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Three teenage girls raking pine needles and other vegetation debris on to a tarp, clearing around a home

The impacts from disasters such as wildfire or flooding are not just felt by adults, but people of all ages.  During week three of National Preparedness Month we want to take a moment to share ways that teenagers and other young people can be involved in helping their families and neighbors be ready for wildfires.

Through a series of conversations with NFPA, youth living in areas with a wildfire risk expressed a want of knowledge about wildfires and how they can help their family, including pets, be ready to evacuate when needed.  NFPA's TakeAction campaign was developed to meet those needs.  Share the following resources with young adults, teachers, and youth leaders to give them the opportunity to play a role:

Service can be another great way to be involved and feel like you are making a difference.  There are many wildfire risk reduction activities that are safe for young people to do including:

  • Sweeping porches and decks clearing them of leaves and pine needles.
  • Raking under decks, porches, sheds and play structures and dispose of debris
  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches

Check out this community service project guide and our preparing homes for wildfire page for more ideas on how to get started.

Follow my colleague Lisa Braxton on Safety Source as she shares other resources to help families prepare for home fires and other disasters.

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter 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.

Register now for NFPA's Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire two-day classroom training in Denver, Colorado, October 3-4, 2019. This class will provide valuable skills and knowledge to help you in your wildfire safety mission.
Colorado and other western states have 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. 

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.

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.”

 

Young, male child with backpack

Wildfires can not only force residents to evacuate their homes, but also depending upon the time of day that they occur, force students to be evacuated from schools.   This is something parents and caregivers can prepare for, as they help children get ready to go back to school, during September, National Preparedness Month.  

 Wildfires can displace many children attending school at once, which shows the necessity of creating a plan.  For example during Northern California’s Camp Fire, 3,300 students were  evacuated from 11 schools in school buses and faculty cars.  In one instance students were sent home and the administration was concerned that the homes they were sent to may not have been safe.

In response to their own recent wildfire evacuation of schools, San Diego County, a wildfire prone community has recently adopted a plan that recognizes this risk and has outlined a way to make sure children are safer during a wildfire event when they are at school and need to be evacuated.   The county wide school evacuation plan was developed by the San Diego County office of Emergency Service (OES) based upon the county wide Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) in collaboration with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, CAL Fire, California State Parks, and others.    

According to an article about the plan, There are some questions parents can ask school officials before an emergency occurs, that would make it easier for everyone if an evacuation order is given;

  1. How will transportation be secured if my children need to leave?
  2. What is the designated relocation site?
  3. What happens/how will I be notified if students have to be taken to an alternative site?
  4. How will I be contacted and how can I contact school officials during an emergency?
  5. Have the school and school grounds been maintained looking at the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) so that if students are unable to leave it will be safer?

As you fill their backpacks with school supplies this year, you can also help prepare children to be safer in the event that a wildfire occurs when they are away from you at school.   Learn more about how you and your family can be prepared for wildfire at NFPA’s Firewise USA site.

Photo: shared by Jason King 

 

The Firewise USA renewal deadline is fast approaching. We can’t wait to hear what your site has accomplished in wildfire risk reduction this year!

This year’s renewal deadline is November 15th, 2019. In order for you site to remain a participant in good standing with the program next year you will need to complete the renewal criteria. Please Note: sites that became recognized for the first time in 2019 do not need to renew. 

Here’s some tips to help you along the process:

1. Logging into the system: The renewal application is online and you will need to log-in to get to your community profile. Make sure you can log-in at: portal.firewise.org. If you forget your password, you can use the “forgot password” link underneath the log-in button. If you are continuing to have trouble, email us at firewise@nfpa.org.

2. Check to make sure your community contact address is up-to-date: This will be on the first page of your renewal application and the address provided is where your renewal certificate will be sent. If you provide us with a P.O. Box, we will use it when sending items through the US Postal Service.

3. Add another resident leader contact: You can add another resident leader contact if you have another resident who you want to have access to your application and the ability to update it. To add someone, click into the renewal application or go to your site dashboard. In both places, you’ll find a “Manage Contacts” button. You can add a send resident leader by inputting their email address. If they don’t have a log-in account set up, the system will send them an email inviting them to set up an account.

4. The information you will need to provide: You will need to provide information about your 2019 educational event and 2019 risk reduction investment information. We are looking for information on what your community did during the calendar year. For more information on this, visit our renewal resources webpage.

5. Tool for risk reduction investment: If you need help collecting investment information from community members, consider using the volunteer hourly worksheet. You can have residents turn them into you and then total up the work by inputting it into the renewal application.

6. Submit early: If you have reached the minimum amount needed to complete your renewal, you can submit it early. It will be frozen while it is under review, but once it is approved you can go back and add more information until the end of the year.

We listened to your feedback from last year and made small updates to the portal to make it easier for you to use. You can view a short walk through video of the renewal application on our renewal resources webpage. If you have questions, email us at firewise@nfpa.org.

Flowery trail community members standing with their 2016 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day sign

 

Set near the base of 49° North Mountain Resort, Flowery Trail is an ideal getaway for ski enthusiasts and lovers of the great outdoors.  A little over an hour north of Spokane, WA, the community is set in a forest of Lodgepole and other pines.  The location and terrain allow for recreation year round, with skiing in the winter to mountain biking and hiking in the spring and summer.  

While it sounds like the perfect destination to me, there are concerns for residents and local fire officials in regards to wildfire.  Dan Holman, the community’s resident leader, filled me in on the efforts the Flowery Trail Community Association (FTCA) has taken over the years and why they are participating in the Sites of Excellence Pilot Program.

Tell me a little about your community and its journey in wildfire risk reduction.  

In 1972, construction on the ski area was completed.  To help bring in people and revenue, they laid out a community of 100 lots.  The ski area is part of US Forest Service land, but the community was built on state land, with a 100 year land lease with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  (From other conversations I’ve had with Dan, this presents an issue because the residents don’t own the trees.  They have to work with DNR to get permission to remove any large/merchantable timber.   They have had some success in purchasing plats in order to harvest timber and are in talk to complete a land swap.)

This area has a history of fire, with a large one 1910 resulting in a regrowth of Lodgepole pine – which is where we live.  Our community is located in an area of “no man’s land” for fire protection – we don’t fall under a fire district or state response for a home fire.  We have been in a 20+ year discussion with the local city to be included in their protection plan, installing water tanks and hydrants at their request.  Five years ago our proposal was accepted, homeowners are now able get insurance up here.

Our community has recognized the danger of wildfire up here.   Part of our annual dues support our wildfire risk  Flowery trail work day, community members feeding a chipperreduction efforts and we have an annual fuel reduction push in the spring.  Over the years, working with the state, we’ve been able to thin and remove on plats that pose a risk – 34 trucks with trees, we have 10 slash piles the size of houses to remove/burn when appropriate.

Now our efforts are focusing more on the homes and the 0-5 foot space – spreading gravel around home.  We have lot of engagement from our residents and have made excellent progress

What are your goals in the pilot?

We are using the pilot as a way to emphasize the importance of work being 0-5 foot zone.  We have spent a lot of time and effort clearing away trees and brush, this is the next step.  We also see it as a way to get buy-in from the last of the holdouts who haven’t wanted to participate in the cleanup days.

Participating in the pilot also can help provide leverage, showing our commitment.  The Flowery Trail Community Association is working on a land-swap with Washington DNR.   Due to the land lease situation, there hasn’t been any building in the last 15-20 years.

What are some challenges you have faced or think you might face and how do you propose to overcome them?

With the long history of work in our community, a lot of progress has been made.  We did have some resistance at the beginning.  With the help of community pressure/neighbor shaming, maybe of the attitudes have changed.  One thing FTCA implemented that has helped get more people interested is a $100 credit towards annual dues for a full day of volunteer service.  

Flowery trail work day potluck

What else would you like to share?

This type of work takes time.  Use the resources you have and just keep moving forward.

A big thank you to Dan and the Flowery Trail community for sharing their wildfire preparedness journey.   They have been in the game for a long time but it goes to show that the work doesn’t end, rather it just changes in terms of what level and type of work is needed.  Join us in October when we learn more about wildfire preparedness efforts in Wisconsin.

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.

Photo credit: all photos provided by Dan Holman, Flowery Trail resident leader

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter 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.

NFPA’s Wildfire Division is excited to announce the release of a new brochure: Taking Control of Your Wildfire Risk. This brochure is an introduction to the Firewise USA program with information on the critical role that residents play in reducing their wildfire risk and why it is also important to work together with neighbors.

The brochure is useful for handouts at events for new communities that are getting started in the Firewise USA program. It will also be a good tool for existing Firewise USA sites to reach new participants within their community.

This product is now available for free in our online catalog. Orders come in packages of 50 brochures.

In addition, we also have educational materials to address the specific steps homeowners can take to make their home more ignition-resistant. How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfire is a tri-fold brochure that explains actions you can take around your home and Reducing Wildfire Risks in the Home Ignition Zones poster gives a more in-depth look at each of the home ignition zones. Both of these educational materials will continue to be available in our catalog.

Recent hurricanes and other wildfire disasters serve as a reminder that being able to evacuate quickly can mean the difference in whether or not you are able to survive.  When creating evacuation routes, it is important to use sound data to make sure traffic does not get congested at choke points, putting people at risk.  

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) recently posted research from StreetLight Data that can help emergency managers and government agencies with evacuation planning.  They looked at 30,000 communities across the United States with populations 40,000 or less, evaluating their evacuation routes.

According to the infogram, “Researchers developed an index based on the total number of routes out of town, the percentage of people who take certain routes on a typical day, and the total population. The data from this study can help towns consider the reality of evacuation plans in terms of road maintenance and availability when combined with human behavior.”

According to an Emergency Management article about this data, the states with the most evacuation-challenged communities some of which are also located in wildfire prone areas were:

  • Florida (20 communities)
  • California (14 communities)
  • Arizona (8 communities)
  • Texas (6 communities)

StreetLight Data has also made a list of the top 100 communities in the United States with limited evacuation routes available.

Before you need to evacuate make sure that your community has a good plan in place based upon reliable data.  For more information about preparing to evacuate, check out NFPA’s free resources available on the TakeAction  and Public Education pages.

Photo credit: NFPA

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues.

Graphic promoting National Preparedness Month - Prepared, Not Scared.  Week 1: Sept 1-7, Save Early for Disaster Costs; Week 2: Sept 8-14, Make a Plan to Prepare for Disasters; Week 3: Sept 15-21, Teach Youth to Prepare for Disasters; Week 4: Sept 22-30, Get Involved in Your Community's Preparedness

There's no time like the present to help your family prepare for disasters.  Join NFPA throughout the month of September as we participate in National Preparedness Month, sponsored by FEMA.  We'll share different resources from Fire Break and Safety Source to help you address wildfire and home safety concerns. 

Week 1: Save Early for Disaster Costs - Check on your Insurance Policy

Is your home covered in case of a disaster? An unfortunate reality is that most homes are underinsured, meaning they don’t have enough coverage to protect them if they are damaged or destroyed. While we hope you are never faced with making a claim, here are some resources to help make sure you are prepared:

 Complete the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America’s (PCI) Wildfire Reality Check:  Hands holding house

  • Conduct an annual insurance checkup – call your agent or insurance company to discuss policy limits and coverage. Not sure what to ask? Check out these 10 questions to ask your insurance agent from Linda Masterson, author and wildfire survivor.
  • Know what your policy covers
  • Update your policy to cover home improvements
  • Maintain insurance – continue to carry homeowners insurance after the home is paid off
  • Get renters insurance

Create a home inventory. Having a home inventory is one of the best ways to determine if you have enough coverage to replace your possessions. This task may seem daunting, especially if you’ve been in your home for many years, but it can be manageable. Some simple steps from the Insurance Information Institute include:

  • Pick an easy spot to start, an area that is contained such as a small kitchen appliance cabinet or sporting equipment closet
  • List recent purchases
  • Include basic information – where you bought it, make and model, what you paid
  • County clothing by general category
  • Record serial numbers found on major appliances and electronic equipment
  • Check coverage on big ticket items
  • Don’t forget off-site items
  • Keep proof of value – sales receipts, purchase contracts, appraisals
  • Don’t get overwhelmed – It’s better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all

When creating your home inventory, embrace technology! Take pictures or videos, back them up digitally. There also many apps available to help organize and store your records.

 For a more in depth discussion on financial preparedness, check out our Firewise Virtual Workshop: Understanding Insurance in the Wildland Urban Interface. Or, listen to Linda Masterson share her experience of losing her home and contents in a wildfire, Firewise Virtual Workshop: Get Prepared, Stay Alive, Rebuild Your Life.

 Along with financial preparedness, it’s never too late to take action around your home. Visit the NFPA’s wildfire division for steps on how to prepare your home for wildfires.

 

Photos: Top photo courtesy FEMA

 

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter 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.

Looking for ways to engage people in wildfire risk discussions and projects? Learn about five unique solutions developed by communities around the country to help get public participation in wildfire risk reduction activities.   

1. TOWN HALL MEETING: Sun City, Texas, an active Firewise USA site, hosts an annual “Town Hall Meeting” to help residents learn what their risks are, ask professionals questions about wildfire preparedness as well as plan next steps.  The meetings encourage participation by many residents to make improvements within their Home Ignition Zones, both to their homes and the landscape surrounding the homes.

Fourmile Watershed youth project

2. MULTIPLE AGENCY CHANNELS: In the Fourmile Watershed community in Colorado, a partnership with the Colorado State Forest Service, Aloterra Restoration Services and One Tree Planted helped get many students involved in a wildfire restoration project. (Some of the participating students and families pictured above).

3. ELECTRONIC ROAD SIGN MESSAGES AND INSERTS IN WATER BILLS:  In Utah, residents of Stockton and South Rim were informed about how they could participate in wildfire preparedness activities through social media, electronic road signs and flyers sent out in their water bills.  According to the UFRA Straight Tip newsletter attached below,  250 people attended and logged 172 hours to complete defensible space projects for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.

Dublin Fire Department wildfire safety workshop4. WORKSHOPS: In Virginia, a collaborative effort by the Virginia Department of Forestry, Pulaski County Emergency Management, Virginia Tech Fire Ecology Department, New River Valley/ Highlands RC&D, and the Dublin Fire Department, enabled information to be shared with 10 different communities at area workshops (pictured, left). The workshops resulted in fuels reduction projects being accomplished around neighborhood homes.

5. BUSINESS PANEL DISCUSSION: In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project included a Business Panel Discussion at the Santa Fe Business Incubator. They had a small but diverse audience of first responders, arborists, economic development and nonprofit analysts discussing the potential for a wildfire to cause devastating financial impact, and how business owners could be a part of the solution.  

Read more details below about these innovative and effective approaches that you can consider for reaching local audiences to engage in wildfire safety projects.

Members of Red Rock Ranch who participated in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.

On the heels of Arizona, we travel north to visit our fourth Site of Excellence, Red Rock Ranch (RRR).  Just north of Colorado Springs, this community has seen the devastating effects of wildfire up close with the Waldo Canyon (2012) and Black Forest (2013) fires, yet struggled to get engagement and buy-in in their early wildfire preparedness attempts.  Dave Betzler shares background information on the community and how they moved forward with Firewise and lays out a detailed plan for how they will tack the challenge given to all pilot sites.

 

RRR Community Description:

               RRR HOA is a 360-acre development of 202 homes within a Wildland Urban Interface. Midway between Monument and Palmer Lake, our roughly 600 residents enjoy rural living nestled at the foot of 8100-foot Raspberry Mountain amidst tall ponderosa pines and extensive stands of scrub oak. Bordered on two sides by Pike National Forest, residents enjoy seeing the abundant wildlife (deer, fox, coyote, and occasional mountain lion and black bear) as well as a varied bird population. Residents appreciate the quiet and serenity of mountainside living, yet have close and ready access to all necessary conveniences and services in both Colorado Springs and Denver, as well as small town ‘feel’ of adjacent Monument and Palmer Lake. 

 

RRR Firewise USA Journey:

               Initial, but largely unsuccessful HOA wildfire awareness discussions first surfaced in 2014, led by a Board member.  Slash was collected in one area and chipping was removed.  This was a partially success, as only 20 homeowners participated and HOA chipping costs were too high to be sustained. 

                In 2016 the new HOA president attended numerous Firewise meetings including the Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church’s Emergency Preparedness Group. With EPG and HOA volunteers, we held 2 days of fuel reduction on the property of a disabled homeowner. This event was an attempt to “jumpstart” broad HOA resident fuel reduction, and to show the community “mitigation” or fuel reduction does not mean total destruction of the existing landscape. 

In 2017, HOA President and a handful of concerned residents recognized the wildfire risk, decided to take action, and formed a Firewise Committee. The Community Wildfire Protection Plan was developed in collaboration with Woodland Park office of Colorado State Forest Service and Tri Lakes Monument Fire Protection District. The CWPP includes an aggressive plan detailing mitigation and wildfire education and preparedness actions and activities.  We applied for and were awarded a $6200 grant from Coalition for Upper South Platte for 2018 wildfire mitigation and chipping.

In 2018 Firewise Committee conducted an extensive education and awareness campaign to inform residents  Three people behind a chipper helping feed limbs in to itof the wildfire threat and the need to take action. In addition to widespread homeowner visits, the Committee purchased bright long sleeved Firewise Volunteer shirts as visible reminders for homeowners.  Committee efforts resulted in 73 homeowners conducting property mitigation, and 22 residents receiving home wildfire assessments. Grant funded chipping was conducted on six days. Extensive wildfire outreach efforts included meetings and discussions with El Paso County (Office of Emergency Management, Transportation/Roads, and Sheriff’s office), Colorado State Forest Service, United States Forest Service, Coalition for Upper South Platte, and Northern El Paso County Coalition of Community Associations, and Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District.  RRR HOA applied for and was selected as a National Fire Protection Association Site of Excellence, a national two-year program that sponsors comprehensive and focused Firewise USA activities in each of the seven state sites.

 

Our Sites of Excellence Pilot Project is focused on 23 target homes within a severe/high-risk area of HOA. Our project goals are: 

  1. Comprehensive wildfire education & awareness campaign: regular distribution/display of Firewise materials, signs and banners 
  2. Full homeowner engagement & participation: assessment and mitigation of each home/property (wildfire risk zones 1 & 2, tree/understory) 
  3. More resilient homeowners: risk/threat- aware, and better prepared for emergency/evacuation 
  4. Neighbors and neighborhoods working together: acceptance of shared risks, recognition of individual and collective responsibilities

 

Challenges:

  1. Burdened Homeowners – financial situations, physical limitations, elderly or frail seniors; reluctant/obstinate homeowners; absentee owners/rental properties
  2. Resource limitations – insufficient funding for HOA Firewise and target property mitigation and chipping
  3. Volunteer availability – personal emergencies, family caretaker responsibilities, physical limitations (retired, injured, aging, etc)

Line of community members behind chipper, helping to feed debirs

 

Overcoming challenges:

Burdened homeowners: 

- Intentional focus on each and every homeowner interaction: caring, respectful, listening, compassionate, non-judgmental; 

- Partner with local church’s emergency preparedness team for no-cost property mitigation of physical/financial constrained homeowners);

- Respectful and persistent Firewise and neighbor-to-neighbor conversations, low-key but direct with reluctant/obstinate residents; 

- Direct and official HOA correspondence (email, written) to an absentee owners/rentals

 

Overarching approach for Sites of Excellence project: Develop/maintain personal relationships; foster neighbor-to-neighbor assistance; maintain open two-way communications; and recognize homeowner participation and accomplishments (publicity, Firewise and HOA newsletters, website, media articles, project progress reports)

 

Other Sites of Excellence/Firewise emphases:

Outreach, collaboration and advocacy: 

  • Increase Tri-Lakes area/region awareness (e.g., Northern El Paso County Coalition of Community Organizations/NEPCO with 40 plus member HOAs, Pikes Peak Wildfire Prevention Partners/PPWPP multi-county information sharing organization). . 
  • Develop/strengthen organizational relationships (e.g., El Paso County - Office

 of Emergency Management and Transportation/Roads; County Commissioners); CSFS and USFS; Colorado Stat Representative)

-    Publicize Firewise and NFPA Sites of Excellence efforts

In follow up conversations with Red Rock Ranch, they are making progress on the above plan.  Like other sites, they are finding success in intentional, personal approaches.  While a meeting might spark some interest, face to face conversations are leading to outcomes.  Thank you Dave for giving us a glimpse in to your community, can’t wait to see the end results! Stayed tuned next month when we hear from Washington State.

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.

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34for more wildfire related topics.

Photos: Top - courtesy Tom Welle, NFPA; middle - Fire Marshall and Firefighter Will Vogl operating new Tri Lakes Monument Fire Protection District chipper (7/24), courtesy Beth Lonnquist, Red Rock Ranch HOA President; bottom - Firewise & homeowner volunteers carrying slash to chipper (7/24), courtesy Beth Lonnquist, Red Rock Ranch HOA President.

Residents across the nation have been busy in 2019 taking steps to increase the ignition resistance of homes and communities from wildfire.  Here at NFPA we've seen increased interest in the Firewise USA program as neighbors connect with each other to reduce their shared risk.  With over 1,500 sites in the program, we'd like to take a moment to recognize two states that recently reached milestones in participation.  

 

 "Texas Celebrates 100 Firewise USA Sites Across the State."  Our hats off to the Lone Star State and its residents  that have made the commitment to protecting their homes through good fire safety in the home ignition zone.   Since 2003, the Texas A&M Forest Service has partnered with NFPA in the effort to educate communities and encourage action on the ground.   Wildland fire staff from federal, state, and local agencies work together to provide mitigation information tailored to specific areas and help build cooperative networks to support efforts on the ground.  Check out their video celebrating 100!

 

The movement continues in California, where they have surpassed 200 active sites.  Residents are taking notice of the last few fire seasons and making the commitment to own their risk and take action.  Between 2018 and so far in 2019, 86 communities have joined the program, and almost all existing participants renewed in the last cycle. Marin and Nevada Counties are leading the way, with new interest from Contra Costa and Tuolumne Counties.  

Knowing the risk that communities face throughout the state, it makes my heart soar to see so many people realize there are things they can do around their home to make a difference.  A big thank you to CAL FIRE and the network of partners they have built to help the residents of California be more resilient in the face of wildfires.

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.

 

Photo credits: Top left - Texas A&M Forest Service; bottom right - Julian, CA Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, courtesy of Diane Hake.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first step on the moon, let’s look at some technological advancements made by NASA that benefit wildland fire suppression and prevention efforts.

NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) Map shows real time wildfire activity being mapped by satellites across the globe.  The map even offers a free tutorial to help you access the information you need.

Another contribution to wildfire research from NASA is the Global Fire Weather Database (GFWED).   This model predicts the formation and spread of fires, and can be used  to alert people to weather conditions that can contribute to large wildfires. 

NASA’s also has FIREX-AQ, a study program that provides observations of wildfire smoke and looks at its impact on weather and agriculture.  According to the NASA web-page, “To understand the impact of smoke on the local and regional level, scientists must have accurate estimates of what’s burning, the quantity of emissions produced, the composition of those emissions and how those chemical compounds evolve in the atmosphere as they react with sunlight and other atmospheric constituents, including pollution sources. Scientific knowledge in each of these areas will need to advance in order to provide a detailed understanding of how smoke impacts air quality and climate, and to improve the efficacy of satellites in capturing data relevant to these goals.”

Who benefits from FIREX-AQ? 

  1. Residents living downwind from wildfire.  
  2. Public health managers and health care administers who respond to health-related smoke impacts.   
  3. Land Managers who are making decisions about using prescribed fire to reduce fuel loads.


Our
 forays into space can help research scientists better understand wildfires, including weather that can contribute to wildfire intensity and the effects of air quality in the aftermath of a wildfire.

Photo Credit: NASA public domain photo, pulled 6 August 2019

NFPA's Wildfire Division announces two resources are now available in Spanish. These tools can be shared and used to empower residents in taking action around their home.

Our video "Su Hogar & Incendios Forestales. Elecciones que hacen una diferencia." (Your Home and Wildfire. Choices that can make a difference) helps answer questions of where to start when preparing a home for wildfire.  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.

Want to learn more about how wildfires impact homes?  Take the online training, Entendiendo la Amenaza de incendios forestales a los hogares (Understanding the Wildfire Threat to Homes), where students receive an overview of fire history, fire basics, and how homes ignite and burn from a wildfire. It's an excellent resource for residents and other stakeholders that are pursuing knowledge on the basics of how wildfires ignite homes and the actions that can be implemented to make homes safer.

Check out our website for more tips and actions you can take around your home to prepare for wildfires.

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter 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.

When we think about wildfires and their aftermath, sometimes the discussions don’t look at what it really takes to rebuild lives and neighborhoods.  When residents tell me that they are not going to prepare because that is what insurance is for, I don’t think they realize that their lack of preparation will not only cost them the loss of their home, but other things Picture of waterfall in NFPA lobby  to illustrate the "cascading effect"as well in the, “cascading effects” of wildfire”.  

This phrase really resonated with me when I attended a recent forum in Washington D.C., where members of the insurance industry, IBHS, FEMA, NEMA and others presented about creating disaster survivability and how we can work together to look at different ways of reducing the risk of wildfire loss.  At a presentations by  Chris Rodriguez, Director of the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, he mentioned how difficult it is to look at what the real costs of disasters, including wildfire disasters, really are.  He called this the “Cascading Effects” of the event in the lives of survivors and the communities at large.

So, what do these cascading effects mean in wildfire? I can think of four immediately:

  1. Extended separation time for family members and the anxiety this might especially cause children.
  2. The irreparable loss of antiques and other sentimental items, like yearbooks, family pictures, family documents, and even pets.
  3. Additional costs to the homeowner for hazmat removal – hazardous materials are created when the home and its contents burn – that may not be covered in their insurance policy.
  4. The time spent away from home, jobs, and school.

For neighborhoods, this cascade can also include rebuilding critical infrastructure, like water supplies, power poles, and cell towers.    

So, how do we address this cascade of effects in wildfire?  We should recognize that residents, agency partners, businesses, engineers, government entities, and others all have a role to play.  When these groups come together to address both complex and simple mitigation strategies necessary to insure neighborhood and home survival, NFPA’s Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem can provide valuable framework for collective action and addressing gaps.  

The resident can directly influence this as well.  Learn more about how you can be a part of creating communities that are more resilient and recover quicker and better from the next wildfire.  

Let this be our goal as we all work together to address the cascading efforts of wildfire and help to protect lives and property.

Our third stop on our sites of excellence journey takes us to Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, AZ.   No strangers to wildfire, residents in this community have a history of being engaged in wildfire risk reduction.  We are excited that they are a part of this pilot program, demonstrating a willingness to “do more”.  Pete Kloeber, the community’s resident leader, gives us an inside view of what Forest Highlands means to its residents and the goals they have for keeping their community safe.

Can you describe your community for me and tell me why you choose to have a home there?  What do you and your neighbors love about your community?

Forest Highlands (FH) is a 1,100-acre private residential community with 814 residential lots nestled at 7,000 feet among majestic ponderosa pines and groves of oaks and aspens. FH was approved as a Firewise Community USA in November 2004 – the second such site in Arizona and the 60th in the nation.  FH has been a recognized Firewise Community for 15 consecutive years.  During these past 15 years, the number of residential structures has increased from 655 to 736 – a 12 percent increase. The majority of the residences are 2nd homes.  My wife and I are full-time residents, as are around 50 others.

My neighbors and love Forest Highlands for its tranquil beauty, and mountain/forest atmosphere. 

Tell me about your community's journey in wildfire risk reduction.  What led you to Firewise USA?  Why did you decide to participate in the pilot?

I was a member our community Board of Directors in 2004 and initiated the goal of FH becoming a Firewise Community.  two people at a Firewise day with tables covered in print materials discussing wildfire risk reduction, trailer in the background with Defensible Space and a home ignition zone graphic on the side As mentioned above, we were approved as such in November 2004 - the 2nd in the state of Arizona.  The purpose was simple: make our community safer from a wildfire concern - so we could have a better chance of sustaining our beautiful community for coming generations.  

We decided to participate in the “pilot project” for a several reasons: (1) to continue our quest to make our community safer and more sustainable; (2) to approach and stay on the leading edge of Firewise guidance, assistance, technology, and lessons learned; (3) to hopefully increase the awareness and participation of our residents; (4) to reduce the risk of injury to our residents, guests, and brave first responders; and (5) because it is very simply the “right thing to do." 

What are you goals in the pilot?

The above reasons for participating are essentially our goals in this pilot program.  But simply stated, our goal is for our community to be more Firewise at the end of the pilot program - meaning specifically three things: (1) our residents becoming more aware and supportive; (2) our assessment personnel (in house and fire district) learning even more and becoming even better at conducting assessments; and (3) the residences participating in the pilot program becoming more Firewise and setting the standard for the rest of our community.

Picture of a home highlighting wildfire mitigation work done 0-5 feet from the base of the home.  Shows rock around the base of the home with limited, maintained plants, with a gravel walkway around it.

 What are some challenges you think you might face?  How do you propose to overcome them?

Support of our residents.  Our plan is to involve them early in the process through open communication, and keep them involved during the whole process. 

A big thank you to Pete for sharing the story of his community!  Flagstaff is home to 10 active Firewise USA sites, I hope the work that FH is doing inspires others to take a deeper look at their efforts and for those who aren’t yet engaged in wildfire risk reduction, to take the first steps.  We look forward to following their progress and hearing more from them over the next year and a half.  Stay tuned next month as we travel to Colorado.

Photo credit: Top - Lee Ann Berry, Sites of Excellence training, community members, NFPA staff, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire.  Middle - Peter Kloeber, Firewise Day table and trailer display.  Bottom - Peter Kloeber, highlighting the use of rock and gravel in the Immediate Zone (0-5 feet from the base of the structure) to decrease the chance of the home igniting.

 

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 Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 for more wildfire related topics.

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