DEAR ABBY: I am the wife of a fireman. I have a personal stake in letting your readers know that they can help to protect the lives of wildland firefighters as we experience yet another terrible new fire season. We have already seen those frightening orange flames leaping across our television screens as they are beaten back by firefighters. Brave men and women risk their lives to save communities, while families like ours watch the news and hold our breath.
Twenty-three firefighters lost their lives in wildland fires last year, and more than 6 million acres were reduced to ashes. This year promises to be even more costly.
Millions of Americans live in what is called "wildland/urban interface." These are areas of wild nature into which homes -- and even cities (18,000 communities) -- have been built. Last year, the residents of Denver were shocked to learn that their metropolis is a wildland/urban interface as firestorms swept down from the mountains. When houses are threatened or engulfed, firefighters are at risk. However, homeowners can protect their dwellings and possessions -- and the lives of firefighters -- before the fires race toward them.
Here's what to do: Go to your computer and type in www.firewise.org. Firewise.org is a free service of the U.S. Forest Service, the Red Cross, the National Fire Protection Association and dozens of other government and private entities. This Web site teaches visitors how to "firewise" their homes, imparting precautions homeowners can take to prepare their homes to ride out a wildland fire. You cannot firePROOF a home, but you can fireWISE it, and by doing so, you might save another firefighter's family unending grief. Sign me ... PRECAUTIOUS IN PLACERVILLE, CALIF.
DEAR PRECAUTIOUS: I hope millions of homeowners will take advantage of your helpful suggestion. This nation has opened its heart to firefighters and their families, especially during the last two years. The selfless courage of those dedicated men and women who put their safety on the line as they move into burning buildings or burning wildlands is an inspiration. We owe them, among other considerations, a visit to Firewise.org, which puts preventive measures literally at our fingertips.
And for those readers who are not computer-enabled, you, too, can save a wildland firefighter's family enduring heartache by requesting a free Firewise Homeowner's Guide. Simply write: Firewise, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02269-9101 and tell them that Dear Abby sent you.