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The truth about goats

Posted by michelesteinberg Employee Dec 28, 2012

I was interviewed not long ago by a California-based reporter from USA Today who wanted to know all about goats and wildfire mitigation. Since I'd recently visited the Prescott, Arizona, area and learned about their use of goats to mow down flammable fuels in commonly-owned areas, I mentioned that. And since a long-standing Firewise Community, Emigration Canyon in Utah, has documented its successful use of goats in our Firewise "How To" newsletter, I mentioned that and grabbed the link to the newsletter for him.

"And where else are they using goats?" he wanted to know. As I frantically Googled for goats, I found an example in Broomfield, Colorado, and pointed him there. He pressed on, grilling me on my undoubtedly deep expertise in all things related to the species Capra hircus

I hemmed, hawed, Googled some more, and finally confessed. "Listen, I live in Boston," I said. "The closest I've gotten to a goat is a petting zoo, and the goats were more interested in butting people for pellets than creating a Firewise landscape. Look, I'm not hiding anything. As far as I know, there's no national repository for goat fire mitigation businesses. Really."

I was hoping to get a laugh or at least a snort out of the journalist on the other end of the telephone line. Instead, I heard an exasperated sigh. "It's my editor," he said. "We found a bunch of examples in California, but he knows there must be other places that use goats."

Ah, I thought - Editor. That explains it. Poor guy. I reiterated my meager examples and promised to send him links. I suggested that he might get a good story out of the goat business-people who know a heck of a lot more about these creatures and how they mitigate for fire than a Boston-based bureaucrat ever would.

In the end, he turned out a very fine story with a lovely video starring the goats and their business manager. And he quoted me accurately and even spelled my name right. You know, when reporters misspell my name, it really gets my....oh, never mind.


The Texas A&M Forest Service has just released a comprehensive and easy-to-read report on the state's 2011 fire season, with a strong focus on the common denominators of home destruction and survival.


Unlike many such reports from federal and state agencies, that tend to focus heavily on discussion of suppression and response efforts, the Texas wildfire specialists hone in on both the long-term and immediate impacts of development in wildfire-prone areas and document home losses and "saves" in great detail. While the report covers other aspects of the fire season, including its record-breaking statistics of 4 million acres burned and 2,947 homes destroyed, the authors take special care to illustrate and discuss how many homes burned, and how and why others did not.


According to the report, the primary factors leading to home ignition during the 2011 Texas wildfire season include:

  • Wildfires driven by high winds sent a profuse amount of embers ahead of the main fire. These winds forced embers into home ventilation systems and underneath pier and beam foundations, igniting homes from within. They also ignited combustible materials — such as railings, decks or awnings — on or around homes.
  • Combustible attachments to homes that were not pre-treated with fire-resistant paint or chemicals acted as a fuse that led fire right up to the home. Fires often spread to surrounding homes from vehicles, outbuildings, firewood and other combustible items that already had caught fire and were generating a tremendous amount of heat.
  • Windows not designed to withstand heat fractured, creating an opportunity for flames and embers to penetrate homes.
  • Landscapes with highly combustible vegetation — such as flammable plants — leading up to a home and landscape elements such as combustible railroad ties, railings and walkways created a path for fire to follow and made homes more susceptible to ignition.
  • Homes that caught fire generated so much heat and so many embers that they essentially became fuel for the fire and ignited surrounding homes and structures.


Likewise, the report covers the common reasons why home survived. Anyone who spends time on this blog or the and websites can probably guess what that list looks like. As wildland/urban interface and prevention coordinator Justice Jones notes, “The real lesson learned is you have to prepare in advance. Sometimes firefighters can’t save your home. Many homes survived because of actions people took long before the fire occurred.”

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for … our final tip of the “12 Days of Firewise” wildfire safety video campaign!

This video comes from one of NFPA’s associate project managers in the Firewise Communities Program, Hylton Haynes (with help from his lovely daughter), who tells us how to ring in the new year in Firewise style. According to Hylton, our new Firewise Toolkit is a great resource and provides step-by-step instructions on how to create a wildfire safety action plan for your community. From organizing a neighborhood cleanup to renewing your community’s Firewise recognition status, Hylton knows you’ll want to use this handy tool every month of year!

From all of us at NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program and the Wildland Fire Operations Division, thank you for participating in our campaign and we wish you a safe, peaceful and happy holiday season!



Some of us live in communities that experience “red flag warnings.” The warning is issued by the National Weather Service and means your area is at high risk for wildfire, usually within the next 24 hours. In this video, NFPA’s Firewise Regional Advisor, Keith Worley tells us why it’s important to recognize a red flag warning happening in our community and to follow the instructions carefully.

For more “12 Days of Firewise” safety tips, check out our website, and stay tuned tomorrow for our final tip of the 2012 holiday season!


For more most of us, the winter months mean less time lounging on decks and patios. During the off-season, it’s important that you store unused patio and deck furniture indoors. By bringing cushions and other flammable materials inside you’ll not only prevent embers from igniting them during a fire, but you’ll also extend the life of the fabric, says NFPA’s Firewise Regional Advisor, Gary Marshall.

For more great tips, check out our “12 Days of Firewise” holiday safety campaign, download our safety tips sheet and watch videos that illustrate the action steps! Join us tomorrow for another great Firewise holiday safety tip!


Dreaming of a white Christmas? For many across the country that is a dream fulfilled! This past week many people saw the first snowstorm of the season. As you shovel out, Firewise Northwest Regional Advisor Gary Marshalladvises you to clear snow near fire hydrants to help fire fighters who may need access to water to fight fire near you and your neighbors.

We’re almost there!!! Come back tomorrow for tip and video #10. If you missed the previous tips in our 12 Days of Firewise countdown, visit the webpage where you can view the previous videos and download the safety tip sheet. Share these great tips with your friends, family and others in your community to keep them Firewise!

- Anice Barbosa



Surviving wildfireThis fall, I had the unprecedented opportunity to review and comment on a very unusual manuscript. Author Linda Masterson reached out to NFPA staff for help with her book, Surviving Wildfire. She and her husband lost their home to wildfire in the Crystal Fire near Fort Collins, Colorado, in April 2011. She wanted to write a guide to help others both minimize their risks and prepare to deal with recovery and rebuilding.

As I read the first drafts, I was immediately struck by Ms. Masterson's courage in documenting her own harrowing experience, and deeply impressed by her fortitude in conducting diligent research to get the facts about preparedness, survival and recovery. In addition to the home preparedness information she gathered (which will be familiar to proponents of Firewise and Ready, Set, Go!), she spelled out - in excruciating detail - the insurance aspects of preparedness, claims and recovery. It was enough to make me start thinking seriously about completing my home inventory for use in a possible claims situation.

While I and other NFPA staff provided supporting information, review and advice on the manuscript, Ms. Masterson's work is independent and in no way formally connected to our organization or programs. That being said, I know of no other comparable, current publication written from the homeowner perspective that brings current research and recommendations to the reader. The book is available through her publisher, on Amazon, and on her website. She also provides generous excerpts of the book on her site, as well as an array of resources on preparedness, home insurance inventory, and more.

Because of her diligent and careful research, this book is a treasure trove of useful information for any resident of an area at risk to wildfire. Even better, because she has lived through the experience, her story is compelling and heartfelt. It's my hope that her story will move people to take action to prepare and protect themselves. I think I'll spend some of my holiday downtime on that home inventory.

December Fire BreakThe final 2012 (December) issue of Fire Break, NFPA’s wildland fire newsletter, is now available for viewing. In this issue, you’ll find:

  • An update on the record number of acres burned during the 2012 wildfire season, and other statistics  
  • A link to our “12 Days of Firewise” holiday safety tips videos
  • A link to an NFPA Journal article (and NFPA report) that points to the Bastrop County Complex fire as the costliest in 2011
  • An update on our Firewise blog, including its new name and mission
  • A link to a study that finds Cape Cod a high-risk wildfire area

… And lots more! We want to continue to share all of this great information with you so don’t miss an issue! So subscribe today. It’s free! Just click here to add your e-mail address to our newsletter list.

Love to decorate? We sure do! But make sure wreaths and other holiday decorations don’t hide your house number. That’s the latest tip from NFPA's Firewise Regional Advisor, Gary Marshall, who reminds us that during an emergency, firefighters and EMT’s won’t be able to find you if your house number is covered.

Have you checked out the last seven tips of our "12 Days of Firewise" holiday campaign? If not, take a look at our video page for all of the simple yet effective actions you can take to stay safer this holiday season. While you’re at it, download our safety tip sheet and share it with your family and friends. Remember, “make your Firewise list and check it twice” this holiday season!

Stay tuned for another great video tip tomorrow and keep watching as we make our way to number 12!


Is that tree blocking your holiday decorations? Is it time for a trim altogether? When trimming your trees remember that the large ones should be limbed up 6-10 feet from the ground, and branches should be trimmed back so they don’t touch your home. Remember, there is more than one way to trim a tree to keep them healthy and Firewise!

In today’s "12 Days of Firewise" video NFPA Firewise Regional Advisor Heidi Wagner also reminds us why it’s best to clear out debris from under decks and porches during fire season and all year long.  

Missed one of our previous safety tips? Visit the "12 Days of Firewise" webpage to download the complete safety tip sheet and watch the videos you missed. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow, we will bring you another great safety tip and video!

- Anice Barbosa


Our latest Firewise Communities success story comes out of Georgia. Wildcat Community, Inc.  is a consortium of seven communities  spanning Dawson and Pickens County in northern Georgia, roughly 65 miles outside of Atlanta in a heavily forested region of the Appalachian mountain range.

The corporation was formed in 2005 to educate property owners in the mountain area in risk mitigation and emergency incident response, provide funds to enhance resources to support emergency management capabilities and interface with all state, local, and federal authorities and agencies associated with emergency management.

The organization began work right away to fire-safe the area. In 2006, a 45,000 gallon water tank was installed to improve fire suppression with Wildcat volunteers assisting in negotiating a land lease for the tank. The same year, Wildcat Community became Firewise-recognized.

Find out what Wildcat Community has done in the years since to remain Firewise

During this time of the year, we are focused on the holidays and not thinking about the spring days ahead. Before you know it, it will be gardening time. Do you have a list of things you want in your garden next year? We think you should check your list twice! NFPA’s Firewise Regional Advisor, Faith Berry, reminds us to visit the Firewise website and check out some of our safety tips to build a garden that is both beautiful and safe!

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for another great safety tip and video from us! Download the "12 Days of Firewise" Safety tip sheet, which provides easy steps you can follow as you deck the halls this holiday season and throughout the year!

- Anice Barbosa


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)has just opened the grant application process for theirMoney
Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Grants. From today through January 18, 2013, your fire department, state organization, municipality or non-profit group may apply for funds to conduct wildfire safety projects!

The FP&S Grants are part of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants and support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards. The primary goal is reduce injury and prevent death among high-risk populations. There are two kinds of eligible activities in the grant – Fire Prevention and Safety activities or Firefighter Safety Research and Development activities. Most folks involved in Firewise at the state and local level will be interested in the first category.

Eligible activities under the FP&S activity includes Wildland Fire Prevention Programs! According to FEMA’s guidance, these can include education and awareness programs that protect lives, property, and natural resources from fire in wildland/urban interface, including Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP)or Firewise programs. Fuel reduction demonstrations, in a targeted location as part of an awareness and education effort, are considered. However, prescribed burns and fuel reduction equipment are noteligible.

Eligible applicants for the Fire Prevention and Safety Activity (FP&S) activity include fire departments, national, regional, state, local, Native American tribal organizations, and/or community organizations that are recognized for their experience and expertise in fire prevention and safety programs and activities. Both private and public non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for funding in this activity. For-profit organizations, federal agencies, and individuals are not eligible to receive a FP&S Grant Award.

Read lots more on FEMA’s website here and be sure to download the funding announcement with all the details.

It’s the 5th day of our "12 Days of Firewise" campaign and we have our newest safety tip for you!

Firewood stacked by the house can help keep your home cozy during winter. However, as the snow melts and days become drier, the fire danger they pose is high. NFPA's Firewise Regional Advisor, Heidi Wagner, reminds us to move the firewood away from the home, fence or deck.

Don’t forget to check back each day for a new safety tip and video. You can visit the "12 Days of Firewise" webpage to view any of the previous videos and download the safety tip sheet.

- Anice Barbosa


Map with legend
Image 1: Map depicting significant fire events for 2012 (source: NASA Earth Observatory)

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) statisitics show that more than 9.1 million acres had burned as of December 14, 2012—the third highest total in a record that dates back to 1960. Also notable: despite the high number of acres burned in 2012, the total number of significant fires— 56,406 is the lowest on record.  The net result being that the average fire size for 2012 is the highest on record.

Number of fires
Image 2: Number of significant fires this past decade (source: NIFC, 2012)

Area burned
Image 3: Number of acres burned per year this past decade (source: NIFC, 2012)

It’s the 4th day of our “12 Days of Firewise” campaign and we’ve got the latest holiday safety tip for you:

Nothing makes a holiday brighter than a beautiful holly bush! But when taking home shrubs and plants, take care not to put them too close to the house. Faith Berry, NFPA’s Firewise Southwest 1 Regional Advisor wants you to know that our Firewise landscaping and plant lists are a great resource to learn what grows in your area and how to maintain your garden so your plants are happy and healthy all year long!

And don't forget, check out all of our "12 Days of Firewise" holiday tips and download the safety sheet on our “12 Days of Firewise” web page.


Welcome to the 3rd day of our “12 Days of Firewise” campaign and our latest holiday safety tip:

When you’re stringing the holiday lights, take a few minutes to check your chimney. We all know that a fireplace adds ambiance to any room. NFPA’s Firewise Central Regional Advisor, Todd Chlanda, reminds us however, to make sure the chimney has a spark arrester to keep the Yule log from causing unwanted fire outside.

If you missed our first two safety tips, visit our "12 Days of Firewise" webpage to learn more.


As we promised, here’s the second safety tip reflected in our 12 Days of Firewise campaign:

The improper removal of hot ashes from fireplaces and wood burning stoves causes thousands of fires each year. NFPA’s Firewise Northwest Regional Advisor, Gary Marshall, tells us how to properly remove these ashes and how to ensure they are completely extinguished before disposing of them.

If you missed the first tip, visit our "12 Days of Firewise" webpage. And don't forget to download our tip sheet to share with your neighbors and friends!


My recent Firewise travels took me to Benton County, Oregon.  I met up with Oregon Department of Forestry representatives including State Firewise Liaison Kris Babbs and Community Wildfire Forester Blake McKinley to visit Pioneer Village, one of the local Firewise Communities.Benton co firewise sign

Pioneer Village sits in the “Valley” on the west side of the Cascade Mountain Range and on the east slope of the Coastal Mountains, just outside of Corvallis Oregon home of the Oregon State University Beavers.  This part of the state receives on average over 40 inches of precipitation each year where vegetation grows tall and green and if anything sits long enough it will begin to turn a reddish brown color through a very slow oxidation process, or into a brilliant green colored material which is often called moss.  So why anyone would be interested in wildfire safety in this climate?  Some local residents would say they have a larger chance of flood or earthquake than a wildfire.  Some might even say they are living in an “Asbestos Forest”.

Large fires in this area are not as common as other regions but when the fires do get big in this area of the state, the fires are huge! For instance, some of the largest wildfires Oregon endured in the past 100 years have been near the coast.  The Great Tillamook fires (1933, 1939, 1945 and 1951) in the Northern Coast Range burned over 550 square miles collectively. More recently the Biscuit Fire of 2002 burned nearly another 500,000 acres in the Siskiyou National Forest near Gold Beach.   

So I ask myself, is there a wildfire threat in the “Asbestos Forest”?  Yes indeed, and I might add that all big fires start small.  The neighbor may be burning their debris, or an unattended campfire, or an uncontrolled firework.  But the cause may not be as important as how one can mitigate or control the direction of an uncontrolled wildfire. Neighborhood residents can make a difference where a wildfire may spread and what it may damage.

Kathy Butler, Chair of the Pioneer Village Firewise Community says reducing your risk starts now, beforeBenton co  pioneer village home firewise 1 your wildfire season starts.  She said one of Pioneer Village Firewise Community projects was to chip the vegetation and resurface their common area trails with the chipped byproduct.  Another Firewise Community resident, Beverly Salvatore, was a gracious host and invited our crew to her home for refreshments during this tour.  She explained what sealed the deal with the realtor for the purchase of her home was the enormous trees around the home.  She closed the deal without even visiting the site!  Beverly’s said her values were the old growth trees and not so much the home.  Beverly stated what better way to preserve the big trees than becoming an active participant in the Firewise Program. 

What I found on this tour was the residents of Pioneer Village probably do the same mitigation work as many other Firewise Communities.  They conduct annual neighborhood cleanups, enhance road and water systems, mitigate fuels within their common areas, continue to reduce the risk around their home and maybe even change some of the structural features to promote fire safety. 

Benton co firewise expertsBut what may be different in this Firewise Community than other areas of the state are the challenges for Chair Kathy Butler.  Due to the lack of repeated wildfires and the additional wet weather, keeping her neighbors from becoming complacent about the danger of wildfire is her challenge.   Kathy has accomplished this by keeping the Firewise name as a buzzword in the community and the other benefits that come from neighborhood meetings. 

This neighborhood is very active in the Firewise program and now it is just common practice.  But Kathy is a little worried. What will happen when she steps down as Chairperson? Will someone from the community step up to take her place and have the same energy and passion for Firewise as she has? 

Sustainability of programs is just as important as starting the program in the first place. A succession plan is key. My advice is to elect a Vice Chair.  They could be your protégé, the right person to step into the Chair position and fulfill your Firewise mitigation plan and be ready for the next renewal process. Remember, wildfire safety is everyone’s responsibility, from Kathy and her safety committee doing the work on the ground to the local Fire Chief and Oregon Department of Forestry offering leadership in the Firewise Communities/USA program! 

Photos, top to bottom: 1) One of many local fire safety messages; 2) Kathy Butler in front of her home in Pioneer Village; 3) Kathy Butler, Chief Phelps and Blake McKinley, ODF Wildfire Forester

It’s that time of year again when we unveil our “12 Days of Firewise” safety tips sheet and videos for the holiday season. As we all know, during this time of year our thoughts turn more to decorations, lights and Christmas trees than to brush, grass and forest fires. However, for those of us living in areas experiencing increased drought, warmer temperatures and minimal snowpack, our wildfire risk remains high.

Our “12 Days of Firewise” wildfire safety tips sheet and videos provide easy steps you can follow as you string up the lights and deck the halls during the holidays. Download the sheet and view the videos right here on our Fire Break blog. Our campaign begins today, and for the next 12 days we will provide new tips to keep your home and property fire-safe and Firewise

Our first video features Heidi Wagner, the Firewise Northeast Regional Advisor, who shares her wish for gifts she hopes to find under the tree to help keep her home and property Firewise. 


 - Anice Barbosa

Image1  R. Sangosti - The Denver Post 12/12/12

Almost six months after the June 26, Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, CO, the City Council gave preliminary approval yesterday to the first reading of the proposed update to the city's current fire code that will be applicable to rebuilds and new construction within the city's wildland/urban interface.  The vote was 6 to 1 with one abstaining from the vote.  The changes have been recommended as a process to improve safety conditions and reduce structure losses in future wildfires.  A final reading will take place January 8, 2013.  The new ordinance applies to both construction materials and surrounding vegetation.

Yesterday's vote follows the department's Division of the Fire Marshal hosting nine public meetings with more than 600 residents, over the past 90 days; along with coordination and collaboration with the local Home Builders Association, City Council and the Mayor. 

The Waldo Canyon Fire destroyed 345 homes and is the most destructive wildfire in the state's history.  The fire is responsible for two fatalities and the evacuation of more than 32,000 residents.  It's estimated that there are 36,485 residences in the city's wildland/urban interface.

In 2003, the city passed a Class A roofing ordinance that applies to the entire city for all new and replacement roofs and repairs greater than 25% of the total roof area.

The City of Colorado Springs has eleven communities that participate in the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program.


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Here's some information regarding climate change and its impact on wildfire activity from our colleague, Cathleen DeLoach, in NFPA's D.C. office . Below are her notes from a Congressional Briefing she attended that was hosted by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in late November. We think you'll find this interesting!

In the wildfire community, 2012 will remembered as a record-breaking year – projections place costs for battling wildfires at over $1 billion. On Friday, November 30th, 2012, the American Meteorological Society hosted a congressional briefing in the Senate Agriculture Committee room to discuss increased wildfire activity.

Presenters at the briefing included Dr. Elizabeth Reinhardt, Assistant Director, Fire and Aviation at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and Dr. Steve Running, a University Regents professor of Ecology at the University of Montana.


Dr. Reinhardt, an employee with the Forest Service since 1978, has a Ph.D. in forestry from the University of Montana.  Her discussion focused on ecological vulnerabilities.  In particular, she emphasized cascading effects.  She stated that fire is our most important tool in reducing fire hazards.  She suggested that communities benefit from a system of fire safety ratings. For demonstrative purposes, she referred to the Firewise Communities Program  and Fire Adapted Communities  initiative as excellent tools to achieve these goals.

The next presenter, Dr. Running received his Ph.D. in Forest Ecophysiology from Colorado State University.  He began by stating how important fires are to the ecosystem because they allow for recycling in the environment. He focused his discussion on climate change and how it affects wildfires.  In demonstrating the effects global warming, Dr. Running displayed a climate change diagram that charted how high temperatures are moving to the right; record temperature highs are increasing, while at the same our climate is seeing a decrease of record breaking low temperatures.


!|src=|alt=Mountains|style=margin: 0px 5px 5px 0px;|title=Mountains|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017ee62e1044970d!He continued by explaining that fires are no longer regulated to one particular time period or season. He noted that in Billings, Montana they have had wildfires in January. In addition, he stated that the traditional fire season has stretched out to two months longer than usual in western states. One example of climate change that has had an effect on wildfires is the Rocky Mountain ice caps – they have been decreasing for several years - allowing a greater area landscape to become more vulnerable to fires.

Dr. Running ended with a discussion on the physics of evaporation.  This principle states that an increase in evaporation is more important than precipitation if evaporation rate is higher than precipitation. For example - Fairbanks, AK evaporation rate is .5M per year and in Tucson, AZ it is 2M per year.  The high evaporation rate in Arizona accounts for a greater risk of wildfires.

Additional information about the briefing can be found at the American Meteorological Society website at . You can also find related wildfire/climate change reports from AMS on their site.

BYBThe latest from the wildfire division includes news about our Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference. Join NFPA in Salt Lake City for this premier event from November 14 – 16, 2013.

Registration for the conference and hotel accommodations is now available! One great conference; four easy ways to register. Whether you reach us online, by phone, mail or fax, if you act now, you can save on the fee!

For those interested in attending our pre-conference session, the Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone workshop will be held  two days earlier, November 12 – 13.'t forget to check out our conference web page for the latest information including things to do in Salt Lake City. We hope to see you there!

The list of direct and indirect impacts following a wildfire can be long and costly, and in Northern Colorado farmers located far from the fire's perimeter are dealing with one of wildfires lesser known consequences. 

Bruce Finley, a reporter with The Denver Post recently portrayed the problems plaguing farmers in Larimer County in his December 8th article We're Losing WaterSix-months after this year's 136-square mile High Park fire burned ten percent of the Poudre River watershed, the fire is causing significant problems to the area's farmers located many miles east of the burn area.

A river impacted by a wildfire can become filled with wildfire-related ash, sediment and other pollutants that can cause a myriad of problems to a community's water supplies.  And that's exactly what's happening in the Cache la Poudre River, the water supply for the City of Fort Collins.  The aftereffect of the fire has caused the river to become less reliable and has the city tapping into their secondary water supply - which in previous years has been typically leased to farmers.

According to Finley's article, Fort Collins recently notified 80 farmers that they should not expect any leased water from that secondary source this spring.  Farmers rely on that water for their crops and the recent news impacts them as they're preparing for the coming year's crops; thus bringing uncertainty and stress to their plans for 2013, and troubling questions for consumers of the products they previously supplied.

As communities struggle to deal with the far-reaching magnitude of wildfires, we urge them to encourage homeowners to embrace Firewise principles and to learn more about making their community fire adapted - a comprehensive approach to addressing wildfire risks at all scales, for all audiences, including farmers and other land managers.  As communities reduce their wildfire risk, they can simultaneously have an impact on the potential post-fire effects that can linger for a very long time. 

For those of you who have wanted to participate as a speaker at our 2013 Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference in Salt Lake City, but feared you couldn't get your propsal in on time, you’re in luck! We just received word that our deadline has been extended to February 15, 2013.

Make it your new year’s resolution to get your proposal in before it's too late. Choose from the following five education tracks:

  • Community Safety Approaches and Strategies
  • Home Construction & Landscape Design
  • Research (Physical, Social, Ecology and Environmental)
  • Technology, Policy & Regulations
  • Wildfire Planning, Suppression & Operations

Join the hundreds of wildfire industry professionals, community residents, fire service personnel and others who make wildfire safety a priority and attend our conference for the latest information, lessons learned and networking opportunities.

Submittal information can be found in our “courses and training” section on the Firewise website.We look forward to seeing you there! 


Fire-wise in Sicily

Posted by lisamariesinatra Employee Dec 10, 2012

Now that the cold weather has set in, I found myself recently thinking about my trip to Sicily this past summer. We ventured there in late June/early July when the summer heat really starts to kick in. Sicily had been experiencing hotter than average temps and on most days while we were there, the thermometer reached upwards of 100 degrees.

The excessive heat and high winds coming off the sea were blamed for the daily brush, grass and forest fires that were reported on the news each night. We saw fires spring up along the highway, up in the mountains and right in the backyard of the agriturismo we were staying in! News about wildfires igniting in all parts of the country, including areas around Rome, were becoming the topic of conversation at the local cafe.


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We spoke to a few of the people who were staying at the small hotel we were at, including the owners. I found their responses to the wildfire safety question fascinating. Without any prompting, the first thing they told me was, living in this area, high up in the hills with only narrow, winding roads to travel on and being miles from any major (or minor, for that matter) fire station, it was their responsibility to take care of their property since it was common knowledge that the fire service wouldn’t be able to come to them and help put the fire out.


It turns out, the townspeople have for years worked together to clear brush and dead debris around their homes and land. Nestled among olive groves and chestnut trees, it has never been an easy job. But folks told me a rake, some pruning shears and other inexpensive tools were enough to help them do the job. And sure enough, as I looked out over the mountains, I could see large patches of grass mowed and trimmed and trees limbed. These folks were actually working off of Firewise principles without even knowing it!

The hotel owner also told me something interesting. When building, they are required by law to put a fire break around the entire perimeter of the property.  It’s our responsibility to save the hotel in case of brush fire, she told me, plus there’s no money in the budget for the state to provide emergency help, and more importantly, she said, no one would be able to get a truck up these roads.


And it works. The last day of our trip, I was in the room packing when I heard a very loud and eerily crackling noise. I went out onto the balcony and saw a wildfire on the mountain across the street from us. I noted how a large plot of the cleared land and narrow "fire breaks across the slope" kept the fire in one area. An hour later, a lone helicopter dumped water on the fire after making several rounds to and from the sea a half mile away. A couple hours later, the fire had been extinguished. I was impressed.

So, as we move into the new year and begin to think about the mitigation work we’ll continue to do around our own properties and across our communities, I can’t help but take a cue from the Sicilian people who, with not much money in their pockets, created their own Firewise sites in their Italian WUI. Even the simplest of steps I realized, can make a huge difference in keeping homes and property from being destroyed by wildfire.

For more information on how you can create Firewise communities in your area, check out our website and download the Firewise toolkit, which provides simple checklists and tips you can use every day. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division produces Fire Break, a monthly e-newletter distributed to leading wildland fire experts, firefighters, Firewise® community residents, community planners and developers, civic leaders, homeowners, insurance professionals, landscape architects and a whole host of others who live and work in the wildland/urban interface and care about wildland fire safety issues.

FBIn each issue you’ll find the latest tips and resources to help reduce your home and community’s wildfire risk. You’ll also find links to new reports, local meetings, national conferences, workshops and training events as well as the latest news on all of the Division’s programs and projects including Firewise and Fire Adapted Communities. We want to continue to share all of this great information with you so don’t miss an issue! There’s still time to sign up for our December issue, which will arrive in your email box on the 17th. So subscribe today. It’s free! Just click here to add your e-mail address to our newsletter list.

And as always, tell us what’s new and exciting in your neck of the WUI! You can comment on the Fire Break Blog or start a discussion on our Linked In, Twitter or Facebook pages. We’d love to hear from you!


A collaborative effort between the National Ecological Observatory Nework (NEON) and Colorado State University has resulted in the recent High Park fire site in northern

Colorado being mapped with remarkable detail. The study will be available to environmental professionals and local authorities in early 2013.

The[ High Park fire |] burned more than 250 homes and over 130 square miles of mostly remote forests in Larimer County, Colorado in June of this year. It's an area so large that
until now without the advancements in mapping technology it would have been almost impossible to gather all necessary data to make informed decisons on restoration efforts.

Late this summer after the fire was out, scientists documented the region aerially in hopes of targeting the areas most in need of restoration to avoid
continuing post-fire problems like erosion, mudslides and other water quality issues.


During the month of August, scientists flew over the burn site in a Twin Otter Plane with various instruments including a high-resolution camera that was able to take detailed images of the entire burned area and a LiDAR optical remote

sensor that can measures distance by using light, providing scientists with a

3-D representation of the landscape. 

The comprehensive study and analysis of this data although very interesting in its own right, will hopefully allow for correct resource allocation to restoration efforts indentified in the burned area.

I love reading blogs about Firewise where I think, "Gosh, I couldn't have said that better myself!" 

A tip of the blogger hat to Kevin W. Zobrist, the Washington State University Regional Extension Specialist for Forest Stewardship. Kevin, also known by his Twitter handle as @WSUExtForestry, has penned an excellent article on the WSU Extension's Forest Stewardship Notes blog about how Firewise principles can be used statewide, and not just in the areas some might expect.

You can read Kevin's post, "Firewise: It's not just an Eastside Issue," here. He focuses on the opportunities that "westsiders" - Washingtonians living in the cooler, wetter, but not fire-free areas of the state - have with regard to wildfire mitigation.

Let me share some of the key comments (at least, my favorites) that Kevin makes:

  • There is no reason to respond to fire risk with fear or to take drastic (and unwarranted) measures such as clear-cutting all the trees or denuding the understory of the forests around us. Instead, do so some careful, educated, and well-thought-out long-term planning and management around fire.
  • Becoming fire-wise is a long-term management process that takes years of small steps (taking advantage of cool, wet conditions).
  • The impact of a Firewise landscape is extraordinary. A wild, voracious, and seemingly unstoppable fire will literally bow down to a Firewise landscape, creeping along the ground in submission to years of careful planning and good forest management. 

Photo credit: Washington Department of Natural Resources. This house was spared from the Naneum Canyon wildfire in 2010, thanks in part to the homeowner’s use of Firewise landscaping to protect the structure. 


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This week you may have noticed that our Firewise blog has undergone a bit of a transformation. The site is still home for great wildfire safety news, tips, resources and updates on NFPA ’s wildfire division, but we’ve changed the name to Fire Break, to reflect our monthly wildfire safety newsletter. The “new” Fire Break Blog provides a wider forum for our audience and contributors in which to write and learn about wildfire safety mitigation activities, the latest wildfire news, reports, conferences and workshops, our wildfire programs including Fire Adapted Communities and Firewise , and so much more.


NFPA’s wildfire staff will continue to post the same great blogs throughout the year to keep you up-to date on what’s happening in the division, across the country and around the globe. For instance, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve posted information that can help you protect your family and home from fire during this winter season. You can also read highlights from Molly Mowery’s Wildfire Watch column in NFPA Journal and learn what Firewise communities across the country are doing to reduce their wildfire risk. </p>

We encourage you to read our posts and share your thoughts with us and the wildfire community. And if you’re already an avid reader of our blog, thank you!

The United State Fire Administration (USFA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are working together to remind everyone that home fires are more prevalent in winter than in any other season. This is due in part to an increase in cooking and heating fires. Holiday decorations and winter storms that can interrupt electrical service and cause people to turn to alternative heating sources also contribute to the increased risk of fire in winter.

NFPA has some great checklists and tips you can use for your home.

It’s also important to remember that while our thoughts turn to decorations, lights and Christmas trees this month we don’t often think about brush, grass and forest fires. But for those of us living in areas that are experiencing increased drought, warmer temperatures and minimal snowpack, wildfire risk is high. Stay tuned to the Firewise website for our “12 Days of Firewise” wildfire safety tip sheet and videos that can help you and your family stay fire-safe around your home and property this holiday season and all winter long.

Wildfire watch"I've become a pro at skimming headlines to stay on top of wildfire news, but in saving time, I can lose the ability to offer informed assessments of a topic," admits NFPA Journal columnist Molly Mowery in the latest edition of the magazine. 

Delving deeper into the actual wildfire reports that news outlets tend to briefly summarize can clarify aspects of a fire and its response that never made it to print. For example, Mowery points to articles published after the release of the USDA report on the 2010 Fourmile Canyon fire near Boulder, Colorado. Several newspapers questioned the effectiveness of fuels treatment, but Mowery says the actual report indicates that "no general inference could be made about the fuel treatment efficacy."

Carving out time for in-depth discussions with peers is one way to get the full story on wildland fires. Check out Mowery's other suggestions in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal.

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