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2012

The Waldo Canyon Fire, emerging as one of the most destructive in Colorado's history, has certainly generated an enormous amount of media attention. While much of the information is focused on the destruction and losses - a natural reaction - some media outlets and organizations are asking what people can do to prepare for wildfire in the short and long term. Evac

I spent a little time on the phone yesterday with Jeremy Weathers, who produces a FarmCast radio segment for eastern Colorado's KSIR 1010. He wanted to tell listeners more about the value of mitigation projects like defensible space and fuel treatment. 

Also yesterday, Denver Post reporter Claire Martin posted an article with valuable advice for residents on preparing for evacuation. Read it here to learn what you should be doing if your area is being warned about wildfire.

And earlier today, Save the Children's Domestic Emergencies Advisor, Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais, called the NFPA Firewise staff to ask if we would help tell people about their special advice for expectant mothers and parents of young children when emergencies like wildfire strike. We're happy to do so by linking you to Ms. De Marrais' blog post here.

It is heartening to hear from other organizations and media outlets, knowing that they are working hard to reach out and help citizens before they become victims. The members of the recently-formed Fire Adapted Communities coalition are also reaching out to their members and audiences with important safety messages that will go a long way toward helping people to protect what's truly important.

--Michele Steinberg

Photo Credit: Mountain Shadows resident Angela Morgan gathers valuables Tuesday, June 26, 2012, after being given 30 minutes to back into her Colorado Springs, Colo. home. She was evacuated from the home Sunday due to the The Waldo Canyon Fire burning west of Colorado Springs. (The Gazette | Mark Reis)

Waldo Canyon Smoke Plume - June 2012
Anticipating the smoke plume from the Waldo Canyon Fire as I drove south from Denver to Colorado Springs on June 27, I never imagined what I was about to see would exceed my wildest expectation.  Upon my first glimpse of the wildfire I was awash with sadness and disbelief.

As a former twenty-eight-year resident of Colorado Springs, and eight-year employee of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, with three of those years as the Firewise Program Coordinator, I was fully aware of the potential magnitude of a wildfire in the area where more than 32,000 residents had recently been evacuated. But what I was seeing was bigger than I ever imagined.

The residents of the area most heavily impacted by the fire had been hearing Firewise messages that stressed the importance of mitigation, preparedness, and evacuation for ten years.  Many of the residents embraced the concept of mitigation and became tireless advocates preaching its importance to their neighbors.  Some held Firewise meetings in their homes and encouraged their neighbors to work together to reduce their risk. They talked about helping each other if an evacuation was ever needed.

One advocate vividly stands out in my memory – his name was Jack, a retired dentist.  His neighbor was a CSFD deputy chief and together they’d worked to create defensible space, incorporate hardscape features into the landscaping; even choosing fire resistant building and deck materials.  Impressed with Jack's efforts, a video was developed and aired dozens of times on the city’s public access cable channel to encourage others to share in the responsibility of living in the wildland/urban interface. Jack embodied all the qualities of a true Firewise Champion. Our heartfelt thoughts are with everyone impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Currently, the loss of homes in the Waldo Canyon Fire is estimated at 346.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.  

--Cathy Prudhomme

Redzone

http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef017742d38d45970d-piA recent article on the Community Radio for Northern Colorado website (KUNC) had some thought-provoking comments on the lack of a state-wide policy to deal with development trends in Colorado.  The panel of experts that were interviewed for this article all made some very interesting comments and observations.  An economist – Ray Rasker from Headwaters Economics -- made two interesting assertions: (1) "Everybody seems to have drunk the Kool-Aid on Firewise" and (2) "Keep building in dangerous places, just have a metal roof."

In the first instance, I wish "everybody" was paying more attention to what the Firewise Communities/USA® recognition program has to offer.  It was designed to address the already-existing problem of communities at risk to wildfire more than a decade ago. According to the Federal Registry, there are 77,000 communities (home to ~46 million people) that are considered communities at risk in the wildland-urban interface.  Unfortunately, although Firewise/Communities USA is a very successful community action program, only 760 communities out of the 77,000 are recognized sites.  Since the program’s inception in 2001, more than 1.2 million people have been reached through this grassroots community action effort.

With regards to the second assertion, it is obvious that Mr. Rasker does not have a clear understanding about the Firewise Communities/USA message.  This successful outreach program is specifically designed to address the societal problem discussed in the KUNC article. Its scope is much more than simply adding a metal roof to one’s house.  It is a social model that not only educates homeowners and neighborhoods about their wildfire risk, but more importantly provides a method for how they can take action to mitigate this risk. It is based on the same fire science that informs wildfire safety codes and standards.

The Firewise Communities/USA recognition program is purely voluntary and uses the power of community to drive the wildfire risk reduction process, thereby minimizing the cost or burden on the taxpayer.  The program is all about community action.  Contrary to Mr. Rasker’s assertion, Firewise Communities/USA is not an incentive program for developers to keep on building in the ‘red-zone’ or high wildfire risk areas.  The decision to develop in ‘red-zone’ areas is a political one -- not a Firewise one.  

Firewise principles include:

  1. When it comes to wildfire risk, it is not a geographical location, but a set of conditions that determine the home’s ignition potential in any community.
  2. Homeowners can and must take primary responsibility for wildfire safety action around the home.
  3. A home’s ignition risk is determined by its immediate surroundings or its “home ignition zone” and the home’s construction materials.
  4. We all have a role to play in protecting ourselves and others.

For further information on how local and state agencies can address wildfire risk, please visit the Fire Adapted Communities website.  For further information on current research related to the regulatory component of this problem, please read this research paper that was produced by the Fire Protection Research Foundation.

--Hylton Haynes

Map image from ESRI Map Book - Colorado State Forest Service map and data

CO wildfire

As we continue to learn more about the current wildfire situation in the west, our hearts go out to all those in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and other states where homes have been destroyed and lives disrupted from wildfire over the past several days and weeks.

Wildfires continue to grow and threaten communities along the Front Range of Colorado and numerous places in the Western U.S. The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) mission of reducing fire and threats to life safety extends to areas impacted by wildfire. With resources including our strong Fire Adapted Communities Coalition of national safety organizations, and our Firewise Communities Program, NFPA is working to provide residents and fire responders with information and resources they need to create places that are adapted to the fire threat, and to prepare to protect life and property from wildfire.

 I encourage you to visit www.fireadapted.org to learn more about what each of us can do to protect what is important and to find resources including Firewise practices and emergency evacuation tips.  NFPA is dedicated to reducing the losses from fire worldwide, and we will continue to reach out to communities to help support and provide resources to residents during this very trying time.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division Staff.

-        Jim Shannon

On a recent visit to Kentucky with Michele Steinberg, I had the opportunity to meet with Kentucky Division of Forestry staff about their Firewise initiatives, and to visit with a very active Firewise Communities/USA site.

Jennifer Turner and Cindy “CK” Bennett act as “Team Firewise” for Kentucky, with support from state forestry leadership. They assist communities over a two-to-three-year process to bring them to recognition. In the first year, they deal with assessments and education. During the second year the prospective community will start some small mitigation projects and continue with the educational portion. By year 3, the community takes on larger mitigation projects and become recognized. 2012-05-23_12-52-57_317

CK told us about numerous Firewise activities she supports, including a kids’ program that deals with wildland fire safety. Her “Mark, Rake and Clean” program mirrors the home fire safety “Stop, Drop and Roll” initiative. For wildfire safety, children are taught to Mark- your mailbox, Rake- your leaves and Clean- your gutters and yard.

Jennifer described the state’s Firewise Grant program for fire departments.  Most of Kentucky’s Firewise Communities are run by the Volunteer Fire Departments. These departments use the grant money for items including signs, equipment for mitigation or education, etc.

Jennifer and CK brought me out to Rowan County to meet County Emergency Manger and firefighter Danny Blevins with Route 377 Fire Department. Danny showed us the station and equipment that they have and then did a presentation on how they brought several communities into the Firewise Communities/USA program and some of the mitigation work they have completed. Partnerships are important in the county. For example, since partnering with Firewise, the Road District responsible for mowing along roads now mows a wider path and will assist in mitigation projects for communities. Lake Lewman 2

The Lake Lewman community has partnered with its bordering neighbor, the Daniel Boone National Forest. Residents have been given permission to do some mitigation work to the areas around homes that are next to national forest land. They also have cleared some of the old logging roads to be used as a fire break. Both partners see this as protecting their land from fires originating on either side of the border.

The fire department participates in local events such as fish fries and various school programs to get the Firewise word out to the public. The county has a reverse 911 system and has created specific groups that can alert areas to wildland fires or any emergencies. They have also attached pictures of Firewise Community homes and assessment levels of these homes to the 911 system. This lets the dispatcher know what the area is like and they can then send it to the apparatus computers so the emergency personnel can see what they are dealing with.

Danny and his group are very active in the community and looking for different areas that require Entrance to Lake Lewman attention. In his words “Firewise brought us (the fire department) into the community. We are on a first name basis with homeowners in the area and know most of the danger areas in the community. A disaster is not the first time that you want to meet a homeowner and try to communicate to them what they need to do. The Firewise Communities/USA program has allowed us to educate the area before a fire.”

After visiting the Lake Lewman community, Danny took us to several other areas where they have completed mitigation work. We discussed the possibility of these areas becoming recognized. Before I left, Danny took us to the area of the Island Fork Fire that occurred on April 6, 1999. This fire claimed the lives of 2 firefighters, Kevin Rex Smith and Kenneth Allen Nickell. This fire was only 153 acres in size but burned with extreme fire behavior. The trees around the memorial still are charred and if you lean on them, your hands still will be blackened from the charring.

The trip to Kentucky was a great trip and I was able to make some friends that I hope to keep in touch with and be able to help bring in more recognized Firewise Communities.  

--Todd Chlanda

Colorado
Source: The Pueblo Chieftain Newspaper, June 26, 2012 
Image: Waldo Canyon Fire where 32,000 people have been evacuated from El Paso County, Colorado

Two recent editorials (article 1; article 2) in the Denver Post stimulate the need for a new narrative in the growing wildland-urban interface (WUI) wildfire problem.  Tony Cheng, Director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State states that the costs of actively restoring Front Range ponderosa pine and creating fire-adapted communities is on par with the true costs of a large wildfire and goes further to ask why this preventative strategy is not being pursued as aggressively as the traditional fire suppression strategy?

Lloyd Burton, Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Colorado further to expounds upon this notion by asking the following questions:  Why is an urban narrative is being applied to a mostly rural landscape? Why do the media use metaphors of war to describe this problem? Why is there such a huge focus on response and recovery and very little on prevention and preparation?

Burton suggests the narrative needs to focus on the underlying systemic causes of catastrophic WUI wildfire, including the fact that (1) the WUI is rapidly becoming a more dangerous place to live due to climate change and (2) more people continue to move there.  Alternatives to the war metaphor need to be sort and an open, evidence-based conversation about proven policies for effective loss prevention from WUI wildfires needs to be pursued.

FirewiseCalendarContest2014
The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise® Communities Program announces its 2014 Calendar Firewise Day Photo Contest and invites photo enthusiasts to submit their favorite, original photographs of their community’s Firewise Day events or activities. Winning entries will be displayed in the 2014 Firewise calendar.

Whether it’s a “chipper day” to clear brush and tree limbs, a state fair exhibit, a neighborhood clean-up day, or door-to-door outreach, your hard work helps contribute to a community that is safer from wildfire. Remember, each photo should highlight residents actively participating in Firewise Day activities. So, gather your neighbors and be creative!

if you’re an official Firewise community looking to renew or a neighborhood starting the process for the first time, we want to hear from you. Show us your accomplishments! A total of 15 photos will be selected representing each month, beginning with December 2013 and including the back and front covers.

The contest runs from July 2, 2012 through November 2, 2012. The winners will be announced February 8, 2013.

More information about the contest, including rules and how to enter can be found on the Firewise website. Additional resources and tips on how to plan a Firewise Day event are also available. To learn how others have creatively hosted a Firewise event, visit the success stories page on the website.

We look forward to hearing from you. Good luck!

Fire Adapted Communities program manager Molly Mowery attended this year's NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. In this interview, NFPA asked Molly to explain what the FAC (Fire Adapted Communities) program is, how it works, and how communities can get involved.

 

Evacroute
In Perry Park today (Monday, June 25), Colorado's wildfires continue all around us.  The High Park fire is now at 82,000+ acres and over 240 homes destroyed.  The Waldo Canyon Fire exploded west of Colorado Springs on Saturday forcing the evacuation of over 11,000 people.  Smaller wildfires are only mentioned in passing.  These are getting closer to home:  one in Elbert County yesterday, and another just over the Rampart Range in my home county of Douglas.

My wife Barb and I took some time out this weekend to determine our status relative to being ready to leave our home if necessary. We are using tips and concepts from Firewise and the Ready, Set, Go! programs.  Are we truly ready?  Are we Firewise enough?  What did I overlook?  Where will that ember sneak past my defenses?   Have I cut enough brush?  Are the trees pruned high enough?  The list goes on in my head.  I want to have all this done BEFORE the wildfire happens here.  I’m hydrating the landscaping all around the house, and hunting down that last spot where pine needles or leaves may have collected from last night’s winds.  The rake has become my friend and an extension of my arm.

Then I think about the "Set" part of "Ready, Set, Go!".  Where are all the important papers and documents?  Some are still in the same place as 2002, the year of our Hayman Fire evacuation.  But, ten years have passed and other newer documents are spread throughout the house.  Where are the vehicle titles?  How about the trailer and scooter titles?  Are our marriage license and birth certificates still in the same place?  Insurance papers are handy and almost within arm's reach.  The list goes on and on.  Which medications do we need?  Can we get them refilled easily?  I’ve backed up my business computer to a portable hard drive that will fit in my back pocket.  I can’t imagine trying to recreate 12 years of business documents from memory.  I went through the entire house yesterday with a video camera and captured everything in the house.  Barb is taking a set of the videos, on CDs, to her office this morning.

Finally, all ready to "Go!"  The cat carriers are by the garage door.  The precious, irreplaceable heirlooms are in their containers.  Documents are now condensed down to several handy banker boxes. Our meeting spot is at Barb’s nephew’s house in Castle Rock.  It’s hot.  It’s dry.  Another Red Flag Day in Colorado.  Will it be our turn today?  

--Keith Worley

As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, on June 5 the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and NFPA announced the launch of the Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) initiative and proudly unveiled its new website that provides current and comprehensive information and resources for communities at risk from wildfire, reduce that risk by preparing before the fire starts.

This pre-fire strategy takes a community-based approach and promotes the idea that reducing the threat of damage to homes, infrastructure and natural resources from wildfire is everyone’s responsibility. Leading wildfire agencies including the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the U.S. Fire Administration, the Department of the Interior, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Association of State Foresters, the Nature Conservancy, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Wildland Urban Interface Mitigation Committee and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, have partnered with the Forest Service and NFPA in this effort and formed an FAC coalition. Each member of the coalition plays a key role in helping communities prepare for and accept wildfire as a part of their surrounding landscape.

EM MagOver the next few months, you’ll see a number of ads and PSAs, and hear radio interviews with coalition members who actively promote Fire Adapted Communities. Articles and stories have also been written. A recent article by Hilton Collins for Emergency Management magazine titled, “Fire Adapted Communities Initiative Empowers Residents”, gives a great overview of the FAC program, and offers a quick glimpse into the pages of the website. Give it a read.

With an active wildfire season already underway, we encourage you to visit www.fireadapted.org to learn more about FAC and the role you can play in helping your community stay safer from wildfire. While on the website, don’t forget to check out the programs and resources available to help you get started now.

IAFC RSGJoin the New England Fire/Rescue/EMS 2012 Committee June 22-24, 2012 at their 90th Annual Conference & Exposition at the Sheraton Springfield Hotel in West Springfield, MA for a display of fire, EMS and related areas of apparatus and equipment. The conference, which targets fire, rescue, EMS, emergency managers and mechanics, is a great way to network and share best practices.

In addition to the expo, participants can attend a number of informative presentations including one given by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) on Saturday, June 23 at 9:30 a.m.. IAFC will talk about wildland fire issues and their “Ready, Set, Go!” program. If you get a chance, check out their booth (#424) in the exhibit hall. Given the recent brush, grass and forest fire activity we’ve experienced across New England, learn how the program can be of help to you and your community in the event of a wildfire.

For more information about the conference, check out their website.

The conference is fully sponsored by the New England Association of Fire Chiefs, Inc., and co-hosted with the New England Division of the IAFC, and the New England Fire Apparatus Maintenance Association, with assistance from the New England Fire Equipment Exhibitors Association.

How To

The Summer 2012 issue of the Firewise Communities How-To Newsletter has been published and is now available for viewing. 

Published quarterly, this newsletter focuses on homeowners or community residents whose homes are located in a region susceptible to wildfires. You’ll receive timely, pertinent information on how to help protect your home and property, and yourself in the event of wildfire.

In this issue, learn tips for safeguarding your home and how to prepare for an evacuation, celebrate the 10th anniversary of 20 official Firewise communities, read interviews with leading Firewise experts and much more.

Don't miss an issue! Read the latest news today!

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

  • A recap of the Fire Adapted Communities initiative launch in Washington, D.C.
  • A link to the Firewise Mapper, an interactive tool that allows users to find recognized communities across the U.S., and help residents learn where wildfires are burning
  • An update on the 2012 wildfire season and the reasons why forecasters predict more activity this year
  • Information about the 2013 Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference, and a look back at our successful 2011 event
  • Details on an upcoming wildfire safety webinar presented by the Sonoran Institute and Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and featuring Michele Steinberg

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.

The San Diego and Riverside County areas are experiencing an early start to their fire season.  Some wildfires have resulted in the evacuation of homes already, including the Banner Fire (May 24-29) east of Julian where 5,321 acres were burned. The current Old Fire (currently 75% contained) is burning off of Highway 80, east of Miller Valley Road towards Church Street and east of Campo, and has also resulted in residents being evacuated and 907 acres burned. 

CAL_FIRE_logo_largeOther fires in the area include the Wolford Fire in San Diego and The Border Fire. Riverside County has had three CAL FIRE reported fires including the View Fire (376 acres), the Highland Fire (2,171 acres) and the Creek Fire (76 acres). You can find information about these fires on the Cal Fire incident website. Of course, there have also many smaller fires not reported on the site, including a small fire off of Los Coches in Lakeside, which I encountered on my way home from the recent NFPA conference & expo in Las Vegas.

NOAA and other weather entities have indicated that many areas of the United States are experiencing conditions that could increase a community’s wildfire probability. Instead of being afraid, be prepared.  Before a wildfire threatens your area, learn how your community can work together to become a Fire Adapted Community, and save lives and property from wildfire. As a first step in the process, consider NFPA's Firewise Communities Program, which provides homeowners with resources and immediate, simple steps they can use to help safeguard their homes and immediate surroundings. We all have a role to play in protecting ourselves and each other from the risk of wildfire. What is your role?

During this time of high fire activity, it’s important to learn more about what you can do as a homeowner or agency partner to help your home, neighborhood and community and reduce the risk of wildfire damage.  For the latest wildfire news, resources and tips, sign up for NFPA’s Firebreak e-newsletter, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In, and comment on our blogs. Our websites at www.firewise.org and www.fireadapted.org are also great resources, and we encourage you to visit them for more great information.

-Faith Berry

"You can't go anywhere without hearing the word 'evacuation,'" said education session speaker Ed Plaugher with the International Association Fire Chiefs (IAFC). "Want to know a little secret? There is no such thing as a mandatory evacuation. Laws..can't force you to leave your home."

A range of natural disasters have the ability to devastate communities and prompt such evacuations, but what's apparently lacking are standardized procedures guiding the relocation of people.

Enter NFPA, IAFC, and the National Governors Association, which are working to create an all-hazards, nationwide evacuation model for both emergency workers and residents. During this morning's education session, "Mass Evacuation Planning: Working Toward a Common Framework," NFPA's Ken Willette discussed how this topic impacts aspects of NFPA's mission, including emergency preparedness; emergency responder training and safety; and the built environment. Certain NFPA codes, including NFPA 1600: Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs, already address these areas.

Going forward, NFPA will serve as the lead standards development organization in creating a mass evacuation standard. A request was submitted to NFPA's Standards Council last year on developing such a standard. Willette says the request is still receiving public comment. 

-Fred Durso, Jr.

Molly
The risk of catastrophic fire occurrence in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) is a major issue in today’s fire protection community. There are many potential tools for zoning administrators, planners, and fire/emergency managers to consider when addressing their community’s wildfire risk.

In a special panel discussion at FNPA's Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Molly Mowery of NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations division, Ray Bizal of NFPA’s Western Regional office, and Don Elliott of Clarion Associates talked about the array of tools available, including building codes and standards, voluntary programs (e.g. Firewise Communities/USA recognition program), Community Wildfire Protection Plans, and hazard mitigation planning.

The panel also discussed a recent report, “Addressing Community Wildfire Risk: A Review and Assessment of Regulatory and Planning Tools" issued by the Fire Protection Research Foundation. Casey Grant, research director for the Foundation, talks about the report.

Don Elliot from Clarion Associates talks about the key takeaways from the Foundation report. 

PerryParkEvacFlyer_To_Press_page1-2-1

As Coloradans are aware, wildfires can strike at any time. Fire fighting resources will be limited. Are you and your family ready? Perry Park, Colorado, a longtime recognized Firewise Community/USA, has taken steps to assist its homeowners by sending out an evacuation map that included tips on preparing for evacuation.   They suggested residents be ready and plan for wildfire by remembering the six “P’s”.  These are:

  • People and Pets- Have a plan.  Do you know at least two ways out of your community?  Where will you meet family after evacuation?  Where will you stay and how will you contact each other?  Where will your pets stay?
  • Papers, phone numbers, and important documents.  Deeds, birth certificates and other irreplaceable documents should be in one location so these can be grabbed at a moment’s notice.
  • Prescriptions, eyeglasses, and vitamins.  You may be gone from your home for days, so insure you have access to all your health related items.
  • Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia.  These are priceless and could be lost forever.
  • Personal computers or any information stored on hard drives and disks.
  • Plastic including credit cards, ATM cards and cash.

At their Firewise Community Meeting on May 5th, the fire chief added a seventh PPatience.  Evacuating will be stressful.  Roads will be jammed.  Communicating with loved ones will be difficult.  Having a plan and being prepared will help reduce your stress level.  Your family and pets will pick up on your stress level, too.

Don’t wait until a wildfire strikes to do last minute Firewise measures such as cleaning your roof and gutters of leaves and needles.  You will not have time to cut down that tree or bush, or mow grasses around your home.  Steps you can take ahead of time are available at www.firewise.org, as well as at the IAFC's Ready, Set, Go! program page.   You want to be ready ahead of time so you can focus on your family and pets.  So,

  • Be Ready!  Are you Firewise?
  • Be Set!  Do you have a plan?
  • Go Early!  If you are Firewise ahead of time and have a plan in place, you won’t have to wait for the emergency call or knock at the door.  Evacuate when ordered to leave so firefighters can do their jobs more effectively.

Finally, work with your neighbors and community to become a recognized Firewise Community.  Go to www.firewise.org to learn how you build partnerships to reduce wildfire risks.  Being Firewise is a shared responsibility and what you and your neighbors do ahead of time will be important.

--Keith Worley

Colorado wildfire
Fire officials in Larimer, Colorado have recently reported that the High Park Fire, centered about 15 miles northwest of Fort Collins, is estimated to have burned 50,000 acres and  remains only 10 percent contained.  The size and intensity of the fire raises major safety concerns for communities in and around the area, and is prompting many homeowners to look for ways to reduce their risk and help prepare their homes and property from potential damage.

If your area has been placed on alert, NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program can provide a number of resources, including simple, but effective, steps you can do now ahead of the approaching wildfire to help reduce the chances of wildfire damage.

Wildfire doesn’t have to burn everything in its path. In fact, cleaning your property of debris and maintaining your landscaping are important first steps. There are additional actions homeowners can take now to reduce the risk of homes and property becoming fuel for a wildfire:

  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves,      porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
  • Create a “fuel-free” area within five feet of the home,      using non-flammable landscaping materials such as rocks, pavers and/or      high-moisture content annuals and perennials.
  • Remove dead vegetation from under your deck and within      10 feet of the house.
  • Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane      tanks, dry vegetation) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and      outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let      it touch your house, deck or porch.
  • If you have trees on your property, prune so the lowest      branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
  • Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of      these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and      shrubs are fuel for wildfire.

Learn more about how to keep your family safe and reduce your home’s risk for wildfire damage on the Firewise website.

Firewise is a key program and a part of the overall Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) initiative that encourages everyone in a community, including homeowners, firefighters, land managers, and civic leaders to learn their role and work together to prepare in advance of a wildfire threat.  More information about FAC and how homeowners can play an important role in reducing wildfire damage to homes and property, can found at: www.fireadapted.org.

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

WesternlandsOn Wednesday, June 27, I'll join Allison Berry of the Sonoran Institute and Jill Alexander of Douglas County,
Colorado, to provide information about Firewise principles during a live web presentation hosted by Western Lands and Communities.

A joint venture of the the Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Western Lands and Communities focuses on shaping growth, sustaining cities, protecting resources, and empowering communities in the Intermountain West. Its "Successful Communities Online Toolkit information exchange" or SCOTie is a great web resource for information about all kinds of issues confronting communities in the Western U.S., including wildfire. NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division is pleased to provide source information to expand SCOTie's resources on wildland fire challenges and solutions.

Please join me at 3 pm EDT for what promises to be an informative and useful 90-minute forum on wildfire, planning and development. Sign up here for the June 27 webinar.

--Michele Steinberg

MicheleTVI had the opportunity yesterday for a live interview with KTNV's Tina Patel about wildfire safety. NFPA's 2012 Conference & Expo is going on now in Las Vegas. The local ABC affiliate has been reporting on some important fire and life safety initiatives covered at the conference, including wildland fire.

Firewise and NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division have a presence at this large and multi-disciplined conference, including booths on the Expo floor, presentations covering various aspects of wildfire safety, and networking on public education initiatives. It was wonderful to have the added opportunity to get the word out to Nevada residents and visitors about the importance of wildfire safety in this period of high fire danger in many areas of the Western U.S.

--Michele Steinberg

MapBeta3

Map 1 - Firewise Communities/USA sites and Active Fires (click on link or map to access the Firewise Mapper)

MapAdvisors

Map 2  Firewise Advisors and NFPA's Firewise offices (Click on link or map to open)

A new interactive Firewise® Mapper (Beta version) using the ESRI ArcGIS Explorer Online platform is now available.  This new tool was primarily designed to identify and locate recognized Firewise Communities/USA® sites throughout the nation.  The user friendly interface lets you navigate around and zoom to a specific site and with the left click of the mouse additional information about a specific site can be accessed through a ‘pop-up’ window. 

There are several other static and dynamic layers integrated into the map and include theGeoMAC (Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination) active fire perimeter layer; the FIRMS (Fire Information for Resource Management System)  MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer)  Hotspot layer that collect real-time information from two satellites orbiting the earth tracking areas of intense heat, and the RMRS (Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station) wildland  fire risk potential layer.  Due to the fact that this map is still in the development phase, please send Hylton Haynes any edits to the location of your community or for any questions.

For quick help on using the Mapper, check out these instructions, and use ESRI's blog and video support to easily navigate the map.

BB Conf Save the Date
It’s official! NFPA’s 5th Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Educational Conference heads to Salt Lake City, Utah, November 12 – 16, 2013.

The event is a great opportunity to explore key issues with dozens of breakout sessions and five educational tracks. A preconference workshop, “Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone,” will be held November 12 – 13.

This comprehensive conference always brings together a diverse audience of leading wildland fire experts, Firewise community representatives, community planners, civic leaders, homeowners and residents, insurance professionals, landscape architects and others, to network and share best-practices everyone can take back to their communities and workplaces.

Please join us! Stay tuned to the Firewise website for continued updates and registration information.

For a look back at NFPA’s 2010 conference, visit the Backyards & Beyond web page where you’ll find event presentations, photos, videos and more!

Farm BillNFPA joined more than 90 other organizations in a coalition letter to support the permanent reauthorization of the Stewardship Contracting Authority, with no changes, in the 2012 Farm Bill.  This important piece of legislation allows more flexibility and efficacy to federal land management agencies like the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to execute landscape scale forest health and forest fuel mitigation projects, while at the same time expanding business and job opportunities in many rural areas of our nation. 

This legislation ties in nicely with NFPA’s Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) initiative that promotes the idea of community resistance in the event of a wildland fire.  This holistic wildland fire risk mitigation approach focuses at the landscape level where the idea of the sustainable treatment of the forests that surround these high risk communities works hand-in-hand with the whole notion of a fire adapted community.  The Firewise Communities/USA® program looks primarily at reducing home ignitability within the home ignition zone. Treating the surrounding forests complements the homeowner’s efforts in reducing the wildland fire risk in their community.

Thinning the forest addresses the forest management legacy of the past and results in healthier forests because the residual stand of trees has more room to grow and can therefore thrive.  A more vigorous forest is less susceptible to beetle infestations and decay.  Live trees have a lower ignitability versus dead beetle-infested trees.  Thinning the forest removes fuel, reduces forest fuel loading, disrupts the continuity of forest fuels and consequently lowers the ignitability of the treated forest.  In the event of a wildland fire, the fire intensity is significantly reduced due to forest thinning treatments and this allows communities located in and near these forests to be better able to handle a wildfire event should it occur.

The Stewardship Contracting Authority allows the Forest Service meet its forest management mandate in a very effective and efficient manner that facilitates fuel mitigation activities that ultimately complements our mission at the NFPA – fire and building safety.

-Hylton Haynes

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