risk by:
Creating a safe and defensible space within a home by having fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.
Creating defensible space surrounding your home by cleaning gutters, pruning and mowing.
Reducing fuels throughout your property and adjacent properties by creating a defensible zone surrounding (and throughout) your home and property.
Creating safe and accessible entrances, exits, evacuation routes and water sources.
These are all mitigation measures that you can control and implement to reduce risk.
It’s also important to engage with neighbors to initiate and develop neighborhood plans or landscape management plans to assess risk and identify mitigation projects. Fire does not respect boundaries. The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise USA program provides steps to mitigate and reduce risk within a surrounding property and throughout a neighborhood.
Being proactive and identifying a hazard’s fire risk and then mitigating that risk will go a long way to reduce the impact wildfire can have on your home and property — and your community.