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NPFA and FEMA have opportunities for youth to learn about and get involved in preparedness activities.

 

FEMA announced that it is seeking applicants for the Youth Preparedness Council, which brings together teens from across the country who are interested and engaged in community preparedness. Council members are selected based on their dedication to public service, their efforts in making a difference in their communities, and their potential to expand their impact as national leaders for preparedness. Students in 8th through 11th grade are eligible to apply.

 

Youth interested in applying to the Council must submit a completed application form, provide two letters of recommendation, and academic records. All applications and supporting materials must be received no later than March 18, 2018, 11:59 p.m. PT in order to be eligible. New council members will be announced in May 2018.

To access the application materials, read about the current Council members, and for more general information about the Youth Preparedness Council visit www.ready.gov/youth-preparedness-council

 

NFPA has opportunities for youth to participate in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  Youth groups can apply for $500 awards to help complete wildfire preparedness activities such as helping with community clean-up projects.  They can also use the mapping link to put their project on the map and share with others that they are working on a project on May 5th.

 

Youth can also learn more about wildfire preparedness on NFPA’s TakeAction page.  Resources include, virtual field trips with accompanying lesson plans, a handout about how to create a go kit, and information about how to safely evacuate pets.  Young people have an important role to play in helping to create communities that are more resilient in the face of natural disasters such as wildfire.

 

Photo shared with NFPA's Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Campaign and calendar image shared with NFPA by FEMA contact Sara Varela.

You can write your own wildfire safety success story by participating in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. Go to the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day site and read about other community stories of success that we hope will encourage and inspire you to create your own successful project. One such story highlights the great work that was done in Lacey Township, New Jersey. Andrew Casteneli, Fire Prevention Officer, Forked River Fire Company shared their story with us; “A big thank you on behalf of the Forked River Fire Company, the Pheasant Run Fire wise committee and the residents of Lacey Township, New Jersey. This year's Wildfire Community Preparedness Day was a big success due in part to the grant given to us by the NFPA and State Farm.  We had over 60 residents participate in hazard mitigation, education, and clean-up activities over the weekend.  Many of the residents were new to the program and were extremely enthusiastic about participating.”  

 You can make your plan today to participate in this larger story of wildfire risk reduction nationwide and internationally.  Here’s how you can get started;

  1. Go to the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day site and read about other community stories of success.
  2. Take a look at your areas of greatest risk. Include local fire districts or land management agencies. What can you do in one day to get started reducing your risk of loss?
  3. Write a plan and apply for your share of $500. This is where you decide what you need to do to create your own success story.
  4. Invite others to participate. Use the free online mapping application or downloadable, fillable flyer to promote what you are doing and invite neighbors to work together.
  5. Participate on the day!
  6. Share your success on the Firewise Facebook page or with your local media using the press template on the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page.

It really is simple, easy and can be fun to get started. Don’t worry this next wildfire season.  Get prepared now to create a safer home and neighborhood. You can be a part of something bigger by writing your very own story of success!

Midland Hills Country Club has transformed their community in just their first year of participating in the Firewise USA™ Program. I interviewed residents Margaret Anderson and Jesse Riechman as we featured their Firewise USA™ site in the January 2018 newsletter for the Northeast Region Cohesive Strategy Committee (NE RSC).

Midland Hills Community members came together to celebrate their recognition as a Firewise USA site. Photo Courtesy: Margaret Anderson

I choose the community because they are the first in the state of Illinois and they have done a lot of work to reduce their wildfire risk. Speaking with these residents I was even more energized to write about their Firewise USA™ site because of the pride they have for their community and the work they’ve done.

 

Margaret Anderson told me she loves living in the community because they value their privacy and it’s a great place to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking. It’s this pride for her community that made her want to work with her neighbors to become a recognized Firewise USA™ site.

 

One of the challenges that some Firewise USA™ sites can sometimes struggle with is keeping participation high. Midland Hills Country Club is a unique community where the land is co-owned by the Homeowners Association.

 

Because of this, it was very important that residents agreed on the work they did on their land to reduce their wildfire risk.

 

Read how their community came together and their advice for others who want to participate in the Firewise USA™ Program in this month’s issue of the NE RSC’s newsletter.

Midland Hills receiving their Firewise USA plaque for the work they have done to reduce their wildfire risk. Photo Courtesy: Margaret Anderson

 

The Northeast Regional Strategy Committee works to support the mission of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy which includes restoring and maintaining resilient landscapes, creating Fire-Adapted Communities and effectively responding to wildfire.

 

 

Witch Creek Fire, San Diego, October 21, 2007 - courtesy State Farm via Wikipedia Commons

 

Getting called, "an unsung bureaucratic hero of fire protection," doesn't happen every day, so when I listened to bits of my interview with Tufts undergraduate Jesse Greenfield recently, I felt proud in my own geeky way. Jesse is a biopsychology major at Tufts University and had a Science and Civic Action class with Professor Jonathan Garlick in the fall 2017 semester. She was assigned a project to produce a short podcast episode relevant to civic science, and she chose wildfire as her topic. I was honored to have my say about the state of wildfire safety and education, but I was much more moved by her personal perspective on wildfire as a San Diego native, and the snippets revealed by another student who lived through the 2007 Witch Creek Fire and 2003 Cedar Fire. 

 

Jesse and her fellow student Vince described what it was like to survive wildfires in which friends lost homes, people in the area lost their lives, and they were forced to evacuate to safety with their families. Listen to the podcast (mp3 file) for Vince's comments about the 2007 Witch Creek fire and his childhood memories of having to evacuate. In conversation with Jesse, they start with a joking tone: "I grabbed my critical clothing..like my raincoat, my Pokemon shoes (ha ha ha)...it was third grade. Finding out what truly is of value to you...yeah, LEGO® (bricks), obviously."

 

The tone turns wistful when Jesse says, "But feeling like you have to do that is so surreal." Vince agrees. "It's a very odd feeling. I was pretty young, but the most poignant memories are definitely figuring out what you need...the anxiety...the smell, was so...just the smell, just a whiff of it. Even if there's like a barbecue and something's burning, I'll think of the fires." He feels today that his neighbors aren't paying much attention to the fire threat, and thinks that families being able to meet firefighters or to participate in brush-clearing projects could help. 

 

Give Jesse's podcast a listen, and learn what you might do differently to change wildfire outcomes in the future.

 

Image: The Witch Creek Fire burning in San Diego County, on the night of Sunday, October 21, 2007. Image courtesy State Farm via Creative Commons license.

Public Domain Photo shared by Navy SEALS on their website

 

I have been attending a conference in Maine; “Igniting Exchange: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Management”.  One of the keynote speakers was a retired Navy SEAL, David Cooper, who spoke about behavior driven leadership. What I wondered, did Navy SEAL ethics have to do with wildfire safety efforts?

 

David spoke about his career and training to be a part of the SEAL Team 2 in 1988. They had to learn a complex set of behaviors and skills. They learned everything from driving race cars, martial arts of course (from one of Bruce Lee’s students), and even how to steal a car.  What in the world does this have to do with wildfire preparedness? He shared, that in dynamically changing situations the SEALS had to learn to be adaptable, to draw parallels from what they learned to what they experienced to reduce their risk and eliminate threats.  They had an obligation to pass on what they experienced and learned to SEAL newbies.  Wow, that is exactly what I see members of Firewise USA™ sites do, mentor new communities just learning how to make their homes safer from wildfire.  Although Firewise USA™ sites don’t have to know how to steal a car, they do have to know how homes burn in a dynamically changing environment and how to make oftentimes simple changes to keep their neighborhoods safer from this threat.

 

Another thing he shared is that SEALs have the courage to say things that people sometimes do not want to hear.  Again, I started to think about how many wonderful fire service personnel, forestry folks and residents I have met who have had the courage to tell people what their wildfire risk is and how they can reduce their risk of loss even if it was what they thought people did not want to hear.

 

Finally, he spoke about the discipline that SEALS must have not just in the line of duty, but also in mundane things like making sure their uniform and personal appearance is perfect.  "It is knowing the right thing to do and doing it", David shared.  Many folks know what they have to do to reduce their risk of loss due to wildfire but it is only those communities who take action that exhibit the discipline needed to actually improve their overall safety.

 

SEALS, according to Dave have a mindset that allows them to complete their operations without thinking about failure, so though they do at times suffer loss, it does not deter them from taking action. We can all take steps today, and have this mindset of success, bringing people of all backgrounds together in a functionally diverse group, growing wildfire safety success.  We can all translate Navy SEAL ethics into our successful wildfire safety efforts today by participating in Firewise USA™sites, Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and taking action using resources out there to help us like Ready Set Go, Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network and more take real steps to protect our homes and those we love!

Within the suburbs and foothills west of Denver, CO, West Metro Fire Rescue has been engaged in wildfire education and outreach since 2007; their efforts have produced two Firewise USA™ sites, but like the majority of fire departments, fuels reduction projects are often limited by capacity and funding.

Knowing collaboration and creativity are essential to addressing those challenges, wildfire mitigation specialist/firefighter Steve Orr connected with Team Rubicon following a series of unexplained fires in an area called Green Mountain to initiate a conversation about the possibility of working on a project to remove dense brush adjacent to property lines of the homes in that area. Most of the residences in that area were built during the 1960s and 70s with wood fences/decks and vulnerable home ignition zones, which increased their risk.

Orr was successful in getting Team Rubicon volunteers involved and ultimately the project grew to also include the City of Lakewood, and the Green Mountain Civic Association. Prior to the project West Metro Fire Rescue went door-to-door notify residents and to provide them with information about steps they could take to reduce their wildfire risks.

Working with Team Rubicon, who handled the majority of the logistical and operational functions using sixty enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers, vegetation was removed that yielded around 50 cubic yards of wood chips. With more work to be done, plans have been made with Team Rubicon to return to do additional work, with hopes that they can also assist with future projects. By seeking out untraditional resources, Firefighter Orr was able to deliver much needed resources to the West Metro Fire Rescue community!

Team Rubicon’s primary mission is providing disaster relief to those affected by natural disasters, be they domestic or international. By pairing the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders, medical professionals, and technology solutions, Team Rubicon aims to provide the greatest service and impact possible. Through continued service, Team Rubicon seeks to provide veterans with three things they lose after leaving the military: a purpose gained through disaster relief; community, built by serving with others; and identity, from recognizing the impact one individual can make. Coupled with leadership development and other opportunities, Team Rubicon looks to help veterans transition from military to civilian life.

Firefighters can help promote wildfire resilience in their communities by applying for funding and completing wildfire hazard mitigation project work.  Projects to help with after fire recovery needs can also be applied for.  The application period for $500 (provided with generous support from State Farm) now open, through March 2nd.

 

Fire districts and communities can now apply for one of one hundred and fifty, $500 awards at www.wildfireprepday.org.  If your district is awarded $500 it can be used to rent chippers, buy tools, rent dumpsters or whatever you need to help you implement an effective wildfire prevention activity.  By working with communities to design and implement project work in communities, fire districts have been able to take fire prevention efforts from information to action. 

 

 

Fire departments that have worked together on a wildfire safety project for the first time with local residents have found that it helps create a sense of community, which has helped strengthen relationships communities have with their local fire departments.

 

NFPA has created resources to help you and your communities with the application process as well as promote local events you may be hosting with; fillable poster templates, a sample press release, a project safety tip sheet and more, which can be found on the Prep Day web page.

 

For more information about how you and your district can participate, please feel free to connect directly with the NFPA.

This map was shared with permission from Phillip Truitt, Communications Specialist with the Texas A&M Forest Service Directors Office

Northern parts of Texas, experienced heavy rain and hail on Sunday, but are also listed on the Texas A&M Forest Service, Observed Fire Danger Map as having a high wildfire risk. The Texas wildfire danger mapping project looks at real time data including, fuels, weather, topography and risk combined to determine the daily fire potential rating in areas of Texas to create maps that show forecasted wildfire risk.

Wind gusts in Northern Texas are predicted to be between 20-30 mph. Because the vegetation in Texas is still dormant for the winter, it is very dry.  The fire danger ratings for Monday in Northern Texas are listed as high and very high. It is suggested that residents living in this area avoid outdoor burning.

Some steps you can take in around your home before a wildfire threatens your area include;

  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
  • Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house. Learn more about the basics of the home ignition zone on the Firewise website.
  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
  • Wildfire can spread to tree tops. Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
  • Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
  • Inspect shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration.
  • Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home.
  • Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.
  • Learn more about how to protect your home and property at www.firewise.org.Wildfires can occur anywhere when the conditions are right. You can take some simple steps today to keep your home and those you care about, safer from wildfire. Learn more about how you can reduce your risk of loss from NFPA.

            U.S. Army Photo - Tanja Linton

More than two years ago, while working on his Fire Officer Certification, Fort Huachuca firefighter Juan Zamora began exploring the army post’s potential participation in the Firewise USA™ program; and after successfully pitching the wildfire risk reduction concept to the base’s garrison commander Col. James Wright, efforts to meet the program’s criteria began.

 

Zamora was joined in the effort by Keith Read, a post fire inspector and through consultation with Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management fire prevention officer Mayra Moreno, the push to become a nationally recognized Firewise USA™ site moved forward quickly.

 

The army post now includes briefings for new post residents to share information on what they can do to reduce the impact of wildfires. Join NFPA in saluting Fort Huachuca for their accomplishments, as we welcome them to the national program's close to 1,500 participating sites!

Need a little help? If you are not sure about how to fill out a grant application for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day cash to help with your community wildfire safety project, simply sign up for the free webinar, on January 18,th from 2:30-3:30 pm EST, to help your application stand out.  This free webinar will help you craft a better story about the project that you want to complete with the $500 cash award.  The webinar will also help you understand how to organize your information and describe how you want to make your community safer by completing project work.

 

Learn how easy it is to apply as well as tips to completing a successful award application.  Learn how you and your neighborhood can make a difference in the condition of your homes and landscapes to be better prepared. By participating you can help make your community a safer place to live and be a part of something bigger by participating in this year’s national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event May 5.  Be a wildfire preparedness hero!

In the January edition of NFPA Journal, Associate Editor Jesse Roman explores why, if experts say we could create wildfire-resistant communities today, is it so hard to get it done?

 

Reflecting on the article, Jesse shared with me that, “The deeper you dive into the nuances of the nation’s wildfire problem and the web of issues that surround it, the more you start to realize how long and difficult the road to fixing it will be. Politics, economics, sympathy, fear, and lingering misconceptions are a few of the multitude of legitimate hurdles that have kept us frozen in the status quo, unable to address a crisis that has grown steadily more destructive as the decades have passed.”

 

Pulling from recent fires in California and our nation’s history of trying to manage fire ecology, the article wrestles with how difficult even defining change can be.

 

“With wildfire, even seemingly the most simple ideas are fraught with nuance,” Jesse remarked. 

 

The article, “Build. Burn. Repeat?” is in the January edition.

 

Photo Credit: National Interagency Fire Center Public Photo Archive, pulled 12 January 2018.

In the January/February NFPA Journal Wildfire column, I ask that before we rush to find answers about the recent fires in California, we pause to consider whether we’re even asking the right questions.

 

We want to be whole again after such a devastating event, but in the days and weeks that followed the September-October wildfires, media outlets and policy wonks were pitching blame and churning out neat solutions to our wildfire problem.

 

The media response got me thinking if we are asking the right questions about the fire or just rehashing old assumptions for the current news cycle. In the face of these fires, we need to challenge presumed orthodoxies about wildfire. I hope you enjoy the column.

 

I should add that when the column was written, the fires were still raging and subsequently, the loss figures mentioned unfortunately grew.  This tragedy has assumed a new form over the past two days as heavy rains have caused mudslides across the exposed landscape.  With 17 deaths and over a dozen unaccounted for, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those lost and missing.  

Wildfire risk reduction requires committed and dedicated residents striving to reduce their wildfire risks; and in 2017, a total of 170 new participating sites completed the criteria to become nationally recognized through the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise™ USA program.

 

The newest participants join sites throughout 42 states that annually complete a required set of criteria to remain in a good standing status. Since 2002, the program has provided a framework and guidelines for residents to implement important actions that better prepare their homes for wildfires. There’s currently 1,479 active Firewise sites located in areas with a wildfire potential.

 

States adding the most new Firewise USA sites during the recent calendar year include: Washington: 20; Colorado: 20; Oregon: 19; California: 17 and Arkansas: 14.

 

Learn more about how residents can proactively impact their home’s potential survivability during a wildfire and start coordinating your neighbors into becoming a participant during 2018.

The question, “why is community wildfire risk reduction important”, took on a global prospective when NFPA gathered its wildfire partners from Canada, Chile, The United Kingdom, Spain, Lebanon, South Africa, and Australia last summer.

 

The proceedings document from that workshop was released by the NFPA Research Foundation in December and is now available. It reflects the dynamic discussion that occurred around community risk reduction and the continued networking needed to advance long-term sustainability of efforts.

 

It was great to bring our partners together, see the knowledge exchange that occurred, and learn from them about the common risk of wildfire. Many have adapted the Firewise program to complement their implementation plans for community engagement and others brought their current knowledge and research to the discussions. 

 

By sharing their experiences in community risk reduction, the group identified six fundamental issues that impact these advocacy efforts across the globe. These issues helped to frame the current state and challenges to outreach and how to best package messaging to at-risk communities anywhere. The group developed these discussions into identified next steps to advance local implementation strategies and necessary wildfire research.

 

We thank the Research Foundation for facilitating the workshop and our partners for their involvement.  In 2018, we look forward to advancing the identified research opportunities outlined in the document and continuing the great efforts with our global partners in collectively reducing wildfire risks.

 

Could you and your community use a little help, say $500 to jump-start your wildfire safety program where you live? There are many simple low-cost projects that you and your neighbors can work on together with this funding provided by State Farm, which can make a huge difference in the safety of your community in the event of a wildfire.

 

The $500 may be just what you need to rent a chipping service or a dumpster for a community clean-up day, buy garden tools that you share, pay for gloves, goggles or food for volunteers, hire private contractors or service groups  to help clean up yards of residents who need the help, or help with marketing your event community-wide to engage volunteers.

 

Research has proven that steps taken by homeowners to improve the condition of their homes and landscapes can really make a difference.  It is simple and very easy to complete the online application.

 

Need help applying? NFPA is even offering a free webinar on January 18, and free online resources to help you apply for funding and carry out successful project work. You can also download the contest rules and information about how to apply below.

 

So instead of thinking about it, take your first step, and apply today for your share of funding to help make your community a safer place to live today! 

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