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AlexIn the Winter issue of the Firewise How To Newsletter, Alex Maranghides discusses his ongoing research into WUI fire losses and the thorough data collection and analysis he is training people to conduct.

Maranghides, a Fire Protection Engineer with the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), has been working on ways to develop reliable and implementable hazard reduction solutions for fire in the WUI for most of the past decade. His study of the Witch/Guejito fires in 2007 was the first in-depth documentation of the impact of wildland fire on homes using a consistent methodology, counting both burned and unburned structures and identifying homes where defensive action had been taken. 

Read our interview with Alex on page 4 of the Winter How To for more information on his work with the Texas Forest Service and his ideas about how a systematic approach may be able to reduce future WUI fire home losses.

--Michele Steinberg

RenoevacAn extended period of drought and strong winter winds have contributed to the second major wildfire in less than 60 days in the Reno area. As reported by the Associated Press, Firefighter Nation and Wildfire Today, the so-called Washoe Drive Fire has burned up to 4,000 acres and destroyed at least 25 homes in the past 48 hours. Some 10,000 residents and numerous livestock and other animals were evacuated.

Reviewing photos at tells a large part of the story. Firefighters are rushing to contain the fire, yet some of the biggest fuel threats they must deal with are homes already fully involved in flames. Several photos of homes and outbuildings reveal brush, grass and trees right next to walls, carrying the fire from the landscape to the structures. In one photo, firefighters stand on a home's wooden roof, preparing to protect it.  In another, a firefighter stands between a home's wall and a wall of flame created by large juniper bushes, an extremely flammable species, planted around the home's perimeter.

Extreme weather conditions produce extreme fire behavior, it's clear. However, these homes did not have to burn. Using principles promoted for years by Nevada groups such as Living with Fire and the Nevada Fire Safe Council as well as NFPA's Firewise program, property owners can prepare long before a fire starts to prevent ignitions that can destroy homes.

All of us can play a role in protecting ourselves and our neighbors when a wildfire threatens. Be aware of your local weather and fire warnings. Consult, your local Fire Safe Council, or local fire department for more information on what to do. Learn why homes ignite and how to minimize ignitions. Find out if Ready, Set, Go! is being used in your area and what you need to do to leave safely if you must. Don't wait until fire is in your backyard to take action.

--Michele Steinberg

Image from RGJ Google map of evacuation shelters and routes in the Washoe City area.

Firebreak0112The January issue of Fire Break, NFPA’s wildland fire newsletter, is available for viewing. In this issue you’ll find:

  • registration information for the next Home Ignition Zone course
  • a link to “Wildfire Watch,” a new column in NFPA Journal®
  • the latest report on wildfire potential for early 2012
  • an NFPA Journal article that explores both sides of the evacuation debate

Sign up today! It's free, informative and will keep you up to date on the latest news and information on mitigating your wildfire risk to take back to your communities, organization or fire house.

NASFThis week, the National Assocation of State Foresters (NASF) is holding their Forest Fire Committee meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Dave Nuss and Michele Steinberg from NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division, as well as Ryan Depew from NFPA's Public Fire Protection Division are in attendance. 

Beginning on Tuesday, January 10th, attendees heard updates from many groups including the U.S. Forest Service, Department of the Interior Office of Wildland Fire, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the U.S. Fire Administration. Dave Nuss also provided an update from NFPA on the Wildland Fire Operations Division, Firewise and the new Fire Adapted Communities Coalition

On Wednesday, the meeting attendees broke into workgroups to tackle specific topics such as recommendations for a national wildland fire strategy or guidance on communities at risk. It's great to see so many groups and organizations come together to discuss the wildland fire problem in the country and we hope many good things will come out of this meeting. 

Wildfire Watch
The January/February issue of NFPA Journal has just been posted online. As the first issue of 2012, there have been a few changes implemented to the ever-popular Journal that can be seen for the first time here - one of which is a regular column all about wildfire! 

How is there room for optimism in spite of the wildfire tragedies that occurred in 2011?  Read my new column, Wildfire Watch, in NFPA Journal®, to find out!  And stay tuned for future columns to learn about the latest buzz from NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division.

 -Molly Mowery

Fire Safe CouncilAs of January 1, the California Fire Safe Council (CFSC) assumed responsibility of state liaison for the Firewise Communities program. As part of its role, California Fire Safe Council will continue to promote the Firewise program to communities, local Fire Safe Councils and local government, and encourage leaders to pursue Firewise Communities/USA recognized status. CFSC will also approve applications through coordination with state, federal and local fire officials.

Late last year, Dave Nuss, manager of NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division (WFOD), presented an overview of the Firewise Communities program to the Southern California group of Fire Safe Councils in Ontario, CA. Following Dave’s discussion, the local Fire Safe Council in Carbon Canyon, also a recognized Firewise community, discussed the benefits of the program and the process for becoming a recognized community.

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with community members and discuss our Firewise program,” said Dave. “NFPA looks forward to working with California Fire Safe Councils to further promote wildland safety in the state.” 

IAFC WUIJoin Molly Mowery, NFPA’s project manager, together with Pam Leschak, WUI Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service and Joe Stutler, Chief County Forester, Deschutes County as they present “Fire Adapted Community Tools” on Wednesday, March 28 at the 2012  IAFC/WUI conference in Reno. Learn what a fire adapted community is and how you and your neighbors can help create one back home.

We hope to see you there!  FAC_Logo_F

NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program will be exhibiting at the Firehouse World Conference in San Diego, California, February 21-23, 2012. Aimed at fire, rescue and EMS professionals, the conference offers hands-on training, an expanded EMS track eligible for CEUs, preconference workshops and over 300 exhibitors. We particularly like the fact that 70% of the educational content on hand at the 2012 conference has never before been presented at Firehouse World.

Please stop by to talk with our Firewise staff, review a video, and to pick up free samples of our latest products. Exhibitor hours are: Firehouse World

Tues, Feb 21: 11:30 AM - 5 PM
Wed, Feb 22: 11 AM - 5 PM
Thur, Feb 23: 10 AM - 2 PM

We hope to see you there!

-Cheryl Blake

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) Predictive Services indicates that most of the United States is in for a quiet first part of the year with the exception of parts of Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.  Homeowners in these areas need to pay special attention to their Firewise landscapes in preparation for this seasonal change

NIFC Predicitve Services Outlook January 2012 Outlook January Wildfire Outlook

NIFC Predictive Services Outlook January thru April 2012 Outlook

Feb to April Wildfire Outlook

Todd Chlanda, one of NFPA’s Firewise Advisors recently visited the Minnesota.  According to Todd the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials are really concerned about this current weather pattern with unseasonably low relative humidity and limited precipitation.  One of the places Todd visited was Pine County located on the eastern side of the State; there he saw the cumulative effect of forest blow down events building up on the landscape over time.  One of the more recent blown down areas is 60,000 acres that had experienced a previous blow down event several years earlier.  According to Todd there are several communities in and around this area that are now exposed to high fire risk.  The general consensus is that even if this eastern part of the state gets a normal snow fall this year, they will still be in for an extreme spring fire season.  Larry Himanga, Wildfire Prevention Coordinator and his staff at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources realize this, and are taking all precautions now in preparation for the spring fire season.  

Photo 1
Larry Himanga, MN DNR, taken soon after blowdown event in Pine County, MN, July, 2011

Photo 2
Taken behind a residence where a home owner is trying to remove and clean – up some of the downed material.  Notice the burn scar on the tree bole where the homeowner who was trying to reduce his risk by burning brush piles and it got out of control.

Photo 3
Taken behind another residence in the blow down area.

-Hylton Haynes

Nevada County VolunteersNearly 100 volunteers attended a recent appreciation dinner in honor of the important wildfire mitigation work they’ve accomplished in Nevada County, CA over the past year. With a total of 22,800 hours, these volunteers performed fuel reduction and related tasks for the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, a Firewise leadership award winner. According to an article on, these “in-kind contributions were verified in an independent fiscal audit representing $342,000 in labor towards their mission to provide Firewise education and programs to enhance emergency preparedness for catastrophic wildfire to all citizens in Nevada County.” Read the article to find out more about Nevada County’s activities.

And major kudos to all the volunteers who contributed to this effort!

Learn more about volunteer hours, how your community can benefit from in-kind efforts, and the types of preparedness work you can do to help reduce your neighborhood’s risk of wildfire damage by visiting the program criteria’s page on the Firewise website.

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