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Albert Schweitzer once said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

In that spirit, let me share with you some of the wonderful examples I observed from South African communities applying Firewise.

From the affluent Western Cape coast to the poorest of villages in the central part of the country, South Africans are overcoming language and cultural differences, extreme poverty, high unemployment and high fire risks to use Firewise principles to their advantage. The government-sponsored Working on Fire program has used Firewise principles from the U.S. to help community residents take ownership of their fire risks, to train people on the safe use of fire, and to turn both fire problems and some of the economic problems around.

Working on Fire piloted Firewise concepts in a handful of communities and were provided with seed funding last year for wage incentive programs to train wildland firefighters. This year, the government has seen the results and tripled their investment these successful, community-based programs. 

Thankfully, Working on Fire has documented these pilot efforts in a series of short and powerful videos available on the Firewise South Africa website as well as on their YouTube channel, WoFAfriFireNet. Watch and learn what these folks have done in a country with far fewer financial resources than the United States. Hear from community “sparkplugs,” like Levy  Majikijela of Queen’s Mercy, and from Working on Fire outreach staff like Zanele Nxumalo from KwaZulu Natal.  I hope the good examples in these videos can inspire communities in the U.S. to work together to become safer from wildfire threats.

NFPA Today 

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- Mike Hazell
NFPA Division Manager, Web The Wildland Fire Operations Advisory Committee met in Quincy on May 19th. Most of the morning was spent updating the committee on the status of projects outlined in the three-year work plan for the Division. NFPA staff has made significant progress in key areas including the selection of a contractor to conduct a comprehensive review of the availability and effectiveness of regulations related to wild fires, the hiring of six part-time Firewise Field Advisors to help increase the number of communities, and the creation of a long-term communications plan to guide outreach efforts. Staff also reported on the status of other projects such as the Backyards and Beyond Conference and the updated Firewise website (to be launched in early summer).

Afternoon discussion focused on two components of the work plan and the committee provided staff with more details on their thoughts for implementation. Those areas are the need for better data collection, analysis, and reporting related to losses incurred during wild fire events, and the need for a clearinghouse for information related to pre-fire mitigation strategies. Staff will continue to refine those ideas and create specific goals and tasks around each one.

All in all it was a very productive day for the committee members and our staff. Thanks to everyone who attended!


The first Nor Cal Fire Prevention Expo was held May 14 and 15 at the Jennifer Skuce Pavilion in McArthur, California. The event was sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, California Fire Safe Council and the US Department of the Interior. Residents that came to the expo learned about NFPA’s Firewise Communities program, fire resistant plants and construction materials that can help homeowners build safer homes from wildland fires. It also provided an opportunity to have one on one discussions with residents about the program, what home improvement projects they were working on or already had completed and in turn residents were able to ask questions of the wildland fire experts.

Children were able to meet Smokey Bear, go through the Cal Fire trailer to learn about E.D.I.T.H (exit drills in the home), the importance of crawling low in smoke, early warning systems and check out the fire apparatus on display and visit with the fire fighters.

Firewise Booth at Nor Cal Expo

For anyone who wasn’t able to attend the expo and would like to learn about Firewise and order free brochures, books, and DVDs, visit the Firewise Catalog.

Cheryl Technical Committee on Forest and Rural Fire Protection will be holding a Report on Comments meeting for NFPA 1144, Standard for Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fire, in October 2011.  The meeting will take place in Denver, Colorado prior to this year’s Backyards & Beyond® Wildland Fire Conference.  NFPA 1144 contains many of principles and practices utilized by the Firewise® Communities Program, as well as the course subject matter for the "Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone" workshop. 

NFPA 1144’s Report on Proposals will be available at the end of June and the document will be open for public comment until August 30, 2011.  Get involved with the NFPA process by submitting a public comment and then come on out to the Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Conference to sit in on the “Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone” workshop, meet the members of the Technical Committee, and speak with industry experts.  The pre-conference workshop is being held October 25-26, 2011 and the conference will run from October 27-29, 2011.  Make sure to mark your calendars for the event.  I look forward to seeing you there!


Ryan Depew

It’s as close as looking out your window. For those of us living in states like Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho, and including our neighbors as far north as Canada, what we once marveled at as the beauty of green, lush forests, has now turned an eerie, deathly red. Tens of millions of acres given over to the mountain pine beetle bent on destroying healthy forests. But did you know these red needles of a tree killed in a mountain pine beetle attack can ignite up to three times fast than the green needles of a healthy tree?

Mountain Pine Beetle According to US Forest Service ecologist Matt Jolly who recently published his new research findings,  beetle-killed trees can hold 10 times less moisture than live trees. This means dead trees ignite more quickly than live ones, and also burn more intensely, carrying embers farther.

What’s happening? A few things. Over time, pine beetles target trees weakened by forest management conditions and climate-induced changes. Old, densely packed pine forests allow beetle populations to expand beyond their natural habitat, and warmer summers and milder winters thwart nature's ability to contain the beetles. 

To help combat this problem, Jolly’s colleague, Russ Parsons, is developing a new, advanced model that he believes will provide the science needed to help inform fire management decisions when it comes to predicting how a wildfire in a beetle-ravaged region will behave. Their research was presented at a seminar in Helena last week sparking a continued debate over the issue. 

But what can we, as homeowners, do to keep us as safe as possible in the event of a wildland fire? The Firewise Communities Program offers tips and provides resources to help create your own plan of action.

If you live in an area infested by the mountain pine beetle, tell us how this crisis has impacted your way of life. What changes have you noticed? Is there a noticeable difference in the behavior of wildlife? In the ecosystem? We’d like to hear from you.


(Photo taken from the Colorado State University/Colorado State Forest Service web site)

As we prepare to head for South Africa for the International Wildfire Conference, news that Northern Ireland and Scotland continue to battle wildfires reinforces the fact that this is and continues to be a monumental global issue.

It’s interesting to note that in the Scottish Highlands, one of their big concerns is the safety of the large populations of ground-nesting birds, including some of their rarest and most cherished species, which face devastation during this, the peak of breeding season. In Ireland, the minister of state forestry said last weekend was one of the worst in the history of Irish forestry, as they continue to attack close to 2,000 wildfires spreading across the country, some of which are human caused by those burning gorse (a type of evergreen shrub dubbed ‘fireweed’) or rubbish.


We can’t change Mother Nature when it comes to our seasons, but we can, no matter where we live, try and influence behavior. What do we consider are our great cultural assets, those that are most at risk due to wildfires? Depending upon where we live, that answer changes slightly.


As we continue to look across borders to share practices and lessons learned, we ask, is there a program in Ireland or Scotland similar to Firewise? How are people in these countries educating the public about risk mitigation and safety, and how are communities working together in these trying times? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

ContestImage "Why do you attend the NFPA Conference & Expo?"
The answer to that question just may get you a free registration to this year's event in Boston. Whether you're a regular attendee or will be a first-time attendee, we'd like to know why you attend and what you get out of NFPA's Conference & Expo.

Between May 3-9, 2011, we're asking you to tell us, in 75 words or less, what the event means to you. An NFPA panel will select one winning entry and announce the winner on Friday, May 13. All submissions will become the property of NFPA.

It's easy to enter: just visit our website and follow the easy instructions. Your entry must include your full name, e-mail address, and daytime telephone number.

Hurry! Contest ends May 9, 2011.

See the complete list of rules for this contest.

‘Tis the season for many states and countries around the world to officially kick off wildfire season through wildfire awareness campaigns. To bring the global community together around this issue, the International Association of Wildfire (IAWF) is spearheading a two-part Global Wildfire Awareness Week: May 1 – 7 (northern hemisphere) and October 1-7 (southern hemisphere). Wildfire Week pic

This year’s theme is “Your Home…Your Responsibility.” Firewise proudly supports this initiative. We also welcome you to take advantage of our free materials and information on, and learn about specific actions for homeowners to reduce wildfire risk.

According to IAWF President Chuck Bushey in a recent press announcement, "We are excited to globally link wildfire professionals to share information, research, and practical tools in the effort to reduce wildfire impacts. This dynamic site allows sharing of community wildfire profiles, fire prevention materials and real-time, global fire occurrence information.  

For more information on Global Wildfire Awareness Week, please visit the new website:


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