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Patti MaguireWe've just named Patti Maguire the Firewise advisor for our Southwest 2 Region to help expand our community wildfire safety activities! Patti will join the program’s five existing regional advisors and oversee Firewise activities in communities in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

With the number and intensity of wildfires on the rise, there is greater need than ever before for people to take action to protect their families and homes from the threat of wildfires. Patti will work closely with our other advisors to help foster successful Firewise Communities/USA recognition by assisting sites that are new to the program and supporting the ongoing work of existing sites, in coordination with state forestry leadership. Due to her extensive background in forestry and wildfire prevention, Patti will be able to provide important information and technical support to communities throughout the country.

Patti began her career in forestry as a wildfire prevention and forest health consultant. Her experience includes working as a wildland firefighter for the USDA Forest Service and as a park ranger for the Bureau of Land Management. She would later become Summit County, Colorado’s wildfire mitigation officer and work as a consultant and project coordinator for Colorado Blue Logs in Kremmling, Colorado. As a member of the USDA Forest Service Wildfire Prevention and Education Team, Patti has traveled through the West and Great Plains states on interagency teams to provide intensive public awareness campaign in communities experiencing extreme wildfire conditions. 

Welcome Patti!

Andrew Tate the South Dakota State Firewise Liaison forwarded me this newly created public service announcement this past weekend.  Andrew indicated this PSA will be scheduled to run on local South Dokota television networks through spring and summer as a part of the Great Plains Fire Safe Council initiative to promote wildfire preparedness. South Dakota currently has 7 recognized Firewise Communites/USA sites, the first being the Mountain Plains 1 and 2 neighborhood developments that was first recognized in 2003.


My colleague and fellow Florida wildfire mitigation specialist Melissa Yunas shared a great story with me this week about a "poster child" Firewise home and her meeting with the homeowner. Melissa was serving as a Public Information Officer on the Heather Fire in St. Lucie County, which affected 240 homes in 4 communities. In the extremely busy time following a major wildfire, Melissa was thrilled to find the owner of a home that survived - since she had pegged that home as a perfect Firewise example some time before.

Melissa wrote:

"Days after a major wildfire, the information officer is extremely busy because they (1) want to reassure the community that FFS will still be here because the residents still see smoke and hot spots (2) must continue to do interviews because the media is extremely interested and they want their own “spin” on the story (3) want [to] document the incident for educating other communities at risk. The Heather Wildfire affected over 240 homes in 4 communities; I went to almost every home passing out educational flyers and talking to concerned homeowners.

Two days after the wildfire, I met up with a news crew who were out interviewing a homeowner whoseFLPub house survived. I sat and patiently waited for them. I looked over at the homeowner doing the interview then looked over at the house. The house looked very familiar. It took me a second look to recognize the home was on the cover of our NEWSouth Florida Wildfire Landscaping Guide

I immediately jumped out of the car and ran over to the news crew/homeowner. While the homeowner was interviewing with the news crew, I enthusiastically gave the homeowner a copy of the publication.

I explained to him that a year ago I drove through my high risk areas looking for the “perfect” Firewise home that would be a shining example for other homeowners. I took at least fifty pictures of different homes in different communities in six counties; his home was picture perfect. It had a beautiful well-maintained lawn that was fifty feet away from the dense woods and less flammable plants near the home.

You can’t image my excitement that the Firewise example on our NEW publication survived the 2nd largest wildfire in St. Lucie County (since 1990). This home received no damage. After the interview, the homeowner showed all his neighbors the publication of his home on the cover and now he wants to share his story with his entire community."

Watch Melissa's short interview with the homeowner about how he dealt with the fire and why he made his home Firewise.


Images: top, homeowner in front of his home with Florida Firewise landscaping guide (Melissa Yunas); center right, screen capture of Florida landscaping booklet; bottom, YouTube interview by Melissa Yunas on Florida Forest Service channel (FLForestService)

Following an unprecedented 2012 wildfire season, Colorado’s residents, scientisFlash pointt, and government officials have been working hard to manage the ongoing threat.  A new series produced by KRCC, an NPR member station for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico, highlights how wildfire is changing life in Colorado. Check out “Flash Point - Living With Wildfire” and listen to or read about wildfire topics applicable to many local communities, including post-wildfire recovery, forest treatments, emergency management, climate change, and the wildland-urban interface. gun enthusiasts enjoy target shooting outdoors.  Target shooting is a great way to improve hand/ eye coordination skills. Unsafe target shooting practices have resulted in wildfires including the recent Goat Fire in Washington State above Alta Lake which burnt 73,378 acres according to a February 16 2013 article, “Exploding Targets Linked to Wildfires Across the West” AP News.  According to a 2012 report by an ABC news affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah by Newport Television LLC., The Centerville fire started near 1600 North just above the Rolling Hills neighborhood of Centerville. The forest service says that people target shooting sparked the blaze that forced three families to evacuate their homes and caused a lot of concern for about two hours.

Although it is fun to shoot out of doors some very specific guidelines should be carefully adhered to in order to prevent an enjoyable outing to become a wildfire catastrophe.

  1. Always shoot in areas designated for that purpose.Range
  2. Make sure you are aware of weather conditions.  Some shooting areas are closed during severe fire weather conditions.
  3. Do not use steel bullets when shooting outdoors.  Because some bullets are steel but have a brass color but are steel a good rule of thumb is to use a magnet.  If the magnet is attracted to the shell it is a steel bullet and should not be used outdoors as steel flints when it hits hard objects such as rocks and could create sparks that cause wildfires.  Lead and brass bullets are preferred.
  4. You should not discharge any firearm or explosive device in violation of any state law.  Make sure that you carefully follow restrictions regarding the type of fire arms that you are allowed to discharge.
  5. Do Not Violate restrictions or closures.  Some areas may be in a high fire hazard severity zone. Follow posted warnings.
  6. Some states, counties and cities have restrictions or complete prohibitions against the use of exploding targets.  These targets are a mixture of an oxidizer -- usually ammonium nitrate -- and a fuel, such as aluminum.  The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives does not regulate the sale and distribution of these powder chemicals, even when they're sold as kits designed to become explosives, according to its May 2012 newsletter.  Once mixed, someone must have a federal explosives permit to transport them. Sportsmen generally mix them onsite before using them as targets.
  7. Do not use tracer or incendiary ammunition such as flare guns.

As a responsible target shooter make sure that you follow other rules pertaining to personal safety and the safety of others, distances required from inhabited areas and roads, cleaning up litter including shells and not damaging cultural and environmental features.  You should never shoot any firearm under the influence and some federal lands prohibit the discharge of firearms at night. 

Always check with the land management agency before you shoot to learn if permits are required, areas open, fire severity; and if ammunition and weapons are allowed.   It is important to be Firewise while we recreate in the wonderful outdoors.  For more information about federal shooting areas look on your local BLM and Forest Service websites. 

    In the newest issue of the Firewise How To newsletter, we highlight the fire mitigation efforts of Horseshoe Lake, Alaska, and the work that it has done as a Firewise community since 2006. The first Alaskan Firewise Community, Horseshoe Lake was heavily impacted by the 1996 Miller’s Reach Fire, prompting community members to band together for fire safety.

    Horseshoe Lake

    Along with their Firewise efforts, the feature explores the connection between the community and Oregon-based engineer Brian Smole. He has ALS, yet created and updates Horseshoe Lake’s website with only the movement of a muscle in his left thigh. Read more in the newsletter!

    Google announced recently that Google Reader is closing down. This popular RSS feed reader will be history on July 1, 2013, which means you’ve got a little more than two months to move your Google Reader subscriptions to a new RSS reader. You don't want to miss out on any of our blog posts in your RSS readers, right?

    In the PC World video below, Nick Barber shows you how to migrate your Google Reader subsciptions to a new RSS reader. He uses Takeout, Google’s way of providing your information in a format you can take with you to other programs. He turns his Google Reader subscriptions into a file that can then be used with different RSS readers. 



    Looking for more information about Google Reader’s impending shutdown? You can read about three alternatives to Google Reader here. 

    If all of this sounds too complicated but you still don't want to miss out, you can always subscribe to our blog's RSS feeds again, adding them to another RSS feeder directly from our blog. 

    Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar that was presented by Charles Maxwell (USFS Meteorologist) and produced by the Southwest Fire Science Consortium.  This unique pragmatic approach to predictive services is currently only used in the southwest region (New Mexico, Arizona and West Texas).  The potential for this type of application to be used throughout the nation is huge.

    The significant fire potential outlook is temporal and updated on a quarterly basis and it should not be confused with other geo-spatial fire risk potential maps that are designed for a different purpose.  For example, the 2012 wildland fire potential map recently published by the US Forest Service Fire Laboratory based in Missoula, Montana, is a spatial application designed for long term strategic planning and fuels management.  The Southwest Coordination Center predictive services map is designed for the short term by quantifying the upcoming fire season risk potential.  The main factors that drive this model are:

    1. Drought
    2. Fine fuels condition
    3. Season temperature and precipitation
    4. Spring and early summer weather patterns
    5. Monsoon



    We live on a fire planet

    Posted by hyltonhaynes Employee Apr 22, 2013

    As most folks around the planet are celebrating earth day today, I thought I would share a great resource for homeowners on the website.  The introduction to Firewise Principles presentation is full of wonderful images that may be helpful in communicating and illustrating the firewise message to the homeowner.

    Fire planet

    City of Bend Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshal Susie Maniscalco teamed up with the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) to conduct a wildfire safety workshop for local homeowners and fire agency folks to better understand what risk homeowners and first responders will face this coming summer, and how to take action now to minimize the consequences of uncontrolled wildfire.

    Photo 1This workshop was planned to kick off the 16thAnnual FireFree Events to take place in April and May where fire agencies target homeowners and their neighborhoods to reduce their vegetation and fuels on their property before the smoke from wildfire is in the air. 

    The Flagship FireFree Program is now sponsored by the Deschutes County FireSafe Council called “Project Wildfire.” This event allows residents to start working in their yard and cleaning their roofs and gutters.  All citizens are allowed to take their vegetation debris to local reception sites in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook Counties at no cost to the homeowner.  Each year the collection sites gather more than 30,000 cubic yards of debris.

    ODF Instructor Tom Andrade did an outstanding job of keeping the workshop participants engaged by explaining the history of wildfire and what a “natural” and a “healthy” forest actually are.  Tom also explained the fire science with help of the USDA Research Scientist Jack Cohen’s publications and NFPA’s video productionsof how it is the little things around the home that can spread a wildfire to the home, and not the big flame front that the media often portrays.  Tom also explained Oregon’s 1997 SB 360 Legislation that requires property owners in ODF protected areas to reduce personal risk.

    PhotoKris Babbs, ODF’s National Fire Plan Coordinator and Oregon’s Firewise Liaison presented how theFirewise Communities/USA Recognition Program can be incorporated into every neighborhood using the FireFree event as their annual Firewise Day. Kris showed how the whole neighborhood can get involved with wildfire safety and instead of a row of homes becoming a statistic from a wildfire how they can become an actual fuel break usingFirewise principals to slow or actually stop the fire. Kris said “a home can be in multiple Home Ignition Zones and we can slow the fire by changing the fuel component,” “this is why it is important to get your neighbors involved with Firewise”.

    After lunch Tom finished his presentation with a field trip local to a neighborhood to put the classroom knowledge into practical application. Participants then can used classroom knowledge and applied it with a “hands-on” approach to give them confidence when conducting their home or neighborhood Firewise assessment.

    Now is the time to take action, before the smoke is in the air.  What action you take today may save your home tomorrow!


    !|src=|alt=Executive Summary|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Executive Summary|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017eea56d214970d!For the year 2012, the number of recognized Firewise Communities/USA sites increased 23%, with 878 communities now actively engaged with the program. Recognized communities can now be found in 40 states and on two tribal nations. More than 1.4 million people live in recognized Firewise communities, and have invested $136 million dollars in local wildfire mitigation projects since 2003. Program retention rate stands at 80% over its 11-year history. 


    Learn more about the latest progress in the 2012 Firewise Communities/USA/Project report. It has been a wonderful year for the National Fire Protection Association  in support of all the Firewise Communities/USA sites.  A big congratulations to all the folks throughout our nation who make this Federally supported outreach program  a huge success.   


    To help continue this fantastic momentum participate in the 2013  Firewise Communities/USA recognition program challenge.   



    !|src=|alt=Cover|width=261|style=margin: 0px 5px 5px 0px;|title=Cover|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef017eea55c9aa970d|height=314!There are many audiences that NFPA reaches out to: homeowners, foresters, community leaders, fire practitioners, and development professionals.&#0160; In recent years we have made a special push to work with this last category – particularly planners and regulators.&#0160; Although this group is sometimes overlooked because they aren’t seen as a traditional audience for addressing wildfire concerns, their potential role is significant. As preferences for second homes and suburban lifestyles increase, so does the wildland-urban interface.&#0160; Planners and regulators are in a unique position to address development through regulations and better site planning that consider wildfire hazard.&#0160;

    To further encourage the involvement of planners and regulators in addressing the wildland-urban interface, NFPA contracted with Clarion Associates, LLC, a national land use planning and law firm, to create a best practices guide, “Community Wildfire Safety Through Regulation.”  This guide is designed to help planners and local communities considering wildfire regulations better understand their options and implement a successful public process to adopt effective wildland-urban interface tools that match local needs. 

    [A free PDF copy is now available |].  Download your copy today, and get sound technical advice and legal justifications for adoptions of wildfire regulations, tips on what planners should do before the community embarks on a formal wildfire safety regulation adoption process, and appropriate community tools to address wildfire risk.  


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

    • A link to the latest FAC report and video highlighting lessons learned from the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado
    • The wildfire division’s newest DVD that features three volunteer fire departments working closely with residents on wildfire safety programs
    • Information about NFPA’s newest best practices guide aimed at planners and regulators who play a significant role in protecting communities from wildfire
    • The Spring Firewise “How-To” newsletter that provides project ideas and tips to help homeowners prepare for wildfire season
    • Information about a recent report that provides suggestions for how communities can better plan for wildfire emergencies that includes supporting people with disabilities

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

    SilverStarA few days ago, one of our longstanding "Firewise sparkplugs" sent me an email announcing her new blog, The Moderate Botanist. Helen McGranahan of the Silver Star community near the Black Hills explains the creation of this online resource this way:

    "Custer County Conservation District hosted a forum earlier this week called A Landowner Conversation: Beetles, Fuels and Forestry.They asked me to do a presentation on our Subdivision's Firewise project.  Since I absolutely hate public speaking I took the easy way out and made a video.  It went over quite well.  Then it was requested that I post it online."

    And thus a new blog is born! In addition to being tickled at Helen's creativity in avoiding public speaking, I was pretty excited about her video story about Silver Star.  Check it out in her blog post here. Just under 11 minutes, it focuses on how neighbors pulled together, with little to no outside help, to dramatically reduce the community's risk from wildfire. Evac meeting - April 2013

    This past Saturday, the Genesee Foundation, a Firewise Communities/USA site located in Jefferson County, CO, participated in a Level 3 Evacuation Drill.  The drill was an opportunity for residents and emergency responders to practice a simulated wildland fire evacuation. 

    Residents in wildland/urban interface areas know that in addition to implementing Firewise principles to mitigate the risk around their homes, there’s additional steps that need to be taken to proactively prepare for a wildfire, and planning and practicing their evacuation plan and routes is one of those important steps.  Unfortunately, I think it can easily be said that this piece of the planning process is under practiced and most homeowners never get an opportunity to actually participate in a live drill with emergency responders.  But this past weekend, the more than 1,500 homes that comprise the neighborhoods of the Genesee Foundation, the Genesee Village HOA, Riva Chase HOA and Chimney Creek HOA, had that opportunity during a live drill coordinated by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.  In addition to the sheriff’s office, the Colorado State Patrol, Genesee Fire Department, Foothills Fire Department and the Highland Rescue Team also participated.

    During the week prior to the drill, signage was placed throughout the neighborhood to encourage participation and alert residents of the upcoming activity.  Residents were also invited to attend an informational meeting where they received information on the process and how to build an emergency preparedness kit.  At approximately 9am, on the morning of the drill, pre-registered participants received an emergency notification simulating an approaching wildfire.  Residents were given instructions to evacuate, and as each exited the designated checkpoint they were asked to remain out of the area for 30 to 60 additional minutes prior to returning home.

    In addition to the benefit of getting the practical experience, the drill will be analyzed and will provide important data on how citizens received the message, the time it took them to leave both their home and the corresponding geographic area after receiving the notification, and the traffic volume. 

    Each year NFPA’s Conference & Expo travels to some pretty cool venues. This year, we’ll be in Chicago June 10 – 13 at the McCormick Place Convention Center. Will you be there? Noted as the premier event in fire and life safety, C & E offers more than 150 educational sessions and an exhibit hall filled with more than 300 product and service experts willing to share their knowledge and help solve your challenges.

    While wildfire specifically isn’t the focus of NFPA’s conference, there are still a handful of really great WUI sessions, in addition to a number of fire and life safety tracks we think you’d be interested in, including codes and standards, fire and emergency services, fire suppression, loss control and prevention, public education and more. 

    One of the wildfire sessions we hope to see you at is “Wildfire in the Built Environment; A Case Study of the Waldo Canyon Wildfire in Colorado Springs” on Monday, June 10 at 8.00 a.m.  The other noted session is “Bushfire and Community Safety in Australia” also on Monday, June 10 at 9.30 a.m.

    In addition, you may have read Molly Mowery’s Journal column calling for more accountability for disabled populations when planning for wildfire. If you're interested in this topic, there’s a great session on Wednesday called “Improving Fire and Life Safety for People with Disabilities” that you might want to check out.

    Want to know more? Take a look at NFPA’s conference blog, which includes more in-depth information, as well as activities and general interest pieces on the Windy City. Our keynote speaker this year is Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of the best-selling Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film, Lincoln. It's a presentation you definitely don't want to miss. 

    Early bird registration ends April 26 so now's the time to secure your space for a few days of fire and life safety education in Chicago.

    We hope to see you there!

    Spring is almost here and time to get out and start doing some yard work. As I stand in front of all of the different types of mulch at my local home repair store, I can’t decide which one to use. Which one will be the safest? Which one will last the longest? Which one will look the best the longest? Which one will be the safest? I know, I already mentioned that one but being a firefighter by trade, these things cross my mind -- a lot!


    There are many choices to use to beautify your landscaping. There are wood chips, pine bark, pine needles, shredded rubber and more. But which one is the safest? I asked an employee in the garden section if he knew of any fire spread ratings of any of the mulches in the store and he looked at me with a blank, faraway, confused look. So, I decided to look into this myself.


    Mulch has many positive attributes. It reduces the water requirements of plants, cools the soil temperature, controls weeds and soil erosion, and visually enhances the landscape. But a major drawback is that many are combustible, which presents a huge problem in fire prone areas. Embers from an approaching wildfire can ignite areas where mulch is used. If these areas are adjacent to the home, it could be wind up to be a disastrous mix.


    An evaluation of mulch combustibility was performed in 2008 by the Carson City Fire Department, the Nevada Tahoe Conservation District, the University of California Cooperative Extension, and the University of Nevada Cooperation Extension. The results from this project offer recommendations for uses of mulches in wildfire hazard areas. Mulch can be defined as any material that is used to cover the soil surface for a variety of purposes. They can be classified as organic or inorganic. Organic mulches usually come from plant materials and include pine needles, pine bark nuggets, shredded western cedar and even ground or shredded rubber. Inorganic mulches consist of rock, gravel and brick chips. These inorganic mulches tend not to burn and are safe to use in any setting.


    Eight mulch treatments were evaluated for three characteristics: flame height, rate of fire spread and temperature. On the test day, the National Fire Danger Rating System value was Extreme. All eight mulches were found to be combustible but varied considerably in the three areas measured.


    • Shredded rubber, pine needles and shredded western red cedar showed the greatest potential for all three characteristics. 
    • Shredded rubber burned at the hottest average temperature (in excess of 630 degrees F at a height of 4 inches) and produced the greatest flame length at over 3 feet.
    • Shredded western red cedar had the most rapid rate of spread, traveling at an average rate of 47.9 feet per minute. It also produced embers that moved beyond the plot perimeter and ignited adjacent mulch plots.
    • Composted wood chips showed the slowest spread rate and the shortest average flame length, usually smoldering.


    So what does all of this mean? We have a variety of mulch choices in our landscaping – and we need to know the best uses for each choice. Immediately next to your home out to five feet, the best mulch to use is an inorganic one (rock, brick, pavers) or fire resistant plant materials that are well watered and maintained. Composted wood chips are the best choice of the materials tested for residential landscape use. However, they are organic and will still burn. They do tend to burn at the lowest speed and lowest flame length. If this material is ignited, it could still ignite siding, plant debris and other combustible materials. The smoldering of this product could also go undetected by firefighters during a wildland fire event. Shredded rubber, pine needles and shredded western red cedar can have their place in your landscaping design, just further from your home. These materials could be used selectively for landscaping at least 30’ from your home.


    So, with this new information that I have now learned about mulch, I think I’ll use some nice gravel with a few larger stones for some accent close to my house and save the other stuff to use away from the house. You never know when a fire is going to approach your home and I don’t want to lose the biggest investment I’ll ever make.


    Photo: A home in Rockland County, NY, damaged by fire starting in mulch in flower beds, from a white paper, "Mulch Fires: What Should the Label Say," by Thomas Williams and Michael Lane, at Vermont Chapter of International Association of Arson Investigators

    Join Michele Steinberg, manager of NFPA's Firewise Communities Program, for a live interview on Thursday 11 April at 8:00 PM (EST)

    BobMichele will talk to Barometer Bob about the importance of incorporating Firewise principles into your wildfire mitigation activities, and she’ll also discuss the process for becoming a recognized Firewise Communities/USA site!

    Listen to the live interview on Thursday 11 April at 8:00 PM EST. 

    As the U.S. braces for wildfire season, it’s important for homeowners now more than ever, to be prepared ahead of a wildfire threat. You can learn how by visiting the Firewise website at

    And don’t forget to check out our handy homeowners checklist, which puts these simple yet effective steps at your fingertips … download it, print it out and tape it to your fridge. Keep wildfire safety tips always at the ready. Find it at:

    Fun with Firewise in Yuba, Oklahoma!


    Thanks to Kelly Hurt, Oklahoma Firewise Liaison, for passing on this flyer.

    It doesn't feel like Spring in New England. In fact, it was 32 degrees this morning. That being said, I amFunthinking positive that the weather will start to get warmer. This month, is all about getting outside and celebrating Spring. I am always looking for fun activities to do with my kids. This month's free printable gives you 10  Ways to Have Fun this Spring as a family. Of course, a few of the ideas include fire safety. We are NFPA after all. A few of the ideas are also easy-to-do Firewise activities! (Learn more about the Firewise Communities program.)

    As my children get older, activities like this mean even more to me, and them. This piece is not only a great family project but can also be used for after school programs, classrooms, Scout troops and as handouts from the fire department. Let me know if you use it, and how the kids like it.

    -Amy Lebeau 

    We wanted to share this video, especially for those that have wildfires. This is a great video of the Spanish Air Force 43 Grupo. The video is a compilation of scenes during Air Force operations to combat wildfires in Spain. The cockpit shots really give you a perspective on water scoop and fire drop operations, including the very turbulent air currents from the fires.

    Here at NFPA we put a lot of effort toward wildfire mitigation and management. Brush, grass or forest fires don’t have to be disasters. The Firewise Communities program encourages local solutions for safety by involving homeowners in taking individual responsibility for preparing their homes from the risk of wildfire. 

    In addition, Annex  B Air Operation for Forest, Brush, and Grass Fires in NFPA 1143, Standard for Wildland Fire Management discusses aerial water drops as a way to fight wildfire. You can preview NFPA 1143 though NFPA's free access website

    The Firewise family lost one of its own last week with the untimely death of Matt Simpson, former Arkansas Firewise liaison and Chief of the Lake Hamilton Fire Department.  

    As the Firewise liaison for the state Forestry Commission, Matt carried on the energetic legacy of David Samuel, who retired in 2008. Arkansas is notable for its tremendous activity in engaging residents and volunteer fire departments in the Firewise Communities/USA program. Matt's leadership continued the state's #1 ranking for Firewise communities. His own service in his volunteer fire departments provided a strong connection that people could relate to and a clear example for them to follow.

    Matt gave of his time - above and beyond the call of duty. When Firewise staff (including me) visited in 2009, he spent most of a week taking us to locations all around the state and introducing us to Firewise advocates and champions. I learned on that visit that Matt had been a member of NFPA for a long time in his role as a Master Plumber. Matt later served as part of NFPA's Public Educators' Network for the state of Arkansas.

    As a dedicated fire chief, Matt returned to a full-time position with Lake Hamilton last year, leaving the Arkansas Forestry Commission. Most recently, he assisted NFPA's wildland fire operations staff with the production of a new DVD, Before the Smoke: Protecting Your Community from Wildfire. The DVD focused on ways that small rural and volunteer fire departments - like his own -- could use their limited resources and leverage tools such as Firewise and concepts such as Fire Adapted Communities to prepare for nature's fire before smoke is in the air.IMG_1720

    As you'll no doubt read in the beautiful memorials left by his friends, family and colleagues, Matt was a kind and happy person in addition to being incredibly hard-working. He had a gentle approach and was always looking for the win-win solution to any challenge. His quiet "behind-the-scenes" way of working belied the tremendous influence he had on everyone around him. I hope that if you, like me, are shocked and saddened by his much-too-early passing, you'll take comfort in the knowledge that Matt lived his life doing what he loved to do best, a life in service to others.

    Photos: Top - Matt Simpson looks on as Bill Barnes receives the 10-Year Firewise Award for Joplin, Arkansas, from Firewise Advisor Patrick Mahoney, July 2012; Above - Matt is flanked by Michele Steinberg and Cheryl Blake of the NFPA Firewise staff and members of the Holiday Island, Arkansas, Firewise Committee, October 2009.


    Life in the WUI

    Posted by ryan.quinn Employee Apr 3, 2013

    Forest HouseSince wildfires bring such dire consequences and logistical problems, safety-conscious residents who choose to live in wildfire-prone areas can be a little bewildering. Of course, there are many reasons that people live in areas where brush, grass and forest fires can and do occur; this, honestly, is nearly everywhere in the United States. 

    When it comes to more traditional forestland, many people have moved from urban settings and may not fully understand the local fire risk. In the pursuit of the lifestyle afforded by living near nature, and the picturesque privacy that comes with it, wildfire is often not at the forefront of people’s minds.

    This is understandable, and again, wildfires can happen anywhere. However, there are areas where they are more common, and residents of the wildland/urban interface should prepare their homes for the possibility before settling down to admire the trees. Check out our website to get started!

    People with disabilitiesMore than 32,000 residents were evacuated during last year's Waldo Canyon Fire, the costliest wildfire in Colorado history. Following the incident, local organizations supporting people with disabilities surveyed this population on accessibility barriers they experienced during the evacuation. (See the resultshere, under "advocacy.")

    Barriers related to effective communication strategies, transporation, and shelter access were noted, as were solutions to these problems, including the possibility of increasing collaboration between government agencies and local health care resources.

    In her latest NFPA Journal column, Molly Mowery, NFPA's program manager for Fire Adapted Communities and International Outreach, takes this information a step further. "This information focused on the wildfire itself, but shouldn't we also apply these findings to long-term pre- and post-disaster planning?" she questions.

    Mowery also provides a handful of suggestions for emergency preparedness plans that account for all segments of a city's population. Read her thoughts in the March/April edition of NFPA Journal. 

    April2013 Artwork 2

    In their twelve-month series of featured wildfire artwork and themes from young artists, the Napa County, CA Firewise program’s April theme is “Conducting a Home Fire Drill.” 

    Inspiration for this month’s theme came from 8-year-old Natalie Tedder, a student at Snow School and a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Napa Valley.  Her artwork of a fast moving wildfire and burning home captures the importance of ensuring you have a home fire escape plan and that it’s practiced at least twice a year by everyone in the home.  Practice both a primary and secondary way out, knowing the second way out is important in case the first one should be blocked.  For in-depth home fire escape planning tips visit NFPA.  Take your home fire drill one step further; after you’ve practiced the home drill load your family into one vehicle (if there's enough seat belts for everyone) and drive two different routes out of your neighborhood.  In a wildfire your primary egress route may be blocked by fire and you'd need to be familiar with a second way out.

    Our congratulations to Natalie for being selected as April’s Artist of the Month!

    Join the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) on Thursday, April 18 at 11 am ET,  for their complimentary webinar, "Lessons from the Waldo Canyon Fire" and discuss how the city of Colorado Springs' wildland fire safety programs could be applied in your community.FAC

    Last summer, the Waldo Canyon Fire destroyed 345 homes and resulted in the evacuation of more than 30,000 residents from Colorado Springs. In the wake of the tragic fire, members of the Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) Coalition visited the area to learn how the city’s decade-long wildland fire safety programs had affected the outcome of the fire. FAC recently released both a report and video that were based on interviews, field visits and tours of the city’s most affected neighborhoods. The coalition’s assessment team conducted the tours and interviews during a three-day visit to the area in July 2012.

    This webinar will summarize the FAC coalition's findings, with particular emphasis on construction details that increased the vulnerability of homes to wildland fire, and solutions to help mitigate their susceptibility.

    This webinar will teach you:

    • How      wind-blown embers can result in the direct and indirect ignition of homes
    • Factors      that can lead to home-to-home fire spread
    • Areas      of roofs that can be vulnerable to ember ignition
    • How      the Colorado Springs wildland fire mitigation program takes a fire-adapted      community approach

    The webinar will be presented by the following FAC coalition members:

    • Dr.      Steve Quarles, Senior Scientist, Insurance Institute for Business and Home      Safety
    • Rich      Cowger, Chief, Columbus (MT) Fire Rescue and Rural Fire District
    • Molly      Mowery, Program Manager, Fire Adapted Communities

    Register today to participate in this interactive webinar discussion!

    Fire Adapted Communities connects residents with national programs, resources and organizations that can help them address their community's specific wildfire mitigation needs. Learn more about what Fire Adapted Communities can do to help your community reduce its wildfire risk by visiting the website at

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