In WUI zones, houses and natural vegetation intermix, giving wildfires more and different fuel to spread. WUI is a familiar term in the West, but some of the worst WUI risks are in the Southeast as evidenced by the 2016 fire in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg, Tenn. But urban/suburban firefighters control fires differently than firefighters in wild areas, Pyne writes. Urban firefighters are trained to stifle all fire to protect lives; wildlands firefighters try to mostly control fire with water and dirt, removing flammable vegetation so fires stay reasonably contained and the landscape stays healthy.
"The training that each group gets is largely worthless in the other’s setting," Pyne writes. "There are a few instances of cross-training, particularly in rural areas, but the prime example of a major agency that tries to cope with both types of threats is the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire. Its experience shows what fusing these two purposes can mean."