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Eastern Shore NY
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Photos from East Shore, State Island (Richmond County) CWPP

You may be surprised to learn that the WUI exists on Staten Island!

In the last fifteen years, 103 brush fires have occurred along the Eastern Shore communities in this urban setting of New York City. The source of these wildfires is the invasive grass Common Reed (Phragmites australis). Phragmites often outcompetes all other plant species, establishing a monoculture, which lowers habitat diversity. Phragmites can grow to a height of twelve  feet. When ignited, the standing dead stalks produce flame lengths of up to 70 feet and high rates of spread. While some of the brush fires are accidental, most are caused by arson.  Many of these stands of phragmites occur close to structures and homes along the water’s edge threatening firefighters and residents. The FDNY has adapted its strategy to fight the wildfires by positioning ladder trucks near homes that are threatened, raising their ladders, and spraying water on the phragmites over the tops of the structures.

To address this serious wildfire threat to these communities, several agencies have joined together to produce a draft CWPP, which is now out for public review. Among some of the mitigation efforts suggested by the plan are: mechanical fuel reduction through mowing, use of herbicides, prescribed burns and educating homeowners to take greater ownership of the protection of their homes and community through the Firewise Communities Program.

As a homeowner, learn more about how to keep your home, property and neighborhood safe by utilizing the resources available on our “For Homeowners” page of the Firewise website. Do you live in an area where phragmites are common? What are you doing to combat the problem? Share your stories with our Firewise audience.

-Heidi Wagner

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The Redings Mill Fire Protection District (RMFPD) is a perfect example of how communities can work together to protect their homes and neighborhood structures from wildfire by applying some simple Firewise principles. In 2010, Redings Mill became a recognized Firewise community and through their continued efforts, they’ve inspired other Missouri communities to join in the effort.

Michele Steinberg, Firewise Communities Program Manager, says, “Redings Mill Fire Protection District has done an outstanding job creating a local Firewise Task Force and implementing Firewise principles. By preparing homes, structures, and landscapes before a wildfire occurs, Redings Mill Fire Protection District has dramatically increased the chance that homes and structures will be protected when a wildfire occurs.”

Redings Mill Fire Districts Assistant Chief Michael White concurred, stating, “Using the Firewise program to assess hazards, create and implement risk mitigation plans, and educate our communities about wildland fires has directly benefited our fire district residents by lowering the risk of wild land fires affecting their homes and property.”


Visit our Success Story page on our website to read the full story on Redings Mill Fire Protection District, and the steps they took to become a recognized Firewise community. For more information about Firewise and our Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program visit our website . 

Have a success story to share? Send us your information and be the next community we highlight!


Fire season will soon be upon us, and as the Firewise Advisor for Region Southwest 2, and a Perry Park (CO) Firewise Committee member, I’d like to share a simple, inexpensive tip you and your neighbors can act upon as you start thinking about ways to add wildfire safety to your spring cleaning calendar.

Did you know that one of the worst and most easily overlooked wildfire exposures are pine needles in our gutters?  All it takes is an ember (fire brand) landing in a gutter full of needles and POOF!, the house catches on fire. Fire brands can also be lofted into a neighborhood from a fire front up to a mile away.  When enough needles accumulate in the gutter, one fire brand can ignite them and burn long enough to catch the sub-roofing materials on fire underneath your asphalt, concrete tile or metal shingles. Incidentally, this was one of the causes of home loss during the Cerro Grande Fire that ran through Los Alamos in 2000. 

Therefore folks, it’s time to get our minds in the gutter and start cleaning them out.  And while you’re up there, don’t forget about the valleys, peaks, nooks above the skylights, and areas around the chimney. What better time than now to get outside while most areas of the country are experiencing warmer than normal temperatures and a string of sunny days.


How to start? Check out the local handymen in your area who can assist you. Landscaping or gutter cleaning companies can also help. Also, check with your window cleaners.  They may offer this service at a small extra charge.  If you prefer to tackle the job on your own, keep safety in mind when handling a ladder, get a partner to help and use gloves and a mask to protect your hands and face.

Want to learn more about landscape and home maintenance? Check out our “information and resources” section on the Firewise website. What are some of the Firewise activities you’ve got planned for the spring? Share your stories with our audience. We look forward to hearing from you!

-Keith Worley

Streamers flew and smoke alarms beeped as NFPA kicked off its long-term partnership with LEGOLAND® Florida to provide lifesaving information to families and kids during a press event and special fire safety day at central Florida’s newest theme park yesterday.

Want to view a quick video recap of the day's events? Video can be found at YouSendit.

“The majority of fire deaths happen in homes where there are no working smoke alarms,” said NFPA President Jim Shannon. “We are excited to join with LEGOLAND Florida to impart two extremely important messages - test your smoke alarms and have an escape plan.”

NFPA will sponsor the park’s fire safety - themed “The Big Test” live show at the LEGO® City Stage where these messages will be incorporated. “The Big Test” is an acrobatic, comedy show in which a cast of characters goes through a series of hysterical antics as they try to become firefighters. There will also be special activities throughout the year that stress the importance of fire safety and acknowledge the critical work of the fire service.

Video: See a preview of "The Big Test".


During the kick-off event, hundreds of kids and families tested smoke alarms, learned ways to stay safe and posed for pictures with area firefighters in full gear before sitting down to watch the highly acclaimed “The Big Test”.

“This partnership allows us to combine kids’ love of the fire service and LEGOLAND to build life-saving knowledge,” said Adrian Jones, LEGOLAND Florida general manager. “We are proud to play this important role for our community.”

Fit Like a Glove: When Technological and Cultural Innovation Collide

From the  February 15, 2012 issue of On Scene !|src=|alt=IAFC - International Association of Fire Chiefs|width=102|height=79!

When Neil Armstrong planted his boot on the surface of the moon, it was because technological and  Work Together cultural innovation collided. His ability to effectively maneuver, safely operate and feel the surface beneath his feet contributed to both the mission’s success and a change in American thinking about science, technology and the world as we know it.

As the demographics of our communities change, the fire and emergency service has come to a similar crossroad, but instead of men on the moon, it’s women in the firehouse. And it’s not a boot; it’s a glove.


The International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services (iWomen) is currently working with the NFPA on a project that would involve the research and design of women's firefighting gloves. iWomen has submitted the information for the Code Fund Project, which is just the first step in a long process.

This issue is no different from many other technological innovations that have been applied to personal protective equipment over the years. Innovation in PPE is critical to the safety of firefighters, and we know that proper fit is paramount for safety and proper protection.

Anatomically, men’s and women’s hands are different in many ways. The joint breadth, hand circumference and hand length, as well as the ratio of palm to fingers, are all different. One source iWomen found in its initial research stated that there are as many as 25 dimensions applicable to measuring a hand. Based on that information, a complex design is required to develop these gloves.

One thing is certain: women don’t want to sacrifice thermal protection for a little more dexterity. But issuing men's gloves of a smaller size to women doesn’t equate to providing them properly fitting gloves.

As the project progresses, iWomen and the NFPA will look closely at similar advancements in other industries, such as the U.S. military’s recent rollout of a line of military gear specifically designed for women, to see what insights and lessons can be applied to the fire and emergency service.

The time it takes to research, develop and design any article of personal protective clothing is considerable, but the investment is one that iWomen believes will create a positive return for the entire service. Just as Neil Armstrong’s boot on the moon created a fixed point of positive technological and cultural shift in our collective experience, so too will the first time a woman steps into a fire with a perfectly gloved hand. Her ability to effectively maneuver, safely operate and feel the surface a hose line, radio or ladder beneath her hand will contribute to both the mission’s success and a change in our collective thinking about science, technology and the world as we know it.


Jeanne Pashalek is the president of iWomen and a battalion chief with Lincoln (Neb.) Fire and Rescue.

[Ken Willette |]


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The [February issue of Fire Break |], NFPA’s wildland fire newsletter, is available for viewing. In this issue you’ll find:

    • Information about our first Firewise plant calendar photo contest

    • A link to our latest DVD that offers post-fire investigation clues to help firefighters

    • Details/registration information on the upcoming Home Ignition Zone workshops

    • The Wildland firefighting excerpt taken from the latest needs assessment survey

    • A link to the recently completed WUI regulatory study


Sign up today! It&#39;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.</p>

Georgia Forestry Commission
The Georgia Forestry Commission and its partners are on high alert for a potentially harsh wildfire season due to the drought conditions that have plagued most of southeast Georgia this year. The Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) is responsible for all wildfire suppression in the State of Georgia.  Georgia averages over 8,000 wildfires annually with an average size of 4-5 acres per fire. 

In their efforts to take proactive precautions this wildfire season, they’ve developed a fire prevention team that will be working with homeowner associations, city and county officials and local fire departments to educate residents of communities that have presented severe conditions of drought and considered to be on high alert for wildfires. They are doing this through the Firewise Program and its extensive knowledge about wildland fire prevention.

In a news release issued by the Georgia Forestry Commission, Chief of Forest Protection Frank Sorrells stated that, “The Firewise program teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together and take action now to prevent losses. Helping people learn to take appropriate actions before a wildfire will go a long way in protecting lives and properties if or when a wildfire happens.”

The Firewise Program offers an abundance of tips and information on wildfires and how to make your home Firewise in order to help protect your family and community. Most homes that burn during a wildfire are ignited by embers or firebrands landing on the roof, in gutters, on or under decks and porches, or in vents or other openings in the home. Other homes burn from small flames (surface fire) that can touch the house – such as dry grass that can allow a fire to run right up to the siding. That’s why Firewise principles recommend starting with your home and working your way out into the landscape.

For more information on Firewise principles and tips and tools to make your home and neighborhood safer from wildland fire visit the Firewise information and resources for homeowners section on our website.

This weekend marks one year since Virgina woodland homes in Catawba were tested during a 650-acre wildfire known as the Pickle Branch fire.

The winter 2011 issue of the Firewise How-To Newsletter covers the fire on pages 10 and 11 and tells the story of three homes that stood out as shining examples of using Firewise principles to prevent disaster.

A 2010 collaborative project among the New River- Highlands Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VA-DOF), a private contractor and local residents used US Forest Service funds to remove tons of down and dead trees and brush from around homes.

The results on February 19-20, 2011, could not have been better. As the fire threatened homes in Craig County, the three homes featured in our newsletter story were easily defended by firefighters due to the work that had been done the year before to reduce fuel loading near the structures.

Check the Winter How To for more information and even more examples of "Firewise saves" and home protection techniques and tips.

--Michele Steinberg

Photo after the fire at Ken Harrison's woodland home, courtesy Virginia Department of Forestry.


On Sunday, September 4, 2011, the Bastrop County Complex Fire began to burn.  The fire consumed over 32,000 acres and destroyed over 1600 structures before it was under control.  Located about 25 minutes east of Austin, TX, the fire that raged through the Bastrop area completely devastated county neighborhoods and forests.  On Thursday, September 8, 2011, a contact of NFPA’s Public Fire Protection Division reached out and extended an invitation for a representative of NFPA to join him on the investigation of one of the ignition sites of the fire.  I was fortunate enough to have the support of NFPA, and I quickly organized travel from Boston to the ignition site by Friday, September 9, 2011.  With the assistance of the Texas Forest Service (TFS), I was able to meet with members of the command staff and survey many of the neighborhoods that were affected by the fire.  I would return to the area approximately five months later, along with the Technical Committee on Forest and Rural Fire Protection.


The Technical Committee on Forest and Rural Fire Protection is responsible for the development and revision of NFPA documents that pertain to fire protection for rural, suburban, forest, grass, brush, and tundra areas, as well as Class A Foams and gels that are intended for use during wildland and structural fire fighting.  These documents include the following:

The committee intentionally chose Austin, TX as the location for its last meeting in January 2012 due to the proximity to Bastrop County.  This particular meeting was for the Report on Proposals (ROP) for NFPA 1143, Standard on Wildland Fire Management, the first of two meetings that take place during the revision of the document.  

The Bastrop County Complex Fire was the worst Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) fire in the history of the state of Texas and the committee wanted to seize the opportunity to learn from the event.  As a result, the committee arranged to meet with TFS staff to discuss lessons learned, learn about their new data collection methods, and survey the areas affected by the fire.  On the first day of the meeting, the committee processed Proposals for NFPA 1143 and was provided with a presentation and overview of the Texas wildfire season by Justice Jones, TFS WUI Program Coordinator. 

Jones discussed how weather conditions led Texas into the second longest fire season on record, and explained that conditions may be even worse for the upcoming season.  The summer of 2011 was the hottest on record and it was the driest year on record since 1895.  The state burned just shy of 4 million acres, lost over 5,600 structures, and managed to save approximately 42,000 structures through firefighting efforts.  The committee engaged Jones with discussion regarding the use of resources, financing issues, mitigation efforts, and the proactive steps that the TFS is taking in preparation for future fire seasons. 

The following morning, the committee traveled to Bastrop County to conduct a tour of the area, which was lead by Rich Gray, TFS Mitigation and Fuels Program Coordinator II.  Gray laid out many of the specifics of the Bastrop fire, including weather conditions, ignition sites, evacuation challenges, and mitigation efforts, before leading the group through many of the affected areas.  The committee arrived at the Convention and Exhibit Center, site of the IC post, where we met with multiple members of the Unified Command Staff.  Mike Fischer, Bastrop County Emergency Management Director, provided a welcome address and discussed the importance of learning from this type of event in order to preplan for the future.

Karen Ridenour, TFS GIS Specialist II, provided a presentation on the data collection efforts surrounding the Bastrop County Complex Fire. Ridenour explained how TFS staff have been conducting post fire analysis on sample areas within the fire’s foot print through the use of a data collection methodology known as WUI-I and WUI-II.  This methodology has been developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in conjunction with the US Forest Service (USFS).  There have been similar efforts in other areas of Texas and California, and the case studies will hopefully begin to provide useful information as it pertains to identifying vulnerabilities of communities, neighborhoods, and individual structures at risk.  The committee is hopeful that these methods will provide solid information and guidance for the future revisions of NFPA 1141: Standard for Fire Protection Infrastructure for Land Development in Wildland, Rural, and Suburban Areas, and NFPA 1144: Standard for Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fire

Fires in the WUI are a challenge that planners, land developers, government officials, and emergency management personal will continue to face, especially as more homes and communities are developed throughout the country.  The only way that we will be prepared for these types of large scale fires is by learning from past experiences.  The Texas Forest Service is setting a great example and leading the way by participating in new data collection methods that may change the way we view fires in the WUI, and ultimately allow us to expose vulnerabilities in new and pre-existing developments.  The Technical Committee on Forest and Rural Fire Protection is eager to learn from these events, incorporate the information into NFPA standards, and provide the proper guidance for safer living in the WUI.

-Ryan Depew

Based on my past two years of visiting with our state forestry partners, fire officials, and communities, a common theme emerged: “What do you have for youth?” The way I look at it, it’s not just about wanting to provide entertaining activities for kids at fairs and exhibits (though these things are awareness-raisers), it’s the recognition among all of the stakeholders in the WUI fire problem that unless we do things differently, our society will continue to see homes lost from wildfire.

It’s time to help the next generations learn about the natural phenomenon of fire and how they can live with it compatibly and safely. These future decision-makers need to know how to keep fire in mind when choosing where and how to live on the landscape.

NFPA seeks to harness some of the abundant energy of those educators and creative thinkers already working with pre-schoolers, teens, college students – the whole range of the youth audience – to integrate wildland fire safety education where it fits, and create relevant curricula and programming where it does not exist.

If you’d like to take part in this exciting opportunity based at NFPA's Denver office, please check out the detailed job description and send us your resume. We look forward to hearing from you.


ShenandoahfarmsThe theme of the latest Firewise How To Newsletter is "When Fire Strikes Home". Quite a fitting theme for the dramatic wildfire season we experienced in the U.S. during 2011.

What many might not realize about 2011, in the midst of all the disaster reporting and bad news, was that a record number of what we call "Firewise saves" were recorded this year. From Colorado to Virginia to Idaho to Texas, stories came to us from the media and from private residents. They told how wildfire mitigation and Firewise practices had kept their homes from igniting, or had made it possible for firefighters to defend their property.

One such success story highlighted on page 2 of the Winter How To took place in Shenandoah Farms, Virginia, a recognized Firewise Communities/USA site since 2006. A major fuel reduction project around homes in the area in spring of 2010 was credited with helping to stop a structure fire the following winter from spreading to the nearby homes and woods. Residents were well prepared for both defensive action and safe evacution.

Photo courtesy Gena Williams, Virginia Department of Forestry

--Michele Steinberg

NFPA is asking photo enthusiasts to submit photographs of Firewise plants from around the country (and your backyard)! Winning entries will be used in the 2013 Firewise Calendar.

Entrants may submit up to 10 unique and original photos of Firewise plants, flowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses found in their region. To create a visually exciting and informative calendar, each photo should highlight the plant in its natural setting. A total of 14 photos will be selected representing each month, and the back and front covers. 

The calendar will serve as a resource for homeowners, landscapers, planners and others involved in home building and maintenance by highlighting a different plant, shrub or grass, along with its name, a description, growth pattern and area of origin from various regions across the country that can be used to both beautify a home’s landscape and help resist embers from a wildfire. 

The deadline for submission is: March 16, 2012. Read the official rules and enter now!

Smoke and Fog

Image: Bob Schowalter, 2003  

This past weekend Gainesville, Florida witnessed one of its worst motor-vehicle accidents in recent times, and it was blamed on brush fire smoke and fog. 

This tragedy raises an important question related to how we manage fire and fire risk in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI).  Several years ago, former South Carolina State Forester – Bob Schowalter coined the word Linear-Urban Interface (LUI) to describe the fact that urban sprawl tends to occur along interstate corridors.  In 2003 there was a research project known as the Linear Urban Interface (LUI) project that focused on urban encroachment and rural smoke management as it relates to main transportation routes like Interstate 95.  The initial idea was to quantify and model the impact of smoke and biomass accumulation on these main arterial routes where communities interface with natural and controlled fire processes of the surrounding landscape.  It would be interesting to see if there have been any further developments in this area of research, and whether a better understanding of this phenomenon is warranted in order to better mitigate this growing WUI or more specifically LUI risk.

-Hylton Haynes

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