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How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires

Updated wildfire risk reduction guidelines that contribute to making homes safer during a wildfire are now available in a tri-fold brochure printed in both English and Spanish. The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise USA program’s newest resource, How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires includes information that highlights the practices residents should implement within their individual property’s Home Ignition Zones; along with details about the importance of fire resistive construction materials.

 

From vegetation management guidance, to personal preparedness tips, the brochure is a great resource that will be of assistance to residents living in wildfire risk areas. The Home Safety Checklist included in the brochure includes simple steps from roof to foundation that contribute to making a home safer from embers and radiant heat.

 

Order the brochure for your next resident meeting, or share with stakeholders at upcoming outreach events! They're a great tool to start a conversation with neighbors about the importance of doing collaborative risk reduction activities that can impact structure-to structure ignitions during a wildfire.

 

Become a volunteer resident leader and get your neighbors involved in the national Firewise USA recognition program. 

Firewise and the simple value of recognizing local risk-reduction accomplishments were shared this past November at the UK Wildfires2017 conference (#UKWildfireConf17) in Bournemouth, England. NFPA had the great privilege to present at the conference and support the England & Wales Wildfire Forum and the Scottish Wildfire Forum in their conference planning.

 

The conference culminated in a resiliency booklet that captures, in descriptive illustrations and findings, the current wildfire challenges faced across landscapes in the United Kingdom, plus a call to action for fire service and resident preparedness.

 

Andy Elliott, with the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, served as the conference event manager and shared with me his thoughts on the great value of the new booklet.

 

“It was great to have a product from UK Wildfires Conference 2017 in the form of a small booklet." said Andy. “The delegates formed three habitat based groups and answered six questions over two workshops and the booklet is a summary of their discussion and comments.”

 

He went onto explain that, “It is certainly not an authoritative statement on Wildfire Mitigation in the UK, but it is a great starting place for a meaningful discussion. In the UK, current legislation requires the Fire Authority to agree to Wildfire Mitigation measures when a landowner wishes to claim grant aid to manage certain habitat types or when they create open habitats from forestry plantations, etc.”

 

To help that effort, Andy shared that, “It is hoped that the booklet will be used by anybody that has a need to consider wildfire resilience in these circumstances or when creating a new Firewise® Community. The illustrations by Auralab add an element of fun, but also illustrate the key points in a very memorable and visual way.”

 

At the conference, I served as the facilitator for the “Forestry” habitat workshop and found both hour-long group discussions to be fascinating. About 50 attendees a piece represented fire service, land management, forestry, planning, and policy prospectives.

The open discussions explored what resiliency means across landscapes and what is uniquely needed in each to advance wildfire risk understanding. Far from the usual topics, NFPA was happy to be a part of a conversation that identified socio-economic, forest industry, cultural prospectives, and even urban-forestry exposures.

 

The focus of the 2017 conference was to frame, “Wildfire resilience in a UK context”. Presentations by national and international speakers explored how to make UK homes, communities, and the landscape more wildfire resilient in the future. NFPA is very pleased to play a supporting role in the collective wildfire outreach implementation efforts by the National Fire Chiefs Council of the UK, the UK fire service forums, the Dorset Urban Heaths Partnership, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Serviceand others going forward.

 

Photo Credits:
Booklet images: Wildfire Resilience in a UK Context booklet.  
Booklet Illustration: Laura Sorvala, Auralab.  Twitter: @_auralab 

A great new post-holiday tradition can be, working together with fellow neighbors, and reaching out to potential agency, as well as local potential business partners to assess your area’s wildfire risks and create a project plan to increase your wildfire safety.  These projects can all be a part of your participation in the fifth annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day made possible with generous funding from State Farm.

If you are looking for successful project ideas check out NFPA’s Wildfire Prep Day page.  The page shares success stories from last year and will also provide you with resources to help with the application process, starting January 8, 2018, including contest rules, a fillable flyer you can customize to promote your project and other project resources.

We can all have an important part to play and can work together to be a part of this important campaign to raise wildfire safety awareness and increase risk reduction activity.  It is a great way for you to get to know your neighbors, (including other residents, local businesses, and local agencies).  You might even make new friends working together and develop some lasting relationships that can be mutually beneficial.  This year get outside, get involved and be a part of something big! Use the attached downloadable PDF postcard to help get the word out!

Current Santa Ana Wind conditions from a NOAA map, based upon weather models and satellite images.

 

It is December and even though snow is flying in the Midwest a large wildfire is raging in Southern California.  This high wind-driven wildfire blazing in Ventura County, California has caused serious damage burned over 45,000 acres, destroyed at least 150 structures and has left one firefighter hospitalized.  A red flag warning had been in effect before the blaze started due to the hot, dry Santa Anna wind conditions that are expected to last through Thursday.  According to recent news reports, the fire has led to the evacuation of thousands and caused the destruction of at least one apartment building, and a psychiatric hospital.

 

The fire called the Thomas Fire, started at about 7 am around California State Highway 150.  Schools have been closed in areas close to the fire including, Oxnard, Ventura, Hueneme and Santa Paula.  Another effect of the wildfire is that it has left 260,000 Ventura and Santa Barbara Customers without electricity.  Evacuation shelters have been set up for residents who have had to leave homes under a mandatory evacuation order.

 

For resources regarding wildfire safety information check out NFPA’s Firewise Website.

Photo shared by Los Angelas City Fire of the La Tuna Fire 

A free webinar is being offered by the Southwest Fire Science Consortium on Wednesday, December 6, 2017, from 12 - 1 PM Mountain Time.  Crystal Stonesifer, from the USDA Rocky Mountain Research Station, will be speaking about; “Federal fire managers’ perceptions of the importance, scarcity, and sustainability of suppression resources.”

 

The webinar will be sharing the results of a survey that was designed and taken by US Forest Service employees who have direct or indirect responsibility for ordering suppression resources.  The survey tried to ask questions that would help identify how fire managers distinguish between suppression resource importance, scarcity and sustainability during times of elevated wildfire risk.  They will also discuss topics relating to firefighter risk, exposure, and risk transfer themes. You can register today to participate in this free webinar opportunity.

FLASH (The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting safer better-built homes.  I attended the National Disaster Resilience Conference hosted by FLASH in Atlanta, Georgia on October 25-27 which brought together some of the industry leaders in preparedness including architects, researchers, insurance industry leaders, political leaders as well as leaders in the media including NBC and the Weather Channel.   The main topic was; how can we be more resilient in light of the billion dollar recent disasters that occurred across the US, including the hurricanes in Florida and Texas and the recent Northern California wildfires?

 

According to the FLASH Newsroom, “We are bringing together some of the best minds in our movement at this critical time to rethink the way we approach disasters in the United States,” said FLASH President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson. “Together, we must identify ways to overcome these extraordinary challenges and profoundly improve disaster outcomes. At the end of the conference, we will outline a statement of priorities to mitigate the deaths, injuries, and destruction unfolding all too often in communities across the country.”

 

Some of the speakers included Craig Fugate formerly with FEMA, Lt. General Russel L. Honore US Army retired, and Rick Knabb Ph.D., hurricane and tropical program manager with the Weather Channel.  They presented about a variety of topics on a host of natural disasters including hurricanes, tornados, and floods.  Some of the topics discussed were resilience in the workplace, building with new emerging products and technologies, and of particular interest was how to partner with traditional media to tell a new story about how to be more resilient in the event of a disaster.

As residents at risk from wildfires continue to search for options that will help protect their homes when threatened, the final 2017 edition of the five-part Wildfire Research Fact Sheet series produced by the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Firewise USA program and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), provides information on coatings that will assist in their quest for information.

 

The November fact sheet outlines the use of coatings and includes: product types, application requirements and performance limitations.

 

Given the current performance limitations of coatings, the research recommends other proven mitigation strategies to reduce vulnerabilities of homes to wildfire, such as using ember-resistant design features and creating and maintaining the home ignition zones.

 

If you missed the earlier editions in the fact sheets series, they’re a must-read on the latest research topics which include: Roofing; Decks; Fencing and Attic and Crawl Space Vents.

 

Forestry agencies and fire departments can utilize the fact sheets in their educational outreach efforts by customizing them with their agency/department logo.

 

Three homes of various sizes outlined with the three areas of the Home Ignition Zone.  Photo show how there can be over lap between two properties.

This past year, the NFPA worked with curriculum developers and instructors to revise the Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire (HIZ) course. These revisions were based on scientific experiments and post fire evaluations that examined how homes burned during a wildfire.

 

As we’ve shared in previous blogs and resources, embers and small flames from low intensity surface fires continue to be the primary sources of ignition. What has changed is what we call the focus areas within the HIZ, where they are located, and the emphasis on the HOME as the most important component to address.

Instead, of numbered areas, the names are focused areas for ignition potential:

  • Immediate: home and 0-5 feet
  • Intermediate: 5-30 feet
  • Extended: 30-100 feet, possibly out to 200'

 

These focus areas correspond to the priorities of how homes should be assessed for ignition potential, working from the home out to the property line.

 

Check out The ember threat and the home ignition zone section on Firewise.org to learn more about the focus areas and what actions you can take to reduce your risk.

If you are thinking about what activities you and your family, friends, and neighbors would like to do to improve your wildfire preparedness capabilities, consider participating in next year’s Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 5, 2018.  This is a great opportunity to work together to address your risk with actions that can improve your community’s resilience.

 

Now is the time to work on a plan of action and collaborate with agency partners to help you in identifying risks to your community.  NFPA’s Firewise USA site also has resources you can use to understand what your risks are in the home ignition zone.

 

Create your plan and get ready to apply next year from January 8, through March 2, 2018, for one of 150 funding awards, with generous support from State Farm that will be given to help with project implementation.   Participate on this day to be a part of helping to create safer, more resilient communities across the nation.

Map of states that are a part of the Northeast Region, National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy logo

The Firewise USA™ Program and the Northeastern Region Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Committee have teamed up to highlight community success stories in resident-led mitigation and preparedness from a region very much at risk to wildfire.

 

Each month the NE RSC newsletter delivers articles and stories that demonstrate the collaborative efforts of agencies, organizations and communities in supporting and promoting the three goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy:

  • Restoring resilient landscapes
  • Creating fire adapted communities
  • Safe and effective wildfire response

 

This is an opportunity to promote the successes of our Firewise USA™ participants in the northeast region and it helps NE RSC get the message out about how becoming fire adapted via Firewise is beneficial to communities.

In September, Faith Berry highlighted how Cook County, Minnesota residents have learned about the value of collaborating to successfully protect their communities from wildfire loss. Each resident and agency partner accepted their responsibility and embraced their part to identify and lessen their risk of loss.

In October, Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan featured the Pequawket Lake Preservation Association in Limington, Maine, and their efforts to grow beyond their boundaries and engage the community at a higher level.

 

Photo credit: NE RSC newsletter, Larry Mastic

 As homeowners in wildfire prone areas continue to search for ways to reduce potential home ignitions during a wildfire, the October edition of the five-part Wildfire Research Fact Sheet series produced by the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Firewise USA program and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), provides them with details on how noncombustible fencing products can have an impact.

 

The research fact sheet details how fencing placed within five feet of a building (the Immediate Zone) should be constructed of noncombustible materials. Using noncombustible fencing where it attaches to the building reduces the opportunity of a burning fence igniting the exterior of the structure.

 

Each fact sheet in the series provides residents living in areas with wildfire risks with important research findings that can be implemented at the individual parcel level. They also provide forestry agencies and fire departments with an educational outreach tool that can be customized with an agency/department logo.

 

The final 2017 edition of the fact sheet series will be released in November and the topic is scheduled to be Coatings.

If you’ve been stressing about getting a nomination submitted for that risk reduction "superhero" that you know, you now have a little extra time! The deadline has been extended to November 10, and that gives you an extra ten days to get them nominated.

 

The 2018 national Wildfire Mitigation Awards are for an outstanding individual, group or organization that continuously demonstrates exceptional wildfire risk reduction achievements. They are the highest honor for outstanding work and significant impacts in wildfire preparedness and mitigation. The program was established in 2014 in response to an overwhelming number of exceptional wildfire risk reduction efforts occurring throughout the U.S.

 

Nominating a deserving individual or organization is simple and easy-to-do. Read the guidelines and supporting criteria and get started by completing the online form.

The three award categories include:

  • National Wildfire Mitigation Award
  • National Mitigation Hero Award
  • Wildfire Mitigation Legacy Award

Jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS), the nomination deadline closes Friday, November 10.

 

Awards will be presented at the Reno, Nevada Wildland Urban-Interface Conference on February 28, 2018.

Photo submitted by Krys Nystrom

The news is full of horrifying and sad stories, especially in the aftermath of the California wildfires.  So much tragedy, it is heartbreaking.  When I was in New Mexico connecting with residents, Krys Nystrom, project manager for the Wildfire Network, introduced me to a very positive story about New Mexico young adults.  It was a group of five young adults who are making an incredible difference in the wildfire safety of their community while at the same time are learning basic forestry skills.

 

This group of five Santa Fe Youthworks participants were working on a project to reduce fuel loading at the Santa Fe Institute.  The project is funded by the City of Santa Fe’s Verde grant.  This project is the result of collaborative efforts by ten partners consisting of the Santa Fe Youthworks (lead), Wildfire Network, Reunity Resources, the Food Depot, Dashing Delivery, MoGro, All Trees Firewood Inc, Proscape Landscaping, Adelante Program for Homeless Student Services, and Santa Fe Community College.

 

The project provides assistance for fuels reduction and healthy forest restoration projects.  The students were working on reducing fuels and making necessary erosion control steps that they received guidance with from an environmental professional.

Photo submitted by Krys Nystrom

The students are not only helping their community but also growing in personal qualifications through on the job training and coursework provided. According to Krys, “They have done some fixed plot monitoring training, brown's transects for fuel loading measures, and we're learning how to participate in the Land-Potential Knowledge System by adding soil data to that world-wide database.”  They will get an NWCG S130/190, basic firefighting class and hope to participate on some prescribed fire projects. They will also be interfacing with private landowners to get some people skills, and doing a community presentation at some point early next year to get some public speaking experience.

 

Do you know youth who would like to be a part of something bigger by helping their communities be more resilient from damage caused by wildfire?  Check out NFPA’s TakeAction website for more information about potential community service project ideas.

Current wildfires around Coimbra, Portugal, have claimed over 30 lives in a country still coming to terms with the loss of 64 people in wildfires this summer. It is a hard and painful truth that the impacts of wildfire are shared globally, as we here in the United States see official reports of 41 deaths in California from wildfires that continue to burn. Both tolls deserve our collective reflection on how we manage our landscapes and engage with our built environment.


António Patrão, Forest Engineer and Fire Prevention Specialist in Portugal, shared his thoughts on the current loss of life and the future of preparedness outreach in Portugal for this blog. His words help us to understand the scope of challenge, the impact of fire on the people of Portugal, and what can be done going forward by everyone.

 

“Portugal faced the most devastating wildfire season ever. Massive, very fast and severe wildfires destroyed lives, goods, landscapes, natural heritage and cultural values. It has been a firework on hell, under extreme dry [conditions], gigantic fuel accumulation, and unprepared communities. The perfect storm.

 

Since January until October [2017], mostly in a few days of June and October, 106 people died. Hundreds were injured. Thousands of pets and livestock died. Thousands homes and industrial facilities and others were affected and destroyed. 500,000 ha [1,235,526 acres] were burned. This represent 50% of the total burned area in Europe. It should be noted that 90% of those 500,000 ha were caused only by 1% of the total ignitions.

 

We are now living a moment of uncertainty when wildfires easily become urban and industrial ones.

 

National wildfire management and civil protection systems collapsed. People, most of them old, were abandon to their luck, trapped in smoke and flames, alone and unprepared. All society is morally affected, in pain and tears. People are feeling hopeless, angry with fire, with the state and with the government, and questioning themselves. It will be hard to recover. 

 

Wildfires in Portugal are now clearly being assumed as a social problem. They have human causes, they provoke human losses, and solutions are in human hands.

 

Solutions? Answers? Let’s go back to the basics on forest management and work close with people. Portugal needs to develop and implement community educational programs on fire. Community collaborative work on fire prevention and response represents one anchor to prepare people and to build resilient wildfire communities. This demands long term policies and outreach by multidisciplinary teams, home by home, street by street, village by village, and community by community. The road is hard but we should take the first step on Firewise.”

 

Photo Credit: BBC, Dozens Die in Portugal and Spain Wildfires, 16 October 2017, pulled 18 Oct. 2017. 

Photo of page from Quickseries Publishing

 

In honor of Fire Prevention Week and thanks to the good work of the Mid-Atlantic Forest Fire Protection Compact and the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Commission along with QuickSeries Publishing, a free mobile app in both English and Spanish is now available to help people prepare for and recover from wildfire damages.

 

NFPA has partnered with the Compact and the Commission to ensure the app is available for free unlimited downloads for one year. This timely information, provided from the convenience of a smartphone or tablet device, can help people not only prepare their homes and families before a wildfire, but also provide critical knowledge and resources to help them recover more quickly after a fire has occurred.

 

While the app contains regionally specific information for the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, it is rich with information on wildfire preparedness and post-fire recovery that can help residents throughout North America. The settings feature within the app allows users to set the language to English or Spanish.

 Photo of App shared by Quickseries Publishing

According to NFPA Wildfire Division Manager Michele Steinberg, “The app is easy to navigate. It’s well organized with attractive graphics, quick tips, and links to all of the most important information people need to know to get prepared and be safer. It’s very well-aligned to the messages and information that NFPA provides on wildfire safety, and helps people in the U.S. find out how to engage in the Firewise USA™ Recognition Program, and those in Canada how to access FireSmart resources. As Californians cope with a major wildfire disaster unfolding during this Fire Prevention Week, it’s my hope that the recovery information, in particular, may be helpful to them.”

 

Fred Turck, Prevention Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Forestry, shared, "Education is one tool we have to help protect people, homes, and places from the threat and damages of wildfires. This new app is one of the best tools we have had in our educational toolbox for many years and I appreciate the collaboration between all those involved in making this available."

 

 

Click here to download the app from iTunes® or Google Play®.                                                                                        (LINK: http://readydl.com/landing/wildfire/index.html)

 

 

Photo of page from Quickseries Publishing

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