Jack D. Cohen, Research Physical Scientist, USDA Forest Service
Michele Steinberg, Firewise Program Manager, NFPA
To close the NFPA Backyards & Beyond wildland education conference, Jack Cohen and Michele Steinberg delivered a lively presentation, taking conference attendees on a Firewise journey. First, Jack Cohen, research physical scientist with the USDA Forest Service, gave the crowd a brief look at his past and where his interest in wildfire began and how wildfires gained national attention in 1986 through the Wildfire Strikes Home Conference. While displaying interesting photos from his research over the years, we learned more about the sequence of events and factors contributing to residential destruction from wildfire. Jack worked with some of the initial pilot communities of the Firewise program.
Michele took over there to detail the Firewise Communities/USA program from the pilots through today. She shared how the pilots offered several lessons that shaped the program, including; the need to focus on one community at a time, the importance of mitigation education, the focus on action instead of reaction and the maintenance of persistance and patience. Today, the Firewise program includes over 750 communities in 40 states and has an 80% retention rate over the past 10 years.