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During a recent newscast on Boise State Public Radio, residents of Wilderness Ranch, one of the first pilot communities of the Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program, pointed to their consistent mitigation efforts and neighbor-to-neighbor outreach that helped saved homes and property when the recent Karney Fire moved closer to their area. Boise

Listen to the interview!

Learn more about Wilderness Ranch’s mitigation efforts during the past decade, and how their continued dedication to wildfire safety is making a marked difference today.

Did you know? There are additional communities across the U.S. that have celebrated 10 years of Firewise success and made a positive difference in the lives of their residents. Check out their stories on the Firewise website and share your own community stories with us. We want to hear from you!

Photo courtesy of Boise National Forest

Last week my Firewise travels took me to the city of Ashland and other communities in southern Oregon.  I was fortunate to meet with the state Firewise Liaison - Kris Babbs (Oregon Department of Forestry); Ali True (Firewise Communities Coordinator); Chris Chambers (Forest Resource Specialist); John Karns (Fire Chief); and Margueritte Hickman (Fire Marshal); as well as many other representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, City Council and the City of Ashland Firewise Communities Commission.


The City of Ashland Fire Department has been very busy since the devastating 2010 Oak Knoll Fire that destroyed 11 homes in less than an hour.  Chief Karns was hired a year before this tragic event, immediately put his understanding of fire prevention and mitigation to work.  After the Oak Knoll Fire he introduced the Firewise Communities/USA® recognition program to the City and hired a Firewise Coordinator.  This initiative could not have turned out better. Ali True who was hired as the
Firewise Coordinator has proven to be a true a true inspiration for Ashland’s Firewise Program and the proof speaks for itself.  In just over a year since Ali was hired the City of Ashland now has 9 Firewise Communities! The smallest is 2 ½ acres to the largest of 40 ½ acres in size, and yes the neighborhood around the Oak Knolls area is now a Firewise Community too. 

So what is the secret to such success you ask of a City of 20,000?  That is the question I asked of the people on the ground doing the work, the citizens that live within the Firewise Communities of Ashland. 

Here is what they told me:

  1. You have to understand that you have a wildfire risk and it is everyone’s responsibility to do something about it because fire knows no boundaries.
  2. The Firewise Program should start from the ‘ground up’, not the ‘top down’, meaning the homeowners need to take on a leadership role and develop the program from within versus being forced by government to embrace this program.  This ‘ground up’ empowers citizens to help themselves.
  3. Firewise community members did say where government can help and often does is to support a Firewise Community Coordinator position where a person like Ali True who has a wonderful personality and is a “people” person can engage the community promoting the benefits of the Firewise Communities/USA program.  Without this community position, the homeowners did not feel the program would have been successful.
  4. Another important ingredient of this successful recipe is access to grant money.  Community members said that seed money usually in the form of a “cost-share” program through state or federal partners was extremely helpful.  One recommended method to utilize this resource was for residents to reduce the fuels on their property by thinning and cutting brush and then using the grant to help fund the chipping, mulching and disposal of the waste vegetation. There were other innovative ways shared by homeowners, with the same objective of reducing the fuel loading and creating defensible space around homes and common areas within the community. The net outcome being the creation fuel breaks between homes and neighborhoods resulting in overall community wildfire risk reduction.  In addition to completing the major work through the grant, it is also important to stress the need for ongoing maintenance activities by individuals around their homes, as this will ensure that wildfire risk is kept low and is especially important activity during the fire season.

So why does the City of Ashland have more Firewise Communities than any other city in Oregon? They understand that their neighborhoods are vulnerable to wildfire, and that Firewise is a “grass roots” program promoting personal responsibility.  Also that there needs to be some local advocate, who is educated in wildfire and has the ability to create local partnerships between government agencies and homeowners. And last, but not always necessary in every situation; grant funding to assist communities to help offset some of the vegetation mitigation cost. 

So what is next for Ashland Oregon you may ask?  Fire Department officials say that there are three more Firewise Communities/USA recognition site applications in the mail and three more neighborhoods are in the process to become recognized as a Firewise Community/USA site.  Oh, and the Mayor, Fire Chief, Fire Marshal and the Ashland Firewise Sparkplug Ali True are talking about how to create a larger coalition to represent more community, business, and government members to move forward towards a Fire Adapted Community!

When a person approaches you and wants to talk to you about a program that can make you home safer against wildland fire, you are interested and listen, until they start talking about getting together with neighbors and documenting hours and filling out an application. Then it seems like a lot of work and something you don’t have time for.

Everyone is busy nowadays and is leery about taking on more projects. We already spend our weekends working around the house cutting grass, weeding the landscaping around the house, watering flowers and bushes, raking leaves or pine needles, all kinds of chores to make our house look nice….wait…all of those chores are part of being Firewise! Maybe Firewise isn’t so difficult after all.

Minnesota has had one recognized community, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, since the Firewise program began, until now. Itasca County has been using Firewise practices for several years without being recognized as a Firewise Community/USA community. The county wrote their Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) 5 years ago and organized their Firewise Board to oversee projects within the community. They were doing almost all of the requirements for being recognized except for making application.

SUOMIAfter working with Bill Brink, Itasca County Firewise Coordinator, for about 6 months, Minnesota has their second recognized community. Suomi Area made application in July and received their recognition in August. Bill contacted several of the fire departments and other area communities within the county after getting his first recognized community under his belt and will be submitting 12-15 more applications this year.  

Bill thought that the application would be too difficult and time consuming to become recognized. When I was able to show him that they were already doing 4 of the 5 requirements to be recognized, he was excited. I provided Bill examples of other communities supporting paperwork and when he saw those examples he said, “This is what we are already doing. We keep track of our volunteer hours and put them in an annual report that we submit to our county leaders.” The Itasca County Board of Directors has supported the efforts of the Itasca County Firewise Committee since they started.

So, is it really easier to become recognized as a Firewise Community in Minnesota? No, not any easier than anywhere else in the United States. Itasca County just happened to be doing Firewise principles without making application for many years. With a little information and guidance, the county is buzzing about Firewise. Itasca County is one of five counties in Minnesota that have been following Firewise practices without being recognized, until now. I look for big things to happen in Minnesota in the next year. Guess you’ll have to keep posted to our blogs to see what happens next.

If you feel that your community falls into the same category as Itasca County, contact your State Firewise Liaison or Regional Firewise Advisor for assistance. These can be found at


*+Call for Presentations !|border=0|src=|alt=Conference web banner3|title=Conference web banner3|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017c3221360a970b image-full!
+*NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division is seeking educational session presentations for the 2013 Backyards & Beyond Wildfire Education Conference where a widely diverse audience of leading wildfire experts, emergency responders, community planners, Firewise® community representatives, residents, insurance professionals, landscape architects and others come together to network and share
best practices.


Submit your presentation onlineby Monday, December 31, 2012 and share your expertise and story on key wildfire issues under any of the following topics:

    • Community Safety Approaches and Strategies

    • Home Construction & Landscape Design

    • Research (Physical, Social, Ecology and Environmental)

    • Technology, Policy & Regulations

    • Wildfire Planning, Suppression & Operations

IMG-20120919-00335In light of the five-year anniversary of the 2007 fires in California, it is great to see communities in the southern half of the state organizing themselves in collaboration with their authorities having jurisdiction, to gain national recognition as Firewise communities! What a pleasant surprise it was to meet one of California's newest Firewise communities, Orange County’s, The Canyons, at a Wild Land Fire Prevention Conference sponsored by the California Fire Safe Council and an insurance company. They were eager to share their Firewise story. They are already working on overlapping ignition zones in their community, the road frontage on everyone's private property.  Sonja Powell, the Orange County Assistant Fire Marshal who assisted them, is happy to see the great progress that they have made in one year already!  And stay tuned! Another Firewise community, Cowan Heights, has just turned in their application!

Want more information about how your community can become an official recognized Firewise site? Check out our website and our newest Firewise toolkit, where you can find facts about the Firewise Communities Program, checklists for homeowners and so much more! !|src=|alt=Age of western wildfires|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Age of western wildfires|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017d3c48de4d970c!Climate Central a non-profit organization that conducts scientific research on climate change and informs the public of key findings recently published a report on September 19, titled ‘The Age of Western Wildfires’.   According to the report  the 2012 wildfire season isn’t over yet and the year is shaping up to be one of the worst on record in the western United States. the report’s findings are:

  • The number of large and very large fires on Forest Service land is increasingly dramatically. Compared to the average year in the 1970s, in the past decade there were: seven times more fires greater than 10,000 acres each year, nearly five times more fires larger than 25,000 acres each year, and twice as many fires over 1,000 acres each year, with an average of more than 100 per year from 2002 through 2011, compared with less than 50 during the 1970s.

  • In some states the increase in wildfires is even more dramatic. Since the 1970s the average number of fires over 1,000 acres each year has nearly quadrupled in Arizona and Idaho, and has doubled in California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

  • On average, wildfires burn twice as much land area each year as they did 40 years ago. In the past decade, the average annual burn area on Forest Service land in the West has exceeded 2 million acres - more than all of Yellowstone National Park.

This year has demonstrated the trend that wildfires are burning larger than ever, and NFPA's Firewise Communities Program is urging homeowners to take action to reduce the risk of losing their homes and property to wildfires.


Photo taken in Bastrop, TX shortly after the wildfire in 2011. Photo by Ryan Depew.
September 2012 marks the first anniversary of the most destructive wildfire in Texas history. The Bastrop County Complex Fire destroyed more than 1,600 homes before it was extinguished in October 2011. While this record-breaking wildfire left lasting effects on the state, the Steiner Ranch neighborhood is a shining example of resilience and progress, as residents have come together to start anew – rebuilding using Firewise guidelines for home construction and landscape design and maintenance. This included taking part in a community fuel reduction day in which flammable brush and debris were removed and adequate space between trees and homes was created.

As September is National Preparedness Month, now is the time for millions of residents across the country to prepare themselves and protect their homes from the continued risk of wildfire. Contrary to common perception, a wildfire does not have to burn everything in its path. In fact, clearing property of debris and maintaining landscaping are important, yet simple, first steps for homeowners.

Residents can take certain actions to reduce the risk of home and property becoming fuel for a wildfire – actions that have saved communities such as Cedar Heights in Colorado Springs earlier this year. A comprehensive Firewise tips checklist for homeowners is available on the Firewise website. learned about a great resource currently available to San Diego County residents to be used in the event of a disaster.  It is called, "The Red Guide to Recovery". This resource handbook for disaster survivors is sponsored by the San Diego Burn Institute, Sempra Energy and others.  The book written by Sean Scott, was designed to answer critical questions that individuals have when they are recovering from a disaster including a wildfire. book addresses multiple decisions that will need to be made quickly after a disaster event and includes the following key issues:

  • Emergency preparedness kit
  • Taking safety precautions immediately following a disaster
  • Finding temporary shelter
  • Cleaning up and protecting your property
  • Submitting and pursuing your insurance claim
  • Finding financial aid
  • Selecting building contractors and others if you are not from San Diego you may want to examine some of the issues examined to prepare information for yourself in a notebook or recipe card box, so that if a disaster occurs you are ready.  The American Red Cross, and your local Emergency Management Agency would also have resource information readily available to you.Remember to always have an out of state contact designated for local family members to reach in case phone lines are down! 

Don't forget to prepare your home in the event of a wildfire event.  Fire Adapted Communities, Firewise Communities/USA® and the NFPA all have resources available to you on line to guide you in your preparations before an event.  It has been proven that preparation efforts will greatly reduce your losses in a wildfire event.  According to the FEMA website: "In the wake of disasters, people often wonder whether there is a way to protect both people and property from such devastating losses. The answer is a resounding "YES!" Mitigation is the way to provide that protection. Hazard mitigation means taking action to reduce or prevent future damage, preferably before a disaster strikes."  Create a Fire Adapted
with your neighbors today!


I often need a really good visual to give me an “a-ha moment” when trying to fully understand a new

!|src=|alt=2012-09-16 14.44.53|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=2012-09-16 14.44.53|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017c32038add970b!concept.  And this past weekend, I had the opportunity to witness some wildland/urban interface homeowners experience their own personal “a-ha” moments during the two Colorado Rebuilds
Fire Adapted Communities
workshops held in Fort Collins and Littleton, Colorado.

This Saturday, September 22, Colorado Springs area residents will also get an opportunity to experience their own defining moments when they attend the same workshop.  Attendees will learn how homes and their surrounding landscape features are impacted during a wildfire; and the actions that can be implemented to reduce their risk.


!|src=|alt=IMG_4580|style=margin: 0px 5px 5px 0px;|title=IMG_4580|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017d3c31db36970c!Using the latest building science research, senior scientist Steven Quarles with the* *Insurance Institute for Building & Home Safety (IBHS), will incorporate a set of full-scale displays to visually demonstrate the types of materials that perform best under wildfire conditions; and explain why certain components and areas of the home are most vulnerable during a wildfire.  Additional presenters include CSFD’s Deputy Fire Marshal Kris Cooper and Regional Firewise Advisor Keith Worley.

The workshops provide information that can change the way homeowners look at their home and lot in relation to its vulnerability during a wildfire.


Join the Fire Adapted Communities Coalition and Lowe’s Home Improvement stores at this one-hour free workshop and I can assure you’ll leave thinking differently about your home and landscaping.  *WARNING: *Attending this workshop will increase your honey's "to-do" list!

Attend the workshop this Saturday, September 22, at 11am* *at the Lowe’s in Colorado Springs, CO located at 488 North Nevada Avenue.

- Cathy Prudhomme

Many successful fire adapted communities such as Prescott, Arizona and Nevada County, California have developed unique wildland-urban interface organizations to collaboratively address community wildfire risk.  They mobilize Firewise® community efforts with a central group like the hub of a wheel and many smaller communities acting like spokes of a wheel supporting the mission of the central group.

Image 1: A conceptual representation of the 'hub' organizational structure

The smaller groups (such as homeowner associations), develop local efforts in their neighborhoods to compliment the mission of the central group. These groups all together work collaboratively with agency partners developing large scale plans or Community Wildfire Protection Plans that focus efforts on a large scale by examining assets at risk, topography, fire history, vegetation and fuels class, mitigating structural ignitability, weather and prevailing winds to develop a long range plan that identifies priorities of the community’s fire prevention efforts. The smaller communities then complete assessments of their community wildfire risks collaboratively with agency partners and their authority having jurisdiction to
create a community firewise risk assessment, prioritize an action plan, develop a board, organize and host a Firewise Day and complete $2.00 per capita in Firewise work in order to receive national recognition as Firewise Communities/USA® site. Together they support a host of efforts including Ready Set Go, Citizen Emergency Response Groups (CERT), ham radio efforts, Red Cross Shelters, Home Ignition Zone Classes and others.

Are you living in a Fire Adapted Community? Are you ready in the event of a wildfire? Become the 'sparkplug' that helps to get your community ready in the event of a wildfire. You can learn how to become a part of this national Fire Adapted Communities initiative by visiting the following sites,, and

Mohonk Lake
A new report entitled “Changing Climate, Changing Forests: The Impacts of Climate Change on Forests of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada,” concludes that the Northeastern U.S. could be a different place by the end of the 21st century, as our forests, wildlife, insects and society adapt to a changing climate. By consolidating the research of 38 scientists from the U.S. and Canada into one report, the authors hope it will provide a foundation on which future research can be built.

For thousands of years, composition of tree species of Northeast forests have slowly shifted in response to climate, but human-caused climate change has accelerated the process. Human activities, such as fossil fuel combustion and suburban sprawl, cause increases of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which trap heat and alter the Earth’s climate. In 2011, the average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 387 parts per million, which is the highest level in the last 800,000 years. Even slight changes in climate can seriously impact our forests and how we live.

Here are some of the report’s findings regarding forest health:

  • Research shows climate change is underway in the Northeast and is changing more rapidly than expected. It is predicted that our region will become not only warmer and wetter, but more prone to drought. Northeast temperatures are expected to rise 5 to 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. Annual precipitation has increased by 3.7 inches (9%) over the last century, occurring mostly during the spring and fall, with precipitation falling as rain not snow. Scientists have also observed an increase in extreme precipitation events over the last century.
  • Although precipitation has increased, the Northeast is experiencing longer periods without rainfall and longer growing seasons, due to higher temperatures and a decrease in snowpack depth. There has been an increase of winter precipitation, occurring as rain rather than snow, and a
    nine day reduction in snow-covered days. Longer growing seasons and warmer winters will increase water use by forests, resulting in increased periods of drought.
  • These conditions could reduce forest health. Trees will become more susceptible to insects, such as tent caterpillars, Asian longhorned beetle and hemlock woolly adelgid, and diseases like Blister rust and Dutch elm disease.
  • Competition with invasive species will increase. Invasive plants can adapt more easily to climate change and are already reducing tree regeneration. Japanese barberry, European honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet are a few of the shrubs currently impacting native understory species in the Northeast.

How will changing forest conditions affect wildfire risk for residents of the Northeast?

An increase in extreme weather events could result in significant blow downs, adding to fuel loads on the forest floor, which could cause more severe fire behavior if a wildfire ignites. Spring fire season will likely occur earlier in the Northeast, due to a reduction in snow pack and warmer winters.

Residents living in fire-prone areas may experience more wildfires during the summer if intervals of drought occur.  Drier conditions could also increase the frequency of wildfires in certain forest types of the Northeast, such as northern hardwoods, where historically fires rarely occur.

As evidence of climate change and its impact on our forests continues to mount, it is essential that communities in the wildland/urban interface areas of the Northeast consider implementing Firewise practices to reduce their risk to wildfire through the Firewise Community/USA Recognition Program.

Has your community been implementing safety mitigation practices? Share your thoughts with us and other communities. Learning from each other and sharing best practices are powerful tools as we continue to work toward lessening our risk for damage and loss due to wildfire. 

View the complete report now! 

FireBreak0912The September 2012 issue of Fire Break, NFPA’s wildland fire newsletter, is now available for viewing. In this issue, you’ll find:

  • Fall “How To” newsletter focuses on greater commitment to wildfire safety
  • Firewise renewal time: neighbors helping neighbors
  • Wildfire organizations learn first-hand success of fire adapted communities
  • NFPA's Fire Prevention Week – the Super Bowl of fire safety

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.

Rist Canyon Festival Day

This past June, the High Park Fire in Colorado impacted residents of the Rist Canyon VFD, Glacier View FPD, Poudre Canyon FPD and Poudre Fire Authority. The fire destroyed 259 homes over 87,200 acres and is the most destructive fire in the history of Larimer County. Although supported by surrounding fire agencies, state and federal assistance when called upon, Rist Canyon has an all volunteer fire department including the fire chief, firefighters, administration (Board of Directors) and others. Rist Canyon VFD is not a fire protection district, does not receive tax funds and does not charge for any emergency responses.

So it brings to question, where does the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department receive its funding for their resources and equipment. This close-knit community comes together and makes individual donations and holds a special fund raising event, the RCVFD Mountain Festival and Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction (made possible by the generosity of many artists), the Sunday before Labor Day weekend. The festival becomes a gathering place for all ages with lots of activities including the auction, where this year they raised $110,000 up from $40,000 last year. Although the
auction is the highlight of the festival, the residents are very creative as well to raise additional funds. One couple whose husband is a firefighter, were among those that found themselves sifting through the ruins of their home. All they found were remnants of the husband’s woodcarvings and stubble of a rhubarb plant. The couple nurtured that plant until there was enough stalk to make a pie. That pie was auctioned off and raised $1,000 at the festival. Two young children donated over $250 in tip money from working a food stand and other couple raised $5,000 by having a band play in their backyard. The list goes on in the creative ways this community supports its all volunteer fire department and will go a long way to support the firefighters and help to rebuild one of their fire stations lost during the High Park Fire.

The Oklahoma State Agricultural Extension service as a part
of their Master Gardener program recently published three Firewise® YouTube™ movie clips.  This three part Firewise series includes:

  1. Firewise landscaping
  2. Firewise foundation plantings
  3. Landscape maintenance to reduce fire load

In the third segment Oklahoma Gardening host Kim Toscano visits with Dr. Dwayne Elmore, Associate Professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management at Oklahoma State University to early spring cleanup, from cutting back ornamental grasses to raking up the leaves and foliage.  A lot of these tips are not only applicable to early spring, but can also be applied to your late fall clean-up
activities.  More gardening tips can be found on the Oklahoma Gardening YouTube™ webpage


!|src=|alt=WUI2013|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=WUI2013|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017d3c2a7772970c!The 2013 International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Conference will be held next year March 19-21at a new location - The Peppermill Resort and Casino in Reno Nevada. Information about details of the conference and updates are available on the website hosted by the IAFC. They are soliciting your[ input  |]in shaping this year’s conference. The Ready, Set, Go! Program  and the Firewise Program are both Fire Adapted Communities coalition members. To learn more about the what your community can do to become more fire adapted visit this

Why does the U.S. continue to lose so many homes in spite of all of its good mitigation efforts? It’s the question Molly Mowery explores in her latest NFPA Journal® column, which highlights the fact that while WUI communities struggle with increasing risk factors including poor forest health and warming trends, still more success stories from local, state and federal agencies around the country showcase how and when safety mitigation works.

Read Molly’s latest Wildfire Watch column and think about your response if someone asked you this question. Got an idea? Share your answers with us! We’d love to hear from you.

Wildfire watch ReprintAs you’ve read earlier in our blog, following the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history, representatives from the Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) coalition toured areas of Colorado S impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire and analyzed the mitigation efforts initiated by the city’s fire department. During its visit in late July, the coalition learned first-hand how these neighborhoods implemented important safety mitigation practices that contributed to a number of success stories in the area.

NFPA's Fred Durso wrote an account of the team’s visit and we created a special reprint from the September/October 2012 issue of NFPA Journal®.

Download a copy of "Moving Toward a Fire Adapted Community" and learn more about what the coalition team discovered, and how coalition member organizations, including the Firewise Communities Program, are supporting residents in creating fire adapted communities across the country.

The Oklahoma State Agricultural Extension service as a part of their Master Gardener program recently published three Firewise® YouTube® movie clips.  This three part Firewise series includes:

  1. Firewise landscaping
  2. Firewise foundation plantings
  3. Landscape maintenance to reduce fire load

In the second segment Oklahoma Gardening host Kim Toscano discusses ways to protect your home and landscape from wildfire through the use of selective planting.  Kim discusses some plants to avoid, as well as introduces several types of fire resistant plants that are applicable to Oklahoma.  More
gardening tips can be found on the Oklahoma Gardening Youtub webpage.


!|src=|alt=Waldo_canyon_300x200|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Waldo_canyon_300x200|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017c31d6fa32970b!“For years, NFPA has pushed

hard through our Firewise® program for a much more active approach

to reducing risk in the wildland/urban interface,” says NPFA President Jim

Shannon in his "First Word" column in the most recent issue of NFPA Journal, “And

we recently expanded the scope of our work with a grant from the U. S. Forest

Service to launch the Fire Adapted Communities™ program.” 

With the support of the
Forest Service, NFPA expects the Fire Adapted Communities program to get off to
a fast start. According to Shannon, however, that is not enough. The
whole fire safety community should understand that this is no longer a regional
or seasonal problem that can be solved by a single agency, but an issue of
urgent national concern with implications for all of us.

“At NFPA,” he says, “We
are not waiting for this problem to get further out of control. We are acting


Colorado Builds Fire Adapted Communities kickoff event at the Capitol Building in Denver
My favorite days in high school science class always involved a trip outdoors to watch an actual scientific demonstration.  Homeowners in three Colorado communities impacted by recent wildfires will get a similar opportunity as they participate in live workshops with wildfire experts on September 15, 16, and 22 at a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store located in three select Front Range communities.

The Fire Adapted Communities coalition in cooperation with Lowe’s will present hands-on workshops that will teach homeowners about fire-resistant construction materials and how to maintain their homes and vegetation using Firewise principles that reduce wildfire risk. The workshops are part of the “Colorado Rebuilds Fire Adapted Communities” campaign. 

Governor John Hickenlooper signed a proclamation designating the week of September 9 -15 as “Wildfire Preparedness Week.” The proclamation was presented during the campaign’s workshop kickoff event at the state capitol on September 13.

Join wildfire experts at the following Colorado locations. The workshops are free and open to the public:

Lowe’s in Fort Collins, CO at 4227 Corbett Drive

Saturday, September 15 at 11am

Lowe’s in Littleton, CO at 5285 South Wadsworth Blvd

Sunday, September 16 at 1pm

Lowe’s in Colorado Springs, CO at 488 North Nevada Avenue

Saturday, September 22 at 11am

 - Cathy Prudhomme

Bierschenks- beforeHow does a house become a Firewise Demonstration Home? Just ask Joanne and Dick Bierschenk of Cragsmoor, New York. Their home lies in close proximity to Sam’s Point Preserve, a 5,000 acre natural area managed by The Nature Conservancy, located on the Shawangunk Ridge in upstate New York.

The preserve is home to globally-rare dwarf pitch pines, which are adapted to periodic fire. Pitch pines possess serotinous cones, which will open only after the heat of a fire. The shrub layer is dominated by other highly flammable species such as scrub oak, huckleberry, blueberry, and mountain laurel.

This is precisely the vegetation that thickly surrounded the Bierschenk home, with continuous heavy fuels extending from their property to the preserve, making it possibly the most at-risk structure in Cragsmoor. Add to this volatile mix the fact that a wildfire has not occurred at Sam’s Point for nearly sixty years.Propane tank - before

Thanks to a joint project involving the New York State Firewise Council, headed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), and The Nature Conservancy, the Bierschenks can now rest more easily knowing they are safer in the event of a wildfire. This unique project will also provide a means by which other New York residents will have the opportunity to learn about the NY Firewise Communities program. 

The NYSDEC had received funding for a hazardous fuels reduction project through a 2010 Hazard Mitigation Grant. The grant also provided funding for the development of a NY Firewise public service announcement (PSA). So, as the Bierschenk mitigation project began, cameras began to roll.

Dick and Joanne were interviewed and asked if they had any initial apprehensions about the project. Dick, a devoted birder, was concerned that the birds he had enjoyed over the years may not visit their property after the removal of the vegetation. He also made it very clear he did not wish areas of the yard replaced with grass. With the house completely encompassed by natural vegetation, he had never had to cut grass and he was not about to start. They both worried about their loss of privacy.

Then, after a demonstration of a home risk assessment was filmed, the contractor and the heavyBierschenk -after equipment went to work. Once the vegetation had been removed, it was on to the second phase of the project. The Firewise Board of Cragsmoor decided to utilize funding, made available through the 2011 National Fire Plan State Fire Assistance Grant, which was secured by The Nature Conservancy, to assist in replacing a portion of the hazardous vegetation with new, fire-resistant plants.

The Firewise landscaping portion of this project and the designation of the Bierschenk house as a Firewise Demonstration will help to inform Cragsmoor residents about reducing fuels around their home and how to select attractive, less flammable vegetation. It will also serve as Cragsmoor’s 2012 Firewise renewal project. Cragsmoor is now entering its seventh year as a recognized Firewise Community and is presently the only Firewise Community in New York State.Propane tank - after

And how do the Bierschenks feel about their new surroundings? Early on in the project, Dick admitted he was thrilled he could access his back yard without having to go through the garage. He was also pleased with the type of grass they selected which does not require mowing. Joanne has unexpectedly found that she appreciates the openness of the yard and the ability to walk easily in the new grass, which she finds very attractive. The new landscaping has allowed their home to be better showcased and the natural world still remains on their property, as evidenced by a litter of rabbits born in a nest under one of their newly planted shrubs. 

It has been a great adjustment for them, but they are very appreciative of the effort that went into this project and the people who cared about them and who generously acted to ensure their safety. 

To learn more about fire resistant plants suitable for landscaping in the Northeast visit the Fire Performance Plant Selector website at

--Heidi Wagner

Photos from top to bottom: Bierschenks' home and propane tank before mitigation; home and tank after mitigation.

Are you a state fire marshal or fire commissioner? Someone who represents an agency that enforces wildland fire standards? The National Fire Protection Association needs your expertise on its committee developing the standard on Wildland Fire Fighting Professional Qualifications. And if you qualify, NFPA will cover up to 80% of your travel expenses to participate in committee meetings.

Why enforcers? Those who enforce fire and life safety standards are often in short supply on NFPA's Technical Committees, sometimes due to their many job responsibilities and sometimes because the cost of traveling to committee meetings is simply out of reach. 

NFPA's Technical Committees are responsible for the development and revisions to NFPA documents based on public input, public comments and committee input.  These committees work best when there is a broad representation from every interest area.  NFPA is committed to ensure that each interest category is fully represented. 

This is where YOU, as an enforcer, can help.  When enforcers serve on NFPA committees, they bring a unique set of experiences and insights to the process, which adds to the overall quality of the documents.  Enforcers share their technical expertise when they participate and also provide an invaluable perspective on the practical application of NFPA codes and standards in the field.

If you are involved in enforcing any kinds of wildland fire standards, especially statewide, you may be just who NFPA is looking for. The standard, also known as 1051, covers entrance standards and qualifications for a variety of professions in wildland fire fighting, including Wildland Fire Fighter I and II; Wildland Fire Officer I and II; Wildland/Urban Interface Protection Specialist; and Wildland/Urban Interface Coordinator. You can read it for free online at NFPA's "Document Information" pages linked throughout this blog.

Do you think you can improve on the 1051 standard? Learn more about becoming a Technical Committee member at And check out the Enforcer Funding Program to see if you qualify. You can also contact Carolyn Cronin at NFPA at 617-984-7240 or with any questions.

Photo courtesy Nebraska Forest Service and Nebraska Wildland Fire Academy website.

The Oklahoma State Agricultural Extension service as a part
of their Master Gardener
recently published three Firewise® YouTube®
movie clips.  This three part Firewise
series includes:

  • Firewise

  • Firewise foundation plantings

  • Landscape maintenance to reduce fire load

In the first segment Oklahoma Gardening host Kim Toscano
visits with Dr. Terry Bidwell, Professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management
at Oklahoma State University to discuss the Firewise program and ways to protect homes from wildfire through
Firewise landscaping best practices. 



More gardening tips can be found on the Oklahoma Gardening Youtube webpage .</p> -Hylton Haynes

Following the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history, representatives from the Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) coalition toured Colorado Springs to analyze the Waldo Canyon Fire’s impacts and learn how the community had prepared itself. On September 13, the coalition will host a “Colorado Rebuilds Fire Adapted Communities” press event, followed by three local workshops for residents to learn more about how they can prepare for and adapt to living with wildfire in their area. 

Firewise and IBHS experts will conduct one-hour community workshops with hands-on instruction about selecting the right construction materials for, and maintaining homes in, wildfire-prone areas. Workshops will be held at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores in:

  • Fort Collins, 4227 Corbett Drive, Saturday, Sept. 15 at 11:00 a.m.
  • Littleton, 5258 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1:00 p.m.
  • Colorado Springs, 4880 N. Nevada Avenue, Saturday, Sept. 22 at 11:00 a.m.

Media are invited to attend these workshops. Officials from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, Fire Adapted Communities and Lowe’s will be on hand to answer questions about the instructional content as well as offer additional advice and guidelines to reduce wildfire risk.

For three days, NFPA Journal accompanied members of the newly formed Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) coalition as they toured areas of Colorado Springs impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire, the costliest wildfire in Colorado history. The team's goal was to analyze the mitigation efforts initiated by the Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) while assessing the damage--or lack thereof--in specific communities.

The FAC coalition, which includes staff members from NFPA and the U.S. Forest Service, plan to share their findings with the other 70,000 U.S. communities facing wildfire threats. Here's a snippet of the feature in the latest edition of NFPA Journal:

By many measures, Colorado Springs epitomizes the idea of fire-adapted — 13 communities within the city are recognized by NFPA’s Firewise® Communities Program,  and other neighborhoods have embraced mitigation; efforts are underway  to safeguard the city’s utilities from fire hazards; and mitigation  saved an entire neighborhood from the devastation that occurred in  Mountain Shadows. “Our loss was bad, and we can’t forget about the two  lives lost,” says CSFD Fire Marshal Brett Lacey, who sits on the  committees for NFPA 1031, Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner, and NFPA  1730, Organization and Deployment of Code Enforcement, Plan Review,  Fire Investigation, and Public Education Operations to the Public.  “But our community needs to be proud [that] we saved 82 percent of the  homes that were legitimately threatened by this wildfire event.”

Check out the video of Colorado Springs resident Dick Standaert talking about mitigation work that prevented the fire from entering his neighborhood:

-Fred Durso

Colorado Rebuilds Fire Adapted Communities Workshops
The Fire Adapted Communities coalition in cooperation with Lowe’s Home Improvement and state and local partners will present three workshops, where homeowners will get hands-on instruction about choosing the most fire-resistant construction materials and advice about maintaining homes in wildfire-prone areas.

Please join us at these workshops, which will be held:

Saturday, September 15 at 11:00 am
Lowe's, 4227 Corbett Drive, Fort Collins

Sunday, September 16 at 1:00 pm
Lowe's of Lakewood in Littleton, 5285 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Littleton

Saturday, September 22 at 11:00 am
Lowe's, 488 N. Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs

For more information, contact the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), a Fire Adapted Communities coalition member and workshop organizer. To learn more about how your community can become fire adapted, visit

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