Skip navigation
All Places > Fire Break > Blog > 2011 > October > 28

Fire Break

October 28, 2011 Previous day Next day

On Wednesday night, a group of conference attendees returned from dinner to find the hotel courtyard covered in several inches of snow. Never having experienced making a snowman before, members of the group from South Africa decided there was no time like the present. Enter their friendly colleagues from Canada, who helped shape a snowman (which according to one unnamed source, ended up looking more like Mickey Mouse with a thermometer in his mouth).

Kelly and Val
Kelly O'Shea, director of Partners in Protection in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and Val Charlton, managing director of Firewise Africa.

Kelly and Lisa
Kelly Johnston of Partners in Protection in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, and Lisa Westhaver, wife of Alan Westhaver of Partners in Protection in Jasper, Alberta, Canada.

The final product.

Meghan Housewright, NFPA senior specialist for government affairs, presented 

Today's luncheon at NFPA's Backyards & Beyond wildland education conference in Denver gave attendees a chance to network, meet friends, and a few minutes to decide which afternoon sessions to attend.

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

Lunch photo

In the past few years, more than 150 firefighters have lost their lives at wildland fires. Dennis Childress, retired from the Orange County Fire Authority, discussed firefighter safety in the WUI this afternoon at NFPA’s “Backyards & Beyond” conference. Dennis provided all of the fire service members in attendance with a complete program they could take back to their departments to train everyone on the concepts and strategies learned during today’s session. This program included a PowerPoint template, educational videos and a notes handbook.

As society moved outward from urban to rural areas, the skills needed to fight these fires is evolving. Combining structural and wildland firefighting techniques is becoming a specialty and firefighter safety is becoming more of a priority. 


Jack Cohen details SIAM and how it was developed. 


Dr. Steve Quarles spoke to the testing of the SIAM science and principals at IBHS

Jack Cohen, Research Physical Scientist with the USDA Forest Service and Dr. Steve Quarles, Senior Scientist with the Insurance Institute Business & Home Safety (IBHS) led a featured presentation this morning at NFPA’s “Backyards & Beyond” conference on ‘Assessing Home Ignition Potential in the Wildland/Urban Interface.’

Jack started the discussion detailing the Structure Ignition Assessment Model (SIAM). This systematic and objective tool can be used to assess home ignition potential in the WUI based on flame and firebrands within the home ignition zone in conjunction with the home’s design, materials and potential debris. The idea that home destruction largely results from ember ignitions and low intensity fires that spread across surface fuels in a community came from many experiments and real case studies combined.

Steve then detailed the IBHS building in Richburg, SC where a simulation was created to test ember exposure and radiant panels on a house made from various types of materials, including different roofs, types of siding, landscape, gutters, etc. They took the results and analyzed the ignition potential of each.

The SIAM program is also being used in the new user-friendly web tool allowing homeowners to assess the potential for their specific home, which the audience heard about yesterday

Did you know that U.S fire departments responded to an average of 356,800 natural vegetation fires per year (2004-2008)? In most of these fires, less than one acre burned. These incidents accounted for 23% of all fires reported to local fire departments. During a session at the Backyards & Beyond wildland fire conference in Denver, NFPA’s Marty Aherns and Michele Steinberg presented facts and figures about brush, grass, and forest fires in the United States, as well as local fire department response.

  • On average, 976 brush, grass, or forest fires were reported per day.
  • 4,800 buildings were involved in these brush, grass, and forest fires per year.
  • Less than an acre burned in three-quarters (74%) of these fires. Only 4% burned more than ten acres.
  • Overall, one in five of these fires were intentionally set.

Read more – download a free copy of NFPA’s “Brush, Grass, and Forest Fires” report

Ready Set Go
Friday afternoon’s session on technology gave participants a glimpse into the power of GIS. As Laura Blaul, Kate Dargan and Jennifer Schottke explained, geographic information systems (GIS) brings mapping technology into the service of the community, allowing residents and firefighters to create a common view of risks. Each presenter demonstrated innovative fire safety applications for GIS tools that can serve as catalysts for community dialogue and action.

Blaul, the Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal for the Orange County Fire Authority, showed how color-coding parcels on a risk map helped motivate homeowner action and allowed the county to measure mitigation program results over a three-year period.

Dargan, former California State Fire Marshal and co-owner of technology firm Intterra, provided more details on how Orange County’s system worked using a blend of all kinds of data to create a shared view of fire risk in the context of the county’s Ready, Set, Go! program. The scalability of the information allows users to “make it personal.”

ESRI’s Jennifer Schottke coordinates the software development and services company’s public safety industry marketing activities. She covered the basics of GIS and demonstrated the use of the web-based ArcGIS Explorer portal. A draft map of Firewise Communities/USA sites showed the potential of this tool for easy user access to real-time information about mitigation work and fire incidents.

-Michele Steinberg

http%3A%2F%2Fwww.firewise.orgSocial Media

NFPA’s Lauren Backstrom and Mike Hazell led a discussion today on how to use the internet and Social Media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, etc.) to reach audiences with Firewise and wildfire safety messages. Lauren advised attendees to define clear goals (i.e. reaching audiences you can’t reach via traditional outreach efforts, influencing behaviors, improving customer service, etc.) before jumping into Social Media. She said it is important to give readers a reason to “follow” your online efforts. “Social media is all about having a conversation,” she said, “so you need to make sure your posts are interesting and that you speak in a ‘human voice’, not ‘corporate speak’.”

Mike said Social Media gives you an opportunity to potentially reach huge numbers of people with your electronic messages, something that was not even thinkable a few short years ago. “The great thing about Social Media is that your messages don’t always get communicated through a direct connection – they’re transmitted by someone who knows someone who knows someone.”

Want to see what it's all about? Visit the Firewise Communites Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Cassy Robinson

Cassy Robinson of the Savannah River National Laboratory is leading hands-on demonstrations of Wildfire Wizard, a free software tool for homeowners, builders, fire agencies, and community planners program. The program allows users to assess the wildland fire risk of their properties and provides mitigation messages, links to instructional videos, and other online resources.

HowToNewsletterA reminder that the "How-To Newsletter" is a free quarterly publication distributed to residents of Firewise Communities/USA recognized sites and other interested folks. If you're a homeowner or community resident whose home is located in a region susceptible to wildfires, this newsletter will provide you with timely, pertinent information on how to best protect your home and yourself in the event of wildfire. 

Read the latest issue of the "How-To Newsletter"







We thank our "Backyards and Beyond" sponsors for their generosity and their commitment to provide all attendees with a valuable opportunity to share experiences, lessons learned and best practices with other individuals who have an interest in wildland fire education.



Colorado State Forest Service

Brandguard Vents




Wildland Fire Management Section

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: