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Fireworks Each July Fourth, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks - devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death. Not only that, but tinder dry conditions in some areas make fireworks a potential threat to starting wildland fires. Take Texas for example. Throughout the Lonestar State, many counties have put a ban on the use of consumer fireworks or canceled shows altogether due to this danger. 

The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks is a group of health and safety organizations, coordinated by NFPA, that urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and instead, to enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals. Be sure to check with your local fire service or state authority to make sure there’s not a current ban on lighting fireworks!

Some important facts and figures to consider before using consumer fireworks:

  • Sparkler In 2009, fireworks caused an estimated 18,000 reported fires, including 1,300 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in no reported civilian deaths, 30 civilian injuries and $38 million in direct property damage.
  • In 2009, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,800 people for fireworks related injuries; 53% of 2009 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 42% were to the head.
  • The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 10-14, with more than twice the risk for the general population.
  • On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for more than half of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.

We hope you have a fun and safe holiday weekend!


Source: NFPA’s Fireworks report, by John R. Hall, Jr., June 2011

Also see: NFPA's Fact sheet on fireworks and additional videos on the dangers of consumer fireworks

Firewise Logo

I’m proud to announce NFPA's Firewise® Communities Program has reached a milestone! Our 700th community recently earned recognition as a Firewise Communities/USA® site. Congratulations to Robin Hood Loop in Forks, Washington, whose commitment and action to improve residents’ safety from threats posed by brush, grass and forest fires is an inspiration to us all.

It also makes me happy to report the number of communities who earn recognition continues to grow rapidly and our participation retention rate remains high - 80 percent over the past decade. Given the tough wildfire season we’re all experiencing across the country, it’s heartening to know so many of our neighbors are opting to be proactive and making a marked difference in how they react to wildfire threats in their areas.

Check out the entire list of recognized communities and full press release available on our website for more information.

Want to learn how your community can earn recognition?  Our new website is chock full of great information, tips and resources to show you how.

Congratulations again to Robin Hood Loop; we look forward to hearing more about your initiatives!

-Michele Conference & Expo Boston NFPA recently wrapped up its annual conference in Boston, and it was a busy time for all of us.  As part of the schedule, we offered two presentations related to wildland fire issues and the Wildland Fire Management Section held a breakfast and evening reception, in addition to staffing a booth during the exhibition. 

It’s not too early to start thinking about next year’s conference, which will be held June 11 – 14 in Las Vegas and we’d love to see more of a wildland fire presence there.  Consider presenting at the conference and attending the Section breakfast and reception.  If you’re not already, consider becoming a Section member, which gives you access to all the activities NFPA is involved in. As you may know, NFPA is committed to tackling wildfire issues more than ever before and we’d love your input. Track our progress and engage in discussions on our social media sites including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  The conference also offers a great opportunity to learn more and intermingle with others who share an interest and concern about the losses sustained during wildland fire events. 

NFPA Conference & Expo 
In the meantime, check out our blog, which highlights our sessions from this year’s event, and my interview with NFPA’s Web team as I discuss the current wildfire situation in the U.S.

Thanks to all who attended Boston.  Hope to see you in Las Vegas!


I just read a great article online at the Durango Herald that beautifully illustrates the concept of creating defensible space around your home, and emphasizes the sobering reality of the dangers of flying embers. The piece really captures the important role homeowners can play in being proactive when it comes to safeguarding their house and property against a wildland fire, and reminds us that firefighters alone can’t always save a house.

In the article, Pam Wilson, who coordinates the Firewise of Southwest Colorado fire-safety projects, also gave a shout out to a number of recognized Firewise communities and provided examples of what they’ve done to stay safe. For anyone interested in CWPP’s (Community Wildfire Protection Plan), Ms. Wilson gives a little background on what these plans are and how neighborhoods have used them. 


This article is definitely worth the read. Lots of great information and plenty of solid examples that explore what community members can do together now to be ready for any wildfire threat.

On our visit last week to Colorado to talk about all things Firewise, Molly Mowery and I were taken on a tour of the Fourmile Canyon Fire in Boulder, where 167 homes burned last September.  Allan Owen, the District Forester with the Colorado State Forest Service Boulder District, led us to several areas affected by the 6400 -acre fire.


While results of an in-depth investigation into the impacts of the fire are still pending, I can tell you what we observed and heard about. First, this large fire was wind-driven. We could see the “needle freeze” on the burned pine trees that showed the direction of the strong winds moving the fire forward.


Wind-driven fire accounted for the sometimes erratic pattern of the burn and spot fires. Spotting (wind-driven embers landing on a site and starting a fire on the spot) accounted for much of the seemingly random pattern of home destruction.


Some of most vulnerable homes – wood-sided, wooden-roofed, surrounded by flammable vegetation and covered in dry pine needles – were spared because the winds shifted and the fire never entered the neighborhood. Others, even newer construction, burned because of their proximity to heavily overgrown steep slopes.


The physics of home ignition hold true: homes burned or did not burn based on whether the home ignition zone (the house and everything within 100 feet of it) met the conditions for combustion. Those “un-Firewise” homes that survived had the fuel and the oxygen, but no heat (no ignition in the area).  Surviving homes where fire raged could be observed to have reduced fuel on and around the house. This stucco-sided, metal roofed house survived quite nicely, even with some trees nearby.


We’re anxious to hear what the investigators have found, about the behavior of this particular fire, about the ecological impacts of the burn, about the fire response, but mostly about why some homes burned while some survived. Check out ongoing coverage from the Boulder Daily Camera. And watch the Firewise blog for more analysis of the information coming out of this fire investigation.

This week, Michele and I are happy to be here in Colorado visiting Windcliff, one of our great Firewise recognized communities.  Windcliff is a private, mountainside residential community that runs along the sunny side of Rams Horn Mountain, on the boundary of Rocky Mountain National Park.  

On this particular clear, sunny day, Windcliff’s Firewise representative, Bud Duryea and the subdivision’s HOA president, Joe Walsh, share with us their success in implementing many of our Firewise principles.  Bud also mentioned that in addition to utilizing Firewise measures, the community has been actively involved in forest restoration, an important component, he says, of their overall approach to mitigation.  State Forester, Jeff Jahnke, joined our group to see firsthand how, through their dedication and collaborative efforts, Bud, Joe, contractor Tony Mann from Summit Forestry, and their neighbors, keep their community safe from a possible wildland fire approaching the area. Visiting people and actually seeing up close our Firewise program in action is one of the most satisfying parts of our job!

Take a look at some of the photos we’ve taken along the way, courtesy of Lisa Mason of the Colorado State Forest Service.  We applaud Windcliff for their continued wildfire safety efforts and unwavering support of Firewise.

Bud is showing the group some of the mitigation work that’s been done around the subdivision.

Michele and I, along with members of the Colorado State Forest Service, listen to Bud Duryea of Windcliff share stories of their success with the Firewise program.

Windcliff has been a recognized Firewise community since 2004!

Do you have photos of your community’s Firewise program in action? Please share them with us - you can upload them right to our Facebook page.  We’d love to hear from you!  And stay tuned for more updates from our visit in Colorado.


Photos:  Courtesy of Lisa Mason, Colorado State Forest Service

I'd like to allow our southern region Firewise Advisor, Patrick Mahoney, to speak to the tragic deaths on Sunday (June 2011) of two Florida Division of Forestry firefighters. According to a CNN report, Josh Burch, age 31, and Brett Fulton, age 52, lost their lives while fighting the "Blue Ribbon Fire" in Hamilton County in north-central Florida. Patrick is a fellow Florida Division of Forestry firefighter and wildfire mitigation specialist. Here is what he sent to Firewise community members in his area of Florida yesterday:

Yesterday the close-knit fire world lost two of their very own. The ripple of loss is felt from State Firefighters, Local County Firefighters and Cooperators and passed on to the communities that we all try to protect. Firefighters need your help in protecting your home, community and lives. Please help us by:

 (1) Keeping your yard lean, clean, and green.Using firewise principles

(A) Lean - Trim vegetation away from home.

(B) Clean - No accumulation of dead vegetation or flammable debris.

(C) Green - Less flammable plants that are healthy, watered and green during dry season.

 (2) Supporting your State, County and City's Wildfire Mitigation Efforts

Everyone who owns land should be managing it for wildfires. The natural areas grow wild, the ground is littered with pine needles, dead leaves, sticks and twigs. The natural area accumulates dead vegetation for years, which is then ripe for a wildfire. Please support burning, mowing and chopping in these natural areas. This wildfire mitigation is essential to the health of the ecosystem. If the ground is littered with dead vegetation then sunlight will not reach the forest floor. The foraging animals must look for new places to feed due to lack of new growth.

We can all do our part and play a role to make our homes and communities safer, and even to save lives. The Firewise program and our national Firewise family joins with Florida in mourning the loss of these wildland firefighters.

With all of the recent and frequent wildfires we’re experiencing in Colorado, we in NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division and Firewise Communities Program took some time to work with the Colorado State Forest Service to develop an op-ed piece for local papers reminding communities about the important steps they can take to help safeguard their homes and property before a wildfire threatens their area.  We were thrilled to find The Florence Citizen published our comments in the “Opinion” section of their paper.  We want everyone to know that during this trying time, in many of these high risk areas, even the small things can make a huge difference. And when we join together with our neighbors, the benefits grow tenfold. 


See what you can do now and how the Firewise program can help. Also check out our “success stories” page on our Web site for ideas and tips from other communities that have joined in this effort. 


I am so proud of Pisgah Forest Farms/Estates in North Carolina!  The community is celebrating its 5th year of participation in NFPA's Firewise Communities/USA program, a voluntary initiative to protect local residents, their property and natural resources from wildfires.  

Pisgah Forest Farms/Estates became a Firewise community in 2007.  Since then, the community created and executed a variety of activities to help create the best wildfire prevention plan for the community. Pisgah Forest Farms/Estates’ anniversary was marked by a community wide debris cleanup campaign lasting the entire month of April followed by a picnic on June 11th. 

“Because wildfires are burning hotter and faster than ever before, it’s more important than ever to take safety steps now,” said Norton Carey, Chairman of the Firewise Fire Prevention Committee.  “Wildfires will happen, and we want to be as ready as possible to prevent damage to our community’s buildings, resources and of course, our residents.”

Some of the Firewise activities undertaken by the community over the years include:

  • With the help of the local NC Department of Forest Resources Rangers, community leaders visited all 62 homes to help conduct home assessments and educate residents as to what they can do to avoid their home becoming fuel for a fire
  • Community volunteers cleared tons of brush and vegetation around homes and roadways
  • Residents replaced flammable mulch and vegetation around their homes with non-flammable options outlined in a Firewise publication
  • Improved an emergency access road for additional evacuation safety and fire equipment entry
  • Created and distributed an emergency evacuation guide

Since becoming a Firewise Communities/USA site, Pisgah Forest Farms/Estates now has a yearly spring cleanup of debris (fuel) to help prevent a fire from spreading (the first such community cleanup in 25 years).  They also have a fall leaf cleanup along their roadways to prevent dropped cigarettes from starting a forest fire.

I am so proud that Pisgah Forest Farms/Estates has reached this anniversary milestone. Their motivation and dedication has truly helped minimize wildfire risk factors, and their hard work surely has paid off. 

Visit the Firewise Communities/USA area of the Firewise website to find out more about how your community can begin the assessment process and start on their path to safer homes and a fire-adapted community setting. 
Register Early to Save

The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) Wildland Fire Operations Division and Firewise Communities Program has opened registration for the 2011 Backyards and Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference.

Registration for the ever-popular 2-day Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone Workshop and Conference is available online, through the mail, by fax or phone.  Visit NFPA’s registration page for more information.

The workshop will be presented Tuesday and Wednesday, October 25 – 26 by Jack Cohen, Research Physical Scientist, USDA Forest Service and Gary Marshall, Firewise Regional Advisor.

The Backyards and Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference will be held Thursday, October 27 through Saturday, October 29, 2011, at the DoubleTree Hotel Denver, Colorado offering over 50 breakout sessions in five educational tracks. The conference offers a unique opportunity to build relationships and explore key issues, and brings together leading wildland fire experts, Firewise® community representatives, community planners, civic leaders, homeowners and residents, insurance professionals, landscape architects and others to share best-practices that can be taken back to communities or the workplace.

 - Cheryl

Huffpo2 The Huffington Post’s online “HuffPost Green” provided this headline today: Arizona Monster Wildfire Part Of New Era Of More And Bigger Wildfires. It just so happens this statement has always been a large part of the Firewise message. Wildland fires have continued to increase over the past few years so we need to be prepared, take action and reduce our risk. According to the article, “The U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey studied fires of more than 1,000 acres and found that from 1984 to 1999 an average of 2.2 million acres nationally burned each year. From 2000 to 2008, the acreage destroyed annually rose to 6.4 million acres.” It’s a mind boggling number.

Huffpo Stephen J. Pyne of Arizona State University, author of "Year of the Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910” was interviewed for the story, and shared his insight into what’s possibly happening. Stephen visited NFPA in April to talk to us about wildfire as he gathers research for his new book. Check out our earlier blog about his visit and what he’s working on.

In the meantime, it’s never too late to talk to your neighbors and get involved. And we want to help. Visit to learn more about Firewise principles and how they can help you prepare for a possible wildfire in your area.


Melissa Yunas, a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist with the Florida Division of Forestry, has been detailed to Georgia for several weeks on a wildland fire known as the Honey Prairie Complex. Her regular duties are with the Okeechobee District, which includes Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Okeechobee, Highlands, and Glades Counties in Florida. 

As a long-time Firewise proponent, a Firewise Leadership Award winner, and fire mitigation educator, Melissa knows a "Firewise save" when she sees one. She has generously shared the story (below) of Denny and Francine Alvarez as well as photos of their home in Waycross, Georgia, which survived an event called the Racepond fire just a few weeks ago.


“We got to go,” said Denny Alvarez to his wife Francine. On May 25, 2011, “the fire started four miles south and was roaring towards our house,” Denny explained. The couple was given an hour to pack up their valuables and animals. Denny explained that the “2007 fire was stressful but not as stressful as the Racepond fire. The wind was not in our favor.” The American Red Cross provided the Alvarezes a hotel room for two nerve-wracking nights. The phone rang on the 3rd day, a fire official called and said that “the house is exactly the way that you left it.”

The Alvarezes humbly thank all the agencies that pulled together to save their home. Firefighters believe that the couple played an important part in the success of saving their own home from the Racepond Wildfire. The couple followed the Firewise principles taught to them February 2011 by the Georgia Forestry Commission and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The agencies held six Firewise Workshops in three counties in Georgia. Mr. and Mrs. Alvarez attended the February 24, 2011 workshop. 

“Denny is a fanatic about keeping the timberline neat and clean,” says Francine. The couple learned at the February 2011 workshop about the importance of keeping the yard lean, clean, and green. (1) Lean - Trim vegetation away from home. (2) Clean - No accumulation of dead vegetation or flammable debris. (3) Green - Less flammable plants that are healthy, watered and green during dry season.  “Firewise Tips really made a difference in saving our home. If you have a chance to attend one of these Firewise Meetings, please do”, says Francine. 

“This house has so many tales”, said Denny. “Taking the time and effort to protect it from a wildfire is important us. We have so many treasures that we have found in the swamp that we want to protect."

Melissa credited the Georgia Forestry Commission's Eric Mosley and Niki Jordan with outstanding public outreach and education efforts leading to the successful workshops and subsequent protection of the Alvarez home.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Benjamin Franklin was definitely onto something when he said this, and we in the Wildland Fire Operations Division and Firewise Communities Program couldn’t agree with him more. 

Time As the Arizona wildland fire rages on, it seems the subject of fire is on everyone’s minds these days.  As well it should be.  Summer marks the start of wildland fire season for most states, and with prolonged drought and higher wind conditions forecasted, this is a time when everyone must be on high alert, taking precautions to minimize their risk.  But who says we should wait until a fire is upon us?  Let’s face it, we can all procrastinate, saying, “It’ll never happen here,” or “I’ll get to that later,” but history tells us that many of these fires are unpredictable and can happen almost anywhere.  Whether these fires are the result of environmental factors, such as extreme weather conditions, or human-caused incidents, we can’t afford to be lax in our efforts to help ourselves and our neighbors prepare for the worst.  Together, while we can’t completely prevent these kinds of fires from happening, we can certainly take a stand and say, “I will do something about this.”

Time2 Take a minute and read through Time’s article.  It’s a quick snapshot of the top 10 wildfires around the world.  It’s eye opening and sobering. For more information about what you and your community can do now to keep yourself safe, check out our Firewise Web site, which offers plenty of tips and resources. Need more convincing? Check out our success stories that highlight Firewise principles in action.  You’ll see how people who have invested even a little time in prevention, were rewarded for their efforts.  Their homes are still standing.


Michele and I gave our talk, Flames in the WUI, at NFPA’s Annual Conference & Expo today.  It was a great opportunity to address with our participants some of the problems and challenges we face in regards to the brush, grass and forest fires happening all around the country.  We were also able to highlight examples from the state of Florida and what they’re doing to help reduce their risk during wildfire season and beyond. The unfortunate truth is wildfire will occur but as our presentation pointed out, communities, homeowners and even local agencies can reasonably address these issues, including taking advantage of the number of mitigation options available. Check out the Firewise Web site, which lists some of these tools and measures, or stop by our booth (#1219) if you’re at the conference to have a chat and share ideas.  

We appreciate those who attended and we look forward to hearing from you!

We hope to see you here!


NFPA's Dave Nuss talks about the wildland fires that are raging in Arizona and NFPA's "Firewise Communities" strategies.



Online resources

NFPA&#39;s Firewise Communities program encourages local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters, and others in the effort to protect people and property from the risk of wildfire.</li> </ul>

The 2011 NFPA Annual Conference & Expo in Boston has kicked off and we’re happy to be here!

FirewiseThis Sunday morning found me and my colleague, Marty Ahrens, senior manager, fire analysis, presenting Brush and Wildland Fires: The Surprising Facts You Need to Know,  to a group of folks who were kind enough to brave the early morning hour, and the rain, to listen to our presentation.

The focus of our talk was the NFPA report Marty prepared, which examines the circumstances and causal patterns of brush, grass and forest fires. Marty also told us, based on the report, which states make the most calls to fire departments regarding these types of fires, and that the bulk of them occur during the months of March and April.  Did you know that roughly four of every ten natural vegetation fires occurs on properties described as open land or fields?  Lots of interesting facts and statistics, so check out the full report, which is available for free for members.

Marty’s presentation was the perfect lead in to my talk about the Firewise Communities Program as I outlined what steps homeowners and community members can take to help minimize the risk of wildland fire spreading to their homes. Find more information about Firewise and our recognition program on our Web site.

Thanks to everyone who joined us in the conversation this morning. Have any thoughts, questions, or ideas about what we talked about? We’re here all day at the conference so please come find us! As the Arizona fire rages on, wildland fire is surely on the top of everyone’s mind.

Stay tuned for more updates on the conference and our presentations. We hope to see you soon!


This Sunday marks the start of the NFPA annual conference. As mentioned in Michele’s previous blog post, there are opportunities to visit both our Firewise booth and the Wildland Fire Management Section booth during exhibit hours.

In addition, we’d like to invite you to attend our section-sponsored sessions. Michele will be presenting with Marty Ahrens on Brush and Wildland Fires: The Surprising Facts You Need to Know. (Sunday, June 12th, 8:00 am, Room 203). This session will cover a recent NFPA study that researched the causes, circumstances, and geographic distribution of local fire department responses to grass, brush, and forest fires from 2004-2008.  

Michele and I will also be giving a presentation on Monday at 11:00 am. This session, Flames in the WUI: How Wildfire Planning Can Minimize Risk to People and Property, will provide an overview of the current wildland urban interface loss problem in the U.S., and highlight a menu of mitigation programs that fire services personnel can use. Examples will draw primarily from Florida. (Monday, June 13th, 11:00 am, Room 203).

Full session descriptions are available on the conference website under Education Sessions.

There will be plenty of other intriguing sessions, including presentations on the history of Boston’s “Fire Trail,” AFG Fire Prevention and Safety Grants, and the use of social media by fire services personnel. We hope you’ll be able to join us at this year’s conference!


The rest of the country is watching as the massive "Wallow Fire" burns in eastern Arizona, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents and threatening homes. Two more large fires are still burning in the southernmost area of the state and officials are taking precautions including closing access to the Coronado National Forest.

In the face of what appears to be looming disaster, what can we do? I've got several "dos" depending on where the fire is relative to your home:

  • DO: Listen to your local fire authorities (and to your gut instinct). If they tell you to leave, do it. Your home can be replaced but you only get one life.
  • DO: Take time to prepare your home if you have not been ordered to leave. See the "Wildfire Approaching" widget on for tips on what you can do in the short-term. Little things can make a big difference.
  • DO: Make sure your loved ones know your whereabouts and status if you must leave your home. If you use Facebook or Twitter, post your status to friends.
  • DO: Talk to neighbors about their plans. You may be able to work together to take some last-minute precautions or evacuate more easily.

And one big "DON'T":

  • If you live in an area that's not currently affected, don't wait for smoke to appear on the horizon. Visit the to learn what you can do now to prepare your home for wildfire season.


 Photo Credit: Eastern Arizona IMT

I caught this article on and was really happy to see our Firewise principles in action.  With the height of the CO wildfire season upon us, as homeowners, now’s the time to do what we can to protect our property and houses in the event a wildland fire spreads to our area, and creating defensible space Defensible Space around our home is one of the best things we can do.

According to the article, a four-person wildfire crew, hired by the town of Vail, “will be working in 16 project areas this season to help reduce Vail's wildfire danger. The defensible space work includes cutting, piling, chipping and burning of dead and diseased pine trees in the targeted areas as well as the cutting of affected aspen stands to accelerate new growth. In addition, crews will continue inspections of private properties to facilitate the removal of dead trees as required by the town.”

How great is that? If you live in Vail, I hope you take advantage of this service and their offer to provide Firewise property assessments. And let us know if you participate in the program. We’d love to hear about the results.

For more information and tips on creating defensible space around your home, check out our website at


I was recently catching up on local New England news by thumbing through last month’s Boston Globe Sunday Magazine editions when a particular article caught my eye: The deer-Lyme disconnect.

3_ss_lymedisease The article primarily focused on why new deer hunting programs aren’t enough to slow the spread of Lyme disease because, while effective at reducing deer populations, they don’t eradicate the ticks which carry the disease. I was intrigued by the article – as an avid hiker in New England, I’m concerned about the rising risk of finding one of these nasty disease-transmitting ticks on me after a day of splendor outdoors. 

I was also intrigued by the article for an entirely different reason. As part of a recommendation list for suburban homeowners to avoid ticks in one’s yard, the article suggests “regularly removing leaf litter and clearing tall grasses and brush away from your property,” including creating “a barrier between the lawn and any wooded areas with wood chips or gravel.”  Hmm.. sound familiar?  If I didn’t know better, I would think that I was reading a checklist for Firewise Landscaping tips!

The article obviously included a lot more information about the disease and scientific findings behind its spread, but I found it worth noting that homeowners should be encouraged by the multiple benefits of a healthy landscape during the summer months.  What’s good for your family’s health is also good for reducing the risk of unwanted fires spreading from nearby brush or grass to your house!


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