Across our nation, fire is a threat to individuals, and it is a threat to our homeland security. Fire continues to be a leading cause of death and injury in the United States. In fact, if a fire occurs in a home today, occupants are more likely to die in that fire than they were 40 years ago. Additionally, fire departments are reporting challenges with insufficient resources to respond to increasing call volume and emerging threats.
It is the role of the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) to highlight the relevant issues facing our nation and the fire service… and to identify solutions to address the devastating fire problem in America.
Every year, tens of thousands of individuals are seriously injured by fires. While fire can impact anyone, unfortunately, time and again it disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable populations — the elderly, our children, the disabled, and low-income families.
Inspired by tragic fires in 2022, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, legislation to give the USFA new investigative authority for major fires. This authority enables USFA to identify fire safety factors that contributed to fire growth or spread and led to large-scale loss and multiple fatalities.
President Biden also enacted legislation mandating long-life encased smoke alarms in public housing not equipped with hard-wired smoke alarms. This law will help ensure that life-saving smoke alarms cannot be disabled in public housing.
While these laws will help, unfortunately, the changes in our construction practices using lightweight building materials and the evolution of technology using lithium-ion energy and robotics pose new fire threats. Therefore, we must continue to research and develop solutions to curtail these threats.
The scourge of fire is not limited to our urban and suburban jurisdictions. Today, 99 million people or a third of the U.S. population live in the wildland urban interface (WUI) environment, yet most have no idea what the interface is or the dangers that it poses. The USFA, along with our federal, state, and local partners, is working to address the fire challenges in the interface, educate those who live and work in the WUI, and ensure that firefighters responding to a fire in the area are trained and equipped to respond safely, efficiently, and effectively.
Along with national fire organization partners, the USFA has launched a Fire Service National Strategy “U.S. Fire Administrator’s Summit on Fire Prevention and Control Proceedings” to address the threat of fire to our communities and the ramifications of fire on our nation’s firefighters.
While the fire problem in America remains difficult, I feel confident that with our continued partnership at the federal, state, and local level, we can prevent future fires, reduce suffering, and ensure that more people across the nation have the tools to protect themselves and their families when disaster strikes.
We are stronger together,