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[Update: Nov. 16, 2:30 p.m. EST - Since Monday's post, the Camp Fire has destroyed over 9,700 residential homes and 290 commercial structures. It currently stands at 141,000 acres burned with 40% containment. 63 fatalities are attributed to the fire. The Woolsey Fire has destroyed 548 residences and is at 98,362 acres burned with 62% containment. The Hill Fire is now 100% contained. As these and other fires burn, see the shared links below for updated information.]

[Update: Nov. 14, 4:45 p.m. EST - Since Monday's post, the Woolsey fire has destroyed hundreds of structures in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, causing three fatalities. and the Camp Fire in Northern California has become the deadliest fire in the state's history, with 48 fatalities. As these and other fires burn, see the shared links below for updated information.]

 

As three separate wildfires burn across California, reports on stretched suppression operations, massive structural losses, and tragic fatalities dominate the news.   

 

According to an L.A. Times briefing (as of Monday 24 November, 10:45 a.m. PST):

 

“The Woolsey fire has scorched more than 85,550 acres, burning homes in Malibu, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks while threatening parts of Simi Valley and West Hills...

The Hill fire pushed through canyons to the edge of Camarillo Springs and Cal State Channel Islands.

The Camp fire in Northern California’s Butte County has destroyed more than 6,700 structures and killed at least 29. It's the state's most destructive fire and is tied for the state’s deadliest fire.”

It can be difficult to follow the unfolding events presented by the various outlets.  Some that we have found helpful as we follow the wildfires are:

 

 

Earlier today, the Firewise USA® Program shared on social media: “More than 7,800 firefighters continue battling the Camp, Hill and Woolsey CA wildfires. Our heartfelt thanks to all those men and women.” 

 

There are Firewise USA® sites impacted and those residents remain close to the heart of the program as these fires continue to burn.  The resiliency of California residents will once again be tested in the coming days and months but there is no doubt as to their ability to stand up to the challenge. 

 

If you are in California, remember to pay close attention to the official social media accounts, alert systems, and media updates of your local emergency response agencies for the latest fire and evacuation news.

 

Photo credit: Getty Images, pulled 12 November 2018 

NFPA wants to connect with you on wildfire and fire & life safety public education beyond just blogs. Many of the Wildfire Division and Public Education staff are active on Twitter and bring their diverse backgrounds to their real-time updates on NFPA’s outreach, messaging, and new resources. 
This is another outlet for you to learn about what what’s happening and how it can benefit your local efforts. Interact and engage with us where outreach and community risk reduction occur. You don’t need to have a Twitter account to read the Twitter feeds, but if you do, please follow these great staff accounts: 
Karen Berard-Reed(@KBerardReed) and Chelsea Rubadou (@Chelsea_NFPA) share that, “We are Community Risk Reduction Strategists at NFPA working to meet the needs of NFPA stakeholders in the CRR space. We tweet about events, conversations, and innovations that move CRR into the forefront of the fire and life safety conversation.”
Michele Steinberg, NFPA’s Wildfire Division Director, (@Michele_NFPA) brings her nearly 30-years of disaster safety mitigation and education focus to Twitter. She shares that, “I style myself “NFPA’s cheerleader for wildfire safety.” While I do use Twitter to promote what we’re doing at NFPA, I love how the platform allows me to cheer on what others are doing and bring timely issues to folks’ attention by using the all-important hashtag: #wildfire / #hazmit / #Firewise / and #infoknowledge.”  
Lisa Braxton, Public Education Specialist with NFPA, (@LisaReidbraxton) promotes blog posts from NFPA’s Safety Source, along with highlights of new resources and online educational opportunities from NFPA Public Education.
Megan Fitzgerald-McGowanwith the Wildfire Division (@meganfitz34) brings her experience as a wildland firefighter to NFPA’s wildfire division. She promotes NFPA resources related to wildfire risk reduction around homes and communities, encourages a collaborative approach to wildfire preparedness, and shares current wildfire related research.
Andrea Vastis, Senior Director for Public Education at NFPA, (@AndreaVastis) is a public health education professional. She explains that, “I follow AARP Livable Communities and CDC Injury Prevention and Adolescent Health Centers. I communicate about health events, public health observances, and timely updates related to fire and life safety.”
Faith Berrywith the Wildfire Division (@Faithannberry) shares, “I love using Twitter to help people find their way to the latest wildfire news on NFPA's Xchange. Did you know that you can join in on the conversation? I like to hear how our stakeholders are making their communities safer and share their successes.” 
Laura King, NFPA’s Public Education Representative in Canada, (@LauraKingNFPA) brings the Canadian and North American connections to NFPA’s outreach on Twitter. She shares that, “I tweet about all things public-education related in Canada, from Sparky to sprinklers and everything in between!”
I am also on Twitter at (@Lucian_NFPA). In my work managing the Wildfire Division’s international outreach, I share highlights from international conferences, the work of NFPA’s great partner around the world, and lessons from international field tours that NFPA enjoys as it learns more about the global challenge of wildfire community risk reduction. 
In addition to these staff accounts, you can learn more about the Firewise USA® Program (@Firewise); follow the official Twitter profile for the National Fire Protection Association for the latest news on fire and life safety, code info and research (@NFPA); and gain valuable youth-focused public education resources from Sparky the Fire Dog (@Sparky_Fire_Dog). 

The November/December NFPA Journal® is out and its Wildfire column explores social equity in wildfire preparedness and outreach. While fire does not discriminate, we need to make sure we aren’t just talking to the residents who may already be well organized and able to act on wildfire risk reduction. A great example of bridging the class divide in Hawaii points to a positive future.

 

For some backstory, NFPA hosted a listening session in 2018 to learn what “community risk reduction” meant to an audience of fire service and policy implementers. The attendees highlighted a range of topics, but it was a singular mention about the importance of social equity in community outreach that got me thinking about how we reach all communities at risk to wildfire.

 

This question is as important internationally, as it is across the United States. The example from the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization on honoring what communities have already done, as well as their existing capacity to build risk reduction, gave answers to that question. I hope the column gets you thinking too.

 

I am also happy to share that after 5 years and 29 Wildfire columns, this edition will be my last as its writer. Starting this January, NFPA’s Wildfire Division Director, Michele Steinberg, will take the Wildfire column to new heights as she brings her nearly 30 years of disaster safety mitigation and education experience to its voice.

 

5 years is a long time and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to share the diverse issues of wildfire with the readers of NFPA Journal®, and you. The column has explored wildfire evacuation lessons, post fire policy assessments, and the impacts of climate change. It has highlighted the burden on volunteer fire departments, the challenge of rebuilding on local governments, and budgeting. It’s also shown the steadfast resiliency of residents in the face of risk and the positive role NFPA plays.

 

As we look ahead, Michele shares that, “I’m grateful to Lucian for using the column to illuminate so many facets of wildland fire management, risk reduction, and community outreach for the past five years. A column in Journal is truly a bully pulpit to reach, teach, inspire and instigate around urgent concerns for fire and life safety. If I can help readers see things in a new way and question the status quo, I’ll have fulfilled my mission. While wildfires are inevitable, home destruction and human suffering are not. As [NFPA President] Jim Pauley says about our fire and life safety mission, “we still have work to do.” I hope readers will join me in learning about the gaps in our safety and how they can take action to change future outcomes. “

 

Enjoy this month’s column and the many more to come from NFPA.

Weather forecast map of the San Diego, CA area. Color gradient reflects the relative humidity, much of the area is red with percentages below 20%, going in to single digits.
Wildfires can occur anywhere when the conditions are right. One of the most horrific wildfires in the history of the United States occurred in October 1871 in Wisconsin, “The Great Peshtigo Fire.” In that fire alone which occurred on the same date as the Great Chicago Fire over 1,500 people may have perished though there is no accurate record of the loss.
Low humidity, winds, dried vegetation (perhaps from extended periods of drought), the type of topography, and warm temperatures can all contribute to the behavior and spread of a wildfire. But what makes a wildfire a slowly creeping natural event, a normal part of many ecosystems, and what causes it to become a raging mega fire? How can firefighters and residents understand what the potential risks are during their wildfire incident? How do conditions change and can these changes cause wildland firefighters to be put at greater risk while they engage in suppression and mitigation efforts?
Researchers are studying how wildfires burn and how weather conditions can contribute to wildfire severity.  One new study being carried out by Worcester Polytechnic Institute by professor, Albert Simeoni, who was once himself a firefighter in France. The study is examining how fires burn vegetation in a wind tunnel. This experiment tries to help understand how fires grow and spread in natural environments under different wind conditions. Another study, by the Fire Protection Research Foundation (NFPA’s research affiliate), is Pathways for Building Fire Spread at the Wildland Urban Interface, .This was completed in collaboration with Dr. Michael Gollner and his research team from the University of Maryland, and identifies pathways for fire spread at the wildland urban interface and gaps in information to inform prevention and protection strategies.   Yet another Research Foundation study, "A Collection of Geospatial Technological Approaches for Wildland and Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Events", looks at, “key details involving current applications of geospatial technology to address wildland and WUI fire hazards. They provide a summary of core information regarding the features and specific use of different geospatial tools, with a primary focus on Graphic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS), and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies.” NOAA is currently providing weather predictors for wildfire severitythat are being used in before and during wildfire response.
Perhaps in the future there will be better wildfire weather warning systems like other severe warning systems available for weather occurrences like tornadoes and hurricanes, which can help residents and firefighters better understand the severity of the fire complex approaching and developing within their community to help them make better suppression and evacuation choices focusing on life safety. Maybe just like a cat 5 hurricane prediction, weather and fire researchers using satellite information and information about vegetation and topography will better be able to model the severity of a potential wildfire event.
Image: courtesy of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
residents raking up flammable debris near a houseIf you are wondering if wildfire safety projects are worth the effort, check out the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network’snew blog, “Does Wildfire Mitigation Work? 16 Examples and Counting.” The article explores success stories shared from seven western states including Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and California.
The stories highlight the importance of working on wildfire preparedness projects focusing on the home and the area surrounding the home, the Home Ignition Zone. One example of a home in Redding, California that survived the Carr Fire was a home owned by Randal Hauser. He not only had made changes to his home including a metal roof and clean gutters but also paid attention especially to the five-foot zone around the home using cement walkways, crushed rock, and other non-combustible materials.
In Nevada, another homeowner who made updates to his home including a class A rated roof, concrete border and deck made with synthetic materials was given assistance by the Nevada Division of Forestry to help with supplemental fuels work. Even though the Berry Fire came within feet of his home, his home was spared and he is credited with creating a safer location for firefighters to stage their firefighting efforts.
For other great stories of success and survival check out the Fire Adapted Learning Network’s blog.  Also, check out other examples of Firewise USA® site success stories. Wildfire project safety work does make a difference. We can all play a role in creating safer neighborhoods and cities. Learn more about how you can get involved today!
Image credit: Residents engage in wildfire safety project work in Bustins Island, Maine. Photo by Faith Berry, NFPA.
Screenshot of The Weather Channel video on YouTube
The Weather Channel has created a video that shows how a wildfire spreads. It does not take much for a fire to ignite when the conditions are right, and this video not only gives you an on the ground view but also provides a bird’s eye view with nicely embedded graphics.
Other weather conditions like high winds, low relative humidity in the vegetation, and extended drought conditions can all contribute to wildfire intensity.
By better understanding what causes wildfires and home ignitions during wildfires, residents can better prepare their homes and landscape surrounding the home before a wildfire occurs and have plans in place to make their escape more quickly. Check out the video to get a sense of what a wildfire can be like.
ASIP training field work - students evaluate a home for ignition resistanceCalifornia has experienced large, destructive wildfires in the past few years that have led to thousands of destroyed homes and businesses. The time is NOW for fire service, facility managers, and insurance and realty professionals to learn how to identify and prevent ignition risks to homes. NFPA will bring its Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire classroom training to the Hyatt Regency Orange County in the Garden Grove area of Anaheim on December 13-14, 2018. 
Participants will learn the science behind how homes ignite from wildfire. More importantly, they'll 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. Register now for NFPA's Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire two-day training. This class will provide valuable skills and knowledge to help you in your wildfire safety and loss prevention mission.
screenshot Meghan Housewright, Michele Steinberg and Miranda Mockrin, Idaho State Capitol
Presenters on issues surrounding wildfire risk, land use and regulation came together last week at the Idaho State Capitol Building in Boise to speak on Law, Planning and Wildfire in the Wildland-Urban Interface. Subtitled "the future of government and governance of disaster in the West," the day-long symposium was coordinated by University of Idaho College of Law associate dean and law professor Stephen Miller along with Tyre Holfeltz,  Lands Program Manager on Fire Prevention and Risk Mitigation for the Idaho Department of Lands. Stemming from a federal grant received several years ago to address wildfire issues at the community level, the symposium was designed to bring together experts from diverse arenas to open a conversation on the challenges of wildfire risk reduction on private lands.
The presentations ranged from economic trends to post-fire recovery planning to case studies of successful planning activities to the limits of planning approaches - and even telling the story of wildfire and community through art. The day was packed with thoughtful conversation and discussion from multiple perspectives.
The call for papers for this event went out nearly a year ahead of time. Submitters wrote papers that will be published in the Idaho Law Review, including one that I worked on with my colleague Meghan Housewright regarding the impact of absentee landowners and vacant property on WUI risks. For a recording of the full session, visit the Idaho in Session archives page of Idaho Public Television.
Image: screenshot from Idaho Public Television recording on October 19, 2018, showing the panel on the limits of planning for wildfire in the WUI. From left to right, Miranda Mockrin, Research Scientist, US Forest Service Northern Research Station; Meghan Housewright, Director, NFPA Fire and Life Safety Policy Institute; Michele Steinberg, Director, NFPA Wildfire Division.

Sue Tone of the Prescott, Arizona, Daily Courier provides the background on the creation of the "Project Andrew" video in her recent article, "Collaborative efforts for fire safety video debut." The family of fallen firefighter Andrew Ashcraft, who died with 18 of his fellow Granite Mountain Hotshot crew members at Yarnell Hill in 2013, has helped initiate not only a new Firewise USA® site near the Prescott National Forest, but has also joined in collaboration with multiple agencies on a fuels mitigation Forest Stewardship Plan.
As the article notes, Yavapai County ranks 4th in the nation for numbers of Firewise USA sites in good standing. Timber Ridge in Prescott, the county seat, was the first Firewise USA site when the program began in 2002. The Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission, or PAWUIC, has been active for even longer than the Firewise program, bringing agencies and landowners together around wildfire safety since 1990. Yet the need for collaborative efforts and fire adapted community action has never been greater, as wildfires continue as a growing threat.
"Project Andrew: A Yavapai Firewise Community in Arizona" is just over 6 minutes and well worth a view of what can be done to reduce wildfire risks across private and public lands. The "healing haven" that Tom Ashcraft, his wife Jenn, and so many others are helping create is a true testament to his son's mission of protecting life and property from wildfire.
It is that time of year and you are working hard to make your yard and home safer from wildfire, so what do you do with the pine needles, leaves, branches, weeds and other stuff you get rid of from on and around your home?  In my recent travels to film stories about communities who made a difference in their wildfire safety, I heard from one homeowner who told me that before they knew it created greater risk, they just threw the grass clippings and other debris they removed doing yard work downhill below their home.  An even worse scenario is when, individuals remove material from their yards and dump it in a park or other common area.
It is just as important to properly dispose of the debris that you remove as it is to complete your home wildfire safety maintenance project.  That is the important final step of any project work.  Removing debris improperly or just keeping it on your property can add flammable material that can ignite from embers or burn from other flame sources and actually contribute to increased risk of loss from wildfire.
It is important to know what you are going to do with all the stuff you want to remove to reduce your wildfire risk.  Some solutions include:
1. Use goats to eat up unwanted material.  Did you know they love to eat poison oak?
2. Haul debris to a local solid waste facility.  Some will even compost the material.
3. Burning can be an option if it is carried out and coordinated with your local fire and other land managing agencies.  One community had a portable incinerator they used that burnt even large branches to tiny ash.   Make sure you are aware of all ordinances in your community before using this option. In some areas there are air pollution regulations to be aware of.
4. Chip material, and keep mulched material at least five feet away from your home.  One community donated clean chips to a local recreation area for trail maintenance work.
5. Find a biomass facility that can use the material for a product like pellets for wood stoves.
6. Create craft objects such as picture frames etc. from materials removed from around their yard.  This can actually become a community fund raising project!
 
7.Pool resources to rent a green dumpster to help neighborhood residents remove debris in a cost effective way.  Enjoying a meal together afterwards helps build on relationships developed by working together cleaning up.
For more ideas about how communities worked together to reduce their threat of loss during a fire check out the Prep Day success pages. What solution have you created to remove your materials?

Title screen of new  course, homes and wildfire in the background

 

Gain a basic understanding of how wildfires spread and ignite homes in our new interactive  class, Understanding the Wildfire Threat to Homes. An overview of fire history, fire basics, and how homes burn. This easy to follow course is available on our website, does not require a log in, and should take approximately thirty minutes to complete. Residents and stakeholders will learn about:

  • The threat of wildfire to homes and communities.
  • Three things that can affect the speed and intensity of wildfire.
  • The primary sources of ignition for a home during a wildfire.

 

You will also hear from Jack Cohen as he shares some simple actions that greatly decrease the threat from embers and surface fires. Use and share this knowledge to increase the chances of homes and other community assets surviving a wildfire.


As Jack says, if your home doesn't ignite, it can't burn.

In the September/October 2018 edition, the NFPA Journal remembers the 100th anniversary of Minnesota’s chaotic and deadly Cloquet fire

 

Starting on October 12, 1918, the wildfire would tear through 35 towns, leaving thousands of structures destroyed and nearly 560 fatalities in its path.  

 

The article shares newspaper reports of the time that paint the tragic picture of people trying to escape the flames and the fire’s wild aftermath.

 

As a reminder for us all today, the Journal shares that, “An article published by NFPA in January 1919 pointed to a lack of preventative measures, such as creating firebreaks by clearing vegetation and plowing, which contributed to the fire’s devastation."

 

Catch the full article here in the September/October NFPA Journal.

Picture shows community members standing in a group near a pickup truck and a trailer both loaded with branches and vegetation.  The trailer is overflowing with debris from their wildfire risk reduction activity

 

According to a Vail Daily article, Colorado is ranked third in the nation with homes located in areas of high wildfire risk. With this risk comes responsibility for homeowners to educate themselves about how to reduce their risk and take action to complete wildfire safety projects. The Colorado Realtor's first project was creating a guide to inform homeowners about their risk and define steps that could be taken to reduce their risk of loss through “Project Wildfire”.

 

Reading through the Colorado Realtor’s website I noticed that they wanted to develop other incentives for encouraging residents to get involved in mitigation efforts including, “Support the idea of creating incentives (tax deductions or credits, lower interest rates) for residents who provide evidence of voluntary wildfire safety compliance.”

 

The article described how homeowners can make a significant difference by completing wildfire safety project work, in not only improving their home’s survivability but also providing for the safety of responding firefighters. Learn more about how you can create effective changes and improve the survivability of your neighborhood by visiting the Firewise USA ® site and share your success story with us here.

 

Photo credit: Wildfire safety project work in Mosca, Colorado submitted by Anna Dvorak.

Preparing a home and property to resist ignition from a wildfire can seem like an overwhelming task.  Where do you start?  What type of and how much vegetation do you remove?  Does it all have to go?  Who makes the decisions? 
Firewise USA® has a new video that helps answer those questions. Watch as a wildfire mitigation specialist evaluates a home and property with owners.  See what concerns she identifies and learn the steps recommended to reduce the likelihood of ignition.  Listen as the homeowners share their initial fears about being left out of the decision making process and their reaction to the work that has been done.
Remember, it's all about making choices.
Fire Prevention Week logoFire Prevention Week begins on October 7. It's the perfect time to find out more about wildfire and what you can do to keep your home and family safe!
This year's theme is "Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere." This is just as true of wildfire as it is about any other fire risk your home faces. In that spirit, NFPA's Wildfire Division is offering three new ways for you to get wildfire safety information throughout the week.
LOOK at our brand new wildfire risk reduction video debuting on Monday, October 8. It's all about the choices homeowners have to prepare their property to resist ignition during a wildfire. You can also check out our YouTube playlist for classic videos throughout the week.
On Wednesday, October 10, you can LISTEN to national experts on wildfires and insurance during our webinar. Register now to get important tips about financial preparedness and how to protect your home and belongings, and to ask your questions of the experts in real-time. A recording of the webinar will be available for a limited time following the live event. 
Expand your knowledge with a new and interactive  course, "Understanding the Wildfire Threat to Homes." LEARN how homes ignite from wildfire and how important it is to take risk reduction steps before fire ever starts. This learning module will debut on Friday, October 12. 
To keep aware and well-informed about wildfire all year long, be sure to bookmark www.firewise.org and visit often!

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