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graphic showing a home, patio, and immediate 0-5 feet around it, also know as the immediate zone.

Here at NFPA we spend a lot of time sharing resources to help residents who are trying to reduce their risk from wildfire. We frequently speak of the home ignition zone and what actions to take, sometimes forgetting that people might be new to the entire concept. 

With that in mind I'd like to take a moment to review the what home ignition zone is and its first component - the home and the immediate area.

The Home Ignition Zone is a concept coined by retired USFS researcher Dr. Jack Cohen.  The basic idea is that the condition of the home (what it is made of and its state of repair) and the vegetation surrounding it, out to 100 feet, have the biggest influence on whether or not a home will ignite from a wildfire. Original research by Dr. Cohen and additional research from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) shows that the first 0 to 5 feet around the structure, known as the immediate zone or noncombustible zone, has the greatest impact on your risk and should be your starting point.

This area is critical due to the primary source of how homes ignite - embers and small surface flames.  You want to keep this zone free of  combustible materials, which can be a landing bed for embers or can help carry surface fires up to the house.

Some items to consider in the immediate zone:    wooden steps to a home covered in dried leaves and pine needles, combustible fuels right next to wooden lattice

  •  Is there dead vegetation, dried leaves, pine needles, and ground debris near foundations?
  • Has hardscaping been used around perimeters to keep them free of litter/debris? Are there concrete, stone, or gravel walkways?
  • Have wood mulch products been replaced with non-combustible alternatives, such as crushed stone/gravel options?
  • Are there trees/shrubs next to the home? Are there branches overhanging the roof or within 10 feet of chimneys?

Check out these resources to learn more about the area and what actions to take to reduce your risk in this zone:

  • Preparing Homes for Wildfire - get recommendations and download tip sheets (English and Spanish) to share with your family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Immediate (noncombustible zone) wildfire research fact sheet - download this fact sheet and share far and wide with those in wildfire prone areas.
  • Understanding the Wildfire Threat to Homes -This online learning module is an overview of fire history, fire basics, and how homes burn. The module can be completed in approximately 30 minutes and is available in English and Spanish.

By spending a little time in this area you can greatly improve the chances of your home withstanding a wildfire and gain a greater peace of mind.

 

Sign up for NFPA Network to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

For more than a decade, federal and state agencies, local governments, and nonprofit advocates of wildfire safety have been working to get their arms around the magnitude and scope of wildfire risk in the U.S. The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy includes protecting homes and communities as one of its three main objectives. Yet prior decades of research had largely ignored aspects of community risk in favor of a focus on managing vegetation and landscapes rather than people and property. 

 

This year, however, the public can benefit from the results of recent work to combine what we know about the science of home ignition with the known information about wildfire spread and community vulnerability. I talk about why I think the new Wildfire Risk to Communities platform is so incredibly valuable in the current issue of NFPA Journal. In addition to my thorough admiration for the accomplishment of agencies and their partners in bringing this resource to the public within two years of a Congressional directive, I found the risk information on the platform to be presented in an attractive, easy-to-use, and compelling manner. It is a giant step forward in helping community leaders justify and advocate for improved wildfire planning and safety. 

 

-Follow me on Twitter @Michele_NFPA for more information about wildfire safety resources!

In a year that has been described as unprecedented, September has lived up to that reality. In the last several days Washington, Oregon, and California have dealt with extreme weather conditions resulting in devastating wildfires.  Many of our partners and Firewise USA participants are in a state of heightened alert, watching to see what the current fires will do and monitoring for new ones.

 In light of that, and the fact that September is National Preparedness Month, we want to encourage folks to take a few minutes to make sure you and your family are ready. If there are wildfires in your area:

  • Stay aware of the latest news and updates from your local media, fire department, and state agency responsible for wildfire
  • Get your family, home and pets prepared to evacuate.
  • Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle.
  • Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats and potted plants in wooden containers either indoors or as far away from the home, shed and garage as possible.
  • Close and protect your home’s openings, including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, garage doors and pet doors to prevent embers from penetrating your home.
  • Leave as early as possible, before you’re told to evacuate. Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire, and helps ensure residents’ safety.

This week has been heartbreaking to watch. The staff in NFPA's wildfire division would like to acknowledge that there are Firewise USA sites impacted and those residents remain close to the heart of the program as these fires continue to burn. 

 

 As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Handing Firewise USA recognition sign to recipientAs wildfires ignite landscapes and communities during this active fire year, interest in community action to improve wildfire safety is at an all-time high. Folks are seeking out the Firewise USA recognition program in greater numbers than ever before, with hundreds of new sites in the process of having their applications approved. This is great news, but when articles come out that a new site has met the criteria, the headlines often say that the community has become “Firewise-certified” or “earned their certification from Firewise.”

 

What’s in a name? And why doesn’t “recognition” smell as sweet to copy editors as “certification?” Often, the brief articles I see celebrating a community’s hard work to become safer from wildfire will use NFPA’s information about Firewise verbatim, and will talk about the community being recognized for its efforts, even when the headline says “certified.” All this would be simply a fussy English major’s headache, if it weren’t for the real concern our program team has about what “certification” and “certified” imply.

 

A quick web search showed a pretty consistent pattern that certification applies most often to people, not to groups, and implies a high professional standard of achievement that allows an individual to access a certain job role or professional qualification. Certified accountants come to mind. One of the few certifications I found applying to an organization had to do with the ability of organizations to access specific government funding. And of course, NFPA develops and provides certifications of various kinds to help fire inspectors, electricians, and others demonstrate technical competency in their fields.

 

NFPA’s national recognition of neighborhoods where residents organize and follow guidelines to become safer from wildfire doesn’t apply to individuals (and certainly not individual homes). Yes, there are criteria that have to be met, but they are fairly flexible and are intended to encourage people living in high-risk areas to get started on a years-long, community-wide journey toward greater safety. Unlike a certification, Firewise USA recognition is not an end-point, nor the end-all-and-be-all of wildfire safety.

 

The more we see “certified” and “certification” being tossed around in articles and online conversation, the more the perception of Firewise USA seems to become warped and conflated with individual homes meeting some mythical standard of safety or insurability. This perception is understandable, especially in California, where more and more people living in high-risk areas have experienced insurance rate increases or have had to shop for insurance when their carrier declines to continue covering their property. However, we simply can’t claim that any given property is safer or its risk has been reduced just because the minimum community-wide criteria have been met on a voluntary basis. While we’ve seen positive effects on overall community safety over time, Firewise recognition is not a magic wand we wave to make a home with a flammable roof and overgrown vegetation safe from wildfire. Recognition is our encouragement and acknowledgment that communities have taken the first steps toward safety, and toward a sustained effort to change the results when wildfire strikes.

 

Photo: Community members presented with Firewise USA Recognition sign, NFPA.

Evacuating large groups of people with little notice during an evolving wildfire event is challenge enough in any other year.  But in 2020, the added risk to evacuees and responders from COVID-19 exposure hangs ominously over an already difficult effort.  So what is being done to balance this current reality?  The latest NFPA Podcast talks with Luke Beckman, a director at the Red Cross Pacific Division, to learn how the organization revamped its response plans and operations ahead of the massive wildfires now striking Northern California.

 

I caught up with Jesse Roman, Associate Editor of NFPA Journal and the host of The NFPA Podcast, to learn what stood out to him from the conversation.  Jesse shared, “It was amazing to learn how the pandemic forced the Red Cross to completely change so many aspects of its disaster response. Even things like feeding and sheltering evacuees—stuff the Red Cross has been doing a very long time—suddenly had to be completely re-imagined in just a few months because of the virus."

 

Jesse went onto explain that, “It’s incredible how quickly they were able develop new strategies, train their huge staff of volunteers, and be ready to jump right into action when the fires hit.”

 

This conversation, "Disaster Planning During a Pandemic", has additional insight about similar evacuation planning for late July’s Hurricane Isaias, and can be found under the “Latest Podcasts” from August on The NFPA Podcast page.  Previous editions are also worth your time and you can listen and subscribe to it on Apple, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

Today’s LA Times article about the numerous wildfires north of San Francisco, CA, and in Northern California highlights in stark terms their current challenge.  “…The sheer magnitude of what has already burned is sobering: about 1.3 million acres this month alone, with four more months of potential fire season to go. Only 2018 saw more land scorched in California — over an entire year.” 

Wildfires in California are a normal occurrence, but two factors make the current situation more severe then we’re used to hearing about at this time of year.  One is a tremendous amount of lightning and the other is that August’s dry weather creates a much different landscape then what meets the usual wildfires of October and November. 

 

As of Monday, August 24, there are over two dozen major fires and multi-fire event “lightning complexes”.  The San Francisco Chronicle has a very good live-map of the current wildfires and their status information.  The LA Times explains that, “the blazes include the LNU Lightning Complex fire, which at nearly 350,000 acres is the second-largest fire in California history. The SCU Lightning Complex fire, at more than 347,000 acres, is the next largest.  Combined, they dwarf the Thomas fire, which at 281,893 acres shattered the records just three years ago.”

 

The majority of the roughly 1100 residential and commercial structures lost and evacuations seen thus far have occurred since August 15th, “which marked the start of what officials are calling a “lightning siege” of about 12,000 strikes that started an estimated 585 fires…” in the state, as noted by the LA Times. 

 

I spoke with NFPA’s Wildfire Field Representative, Dave Shew – also a long-time California resident – about the role lightning is playing in ignitions and he explained that usually at this time of year, weather that is generating lightning is more north in the Sierra Nevada Mountain areas, not down towards San Francisco, and never this concentrated.  He stressed, “the widespread lightning siege in the Bay area is unheard of at this time of year.” 

 

Lightning is also connecting with a landscape full of dry vegetation baking in August’s heat.  There is also little respite delivered by over-night lower temperatures that one would usually see in the fall months. 

 

From his vantage point in Napa County, CA, north of San Francisco, Dave shared with me that these current wildfires, “seem to have a very different feel from our typical fall wind event fires.  With those, we get hurricane force winds blowing everything up, but as soon as the wind stops blowing, the fires essentially go out.  With these, we are still in the summer, with longer, hotter days, and very little or no cooling at night to allow for a “recovery” period.”

 

Dave went onto explain that these current fires, “appear to be largely topography driven, and yes, there are significant winds, but much more influence from dry vegetation and topography than normal.”  As lightning findings this fuel, he explains that it is, “not uncommon for them to smolder for a week or more before they start really burning.  So unfortunately, we are nowhere near out of the woods yet.”

 

Photo Credits:
1) Dave Shew, NFPA. 8-17-2020 PM Hennesey and Gamble Columns.  
2) Dave Shew, NFPA. 8-24-2020 current smoke obscuring views from a similar perspective. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

A cornerstone of the Firewise USA program is neighbors working together to reduce their shared risk from wildfire. Each year residents in participating sites work together to meet goals identified in their action plan that increase the ignition resistance of their homes, property, and community.  As we continue to wade our way through 2020 and the ongoing COVID-19 situation, I want to take a moment to remind folks of how important this work is and provide some resources to assist in meeting the annual renewal requirements.

 

 As a part of the program, each site is required to annually invest the equivalent of one volunteer hour per dwelling unit in wildfire risk reduction actions. If your site has identified 100 homes within its boundary, than 100 hours of work or the monetary equivalent, need to be completed for the year.  This is still the expectation in 2020 and should be reported in your renewal application, due November 20th.

 

Over the years many of our sites have achieved this requirement by hosting a community work day, something that has been difficult to safely achieve this year.  Don't let that hold you back.  Remember, hours worked and money spent by individuals on their property count towards your whole community. Use this year to really drive home the importance of work done on the home and in the 0-5-foot space. 

 

Science tells us there are a lot of simple tasks that make an impact on the chance of a home surviving a wildfire.  Share these resources with your neighbors to help guide their actions, then collect their hours.  In no time at all your community will be on its way to completing the 2020 renewal.

  • How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfire one-pager (English and Spanish)
  • Research Fact Sheet series - developed in partnership with IBHS, these fact sheets address different aspects of the home and provide suggestions for how to improve them.
  • Weekend Wildfire Preparedness - our friends at IBHS have developed a list of different weekend activities that over time will make a big impact
  • Some communities have still been able to host chipper days with individuals working on their property and bringing the material to the road for crews to pick up.  Just make sure you are following any local guidelines/safety precautions

 

Remember, preparing for wildfires and lowering home ignitability is a year-round event – not limited to a weekend or two leading up to summer. Many of your residents did excellent work this spring, this a reminder to keep it going.  It might be time to revisit those gutters, the 0-5 foot area where they rake up the leaves/needles/other debris, or to mow that lawn again.

 

For more resources to assist with your renewal visit our website. If you have any questions or needs assistance please fill out our contact us form.

 

Sign up for NFPA Networkto stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

  

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

“Do we have an international wildfire problem that needs an international solution?” This was the question posed to a group of diverse wildfire stakeholders from across the globe at a virtual International Wildfire Workshop, hosted by NFPA in July.  This event was a continuation of a June, 2019, workshop with the goal of having discussions about collaborative funding efforts to fulfill global wildfire research needs and how this group can work with NFPA Applied Research and the Fire Protection Research Foundation to collectively identify project needs and funding sources for future work.  

The virtual conversation was just the beginning of what promises to be a productive working group that will engage and support future collaboration on research around wildfire science, mitigation and outreach. Although, years ago, destructive wildfires were primarily localized to fire-prone landscapes, this is no longer the case. With the warming climate, communities in Sweden, Greenland, Siberia, among others, are experiencing wildfires where history has shown they were essentially non-existent in the past.  Other places, like Northern Europe and Latin America are seeing an increase in wildfires and their impacts.  

Destructive and unwanted fires in the landscape are no longer a localized issue, but a global one in need of an international solution. Too often we fail to look outside of our own community, state/province, or even country for solutions to our wildfire challenges. It’s time that we not only learn from others around the world, but we work together to holistically address the vast array of research gaps for wildfire safety.  

NFPA’s virtual workshop gathered a diverse group of participants providing their wildfire insight from various organizations and agencies in Chile, Lebanon, South Africa, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.   

 

A few key themes emerged from these discussions as potential research gaps that could be pursued collectively as a group, including: 
 

  • Establishing the common principles of data collection for wildfire and developing a standard and simple means of collecting and analyzing data about fire risk, behavior, and impact; 
  • Exploring Fire Danger Rating Systems and its use for identifying present fire risk along with long term infrastructure planning; 
  • Expanding social research, particularly in developing/third world countries;  
  • Identifying the total cost of fire and social equity; and 
  • Developing a means of transferring research to practice in developing countries. 

 

Wildfires are one of the greatest challenges of our time. Bringing great minds and organizations together with diverse perspectives to holistically confront the global wildfire challenge is an essential next step.  

Photo Credit: Vaccarisses, Catalonia, Spain, 2018. Lucian Deaton, NFPA

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

 

One of the privilege's of managing the Firewise USA program is the opportunity I have to connect with communities and hear their stories.  My colleagues and I love to learn about how a sites get started on their wildfire journeys, what motivation moves the residents to do the work, the resources they use to meet their goals and objectives, etc.  We also know that participants and interested communities want to connect and learn from each other, and are excited to facilitate that exchange through our blog.  A big thank you to Jonathon Hartsell of Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc. (BRRCD) and Samantha Greeno, Buck Mountain Firewise USA Coordinator for sharing the efforts of their community.

 

Background

The largest subdivision in the county, Buck Mountain is a 3000+ acre development, with approximately 236 homes, and 351 unimproved tracts of land, with over 30+ miles of gravel and partially paved roads.  In 2000, over 800 acres burned in the community which provided a wakeup call to potential wildfire risks. However the path to Firewise USA recognition took time.  Buck Mountain achieved that status in 2017 and is one of thirty eight active sites in North Carolina and the only current participant in Wilkes County. 

 

Successes and Lessons Learned

Fire mitigation on our mountain is an ongoing, challenging endeavor.  Buck Mountain has a Firewise Committee, has held Firewise Fairs for our POA, created a SAFE Zone, a secondary Emergency Vehicle access road, a Helipad, and posted Buck Mountain community gathering to promote Firewise USA and wildfire risk reduction efforts by residentsevacuation signage around the mountain.

 

If the attendance of our recent Firewise Fair is any indication, our POA seems to be starting to understand what a Firewise USA designation means, and that it is an ongoing process.  For a community our size, I believe they are also starting to realize that community participation is an absolute necessity, in order to be successful.  Buck Mountain Firewise awareness is impacting our own POA, and our hopes is that of surrounding communities, as well.  We are fortunate enough to have a strong group of supporting partners (e.g. CFD, NCFS, BRRCD, Wilkes EM, etc.).

Completed Firewise Projects & Noteworthy Dates

*11/2017- Buck Mountain Property Owners Association (BMPOA) members attended NW Fire & Rescue College (S215: Fire Operations in the Wildland/Urban Interface)

*12/2017- Buck Mountain became a Firewise USA site

*2017- Fire evacuation signage put in place throughout the community

*2018- Deer Run Medical-Fire Access/Evacuation Road completed

*2018- Staghorn Road MM 4.5 Fire Evacuation Route completed

*3/2018- awarded the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Award ($500.00)

*5/2018- Firewise Fair with mock ATV rescue, and mock evacuation for BMPOA, Champion Fire Department (CFD), and Wilkes Rescue using new Evacuation road.  Firewise packets with evacuation plan and map, and policies given out to BMPOA.

*8/2018- Buck Mountain awarded the NC Community Firewise Mitigation Grant (value $8,000.00).  This grant was used for “Firewise Coupons” for members to help off-set the cost of fire mitigation around their home, 2-Chipping programs (fall/spring) for our members, tree removal at Safe Zone, canopy removal and trimming for emergency vehicles, widening of switchbacks on new emergency vehicle access road, and a community Firewise fair.

*11/2018- Helipad completed

*12/2018- Firewise FEDERAL personnel tour of Buck Mountain.

*Spring 2019- Blue Rock 12,000-gallon water tank installed.

*9/2019- Wildfire & Wildfire Mitigation Presentation to BMPOA by Justin Query & Mickie Parsons, North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS).  This was a 3-hour presentation held in our club house, and 19 members attended.  Awesome presentation!

*11/2019- Individual Home Assessment Training for BMPOA members, by Mickie Parsons & other NC Forestry personnel.  Three POA members attended the training, hoping to help other POA members assess their homes.

*3/2020- Awarded the NC Forestry Fuels Chipping Program Grant (value $9,125.00).  18 homes participated in this chipping program.  73 piles of brush were removed and chipped.

*3/2020- Buck Mountain was awarded the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Award ($500.00).  Our original event was to be held in May, but postponed due to COVID.  We plan to hold an outdoor POA event at our Club House this fall, trimming bushes, raking leaves, and cleaning out gutters.

Brush piles and chipperVisibility and Impact

The Buck Mountain Firewise USA committee presents the above projects to our POA and surrounding communities, via our POA website, POA newsletter, posting on information boards on Buck Mountain, posting in our local paper (Wilkes Journal Patriot), as well as local invitations to our Firewise Fair.

Our hope is that Buck Mountain will set an example, not only to our own POA, but to other communities, and inspire them to take the same responsibility, bringing awareness of wildfire danger and fire and fuel mitigation, to their communities.

We plan on making our Firewise projects ongoing, hoping more and more of our POA will participate, making for a safer place for us to live and play.

 Project Coordinators, Partners and Cooperators

Coordinator:  Samantha Greeno, Full-time Buck Mountain resident, past full-time firefighter/EMT

Finance & Contract matters:  Dana Warren, Buck Mountain POA President

North Carolina Forest Service

Champion Fire Department

Wilkes County Emergency Management

Appalachian RC&D Fire Adapted Communities Coalition

 While only in the program a few years, Buck Mountain appears to be all in.  I asked Jonathan and Samantha what they attributed this success to.  They both shared that having a passionate community leadership team and a great group of supporting partners is what made the difference in Buck Mountain moving forward, and that is the take away for me.  Wildfire risk reduction efforts take time and people.  It may take a while to build your team but once you have it, amazing things can be achieved.

Photos provided by Jonathan Hartsell

 

Is your community ready to take the next step in wildfire risk reduction?  Visit Firewise.org to learn more about how to organize your neighbors and get started.

 

Sign up for NFPA Network to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

  

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

slide clip from webinar on wildfires and insuranceThe ripple effects of the record-breaking property losses in California due to wildfires in 2017 and 2018 are still being felt as survivors work to rebuild their homes, local governments scramble to help recover needed housing and property taxes, and insurance companies consider how to best spread the risk in a state where an estimated 4.46 million homes – a third of state inventory - are vulnerable to the threat of wildfire.

 

The good news is that most homeowners carry insurance, and nearly every homeowner policy across the industry covers damages and losses from fire – including wildfire. Insurance companies play a major role when disasters strike in helping customers in the immediate aftermath with living expenses incurred when their homes are destroyed and in the long term of rebuilding. The bad news is that two-thirds of Americans typically are underinsured, and this gap could seriously hurt their chances of rebuilding their lives after a disaster. Following the disastrous 2017 and 2018 wildfire events in California, insurers helped many people recover. But one unfortunate ripple effect of those wildfire disasters is that insurers are reviewing their portfolios, raising rates in some areas, or choosing not to renew policies for customers who are in high-risk areas.

 

State regulators via Departments of Insurance are charged with oversight of insurance companies doing business in their states, with the goal of keeping insurance affordable and available to all consumers. After all, property insurance is a requirement of federally-backed mortgages and home loans and is the crucial financial safety net that allows people to rebuild their lives after a major catastrophe.

 

The fallout from the major recent wildfire losses has included competing legislative bills that seek to protect consumers from the impacts of rising insurance costs and to give relief to Californians who lost everything to wildfire. Insurers want to continue to do business in the state but need to be able to charge rates that reflect the risk. The Stronger California Coalition lays out the facts and myths surrounding some of the competing legislative priorities that are getting a lot of attention currently.

 

What can Californians do now to keep their homes insured and insurable? NFPA’s recent webinar on financial preparedness for wildfire includes the following tips:

  • Recognize that it’s not just wildfire risk that determines your insurability and rates – age of home, quality of construction, and loss history are also taken into account.
  • Not all insurers use the same guidelines -- they have competitive differences. This gives you choices – shop around.
  • Participate in local wildfire safety activities, whether via Fire Safe Councils, Fire Adapted Community programs, or NFPA’s Firewise USA recognition program. Not every insurer will take these efforts into account in their underwriting decisions, but many do look favorably on community wildfire risk reduction activities.
  • Make sure you know what’s covered in your policy, and have your deductible in your savings.
  • Talk to your agent to make sure you have enough coverage to replace your home and contents.
  • Make and update a home inventory of your belongings.
  • Ask your agent for an insurance checkup each year and update your policy if needed.
  • If your insurer declines to renew your policy, ask if there is something you can do to reduce your risk and keep your policy; and shop and compare insurance with a local broker.
  • If you have loved ones who have paid off their homes, make sure they are carrying property insurance.
  • Finally, if you believe you are being treated unfairly, contact the Department of Insurance.

One of the most notable features about NFPA standards is that their development process is open and consensus-based.  That means anybody can participate in the development of these important documents and the standards reflect the professional insight of their various stakeholders and end-users.  This goes for NFPA’s wildfire standards as well and their current revision process is underway.  This process includes a consolidation effort, review of term definitions, and technical updates. 

Below is an overview of that current process by Barry Chase, NFPA Standards Lead for Emergency Response and Responder Safety.  Barry is also the Staff Liaison to the NFPA technical committees on Wildland Fire Management and Wildland and Rural Fire Protection.  He explains the consolidation effort and technical changes the committee are examining.  Their process is public and you can both learn more about their deliberations (narrative below) and submit your own comments for official consideration (steps described at end).    

Barry shares, "By far, the largest and most obvious change in this revision cycle is the consolidation of four wildland standards: NFPA 1051, NFPA 1141, NFPA 1143, and NFPA 1144 into a single, new document, titled, NFPA 1140 Standard for Wildland Fire Management. This consolidation is part of a larger plan to eliminate redundancy and align content across all of the emergency management, emergency response, and responder safety standards.  The consolidation will also simplify the standards-buying experience, which is something that our stakeholders have requested.

I should mention that NFPA 1142 Standard on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural Fire Fighting and NFPA 1145 Guide for the Use of Class A Foams in Fire Fighting are also being revised at the same time, but they will remain as separate, standalone documents.

One area where the consolidation of four standards into one will have a noticeable impact is the definitions of terms. Because the four standards were developed by different groups of people at different times, the definitions for several key terms were not consistent across all four books. Going forward, we will have a single definition for: defensible space, fire hazard, fuel, incident action plan (IAP), jurisdiction, risk, slope, wildland fire, and wildland/urban interface.

While most of the focus has been on editorial adjustments and technical alignment of the consolidated material in NFPA 1140, some topics that could see significant technical changes include the following: [Note: These are shared with the standard number, followed by its referenced chapter]

  1. Building separation and setback distances [1140: 12.2]
  2. Automatic protection of one- and two-family dwellings and residential apartment buildings [1140: 14.1]
  3. Planning for physical space as an element of the community’s emergency operational plan [1140: 17.7]
  4. Planning for backfill costs as an element of the wildland fire response plan [1140: 20.2]
  5. Building construction design and materials specifications [1140: 2.2]
  6. Guidance on air operations for wildland fire incidents [1140: Annex J]
  7. Minimum water supply and delivery rates [1142: 4.6.1]
  8. Water availability studies [1142: 7.1.7, along with several new definitions]
  9. Water supply strainer clearance [1142: 8.5]
  10. Guidance on the use of floating submersible source pumps [1142: E.5.5]
  11. Class A foam mix tables [1145: 4.2.1]

I encourage anyone with an interest in wildland fire management to review and comment on the first draft reports by  following the "submit a public comment" option.

 

The comment period ends on October 9, 2020.”

Photo Credit: 
Firewise USA Photo Library

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

August outlook for wildland fire potential showing above normal conditions across western states and below normal across the south.

On August 1st the National Interagency Fire Center’s (NIFC’s) Predictive Services issued their newest National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for August, September, October, and November 2020. While the main objective of this outlook is to improve information to fire management decision makers for proactive wildland fire management, it is also of use to wildfire preparedness practitioners and residents on what they can do to respond to the risk.

 The maps help to visualize fire potential - red means there is an increased fire potential based on conditions and green means below normal.  As you can see there are many states under red between now and November but it doesn't have to mean doom and gloom if people plan and prepare beforehand.

 We know that preparing for wildfires and lowering home ignitability is a year-round event – not limited to a weekend or two leading up to summer. Many of you have done some excellent work this year, this a reminder to keep it going.  It might be time to revisit those weekend projects to see if additional maintenance is needed.  My family spent a lot of time this spring clearing out pine cones, needles, and oak leaves, only to have summer storms blow in and put more debris back on the ground close to our home.  We'll be going back out for round two of clean up soon.

Girl pushing lawnmower through tall grass

To help you be ready, here's a list of activities that may need a follow up:   

  • Check those gutters - they should be clear of all needles, leaves, and other debris
  • Look around the base of your home, 0-5 feet from foundation should be free from combustible material (bark mulch, leaves, needles, plants, other debris)
  • Trim and clean up dead/decadent plants
  • Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches.

 Remember, small actions can made a difference. Visit our Preparing Homes for Wildfire page for more tips and handy fact sheets that you can share with your friends and neighbors.

Sign up for NFPA Network to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

  As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

COVID-19 has made in-person meetings difficult, but that doesn’t have to stop your educational outreach with fellow residents.  Move those gatherings with your neighbors online with these three “immediate zone” resources from Firewise USA to spark the conversation about how they can reduce the risk of wildfire around their homes.

 

For an introduction, share your screen and talk through the, “How to Prepare your Home for Wildfires” 1-pager (available in English and Spanish) that will help your fellow residents better understand the wildfire home risk.  The document reviews vegetation management needs.  It gives guidance on reducing the risks from embers on roofing, vents, decks, porches, sidings, and windows.  It also addresses emergency responder access, their safety, and tips for your wildfire emergency action plan.

 

Next, dive deeper into the “immediate zone” of 0-5 feet around structures with the most recent wildfire research fact sheet from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and Firewise USA, which focuses on the “Immediate (Noncombustible) Zone”.  The document provides key observations and actionable recommendations from the latest wildfire science research on how to create and maintain 5 feet of noncombustible space around the exterior of a building.

Finally, call on your neighbors to put this knowledge into action by agreeing to do simple activities around their homes on their own that can reduce wildfire risks.  These include:

1) Raking and removing pine needles and dry leaves within a minimum of 3 to 5 feet of a home’s foundation. And if you have the time, continue raking up to a 30-foot distance around the home. Dispose of collected debris in appropriate trash receptacles.

2) Cleaning pine needles from your roof and gutters and paying attention to maintaining the home ignition zone.

3) Getting out your measuring tape and seeing how close wood piles are located to the home. If they are closer than 30 feet, relocate them to at least 30 feet away from structures.

4) Sweeping porches and decks, clearing them of leaves and pine needles. Raking under decks, porches, sheds, and play structures.

5) Mowing grasses to a height of 4 inches or less.

6) Removing items stored under decks and porches and relocating them to a storage shed, garage, or basement. Gasoline cans and portable propane tanks should never be stored indoors and should be located away from the home.

As an additional resource, IBHS has a series of “Weekend Wildfire Preparedness” projects that highlight what residents can do to create defensible space, maintain their roofs & gutters, seal garage doors to protect against ember intrusion, maintain decks, assess their overall wildfire risks, and most importantly, promote the value of talking with neighbors. Their corresponding image cards can become slides that continue the conversation amongst your fellow residents on your video call. 

Now, go host an online meeting with your neighbors on one of the many video-conferences platforms and show these 3 (plus one more) “immediate zone” resources during your educational outreach event. 

Additionally, you can also link to these resources from your community website or social media page to spread the educational outreach message with neighbors and collectively reduce your risk from wildfire. 

 

Want even more? Check out our recent blog that shares 3 videos for your community’s next online gathering.

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

In the July/August NFPA Journal, a feature section shares the completed 2019 NFPA Firefighter Fatalities in the United States report. While the report highlights the lowering trend of line-of-duty-deaths in the United States, those occurring on wildland fires continue.  The report’s selected on-duty firefighter fatality case studies provides insight on these loss-events and affords all of us a moment of reflection on how these tragedies could be avoided in the future. 

 

As the Journal article shares, “An important milestone was achieved in the United States in 2019: For the first time, fewer than 50 deaths of firefighters occurred while they were on the job. The article continues that, “Other important achievements included the lowest number of deaths of volunteer firefighters, the fewest deaths in road vehicle crashes, and the lowest number of cardiac deaths. There were no multiple-fatality incidents in 2019, the only time that has been the case since NFPA began conducting this study in 1977.”

 

While these trends are lower, 48 firefighters in 2019 gave the ultimate sacrifice while on duty related to injuries and illnesses.  Of that count, six died while engaged or responding to a wildfire or prescribed burn and one in wildland firefighter training.  Two were firefighters who had heart attacks while responding; one from fatal burns when their vehicle was overrun by flames; one in a water tanker trash responding to a wildfire; one from heat exposure during a training exercise; and two while engaged in prescribed burns.   You can read about some of these and others in the report’s selected on-duty firefighter fatality case studies

 

Rita Fahy, NFPA Applied Research Manager and lead author of the 2019 report, shared some historic context with me on wildfire firefighter losses over the past 10 years.  She explained that, “Of the 670 U.S. firefighters killed on-duty over the past 10 years (2010-2019), 90 were killed on wildland fires or during prescribed burns, and at least 20 others were killed while responding to or returning from such fires. These included volunteer and career firefighters as well as employees and contractors with federal and state wildland management agencies, inmate firefighters and supervisors, and military firefighters.  In addition to those fatalities directly related to fires, another 21 wildland firefighters were killed while on-duty.”

 

In addition to the NFPA Journal article summary, you can read the entire 2019 NFPA Firefighter Fatalities in the United States report.  As always, our thoughts are with the families of the fallen and we are again reminded of the sacrifices firefighters give to ensure the safety of others. 

 

Photo Credit: Firefighter Fatalities report NFPA Journal article screen shot pulled 30July2020. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

USAA members who carry homeowners insurance policies in Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming join their counterparts in seven other states where living in a recognized Firewise USA site makes them eligible for an insurance premium discount.

 

**UPDATE July 28, 2020**  According to USAA, there has been an unforeseen delay in the effective date for policies in Washington state. We'll update when this has been resolved.

 

NFPA and USAA announced the addition of the discount in these states in a press release on July 27. USAA, which provides a full range of financial products and services to the military community and their families, began exploring incentives to create safer communities from wildfire with NFPA nearly a decade ago and first initiated the discount for members in Firewise USA sites in 2014. The discounts become effective on different dates per state through August and are applied automatically to eligible members when their insurance policy renews.

 

The 11 states where USAA makes the discount available (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) represent two-thirds of participation in the Firewise USA recognition program nationally. More than 800,000 people live in Firewise USA sites in these states, where they collaborate on a volunteer basis to reduce the wildfire risk to more than 380,000 homes.


Visit www.firewise.org to learn more about the recognition program benefits, including this incentive for members of USAA.

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