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Monday, August 5, 2013

“America Burning”: A Look Back

Savage Fire Department's community outreach

This past May marked the 40th anniversary of the release of “America Burning.” The report took two years to complete and was the result of Congress and two presidents taking action on what was termed “America’s fire problem.” It was a statistical review and analysis of the nation’s fire losses and put hard numbers to what many firefighters knew was happening. The data in the report became a documented foundation for change and for understanding.

“America Burning” contained 90 detailed recommendations and was a recognition that firefighting occurs at a local level.  As a result, the National Fire Academy and U.S. Fire Administration were created to support local departments. Many of the current federal grant programs—such as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants—were the result of the reports directive to improve firefighter training and upgrade the level of response and staffing.

The timing of the report could not have been better, as it coincided with the new technology and development of the affordable home smoke detectors. In addition to recommending smoke detectors for all homes, there were recommendations for sprinkler systems, clothing, and mattress flammability standards, and for public education including educational programs in the schools. I remember departments increasing their public outreach and targeting every school for education on home fire drills and “Stop, Drop, and Roll.”
Savage Fire Department public education in schools

The report also called for the better tracking of fires nationally. The National Fire Incident Reporting System came on line in 1977, and the Minnesota Fire Incident Reporting System data that your crews complete is fed to the national system through the State Fire Marshal’s office. 

Many of the periodicals and articles that have reflected on the importance of the report also note the new challenges facing the fire services, including: the threat from wildfires, the high number of automated false alarms, and the use of faster burning materials in current lightweight construction.

“America Burning” is credited with the decline in fire deaths, injuries, and overall reduction in fires. It called for a coordinated multi-point approach with a focus on prevention and suppression of fire that has been successful. It is important to know how we got where we are as we prepare to face the challenges ahead.


                                                Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next…It All Starts Here - 911

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful.


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