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7-R Ranch community and staff

Located in north Texas hill country, 7-R Ranch is an ideal getaway for its residents, most of whom are retired professionals seeking an escape from urban/suburban life. About 1.5 hours from the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area and 45 minutes from a grocery store, the community is set in an area of mesas and canyons, with oak, ash, cedar and juniper, and tall grasses. Residents enjoy birds and other wildlife and can raise horses. It's quiet out there, with truly beautiful sunsets.  

While it sounds idyllic, it also presents concerns for residents and the local fire department in regards to wildfire. I spoke with Rick Best, the community's resident leader, to learn more about their efforts to address their wildfire risk and why they are participating in the Sites of Excellence Pilot Program.   

How did 7-R Ranch get started with its wildfire risk reduction efforts?

Part of the motivation for our community to take action was a wildfire experienced by a nearby, similar community. Seeing what they went through and an evacuation alert for 7-R really got our attention.  Our community has 400 lots that range from 1-10 acres, with approximately 130 houses built. We had concerns from the hilly terrain and local vegetation, some of the homes within the ranch are built at the top of wooded canyons, and there are lots with absentee landowners. With the encouragement of our fire chief, 7-R Ranch joined the Firewise USA® program in late 2017 and we have had lots of support from our community members and our developer. We've taken a lot of the obvious risk reductions steps in the home ignition zone and feel like we're in pretty good shape.  

Why did you decide to participate in the pilot and what are your goals?

Our state forestry representative approached us about the pilot and we said, "why not?" While we've made a lot of progress in 7-R Ranch, the pilot provides us with the opportunity to evaluate our community as a whole to identify our weak areas and where we need to focus our efforts. We're partnering with our local fire department and Texas A&M Forest Service to do individual home assessments. We want to better understand the threats from thTX forest service and homeowners outside doing wildfire risk assessmente canyons - look at the homes and their setbacks from the edge, and what work has been done in the home ignition zone. The Sites of Excellence program gives us an opportunity to systematically assess each home and communicate the results to each homeowner. I believe it will help us get to the next level of participation in our community. 

With this opportunity, we are also in a unique situation to have an impact on a neighboring community that participates in Firewise USA®. We share a committee and are working with our Texas Forest Service partners on a similar pilot with them to increase their engagement in risk reduction actions.

What are some of the challenges in your community?

Some of the challenges we face here are related to the terrain and vegetation - navigating steep slopes, disposing of debris. We also have absentee landowners, who may not be aware of the risk from wildfires or don't have the time or resources to put towards mitigation at this time. Through a targeted approach we hope to make an impact on some of these. As lots are converted to homes, there will be opportunities to engage those new residents and we should see the threat from unmanaged lots go down.

 

I want to thank Rick for sharing the story of his community and look forward to seeing how they progress over the next year and a half. This is the first in a series of blogs introducing our Sites of Excellence Pilot Sites. Stay tuned for our next blog featuring Virginia.

 

What will it take for you and your neighbors to take action?  Visit Firewise.org more to learn more about how to organize your community and steps towards increasing your chances of withstanding a wildfire.

 

Images courtesy 7-R Ranch and Texas A&M Forest Service

Two forestry service personnel with two NFPA Employees sharing how to create safer landscaping in the home ignition zone

Incredible stories are pouring in about projects accomplished across the country and the globe on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  Here at NFPA®’s main office, we hosted a training session provided by two Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) employees about how to make changes to the landscape around the home and the home itself for wildfire safety, also shared were pruning tips to assist with liming up trees.

 

From Washington State, Nancy Miller shared, “We had a great event and removed more than 15 yards of chipped Picture of a community with prep day banner and dumpster full of chipped materialdebris!  I don't know what that represents in volume before it was chipped, but it was a very large amount.”  

 

Nancy went on to say, “We appreciated so very much your award of $500 dollars and with community member donations we were able to hire a professional to bring his large chipper and remove the tree limbs and brush that would contribute fuel for a wildfire.” 

 

Back again on the East Coast in Maine, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, completed a community clean up and educational event that was featured on local television.

 

And in Yarnell, Arizona, Denise Roggio shared, “We wanted to share our successful event with you and your organization. We went to the Model Creek School as an activity outreach with students, grades 1 - 8.  The students learned about fire resistant plants and planted terrariums.  Then, on Saturday, May 4th, we hosted a Firewise Plants/Defensible Space workshop.” 

 

This is a picture of residents participating in a landscaping workshop in Yarnell, AZ for wildfire safetyExplaining more about the workshop, Denise said, “The $500 in funding purchased beautiful flowering plants, and 1 plant was given to each household represented.  38 people attended the workshop.  Two firefighters spoke regarding creating defensible space, and a gardening expert taught us how to properly care for and plant fire resistant native plants.  This event was wonderful!  People have requested that we do many more of these community engagement events. Thank you so very much for the Grant award! We are very grateful.”

 

We are also hearing from people who participated with Wildfire Community Preparedness Day in Canada, Mexico, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, and other countries.  It is great to see that more and more people are participating globally in this incredible effort. 

 

Each and every participant is a wildfire safety hero! We are looking forward to hearing more about events and projects completed not only on this day but every day.  Working together, we all can make a difference with every project and activity we complete to create safer homes and neighborhoods.  Tell us your story!

 

 

Photo credits: Top photo - courtesy Tracy Gaudette, two DCR employees sharing landscaping techniques with NFPA employees. Middle photo - courtesy Nancy Miller, community chipping event.  Bottom photo - Denise Roggio, Yarnell Landscaping event.

chipper dayIn light of recent horrific losses to life and property from wildfires, we wonder who is responsible to create homes and neighborhoods that are safer?

I think we can all have a part to play, both individually and collectively.

Residents in wildfire-prone areas should prepare for wildfire by focusing on the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ).  The Home Ignition Zone includes the home itself and the landscaping (especially the first 5 feet) around the home.  Most homes burn during wildfire events from embers (bits of burning matter) that are lofted in the air from the wildfire and can land in this critical area.  Debris such as leaves, pine needles, or branches on or around the home can act as kindling that the embers ignite and ultimately cause homes to burn.   

Once this debris is removed from the home ignition zone, residents may struggle with finding a way to easily dispose of this material. Individually, it can become cost-prohibitive to hire a contractor to remove it. This cost is an obstacle to risk reduction, and worse yet, can lead people to resort to illegal dumping.

This is where participation together on a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project can come to the rescue! Collectively working together on a neighborhood project can lower costs, lighten the workload, and make wildfire risk reduction fun! Working together with sponsors and partners can be even better. 

Here are some ideas to overcome obstacles to debris removal:

  1. Providing green waste to a biofuel company if there is one within a reasonable distance.
  2. Apply for and share funding for a removal project, like the $500 awards provided with generous support from State Farm.
  3. Get a dumpster donated for a day and work hard to fill it up.
  4. Together hire a chipping contractor and donate chipped material to a park or garden area.
  5. Together rent a truck to take the material to a green waste recycling site.
  6. Hire goats!
  7. Connect with state, federal or other agencies to help burn material following all local and state regulations and prescribed safety precautions.

Together we all can make a difference, and being safer during a wildfire is possible! Loss from a local wildfire is not inevitable. If you've taken safety steps, please tell us about it on NFPA's Wildfire and Firewise USA Program Facebook Page or on Twitter by using the hashtag #WildfirePrepDay.

Photo credit: Taylor Hunsaker. 2018 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day chipping event in Kimberly, Idaho.

As part of a panel talking about wildfires and public health, I had a great opportunity to talk to health and safety professionals on behalf of NFPA about wildfire and how we can use techniques that have emerged from public health and related social science research to help change behaviors and outcomes. 

My co-presenters, Ken Pimlott, retired chief of CAL FIRE, and Dr. Michael Gollner, a fire protection engineering professor at the University of Maryland, provided their expertise to describe the compelling situation of wildfire risk in California and around the country. CSPAN recorded our presentations and the lively discussion which followed. Key takeaways:

  • We are seeing more extreme wildfires
  • Thousands of homes already built are at high risk to wildfire
  • Planning, codes, and regulations are still very much needed for new development and rebuilding
  • There are things people at risk today can do to reduce their vulnerability

I was happy to share how NFPA has been using social science findings to inform our programs and outreach. Successful techniques have included education and messages that help move people from awareness to action, prompts and signage that help spread behavior change throughout neighborhoods, marketing social behavior change by removing barriers to action, and helping people find what's going right and doing more of it. Programs like Firewise USA and campaigns like Wildfire Community Preparedness Day have been adopted and used by thousands of people across the US as well as in other countries to empower residents to take effective risk reduction action.

Check out the CSPAN video to learn more about how to tackle the thorny health and safety issues presented by wildfire.

Video still shot links to a 2-minute clip of NFPA's Michele Steinberg speaking about the "98% problem" of already-existing homes at risk to wildfire on CSPAN2.

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According to an NFPA® report on youth and wildfire preparedness, only 21% of students interviewed in wildfire prone regions have a family preparedness plan for when they are home alone.  Even more amazing is that only 10% had evacuation bags prepared for themselves at home.   However 65% of these young people were aware that a fire could happen at any time and anywhere.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is this Saturday, May 4th, and an excellent time to start the family conversation around what to do before and when a wildfire happens.   Take a moment to discuss what the plan is when your young family members are home alone or if they are home, caring for younger children.  Some ideas for developing your family plan include:

  • Connecting with a trusted neighbor close by who your children know who can evacuate them.
  • Or, setting up a schedule with other working parents in the neighborhood, so that one is always at home and can make sure the children are safe.
  • Packing a Go Bag with treasured items, water, food, prescriptions, etc.  That they can grab and leave quickly with.
  • Practice together with their pets if time allows to be able to crate them and go.
  • Have a designated contact, such as an out of town family member’s number programmed into their cell phone so that you can find each other quickly.

The most important thing that you can do as a family is to make sure your home and the landscape immediately surrounding your home is well maintained for wildfire safety.  You want to make sure that those you care about are safe and secure.  For more information about wildfire safety tips check out NFPA’s Firewise USA® webpage.

 

Photo shared with permission from Jason King

Small group working on an exercise in NFPA classroom

Register now for NFPA's Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire two-day training in Nashville scheduled for May 16-17. This class will provide valuable skills and knowledge to help you in your wildfire safety mission.

Learn the science behind how homes ignite from wildfire. More importantly, find out the best ways to advise property owners about actions that will help prevent ignition and reduce the chances of home destruction during a brush or forest fire. 

Wildfires happen in the eastern United States. In November 2016, 33 wildfires burned more than 90,000 acres in Eastern Tennessee, North Georgia, and Western North Carolina, with deadly and destructive results in the Gatlinburg area. Fourteen people died and some 2,400 structures were destroyed.

Discover what others have learned. According to one captain/paramedic, “I thought I wanted to learn about structure triage. What I got was a new mindset concerning how to approach wildland fire (operational) and people (social).” Another fire captain commented, “I am better prepared to assess WUI properties and communicate hazards to community members.”

Don't delay - register today and join your colleagues and expert instructor in Nashville! 

A one-day hackathon is being hosted on the 42 Silicon Valley Campus in recognition of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 4, 2019. The goal of a hackathon is to get computer programmers, graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others together in one place to create software or other functioning projects for a specific purpose.

Recognizing the deadly 2018 wildfire season which caused $9 billion dollars in damage, IBM and other supporters including David Clark Cause as part of a multi-year global initiative, are rallying developers to create positive change by developing applications based on cloud, data, and AI (artificial intelligence) that can help create changes in wildfire and emergency preparedness. This hackathon is part of a larger project called Call for Code® which encourages developers to volunteer to be a part of helping design positive change.

California residents are especially encouraged to participate to help create new solutions. According to the event description, “Californians have a unique perspective that can help drive innovation in this field. Developers, makers, and builders have lived through disasters and know what is at stake. Bring your best!”

Registration for the event is free. The event starts promptly at 8 AM PDT in Fremont, California and ends at 6 PM. Parts of the event will be recorded. This is one great way to help create neighborhoods that are safer from wildfires on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day! What will you be doing?

This Old House host Kevin O’Connor interviewed Dan Gorham, from The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS®) to learn techniques for making homes safer during wildfire events.   This Old House a television show dedicated to sharing step by step tactics to make home improvement projects easy for anyone has added a new Ask This Old House segment about project work to improve the survival of your home on its latest show.

Dan talked to Kevin about the fact that houses are burned during wildfires mainly because embers generated during a wildfire ignite combustible materials close to the home.  He also shared some ways people can make improvements to the home by using noncombustible building materials and making landscaping improvements especially within the 0-5 foot area around the home.  Check out this segment of This Old House on You Tube; https://youtu.be/D1WxCBU6JAM

And for more resources that you can use to make your home safer from wildfire check out NFPA® research fact sheets produced in collaboration with IBHS. The topics covered include making improvements to decks, attics and crawl spaces, coatings, fencing and more!  

Image of WUI community from NFPA's Community Wildfire Safety through Regulation guide

The American Planning Association (APA) has just published a new report that is available at no cost to download (though users have to create a guest account and password to log in), thanks to the sponsorship of the USDA Forest Service as well as state and private forestry programs. The report specifically looks at the wildfire-related risks faced by two-thirds of the population of the United States, emphasizing that many more areas outside the West are vulnerable. One need only look at the past few week's news stories to recognize this, including reports of an 11,000 acre fire in New Jersey, a wildfire in the panhandle of Florida, and multiple smaller fires that broke out in North Carolina.

The purpose of the report, "Planning the Wildland-Urban Interface," is to provide planners with some tools to make better planning choices to help create more resilient neighborhoods. The report states, “Planners across the country have important roles to play in helping communities reduce their vulnerability to the destructive and tragic consequences of wildfires such as the Camp Fire.” It provides useful resources including references to NFPA standards for new construction and NFPA's Firewise USA program.

The report explores the fact that those who choose to live in beautiful areas that are close to nature must be aware of what their risk is and take appropriate steps to reduce their risk of loss. Everyone has a part to play. Read the report to get some information about how planners can participate in helping to design WUI communities that are safer from wildfire loss. 

 

Image from NFPA's Community Wildfire Safety through Regulation: A Best Practices Guide for Planners and Regulators, 2013.

Your successful Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project can not only help your community be safer in the event of a wildfire event but also shine as an example of success for other communities to copy.   Remember the old adage; “Copying is the best form of flattery.”  Just think your success and your success story can actually help another community somewhere be able to make their own project plan in the future.

You may be wondering how you can share your success story with others.  Did you know NFPA® has free downloadable resources to help your project shine like a star in the night sky!  

For example a new resource on the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day webpage is a press release template to help you connect with local media outlets to share the good work that you are accomplishing.  To take great photos to go along with your press release NFPA created another new resource that gives you tips on taking good photos of your project work.

There is also some great information in another new free downloadable piece the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit.  This piece even provides you with a beautifully designed flyer that you can very easily personalize, print and distribute in locations like your local library and schools.

Share what you are doing on social media on the Firewise USA® Facebook page.  Or tweet your success at #WildfirePrepDay.  Shout out your success you can become a wildfire superstar this year!   You can be the person who helps, save a home, lives and neighborhoods.  Learn more about how you can participate in this national campaign today.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is looking for assistance from community members in Sevier County, Tennessee who were affected by the Chimney Tops Fire in 2016.  They want to know more about their experiences and responses to emergency notifications during this wildfire incident and are asking people to complete a survey online or by telephone.

NIST will use the survey results to help improve emergency messaging, training and education of emergency personnel and to develop evacuation models that can be used for wildfire planning.  According to a press release from NIST, “The study may lead to the development of changes that could improve current standards and practices so that communities across the U.S. can become more resilient to natural hazards.”

The survey is being conducted for NIST by a research firm called the Fors Marsh Group.  Some people living in the area were sent a letter in October 2018 with a web link to complete the survey, which according to NIST takes 20 minutes to complete. The survey sign-in page can be found at www.NISTfiresurvey.com and participants can either use a “personal code” they received in one of the letters mentioned above that were sent or can use their home address.  Additionally, if you are interested in participating you can also call the Fors Marsh Group at 877 891-2465.

 

Photo credit: Destroyed home in Sevier County, Tennessee, 2016, by Faith Berry, NFPA.

Map showing point locations of the one hundred fifty $500 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day funding awards.

Point locations of the one hundred fifty $500 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day funding awards.

Communities from across the nation applied for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day funding awards to help them complete a project on Saturday, May 4th.   These one hundred fifty, $500 awards provided with generous support from State Farm are going to be given to communities in 27 states from across the United States to help create neighborhoods that are safer from wildfire loss.  NFPA® is pleased to announce the winners of the funding awards.  The winning applications shared incredible narratives about the project work these communities intend to complete on Prep Day, May 4th.

Everyone who takes action to make their homes and the landscape surrounding their home safer from wildfire losses are all winners!  NFPA® provides great resources to help you embark on a journey of creating communities that are more resilient in the event of a wildfire.  You can be a winner too!  Check out information about many of the improvements you can make to your home and the landscape surrounding your home that can help make where you live and those you care about better protected.  Many of these changes and improvement projects do not have to cost a lot of money.  Simple things like cleaning out your gutter, sweeping your porch, and cleaning flammable materials from under your deck can all make a big difference!

Will you survive the next wildfire?  Find out how you can be a winner and encourage others to be a part of this National Campaign on May 4th.

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People raking vegetation debris as part of their Wildfire Prep Day activity

Wildfire safety preparedness is something that we all have a part to play no matter who we are.   Communities across the country have come together to work on wildfire risk reduction projects that have made a difference.   Their stories serve as an inspiration to others, that wildfire safety project work can be merely a matter of elbow grease and good old fashioned neighborhood participation.  Thanks to a generous donation from State Farm 150 communities from across the United States will get $500 to use on a wildfire safety project along with a beautiful free 3 foot by 5 foot banner to promote what they are doing.

 

Last year one of the $500 award winners Falls Creek in Durango, Colorado survived the 416 Fire due in large part to the wildfire safety project work completed by the community both to their homes and the landscape immediately surrounding their homes.  Their work was applauded in the Inci Web report for the fire by the supervising fire officer.

Little girl with shovel at a Wildfire Prep Day event

Will you be a wildfire safety superstar this year? This is your chance to tell others what you are doing on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  Map your wildfire safety project on the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page for free to let others know where your project is so they can jump in and give you a hand.

 

Don’t know where to start?   Check out this handy, free downloadable toolkit.   In it you’ll find a project idea checklist, a beautiful, downloadable, fillable flyer to advertise the day, and a safety tip sheet to help keep you and your volunteers protected. Want to get a shout out to promote what you are doing locally?  Check out a fillable proclamation you can share with local elected officials.   

 

Let this be the year you take action!  The role that you play, no matter who you are, can make a difference. Participate in Wildfire Prep Day and be a part of creating safer communities and tell us what you are doing.  Be a wildfire safety hero.

 

 

Photo credit: Top - Bustins Island Wildfire Prep Day event, Faith Berry; Right - Wildfire prep day activity courtesy of April Van Hale

Research around home destruction vs. home survival during wildfires points to embers and small flames as the main way the majority of homes ignite. Did you know that every day household items we keep outside can contribute to the spread of flames as well as ember ignitions?

In the video, Dr. Jack Cohen, Fire Science Researcher with the USDA Forest Service (retired), discusses how to spot these items and provides two quick and easy steps that can help reduce the risk of them igniting. 

As Wildfire Community Preparedness Day draws near, use this opportunity to embark on a plan for how you’ll address wildfire safety around your home and property.  

Find additional information about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and related project ideas on wildfireprepday.org.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is conducting a full-scale demonstration live today, March 6.  According to a press release shared by IBHS they will cast embers at a fully built structure inside of their test laboratory in Chester County, South Carolina.  The test structure is built like a small family home.  One side of the structure resembles a home that follows wildfire resistant building and landscaping techniques, while the other side is built ignoring wildfire resistant building techniques.

Because embers or firebrands, small or larger pieces of burning materials that are spread by winds during wildfire events cause most home ignitions, this experiment will allow you to see where ember ignitions can occur in the home ignition zone during wildfire events.

The demonstration will be recorded so that you can view how homes ignite during wildfire events and learn why it is important for residents in wildfire-prone areas to make changes to the home and landscape immediately surrounding the home to reduce their risk of loss during a wildfire event.  Check out some of NFPA®’s resources to help you improve your safety before the next wildfire burns where you live.

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