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NFPA’s Conference & Expo provides a great opportunity to learn about fire and life safety issues that affect businesses, organizations and communities across the country and around the globe. With more than 360 booths and 130 educational sections to choose from including wildfire safety, it’s a great chance to speak with experts, evaluate products, find solutions to your technical challenges and stay current with technological advances in your field.

FW SectionVisit the Firewise Communities Program (Booth 329) and Wildland Fire Management Section (Booth 333) where NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division staff can answer your questions and will have on hand brochures, DVDs, and other materials about wildfire safety and mitigation to take back to your communities and fire departments.

Interested in becoming a member of the wildfire management section? Stop by to learn more about our meetings, conferences, seminars, and social media forums for wildfire professionals. Become a member of the section today!

More information about registration and the conference schedule, including our wildfire education sessions, is available on NFPA’s C & E conference page.

During the past year in my role as Firewise Advisor in the Northeast, I have learned that areas at risk in the wildland urban interface vary greatly from place to place. Along the Cape and on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts the wildfire threat consists of dense stands of pitch pine, scrub oak, and huckleberry, all of which grow in sandy soil.  Fire apparatus called brush breakers, equipped with large V-shaped metal grates, are used to uproot small diameter trees and brush to allow firefighters to access the head of the fire. Fire departments in neighborhoods along the shore on Staten Island and Connecticut battle brush fires that occur in phragmites, an invasive grass, that can produce flame lengths over 70 feet.

I have also discovered that several wildland urban interface areas share a common wildfire threat. Extensive undeveloped tracts of pitch pines are located in New York, Long Island, and New Jersey. These fire-prone environments, referred to as pine barrens, are adapted to periodic fire. Research from pitch pine barrens across the Northeast shows that fire helps cycle nutrients bound up in the natural litter and debris on the forest floor, reduces the invasion of less desirable, fire-sensitive species and improves the health of the fire dependent plants. As development into these areas continues, firefighters have had been forced to quickly contain any fires that ignite to protect surrounding communities.

Due to the lack of fire, high fuel loads exist in these natural areas in the form of dry leaves, downed woody debris and highly flammable shrubs. Dry conditions, as we have recently witnessed throughout the Northeast this spring, have the potential to burn with greater intensity than fires would have historically, which could seriously impact not only forested areas but to adjacent homes as well.

The Shawangunk Ridge - NY
The northern Shawangunk Ridge, located in New York, is home to the world’s best example of a globally rare, ridgetop dwarf pine barrens community. I am most familiar with this unique forest type, because it is here where I live and work. I have been employed by The Nature Conservancy for over a decade as Manager of Sam’s Point, a 5,000 acre preserve in Ulster County. I have developed a strong affinity for the dwarf pitch pine. These pitch pines, unlike the pine barrens on Long Island and in New Jersey that grow at sea level in sandy soil, manage to exist on bedrock. The dwarf pine ridge community at Sam’s Point, measuring 2,500 acres, is able to survive in a harsh environment, consisting of thin soil, extreme weather conditions and exposure to wind.

Payson Roundup
The U.S. Forest Service awards the biggest forest thinning harvest contract in history.  According to the local newspaper the Payson Roundup  Governor Jan Brewer praised the contract award, “With the destruction of last summer’s wildfires still fresh in our minds — and in light of the severe beginning to this year’s fire season — today’s news could not have come to Arizona at a better time.”  Local U.S. Forest managers hope that this large scale (approximately 300,000 acre project over 10 years) will avert the cost of conducting large scale controlled burns and hand thinning operations in an effort to reduce the wildfire risk potential of Rim Country area.  

-Hylton Haynes

NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program is honoring 20 official Firewise communities from 11 states who celebrate their 10-year anniversary of continued participation and successes in reducing wildfire risks. The communities became nationally recognized in 2003, and were among the earliest adopters of the Firewise Communities/USA process.

FirewiseThe following communities are celebrating their 10-year anniversaries of active participation as Firewise Communities/USA sites:

  • Holiday Island, Arkansas
  • Joplin, Arkansas
  • Norman, Arkansas
  • Story, Arkansas
  • Lakewood, Florida
  • Verandah, Florida
  • Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa,      Minnesota
  • River Run Plantation, North Carolina
  • Town of St. James, North Carolina
  • Village of Ruidoso, New Mexico
  • Bear Creek Lakes, Pennsylvania
  • Mountain Plains I & II, South Dakota
  • Cumberland Cove, Tennessee
  • Tierra Linda Ranch, Texas
  • Wildcatter Ranch and Resort, Texas
  • Chuckanut Ridge POA, Washington
  • Lummi Island Scenic Estates, Washington
  • Story, Wyoming
  • Union Pass, Wyoming

Each community will receive a special flame-shaped glass award in honor of their long-term commitment to community wildfire safety.

More information about the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program and a complete list of official Firewise Communities/USA sites can be found on the Firewise website.

A new study by Christopher I. Roos of the Southern Methodist University, Dallas and Thomas W. Swetnam of the University of Arizona indicate that today’s mega forest fires of the southwestern United States are unprecedented.  The study involved the analysis of 1,500 years of climate and fire patterns using tree-ring data and hundreds of years of fire-scar records gathered from Ponderosa Pine forests. 

According to Dr. Roos the United States would not be experiencing massive large canopy-killing crown fires today if human activities had not begun to suppress the low severity surface fires that were so common in the past.  More than a century of livestock grazing and firefighting activity has resulted in a forest structure change that includes more dense forests and subsequent fuel accumulation over the landscape.  The lack of continuous fuels on the forest floor meant that surface fires ceased and the typical burn interval increasing from every 40 to 50 years to 130 years.  These factors combined with climate change induced extreme drought events are more common and cause the mega wildfire events that we have witnessed over the past 15 years. 

The image below demonstrates the human caused impact on a Ponderosa Pine stand on the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana over time.  The stand was harvested in 1908 and has never experienced fire since 1895.  The change in vertical and horizontal forest stand structure pre-supposes this forest to the mega wildfire phenomenon.  In the event of a mega wildfire; and the concept of Fire Adapted Communities and the use of Firewise® principles is part of the solution to this ever increasing problem.

Hylton Blog
Image Source:  USDA Forest Service Gen. Tech. rep. RMRS-GTR-120. 2004 pp.4

-Hylton Haynes

Recently, I had the privilege to spend time in Rapid City, South Dakota to deliver the new NFPA “Assessing Residential Wildfire Hazards” class.  Homeowners, BIA, S.D. Department of Agriculture, insurance agents, landscape professionals and local structural fire departments participated.  This 8-hour curriculum was created primarily for homeowners while the NFPA 2-Day Home Ignition Course is designed for firefighters and other professionals.

Rapid city 1The Assessing Residential Wildfire Hazards class covers perceptions vs. reality of the wildfire threat, understanding how wildfires ignite homes, how the homeowner can mitigate their wildfire hazards and how to become a nationally recognized Firewise Community.

The Rapid City area has a beautiful landscape with tall prairie grass and towering ponderosa pines, but with this beauty brings the threat of wildfire every summer as temperatures rise and wildland fuels dry.  This type of forest, when it was natural, burned on regular intervals as part of the ecosystem.  Prior to active fire suppression, wildfire would meander through the plains and hills burning the small amounts of brush, small trees and lower hanging limbs.  Rapid city 3This created a forest with ample sunlight and moisture to grow fewer but larger healthier trees, often resistant to beetle infestation.  Another benefit of wildfire was demonstrated recently during a grass fire in the Rapid City area; we saw that the grass returned this spring much greener and healthier for wildlife to graze. 

In populated areas, we often take fire out of the ecosystem through suppression services. Because of this, homeowners have to become better stewards of their personal property by physically removing much of the overgrown vegetation to break up the continuity between plants, therefore reducing the risk of a wildfire that may jeopardize their home each fire season.

Rapid city 2Lieutenant Tim Weaver of the Rapid City Fire Department and Andrew Tate of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture took our class participants on a field trip after the course was completed.  The group visited three homes which we consider the “built fuel” or “urban fuel” within the Wildland Urban Interface.  The students focused on how to assess these homes and what recommendations they would give the homeowner to reduce the threat of wildfire by mitigating the fuels, whether it was vegetation or fireproofing the home exterior.  This was valuable to the participants as they were able to use the knowledge from the classroom and apply it in the field which made them more comfortable when they did this home assessment on their own.

Some of the comments from the class participants: “I have been firefighting for 35 years only concentrating on fire suppression; this class opened my view to fire prevention!” Another student wrote “I have been involved with Firewise for over a decade and even though it is hard to change people’s behaviors, I am now starting to see the change and more involvement with folks”.

Rapid city 4Now is the time for homeowners to take action, before fire season starts.  Look at your home through a pair of Firewise glasses.  Will my home survive a wildfire?  What can I do to mitigate the threat of wildfire to my home? What can I do this weekend to reduce my risk to wildfire?  To answer these questions, visit  Remember, just a few simple actions around your home may change the outcome of your home being damaged from a wildfire!

-Gary Marshall

BearsIn the May/June issue of NFPA Journal, Molly Mowery writes an article titled, "Life in the Wilderness City."  She recently attended the annual Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Conference in Denver, where she participated in a panel discussion of wildfire hazards and the role of regulations. This year’s theme, “The Wilderness City,” was of immense interest to Molly, so she was able to capture details on topics ranging from open space management to the latest updates on climate change. The sessions prompted her to reflect on seemingly unrelated, yet similar, challenges faced by other environmental management professions and on potential lessons that can be applied in our wildfire advocacy work.

Take wildlife, for example. In Colorado, Boulder County receives more than 100 calls per year to respond to potentially troublesome bears and mountain lions. Although wildlife specialists have developed a number of studies and strategies to address the issue, these wildlife–human interactions continue, mainly due to trash that attracts the animals. About one animal per year has to be killed because it has become accustomed to humans and poses a safety threat.

This topic can stir up passionate public debate about our priorities, our preferences, and our neighbors. But what does it have to do with wildfire? Find out by reading the full article!

FCDuring this time of dramatic wildfire activity, our attention is riveted on the serious problems of loss and potential disaster. But is there anything “going right” with respect to wildfire safety in our nation? According to the data collected by NFPA’s Firewise Communities program, the answer is a resounding “YES!”. Since formally recognizing communities 11 years ago, the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program has documented the value of local wildfire mitigation activities to the tune of more than $100 million. What does this mean? According to Michele Steinberg, NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program manager, communities are going above and beyond the call of duty. “These investments show us that wildfire risk is proactively being reduced,” she says. “The big idea is that if all communities were reducing the risk of home ignition, we might see less need to spend big dollars on wildfire suppression.”

Did you know the sum of all wildfire mitigation activities reported by communities as part of their requirements to be recognized as a Firewise community includes grant money, in-kind services, and volunteer hours?

Want to learn more? The “wildfire roundup” section of “In a Flash” in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal® breaks it down.

For more detailed information about the value of volunteer hours and your Firewise activities, check out the Firewise website.

FireBreak0512The May issue of Fire Break, NFPA’s wildland fire newsletter, is available for viewing. In this issue, you’ll find:

  • A story that highlights the complicated debate between insurance companies and homeowners living in high-risk wildfire areas
  • A link to a recent online forum aimed at Northeast residents that provided timely Firewise tips and resource to help address concerns over the increased number of local brush fires
  • An article about garbage-eating bears that are “teaching” residents in WUI communities about responsible landscape management
  • A link to a number of Firewise interactive modules, games and quizzes to help communities reduce their wildfire risk
  • An update on the Fire Adapted Communities Congressional Briefing on June 5

Sign up today to receive Fire Break each month via e-mail. It's free 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.

Several wildfires have flared up across Arizona over the past week kicking off the state’s 2012 wildfire season and scorching over 1,500 square miles, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.  A combination of high winds and dry weather conditions helped to fuel the fires.  Approximately 40 miles outside of Phoenix, the Sunflower Fire has burned over 3,000 acres of the Tonto National Forest.  The Gladiator Fire has burned approximately 600 acres of the Prescott National Forest near the community of Crown King.   The Elwood Fire on the San Carlos Apache reservation burned over 1,000 acres, and the Bull Flat Fire on the Fort Apache reservation burned another 500 plus acres.  All of this after a record-breaking wildfire season in 2011.  Check out this video for more details…

video platform video management video solutions video player

While the west is bracing for a potentially volatile 2012 wildfire season, the Technical Committee on Forest and Rural Fire Protection is in the process of revising NFPA 1143, Standard for Wildland Fire Management.  The document is available for Public Comment until August 31, 2012.  Take a minute or two to review the committee changes in the Report on Proposals, and provide comments for the next edition of the document by the end of August. 

Ryan Depew

Lead StoryIn the May/June issue of NFPA Journal®, author Fred Durso investigates the current wildfire season and explains why forecasters cite prolonged draught, excess wildfire fuels and high winds as major contributors to the increased wildfire risk for communities across the country.

Read the full article.

Join NFPA, the USDA Forest Service and a coalition of leading wildfire agencies as they launch the Fire Adapted Communities initiative:

Date:     June 5, 2012

Place:    Capitol Visitors’ Center,  Washington, D.C.

Time:     12:00 noon

At the event, the coalition will unveil the new website and ad campaign materials, and discuss ways community members can work together to adapt to living with wildfire.

U.S. Senator Mark Udall of Colorado will serve as Congressional Sponsor and honorary host of the event.

The Fire Adapted Communities initiative is sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the National Fire Protection Association, and a coalition of leading wildfire agencies including:

More information about Fire Adapted Communities and the Congressional Briefing can be found at or by contacting NFPA’s Washington, D.C. office

GLADIATOR&SUNFLOWER_WILDFIRES reports over the weekend and into Monday have made it clear that wildfire season has arrived in Arizona.  The so-called "Gladiator" and "Sunflower" fires have grown over the weekend.

The Gladiator fire is an immediate threat to the small community of Crown King in Yavapai County. An evacuation order is in effect for residents.  Firewise program staff are monitoring the fire and reaching out to local residents and the media with timely safety information and preparation tips.

Click on the map image to expand the view. This map was prepared by NFPA Firewise project manager Hylton Haynes and shows the proximity of several central Arizona Firewise Communities/USA sites to the Gladiator and Sunflower fires. The fire location data was derived from the federal government's interagency GeoMAC mapping application.

--Michele Steinberg

This past Thursday (May 10), I was invited by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to present 'Fire as a Natural Hazard' to the Boston Public Safety Group. The presentation formed part of one of four meetings focused on the development of the hazard mitigation plan (HMP) for the city of Boston. The topics discussed at this meeting included the natural hazard mitigation planning process, earthquakes, flooding and hurricane mitigation. Under the federal directive of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, and in cooperation with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), this complex planning process is being coordinated through the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

There were many federal, state and local stakeholders' present and included officials from police, fire, health, housing, sewer and water. One of the very interesting components of the meeting was the distillation of various thoughts by a Social and Environmental Research Institute (SERI) research fellow who is working on this and several other similar projects in the greater Boston area. The level of detail and complexity in this planning process is astounding and brought me great comfort in knowing that our public officials are going to great lengths to keep us 'safe'.

One of the salient considerations of all four presentations was 'climate change' and how this phenomenon is going to impact hazard mitigation and response activities over the next 50 years. From a wildfire perspective, Massachusetts fire seasons have traditionally occurred in the spring and fall of each year. However, with the advent of 'climate change' the fire seasons may begin to extend into summer, as summer is predicted to have a higher frequency of short term droughts. For more information on 'climate change' in Massachusetts please see BioMap 2 (Chapter 2, Page 10).

- Hylton Haynes 

Image: Hazard mitigation meeting mapping exercise, led by SERI.

ZP May 2012 WIdlfire in this topic?  Then check out the current issue of Zoning Practice, a monthly publication produced by The American Planning Association.  I co-authored this article with Paul Anthony, a land use attorney and planner.  We address wildfire hazard in the wildland-urban interface and provide a reader-friendly summary of the recent study, “Addressing Community Wildfire Risk: A Review and Assessment of Regulatory and Planning Tools.”  If you’re a subscriber to Zoning Practice, you can also submit questions to us through the “Ask the Author” forum.

--Molly Mowery

Last week, I had a great opportunity to help my fellow Massachusetts residents understand more about the smoke and flames they have been observing in marshes, woods, and areas just a bit too close to roads, homes and businesses during this unusually dry and warm spring.

NFPA issued an advisory for Massachusetts warning of the high risk of brush fires (that’s what we call wildfires in New England) and providing Firewise safety tips. The editors of*, a "portal" site representing featured content from 158 small local Massachusetts community websites, contacted NFPA and area fire chiefs to develop a live blog media interview to address the issue with readers. is part of the GateHouse Media group.

The editors did a great job of gathering visuals from the area as well as preparing to post Firewise videos and links. Along with Plymouth Fire Chief Ed Bradley and Norwell Fire Chief Andy Reardon, I fielded questions from participants as well as the journalists who have been following the regional fire situation with concern. The technology was a lot of fun to use and even got praise from the local Editor-in-Chief this week for the creative use of the live blog forum to cover this topic.

You can get a summary of the forum here or access the “Cover It Live” transcript of our talk by clicking here (be sure to scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page that looks like the image above, and click “Replay”). And if you’ve got questions about brush, grass or forest fire, be sure to get in touch with your local fire department, forestry service or Firewise staff.

--Michele Steinberg

*Note: For those outside the region, “wicked” is an adverb equivalent to “very.”  Other people might have seen the wildfire in the Neponset River Reservation near Route 128 on television and said, “That is a very large fire,” but in Boston we would be more likely to say, “Didja see that brush fire offa 128? It was wicked big!”

Wildfire WorldRecognizing that the beginning of May signals the general start of wildland fire season in the northern hemisphere, the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) launches Global Wildfire Awareness Week May 1-7. 

“Sharing Our Tools” is the 2012 theme highlighting on-going work by the IAWF to link firefighters, researchers, government officials and those residents, business owners and recreationists facing possible wildland fire impacts for improved communications and sharing of research and techniques.  “I encourage people to use our website to see what’s happening in wildland fire around the world and to add your voice to the discussion,” said IAWF Executive Director Mikel Robinson.   “We encourage people to share successes, community descriptions as well as links on the site to better tell the growing story of wildfire around the world,” added Robinson.  The site is an expanding resource for conveying wildland fire information showcasing tools that make a difference.

In April the IAWF hosted the Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire conference in Seattle, WA, with presentations and discussions focused on lessons learned from recent fires in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ecuador, Mexico and the United States; all countries facing remarkably similar wildfire challenges.  Presenters explored effective ways for communities to improve conditions, ways for firefighters to communicate and operate more safely and ways agencies can positively engage with those impacted by wildland fires. This month, those presentations will be available for learning and sharing.  In October, IAWF will present the International Wildland Fire Safety Summit in Sydney, Australia, and 2013 plans include the 4th Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference in North Carolina and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Located in the foothills of the Siskiyou and Cascade ranges is picturesque Ashland, OR. With majestic mountain panoramas, Ashland is about 15 miles north of the California border on Interstate 5.  Newly added to the city’s long list of wildland fire awareness, outreach, and mitigation activities is a Firewise Week from May 5 - 12.  The week’s theme is, “Protect Your Home, Protect Your Community.”

Ashland’s Firewise Commission has planned multiple events to promote the benefits of incorporating Firewise concepts into residential landscaping.  To date, 11 Ashland neighborhoods have received, or will soon receive, national Firewise Communities/USA recognition for their work.

Scheduled events for the week include:

For more information on the Ashland Firewise program contact Ali True, the Ashland Firewise Communities Coordinator with the Ashland Fire Department.

Ashland Oregon - 4th grade poster contest
– Ali True explaining the Firewise 5 information to a classroom of 4th graders in preparation for the Firewise Week poster contest.

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