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January 16, 2013 Previous day Next day

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently published the 2012 annual wildfire report.  According to the report this past year was the worst on record over the last 13 years, if  one considers the average wildfire size.  The average  wildfire was more than 85 acres per incident and reinforces the idea that the size of the wildfires is increasing over time and therefore increasing the overall fire burden on our nation.

NOAA

Graph 1: US Annual Wildfire Activity 2000-2012

It is important to note that this report was based only on data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and does not acccount for all wildfires.  Many of the wildfires handled at the local or county level are recorded in another data base known as the National Fire Incident Reporting system that is managed by the US Fire Administration.

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In yesterday's blog on NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division's report Engaging Youth in Reducing Wildfire Risk I provided a quick look at the virtually nonexistence of wildfire programs for youth that focus on prevention, preparedness, mitigation and the science of the home ignition zone.  In this segment we'll focus on the topic's existing research.

During the summer of 2010, FEMA published Bringing Youth Preparedness Education to the Forefront:  A LIterature Review and Recommendations.  Their report found children can play a special role in communicating preparedness information to friends and family members, and children are seen as a trusted source of information, as well as good messengers.

Prior to the reports below (published 2008-2012), there was basically no research available on wildfire education programs for youth.  Authors of the Evolution of Smokey Bear report published in 2012, found the majority of programs for older children don't include personal and home safety information; and fail to address the science of home ignition.  The topic of wildfire is often wrapped into other curriculm, and is frequently a subtopic to a larger theme; while programs created by agencies and brought into schools are very difficult to fund, sustain and replicate.  None of the youth programs reviewed addressed the issue of children's needs when wildfire has impacted their homes and community.

Research on youth and wildfire education programs reviewed for the Firewise Program report include those listed below.  I highly recommend you read these excellent studies:

After finding a lack of information on what youth believe they want and need regarding wildfire safety, information and resources; Firewise Communities Program staff engaged teens and parents in six interactive conversational workshops on the topic. Tomorrow we'll share what we learned from those groups in part three of this series.

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