Skip navigation
All Places > Fire Break > Blog > 2012 > November

While I was working with Pat Frost from the Trinity County Resource Conservation Districtto assist them with an assessment of Burnt Ranch Community near Weaverville, California, we discovered a most unusual fence all around a property.  The homeowner had used bits and pieces of all sorts of scrap metal to construct his fence. 

Can you find the bicycle, saw blade, and water pipes? All of the scrap metal was sanded, welded and painted a nice silver color.  The unique design of each panel reminded me of art in a gallery.  It was certainly a unique and beautiful way to create a firewise attachment.  

See if you can name at least four everyday retired items in this fence.  Notice the little shed behind the fence, also constructed of scrap materials.

The Firewise website has just updated its Events page with a simple list format for wildland fire safety training, conferences, and similar events. 

Click "Events" on the top navigation banner at (see, I circled it in red!) EventsBanner

This will bring you to our Events page with listings and links for a variety of venues. You can also submit your own event for posting by sending an email with event details to

Let us know what's going on in your area, and check out some of the national level conferences and activities all in one place!

OKAs I mentioned in my last post, I want to share some great Firewise success stories from my region that I write about in my quarterly newsletter.  This one comes to us from Kelly Hurt, the Oklahoma Firewise Coordinator who talks about the importance of holding a Firewise Day event, and some of the ideas that communities have came up with to ensure its success.

Ensuring good attendance at a Firewise Day (event) can be a difficult task. One helpful approach is to hold it in conjunction with a larger annual event such as a county fair, festival, school homecoming, or fire department benefit like a fish fry, pancake supper or chili cook off. These events offer the Firewise board an opportunity to easily reach a large number of people who represent a cross section of the
local population. The key is to attract the attention of people who, for the most part, are there just to relax, visit and enjoy themselves without being a party pooper.

It certainly helps if your Firewise board has members who are seen as approachable and pleasant. These are the kind of folks that you want in the booth and mixing with the crowd given that the Firewise program is voluntary. The point is to put a friendly, familiar face on the program and to communicate that it just makes common sense.

Having the person next door expound on the program in their own words is one of the most effective
marketing tools a local board can use. In many cases, technical terms like fuel reduction will be localized to “brush clearin’” and that is a wonderful thing. The overall effect is positive in that it gets people to share the concepts and internalize the meaning in their own way. Along the way, the term Firewise may
be all but for-gotten but that’s all right as long as the concepts live on and become part of what is considered “common sense.” Ultimately, it is this adoption and integration of Firewise concepts into a community’s core beliefs and behaviors that matters most.

Kelly Hurt, Oklahoma Firewise Coordinator

And there are more success stories just like this one on the Firewise website. Check it out!

Here’s some great news I couldn’t wait to share with you all this holiday season …

CapitolIt’s been reported in the November 2 issue of the National Association of State Foresters’ Weekly Report that Choose Outdoors, a nonprofit organization, has pledged to raise $25,000 for wildfire cleanup efforts in Colorado, and they will do so by using the annual tour of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree! 

The tree is a 73-foot Engelman Spruce that has been loaded up on a flatbed truck and is en route from Meeker, Colorado to the Capitol as we speak. The tree will be delivered on November 26 and will be on display through the New Year. Choose Outdoors partnered with the US Forest Service for the delivery.  

Before the tree was harvested in Meeker, it was honored by members of the Ute nation. According to Pike and San Isabel National Forests Supervisor Jerri Marr, "We are thrilled that a Colorado forest is providing a gift to the nation and hope that it will assist in educating the country about forest health and restoration."

So, on December 4th when the tree is lit, take a moment to reflect upon those who have suffered losses this year but also take some time to think about what we all can do to make our homes and communities safer in the event of a wildfire.  NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program and Fire Adapted Communities initiative have many resources, checklists, tips and additional information you can refer to, to help you get started.

And don’t forget ... check out the US Forest Services’ videos about this famous Christmas tree.  You can also find a great video on You Tube that tells the story of how the Capitol Christmas tree was chosen.

When you think of Cape Cod, most of us imagine long stretches of sandy beaches, lobster rolls and bike riding, right? But what about wildfires?

Yup. You heard right. According to Joel Carson, lead consultant from Northeast Forest and Fire Management LLC, who wrote a report about wildfire risk on Cape Cod, the sandy soils and type of vegetation that dominate Barnstable and Plymouth counties are extremely similar to those found in California and conducive for forest fires!

Read David Still’s article in the Barnstable Patriot.

According to the final report, the southern tip of Cotuit, parts of Wellfleet and Eastham are classified as extreme fire risk areas. Most of West Barnstable, including Sandy Neck and the West Barnstable Conservation Area, are also rated as high risk. The report was commissioned through the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension Service and the full report can be found on their website.

While wildfires on the Cape are a frightening prospect, according to the report’s authors, homeowners can do something to help protect their homes and property. Preparedness is the real key here. Residents who take the appropriate action ahead of a wildfire threat are more likely to reduce their risk of wildfire damage. So where do you start? Homeowners can find information including tips and handy checklists on the Firewise website. If you haven’t checked it out already, our Fire Adapted Communities initiative website guides you to the next step in wildfire mitigation beyond your home and into your community.

Did you know that Massachusetts has two recognized Firewise communities? Hopps Farm Road Association in Vineyard Haven has been actively participating in wildfire safety mitigation since 2010 and Turkey Hill Community in Holbrook boasts 5 years of Firewise recognition status!

According to my colleague, Molly Mowery, Nature Conservancy fire staff are actively promoting Firewise on Martha’s Vineyard. We love to hear that!

Check out the PBS show called Martha's Vineyard Burn, about prescribed fire on Martha’s Vineyard that is running in various states across the country.

And finally, while the recent Cape Cod findings may seem startling, according to Mr. Carson, Barnstable County has been really proactive in its efforts to reduce wildfire risk. Kudos to Barnstable! You can help your community become more prepared for wildfire, too! Check out the Firewise website to learn how you and your neighbors can work together to stay safer from wildfire. But don’t stop there. Share your success story with us. Your hard work can earn your community official Firewise recognition status!

As part of my role as the Firewise advisor for the southern region, I wanted to produce a newsletter that was filled with great Firewise resources, information and success stories from communities all across my region that people could share and highlight.

FloridaThis story from Martin County, Florida, is a great example of the kinds of mitigation activities folks can participate in around their home and in their neighborhood. It also shows that by sharing resources and working together, we can make a real difference in how we reduce our risk from wildfire:

Around 1:30 pm on July 9, 2012, a wildfire was reported off Savanna Road and Jensen Beach Blvd. Martin County Fire Rescue and the Florida Forest Service responded. The fire was located in the Savanna’s Preserve State Park.The fire grew to 30 acres.

Access was an issue due to fences, dead end streets, canals, marsh (wet areas) and topography (small incline- hill). There were 10 homes threatened off Savanna Road and 5 homes in the Sugar Hill Community.

One home stood out from the other homes being threatened. The home was down a narrow overgrown dirt road that opened up to a large two story wood-frame home that sat on stilts. This home was nestled between acres of undeveloped property and wetlands. After assessing the fire’s proximity to home (within 100 feet) Forest Area Supervisor Joe deBree and Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, Melissa Yunas from the Florida Forest Service talked to the homeowners. Joe told the homeowners that their nature trails saved their home. He told them that their nature trail served as a firebreak in reducing the fuel from continuously spreading towards their home. He also explained that their nature trail served as a point of access so firefighters could safely defend their home.

Assessing the ground for fire brands near the wood frame home, the majority of the firebrands landed in the gravel/rock beds beneath and around their home thus extinguishing themselves. The homeowners also thinned out the vegetation around their home. All this preparation was deliberate and saved their home. Joe asked the couple where did they learn how to protect their home like this? The couple said about a year and half ago they attend a Firewise Presentation held by the Florida Forest Service. They remember Melissa’s presentation and carried that Firewise message home.

Joe and Melissa continued to point out areas that they could improve upon the future. Examples included: (1) extending their green lawn (2) replacing the pine needle mulch with thicker bark or rocks (3) trimming the dead palm fronds away from the home (4) thinning out the vegetation at entry way. The next day Joe received a phone call from the homeowner and she told Joe that she hired someone to make those changes.

Personal Note from Melissa: Being a Firewise Advocate since 2004, it felt amazing to hear that I could make a difference in this world by spreading the Firewise message. In some small way I empowered these homeowners with knowledge to make small changes. That feeling is priceless.

Melissa Yunas, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist ,Okeechobee District

Fire BreakThe November issue of Fire Break, NFPA’s wildland fire newsletter, is now available for viewing. In this issue, you’ll:

  • Learn how a riddle about elephants can actually help communities in their wildfire mitigation efforts
  • Find our new Firewise online quiz; test your wildfire safety IQ today!
  • Read about the continued economic impact of wildfires, especially to communities that rely on tourism
  • Find a link to Molly’s latest Wildfire Watchcolumn. Learn how the media’s often dramatic coverage of wildfires can mislead the public
  • Learn more about the ongoing climate change debate and its effect on wildfires 

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.

In response to the growing wildfire problem in Oregon, the Oregon Department of Forestry recently announced that wildfire mitigation renovations have now been completed to the Oregon Garden Fire Safety House and its surrounding landscape. The purpose of these renovations, they say, is to illustrate to residents the best fire prevention and safety practices they can use for their own homes.  According to the Department, the Fire Safety House is the first full-scale fire prevention and safety house in the nation.Oregon 1

The structure, originally constructed in the 1970’s, was not built to withstand a wildfire and the vegetation around the structure was very flammable. The structure originally had a wood shake roof, combustible siding and single pane windows with vegetation growing right up to the structure.  With the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which awarded an Assistance to Firefighters grant, the structure now provides self-guided tours to the public who visit the Oregon Gardens

Today, the exterior of the house now features fire resistive roofing materials, fire resistive siding, dual pane windows and fire-resistive landscaping in addition to other recommended Firewise materials and techniques that help reduce home ignitions from a wildfire. Eight interpretive kiosks illustrate how a home (structure) can be protected from wildfire by using fire-resistive building materials and replacing combustible vegetation with fire-resistive plants.

Oregon 2The Safety House is being developed in partnership with The Oregon Garden Foundation, The Oregon Department of Forestry, The Office of State Fire Marshal, Oregon State University, Moonstone Garden Management, Inc. and FEMA.

You can learn more about the Oregon Garden Fire Safety House on the Department of Forestry’s web page and on the Fire Safety House Facebook page.

Consider this … The total amount of acres burned in the U.S. this wildfire season is roughly the same size as Massachusetts and Connecticut put together. Waldo_Canyon_6-2012

Scorching heat and endless drought that plagued most of the country in 2012 has helped trigger one of the worst wildfire seasons. According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), for only the third time on record, the total number of acres burned from wildfires nationwide has topped 9 million in a year (2006 saw 9.8 million acres burned; 2007 saw 9.3 acres burned). The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) at NOAA reports that some of the worst of these fires were in Colorado.

Other stats to consider:

  • 9.1 million acres burned thus far in 2012
  • This year’s losses are generally in line with the 10-year average (2002 – 2011) of $1.2 billion
  • Wildfires have killed 13 firefighters and civilians thus far this year
  • August was the worst month nationally, when more than 3.6 million acres burned, the highest single-month losses since 2000

Read Doyle Rice's article, U.S. Endures Near-Record Wildfire Season, that delves deeper into these stats and more.

And check out NFPA’s website where we provide a number of studies, reports and statistics on fires and fire safety you can download and share with others. NFPA's recent report on 2011 large-loss fires, includes lots of interesting information regarding the costliest fires in the U.S., including the Bastrop County wildfire in Texas, which tops the list of most expensive large-loss fires in 2011.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, large-loss fires accounted for nearly $800 million in direct property losses nationwide in 2011. The Bastrop County Complex (Texas) wildfire alone resulted in $400 million in property loss and was the largest of the large-loss fires recorded during that year.

Stephen Badger’s article on Bastrop and other large-loss fires in the U.S. in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal provides us with an eye-opening account of our country's fire situation. Take some time to read it and let us know what you think.

You can also download NFPA’s “Fire Loss in the United States During 2011” full report.Want to learn more about the U.S. fire problem? Check out NFPA's stats page for a closer look.

Here’s a great blog post we thought we’d share from the National Association of State Foresters (NASF).

Forestry officials can’t stress enough that during this wildfire and hunting season, residents in the South must stay mindful of how they handle both indoor and outdoor fires.


Read the blog.

For more tips and resources on hunting and campfire safety, check out the “information and resources” page on the Firewise website.

You can also find winter safety tips and heating equipment information on NFPA’s consumer safety page.

Ever wonder if what you read or hear on the news is an accurate or even complete depiction of an event? When it comes to wildfire, more often than not, we’re reduced to watching endless shots of flames coloring our television screens without a whole lot of substantive reporting behind these frightening visuals. Molly

In Molly Mowery’s latest Wildfire Watch column, she explores the phenomena behind these attention-grabbing headlines, and how as wildfire professionals we need to constantly evaluate our own understanding of wildfire news and where it comes from, as well as how we communicate what’s really happening during a fire to our colleagues and the public.  

Read the entire column in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.

Are you someone who yearns to hear the media talk more about preparationand the steps we can take to reduce risks? Do you think the media does a good job reporting the news when it comes to wildfires? If your job requires you to speak with reporters, what’s the message you try to convey? What would you like them to talk more about?

Tell us what your experience has been with the media in your area. And thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

A recent story from the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) serves as another great reminder of the success communities can achieve when neighbors come together to reduce their wildfire risk. Santa Fe Trail Ranch, a mountain subdivision of Trinidad, along New Mexico’s border will, according to Mark Loveall, assistant district forester with the CSFS La Veta District, “…aid firefighters in keeping most fire starts from destroying structures and threatening public safety.” Rotary-ax bruch cutter working-P6141433-Ghormleys

Mr. R.C. Ghormley, a resident of Trinidad who has been instrumental in organizing the community-wide mitigation efforts had this to say, “Having a fire here is not a matter of if, but a matter of when.”

Hmmm… I don’t know about you but this sounds to me like what we've been trying to remind folks through our Fire Adapted Communities initiative and the Firewise Communities Program. Oh, and just so you know Santa Fe Trail Ranch in Trinidad has been an official recognized Firewise site since 2006! Kudos to Santa Fe Trail Ranch for all the work they do!

Here’s an excerpt of the story sent to us by Ryan Lockwood of the Colorado State Forest Service:

With 325 acres just completed to complement existing fuelbreaks in the community, a mountain subdivision along the New Mexico border has now treated more than 3,000 forested acres – becoming a model for how Colorado communities can band together to reduce wildfire risk. 

Santa Fe Trail Ranch covers approximately 17,000 acres in the foothills southwest of Trinidad. I-25 provides primary access to the ranch, which abuts the state line on the south. Treatments to reduce wildfire risk in the community have been ongoing since 2005, when community leaders utilized funding and assistance from the Colorado State Forest Service to stimulate widespread landowner involvement.
Nearly 15 miles of fuelbreaks along roads, trails, ridgelines and other focal areas within or adjacent to the subdivision are now established to slow the spread and diminish the intensity of an approaching wildfire.

“Now we stand a chance when the big one hits,” said Dave Skogberg, a community leader who has been a catalyst to collective efforts.Treated-P6151441-Ghormleys

Dave, that’s what we love to hear!

Read the full story.

And tell us … what’s your community doing to become more fire adapted? Are your family members and neighbors taking Firewise principles into consideration when creating a safer home ignition zone? We’d love to share your stories with our audience. Here in NFPA’s wildfire division we can say without a doubt that your successes continue to inspire and inform people who are living and working in similar high wildfire risk areas. Many folks are looking for ideas to help them get started or ways to keep them motivated during this continuous journey to keep communities safer from fire.

Just as Mr. Ghormley aptly stated in the story, it’s not a matter of “if” wildfire threatens an area, but when. So let us know ... Are you prepared?

Gayle Ehlman of Ryderwood, Washington sent us this account of her community’s 2012 Firewise activities. A dedicated recognized site since 2010, this group really knows how to work together to get the job done!          

According to Gayle, this is their third year doing a Firewise project and with each passing year, she says, they gather more volunteers, more interest and more understanding of how to think “Firewise.” She says that they find having several Firewise sponsored events keeps the thoughts and ideas churning. 

Clean up crew in actionHere’s Gayle’s letter to us …

“Our town is four blocks wide and six blocks long, and home to 400 senior citizens, surrounded by forested hills.  It is a chore to trim and clear our yards and remove combustible dimensional lumber, but with the Firewise program, we are getting better and it gets easier, each year.  We have the support of our local volunteer fire department, and of Siera Pacific, which owns the wooded hills surrounding our
little valley as well as the support of our local school district. And all of this is accomplished by "the old folks at the end of the road!"

Here’s more of what Gayle told us …

The anual Ryderwood Firewise clean-up day was held on October 13th. We rented three dumpsters, to hold vines, dimensional lumber and other non chippable material for the week of Oct. 9-16th.  They were dumped three times during the week and on our Firewise Clean up day, we also amassed 16 large trash bags to add to the flammable material taken out of town.

Along with five senior student volunteers from Castle Rock High School, we welcomed Sheri Nelson from Siera Pacific and three volunteers from Seattle to help us out.  One of those is a certified arborist, who along with Sheri did tree trimming in yards where the trees hung onto fences and homes. Our fire chief from Cowlitz/Lewis Fire District 20 and some of his crew helped us out with man- and woman- power and tools. Siera Pacific donated work gloves for all of our volunteers.  We went house to house for those who had requested us to help with trimming bushes, trees and raking dry leaves and grass from their homes. We worked on 16 buildings, this year with many others doing their own trimming on that weekend.

Our Ryderwood Women's Club members also stepped up to the kitchen chores and fed the volunteers a chili lunch, provided hot coffee and hot cocoa with donated cookies and pasta salads at our town park for a definitely well-deserved break during our wet, cold day. Firewise Ext. group 9-12

On October 22nd, our town board, with financial assistance from Firewise, provided a pick-up and chipper service to rid the town of bush and tree trimmings.  As we worked, we piled our branches at alleyways and the chipper service with a Firewise volunteer went through town and picked up and chipped trimmings.

During the month of June, Firewise sponsored a Coffee Stop on I-5, for a week. Our town volunteers manned the cookie and coffee concession for 12 hrs  each day through the week, gathering over $900 for our project. 

In April, our town park got a good clearing out by volunteers.  When the vines, branches and junk were piled up, the resulting piles of dry leaves, old picnic table parts and branches were a problem, (and) that the town board asked for Firewise help to get rid of it.  We were able to find a local man with a dump truck, who removed all the debris to the county landfill, for only the cost of his fuel, 'for Firewise'. We also held a fire extinguisher demo after our August Ryderwood Women's Club meeting and provided new fire extinguishers at our cost for sale.  We sold out of the 10 that we'd purchased on that day as well as showing many folks how to use their existing fire extinguishers.  

So you see, all it takes is a little creativity and a lot of Firewise spirit to get started with your own wildfire mitigation activities. Just ask Gayle!The volunteer crew

Want to start organizing your own Firewise board and involve your community in the recognition process? Check out our website. And don’t forget to share your stories with us!  We really want to hear from you. Your success is our success!


!|border=0|src=|alt=Monday Blog|style=margin: 0px 5px 5px 0px;|title=Monday Blog|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017ee4aad973970d!In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a recent blog from Brad Plumer in the Washington Post brings to light what many of us have probably been asking ourselves lately: Can all this extreme weather be linked to human activity that is warming our planet? Consider some of the stats he cites, especially as they relate to wildfire activity across the country:

    • The U.S. wildfire season this year was the second-largest by area since records began in the 1960’s, topped only by 2006.

    • The first nine months of 2012 have been the hottest in the United States on record.

And while there’s much debate about whether these weather events represent true climate change or not, you can’t help but think, even just for a little bit, that things don’t look so good for Mother Earth. Consider the future. According to Plumer, climatologists say that if we keep emitting greenhouse gases at our current rate, “droughts will likely become more severe and longer-lasting, and that wildfires in the western United States will flare up more frequently.”


No matter how you want to slice the data or what you wish to believe, as we look back at 2012, the hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and the hundreds of wildfires that roared across the U.S. should give us pause to reflect on what’s truly happening around us. My hope is, when it comes to wildfires, we will continue to work together to find ways to help lessen the catastrophic impacts these events have on our communities, even if we can&#39;t rid ourselves of them entirely. </p> Read the entire blog post from Brad Plumer. And the other articles about climate change that are popping up in our local papers and on websites this week. Then decide. As 2012 comes to close, what will you do as the new year unfolds to work towards creating safer communities  for you, your family and neighbors, and for Mother Earth?

<param name="FlashVars" value="launch=49070758033200&amp;width=420&amp;height=245" />

<embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" flashvars="launch=49070758033200&amp;width=420&amp;height=245" height="245" name="msnbc4eef90" pluginspage="" src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="420" wmode="transparent" />


Visit for breaking news , world news , and news about the economy </p>

&#0160; This amazing video clip from the Today Show is from the Austrailian outback. While it is a few weeks old at this point, we just had to share it.&#0160;You can see a rare &quot;fire tornado&quot; in the clip, which occurs when a wildfire is going on and columns of super heated air

creates the tornado. The photographer who shot the video, said it sounded like a jet engine going off.

A great article we just read details a new approach many corporations are taking to learn how to operate as a team during a crisis. Turning to the New York Fire Department and using hands-on firefighting scenarios, the FDNY teaches businessmen and women as well as professional athletes to manage the unexpected as well as the importance of clear communication, strong leadership and working as a team. 

This FDNY Team Challenge was created in 2010 by the FDNY Foundation (the not-for-profit organization), to share FDNY's best practices in teamwork and leadership with these corportations. Participants travel to the FDNY Training Academy and are put into real, high-pressure, friefighting scenarios. The goal is for them to draw on the teamwork experience to establish high performance in the workplace. 

We love this idea! NFPA even puts on our very own Fire Ops 101 course for employees and staff. Our goals of this program are also to help show everyone that the effort we put toward safety standards are well worth the effort. Take a look at some of the photos from our recent courses!

Fire Ops 1

Fire Ops 2

Fire ops 3

Clean lawn debris
The last few days have been trying times for those of us living along the East Coast, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all of our neighbors who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy this week.

While some states were spared the hard rains that Sandy brought with her, most experienced high winds that left behind downed tree limbs, leaves and debris that have nestled in gutters and scattered across lawns. For many fire officials up and down the East Coast, this yard waste, coupled with dry weather conditions and the continued residual winds they say, create a high risk for wildfire.

In many states, including Georgia, officials are looking to the public to play its role in preventing as many fires as possible. This includes obeying any “no outdoor burning” rules and cleaning up yard debris when it is safe to do so.

The Firewise Communities Program has a number of resources, including a homeowners’ checklist of safety tips you can engage in right now to help in your cleanup efforts and reduce your home’s potential risk to wildfire damage. You can find the checklist on the Firewise website.

As always, the Firewise staff emphasizes extreme caution when surveying your property, especially in the aftermath of this storm. Report any hidden downed or sagging wires to your local power company so they can take immediate action, and take note of your area’s trash collection schedule to prepare for and properly get rid of yard waste in a timely manner.

Need more information? Check out the Firewise website for additional wildfire safety tips and share them with your friends. You can also learn how your community can work together to reduce wildfire risk by visiting the Fire Adapted Communities website, which offers a number of great resources to get you started.

During the following days and weeks to come we will all work to restore as much normalcy to our lives as possible. It is never more important than now to partner with your neighbors and local agencies to help ensure everyone's safety. As you continue to work on your wildfire mitigation activities, share your stories with our Firewise community, and let us know how we can help.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: