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 The neighboring town could have a Firewise Community, and you may not even know it. Through the new Firewise Mapper, though, communities can be viewed and tracked, along with any encroaching wildfires. NFPA recently partnered with ESRI to develop the Mapper through its Wildland Fire Operations Division.  It shows the location and attributes of neighborhoods participating in the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program.  The Geographic Information System (GIS) has been integrated with Microsoft Office in a way that allows anyone to easily explore the tool.


Firewise® Mapper (Beta version)


The Mapper includes point locations for roughly 850 active and 200 inactive Firewise Communities/USA recognition sites, with pop-up individual community profiles. Depending on the available data, one can follow the path of a fire in real-time in a given area. It has already proved an enormous help to NFPA staff in locating and reaching out to several Firewise communities that had major wildfires approaching. 

To learn more about the mapping project, visit the 2012 Winter How-To newsletter.

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Generations’ working together is a great way to foster relationships and develop social capital; and for the past five years students in one eastern Texas community have become intergenerational teachers, leading their community into achieving Firewise Communities/USA status.

Students at the Etoile School in Etoile, TX have embraced teaching adults and their peers about wildfire risks and they’ve taken active roles in a wide-range of related activities.  As the only school in an 80-square mile school district, located in the Angelina National Forest on the end of Lake Sam Rayburn, the nearly 150 students in Pre-K to 8th grade have been committed to performing education and mitigation tasks typically done by adults.

They’ve raised community awareness, changed attitudes, conducted on-the-ground projects, clean-up days, and participated as advisory board members.  From clearing leaves and debris at the home of elderly residents, to working with their families to create defensible space, the kids have proven they are capable and worthy of leading efforts that have significant impact on their community’s ability to survive a wildfire.


An in-depth report on the Etoile, TX Firewise program and the work that’s been done by an amazing group of young students can be accessed through the USDA Forest Service at .






Earth-orbit satellite images help scientists with everything from weather forecasting and disaster management to archeology. In PBS’s NOVAseries last night, NASA scientists explained how these images reveal important connections that sustain life on Earth, including the role wildfires play in our ecosystem.

The images were fantastic and eye-opening! Check out your local PBS station for the date and time of NOVA’s "Earth from Space" series. You definitely don’t want to miss this!

When I attended the recent Wildfire Prevention Regional Conference hosted by the California Fire Safe Council, I met Mark Thibideau, a Forest Service Fire Prevention Technician working for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest at a booth promoting “One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire.”

This is a unique fire prevention campaign that focuses on mitigating wildfires caused by vehicles.  The campaign is based in part on local research of historical data about wildfire occurrences along the highways.  Before the spring and summer holidays these precautions are important to be aware of so that we can be “Firewise” away from home as well. According to a July 23, 2012 press release, Ron Hodgson, USDA Forest Service Fire Prevention Coordinator said:  “With the exception of equipment fires, vehicles cause more wildfires in California than any other cause, and yet they are among the easiest for people to prevent”. 

The campaign is focused on the I-5 corridor in a region where visitor use of the rest areas exceeds 4.5 million vehicles a year.  They hang posters at informational kiosks, install fire danger signs and billboards along freeways, and increase patrols at rest areas to discuss dragging chains and other hazards.  These measures can be copied in areas throughout the country that are at high risk from vehicle caused wildfires along busy highways.

“We have identified a handful of easy steps motorists can take to make sure they are not responsible for startingSparkPoster a fire,” Thibideau said. “This public information campaign should allow us to quickly inform a lot of people how they can help keep the public and firefighters safe and themselves free from the legal and financial hardships often associated with starting a wildfire. These are straightforward steps that don’t take a lot of time or money to accomplish. With the simple measures of keeping tow chains or exhaust systems from dragging, driving with correctly inflated tires, and not parking near dry vegetation, drivers can join us in the “One Less Spark-One Less Wildfire” fire prevention effort.

Check out the poster (you can click on the image to get to the printable PDF version) for three simple steps motorists can take, including safe towing, nothing dragging, and being "wheel safe".

Photo credit: Faith Berry. Photo shows Mark Thibideau at the US Forest Service booth at the California Wildfire Prevention Regional Conference promoting “One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire”.  He is holding a used piece of fire hose that could be used to cover tow chains.

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