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 July 2013 artwork
Congratulations to Napa, California artist Cali Olmstead, age 10, for being the Napa Communities Firewise Foundation featured artist for the month of August. Cali’s illustration of two firefighters protecting their animal friends from a crown fire is an important reminder that every household needs an emergency plan (for people, pets and large animals) that can be quickly put into action at a moment’s notice.

Animals have a natural instinct that they intuitively use during wildfires, but humans require practice to get it to be second nature – just like the muscle memory concept used in sports.

Wildfires move quickly and often require immediate actions – if you have a child that babysits, or use a teen babysitter, make an opportunity soon to share your emergency plan and clearly define the actions they should and should not implement if a wildfire happens while in a role of responsibility and leadership.

A recent study done by NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division, found a majority of the middle and high school youth they talked with had not been given any instruction or information on what to do if a wildfire occurs while acting in the capacity of babysitter.  This same group of teens said getting animals to safety in a wildfire is very important to them – but they weren’t sure how, or if that would be their responsibility.  Ensure your babysitter knows what to do and who to call for help during a wildfire.  

A myriad of resources are available to help develop and practice an emergency plan along with information on improving your home ignition zone; each of which has the potential to provide a few moments of extra time that could be needed to safely evacuate. 

These sites can help get you started:

Firewise, NFPA, Ready, Set, Go,, and the American Red Cross

Or check, with your local emergency manager to learn about resources and training classes for teens and adults in your community.

 Troy 'Firewise' Tour July 18, 2013 - July 2013
Since 2011, Montana's Lincoln County FireSafe Council has sponsored three Firewise bus tours; with the most recent event held in the City of Troy.  The tours create awareness of wildfire hazards for both citizens and community leaders and demonstrate the steps that can be taken to mitigate the hazards.  Participants learn about the local FireWise program, receive a rare opportunity to get a tour of mitigation projects in various stages, hear what the county is doing to prepare for a wildfire and what residents can personally do to become better prepared.

This year’s event was attended by 25 guests who were welcomed to the tour by Lincoln County’s FireSafe Council Chairman, Ed Levert.  The tour started with a presentation on their FireWise Program, which was followed by the group boarding a bus for a tour through the Troy area to look at past and proposed fuel reduction projects on private, county and national forest lands.  The area’s first fuel reduction projects are now more than ten years old and the in-growth over that period of time indicates additional treatments will soon be needed. 

Jennifer Mayberry LaManna, director of FireSafe Montana gave a presentation on the statewide program and showed the video, “One Third Mile From Safety”, based on a real-life tragedy in California; while attendees enjoyed a lunch provided by the FireSafe Council.  The group then traveled to the nearby McCormick area to look at a recently completed Forest Service fuels project that provided a needed treatment along the major access routes in the community.  Linda Hubbell, District Fire Management Officer provided information on this project. 

Deputy Sheriff, Kirk Kraft; Assistant Director of Lincoln County Disaster and Emergency Services, Lisa Odewaldt and McCormick Rural Fire District Chief, Mike Harris also met with the group to talk about evacuation planning and the county’s current efforts to develop an in-depth plan that addresses primary and secondary evacuation routes, important resource information, home identification, the county’s evacuation software program and the radio communication system. 

One of those in attendance was a Troy City Councilperson that promised to work on Troy establishing recognized Firewise Communities/USA sites; and an attendee from the Whitefish FireSafe Council shared that this kind of tour is just what his community needs. 

The day's activities brought many successes that included identifying key neighborhood contacts, potential grant opportunities, and important information sharing amongst agencies, firefighters and residents.  Fire Safe Council Chair, Ed Levert believes the group came away with a better appreciation of everyone’s role in helping reduce the fire risk in the wildland/urban interface and the actions that will take place during future wildfire events.

The latest issue of NFPA Journal highlights recent efforts by NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division, particularly an array of timely blog posts its team produced during the Black Forest Fire, the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history in terms of number of homes destroyed.

For instance, this blog provided access to a digital map tracking the wildfire's movement and resources on mitigation, preparedness, and evacuation. The Journal article also gives a rundown on Colorado's Wildfire Preparedness Day of Service in May, which linked volunteers with community service projects.

Check out the other stories in Journal's In A Flash section to learn more about how members voted at NFPA's Association Technical Meeting in June, NFPA's new Middle East representative, and a new contest for Journal readers.

Firewise garden in Big Bear Lake, California

California has a growing legacy of Firewise Community support. As I visited Napa County last week, I was told by residents and a county supervisor how supportive CAL FIRE’s Kate Dargan was in assisting communities with obtaining Firewise recognition. Kate later become the California State Fire Marshal and has since retired, passing the torch to Tonya Hoover, who is now an NFPA board member! 

Through a Memorandum of Understanding, CAL FIRE designated theCalifornia Fire Safe Council as the state liaison for the Firewise program. The California Fire Safe Council has assigned Katie Martel as the California Firewise contact. Under these dedicated supporters, California has grown as a Firewise State. It is home to a whopping 65 recognizedFirewise Communities/USA sites, with 16 new recognition areas in the last 18 months. There are many other new developing communities also working towards gaining Firewise recognition. California is working hard to win the Firewise challenge!

Let's welcome since 2011 Petrolia, Honeydew, Orleans and Timber View Improvement Association and since 2012 Gold Mountain, Greater Alta Sierra, East Orange County Canyons, Greater Cement Hill Neighborhood Association, Serene Lakes Property Owners Association, Black Bart Trail, Foothills Community Association and Upper Jacoby Creek!  Four new communities who have turned in their paperwork already this year include Lake Alminore Country Club, Golden Oaks, Oak Shores and Rattlesnake Ridge Estates!

We welcome these new communities and have heard of tremendous changes made in very short periods of time, such as the Foothills Communities Association's incredible collaborative effort with their parks department in a green belt fuels reduction project, East County Canyon's fuels reduction project along community roads and Black Bart Trail's successful grant application.


Firewise features on retrofitted home, include hardboard siding, new windows, boxed eaves. Orange County Canyons, California
Firewise communities in California have made great strides in improving the outcome of their communities during a wildfire event.  Many projects including senior assistance, replacing wood shake shingle roofs, community clean up and chipping days, art contests for children, roadside fuels treatments and fuel breaks and others have all enabled residents to mobilize, collaborating with their local fire jurisdictions to complete successful projects that make a difference as well as host some unique and fun educational outreach events. Recent online blogs and news reports have emphasized how NFPA's Firewise Communities Program activities are helping to make communities more resilient during a wildfire event.  No matter where you live you can make your community safer by implementing Firewise principles and becoming a Fire Adapted Community!  Congratulations to all the California communities making their homes and neighborhoods safer.

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

  • Information about how to create defensible space around your home and property
  • Clarification on the definition of the wildland/urban interface, and what it means for communities across the U.S.
  • A New York Times article that argues how the rising costs of fighting wildfire is having a negative impact on prevention efforts
  • A link to a local Colorado TV program, hosted by Molly Mowery, that features a panel of wildfire experts who discuss the importance of creating more fire adapted communities
  • FAC’s newest ad campaign developed by the Forest Service and the Ad Council

… 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.

Last week, Cathy Prudhomme and I had the opportunity to participate in the 38th Annual Natural Hazards Research & Applications Workshop in Broomfield, Colorado. Among several days of stimulating conversations and discussions, Cathy was on a panel with other participants to talk with the American Planning Association's (APA's) Jim Schwab about recovery from wildfire disasters. Jim is the manager of the APA Hazards Planning Research Center and has collaborated with NFPA and others on the land use and community planning aspects of wildfire for many years.

Check out the video on APA's Recovery News blog or simply click below to hear what Cathy and her fellow panelists (Don Elliott from Clarion Associates and Tim Gelston from the Region 8 office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)) have to say on this timely and important topic.


A few of the references you'll hear discussed are available online. These include a video and report on last year's Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs; a study on wildfire and local regulations commissioned by NFPA and undertaken by Clarion Associates; standards on development in wildfire hazard areas; and guidance on subdivision covenants and restrictions.


NFPA is soliciting session proposals for the 2014 NFPA Conference & Expo, to be held June 9-12, in Las Vegas. The NFPA Conference & Expo is widely regarded as the most comprehensive event in the industry. With approximately 5,000 attendees, it is the year's largest and most important event for the fire protection, life safety, and electrical industries.

EdsessionIf you'd like to share your knowledge and best practices, we invite you to send us your session proposals in any of the following topic areas:

  • Electrical
  • Fire Protection Engineering
  • Fire and Emergency Services
  • Emergency Preparedness/Business Continuity
  • Building and Life Safety
  • Loss Control/Prevention
  • Detection and Notification
  • Fire Suppression
  • Green Initiatives
  • Public Education
  • Research

Deadline: Monday, September 16
All proposals must be submitted online.

This is a great opportunity to share your knowledge and expertise, increase your exposure and visibility in your industry, add to your resume and your list of achievements, and meet valuable contacts and resources for your professional network. In addition, all speakers will receive a complimentary registration to the NFPA Conference & Expo.

The state of Alaska has many wildfires currently burning and the efforts of home and cabin owners are making a difference by increasing the odds of structure survivability and fire fighter safety.  The below public service announcement (PSA) is now airing in the state of Alaska.  


The video footage of this fire was recently taken from a low intensity uncontrolled wildfire within the Horseshoe Lake Alaska Firewise Community.  It was quickly controlled due to quick fire fighter response, effective suppression tactics and the landscape had been treated. The vegetation was reduced prior to fire season to lessen the intensity, if and when a wildfire was to strike. These preventative efforts not only increased the odds of the homes surviving the wildfire but improved firefighter safety with minimal firefighting resources needed to control the fire. Often fire managers don't have enough fire trucks and fire fighters to protect every home when wildfires get big, the math just does not work about 2% of all major wildfires.  But in this fire, the math worked.  There were enough fire fighters and equipment because of the efforts made to reduce the amount of fuel before the wildfire which made the fire manageable. 

For more  information about Firewise in Alaska or your state visit the Alaska Division of Forestry or Firewise websites.  Increase your odds on your home or cabin survivability the next time wildfire rolls through your neck of the woods.  Remember when its a 'gobbler' (wildland firefighter slang for a firestorm that detroys everything in its path) the math just does not work unless you, the property owner are part of the equation! 



!|src=|alt=MT Preparedness Party|style=width: 400px;|title=MT Preparedness Party|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01901e592d7d970b!


Communities large and small throughout Montana are participating in neighborhood preparedness parties.  The community-based approach is a part of the Ready Montanainitiative that seeks to engage residents from a wide range of ages into being safer, stronger and better prepared for all types of hazards, including wildfire.


Over the past three years, more than 115 neighborhood parties have taken place in communities of all sizes.  One of the largest events was held in Anaconda, a rural community of approximately 3,000 in Western Montana. More than 300 community residents attended the ‘R U Ready’ event, which was organized by Montana State University Extension (Deer Lodge County) in conjunction with community partners that included local emergency responders, public health representatives, faith based groups and more. The event impacted the local economy too - local hardware stores reported an increase in NOAA weather radio purchases and additional emergency supplies.

In contrast to the large, community-wide event held in Anaconda, one of the most unique settings was a neighborhood preparedness party held in Grasshopper Valley, Montana. Grasshopper Valley is an isolated valley that’s the population center for the southwestern part of the state. After seeing a Ready Montana advertisement promoting the parties in their local newspaper, a group of community members took the initiative to gather neighbors and start a dialogue about the need to be prepared and share resources within their remote valley. Twenty residents attended the party and learned how to become better prepared for all types of hazards. The party was a huge hit with attendees and resulted in additional meetings on neighborhood mapping, medical response, and home preparedness.



The parties are designed to be a training tool that encourages participants to build kits that work for the home,&#0160;workplace and car.&#0160; Guidance is provided&#0160;on what items should be included in the kit, such as a first-aid kit, medications, and a battery powered radio. Also provided are Map Your Neighborhood program guides and preparedness checklists for common Montana hazards. In addition, party hosts are encouraged to connect with their local disaster emergency responders, to provide relevant information to attendees. The preparedness party concept was launched by the Governor’s Office of Community Service as part of the Ready Montana initiative.&#0160; They&#39;re an innovative way to encourage Montanans to get a kit, make a plan, be informed, and help their neighbors by providing valuable&#0160;information.+ +</p>


Southern California has seen fire season start early with large wildfires consuming tremendous amounts of acreage. Temperatures have been in the triple digits and humidity is at an all-time high, similar to the conditions found in Arizona during the Yarnell Hill Fire, which claimed the lives of 19 firefighters. I recently took a walk through the woods near my house and found that the forests are in bad shape. The duff (vegetation on the forest floor), which usually has some moisture in it this time of year, is bone dry.


Photo 1
Duff in Cleveland National Forest, San Diego, CA.

Conditions, conditions, conditions

All three recent fires in California and Arizona - the Yarnell Hill Fire, the Chariot Fire and Mountain Fire - have shared similar weather conditions that have contributed to large scale devastation. The impact from triple digit temperatures, shifting wind conditions and low humidity has created dangerous situations for residents, first responders and firefighters alike. For those of us in the country’s southwest region, this has meant a very difficult fire season.

According to CAL Fire, the Mountain Fire, which started Monday west of Palm Springs, has scorched over 22,000 acres and destroyed three mobile homes, three residences in Bonita Vista, one commercial building in Palm Springs, 11 outbuildings and 4-6 vehicles. The fire is only 12 miles from where the 2006 Esperanza Fire claimed the lives of five U.S. Forest Service firefighters. Over 6,000 residents have already been evacuated and with more than 2,000 firefighting personnel, 228 fire engines, 10 air tankers, 17 helicopters, 15 bulldozers, and 21 water tenders responding, the costs of fighting this fire and the loss to residents in this vacation area, are increasing with the fire only 15% contained.

Wildfire can be personal

 I looked toward the area where the Mountain Fire is burning from where I live in Mount Laguna, which was recently scorched by the Chariot Fire, and my heart went out to the residents who now have to evacuate.  I know first-hand how hard it is to close the door behind you as you are leaving in advance of the fire front, knowing that the brave firefighters are going to be working hard behind you to try to save your home. I felt better knowing that I had given my home and the firefighters a better chance to safely protect my home by doing the defensible space work necessary to give my home a fighting chance to survive. The Firewise Communities Program provided me with the steps I needed … it has a great webpage you can refer to as you work to make your home safer. Take a look and start working around your home today!

It is a terrifying feeling to have to leave your home during a wildfire, but I felt more confident of the outcome because I had prepared in advance.  My home stands because we, as a community, had taken steps to prepare, and because of the heroic efforts of our firefighters. 


Photo 3
The plume of smoke from the Ildywild Fire, visible in the center of the photograph. Taken from Mount Laguna, with a view of the burnt trees from the Chariot Fire.

Resources are available

Where do I start you ask? And what resources are availabe to me? Start with your home first and move your way out to your neighborhood and then to your community. The Firewise program offers a homeowner checklist and web page devoted to creating defensible space that can help get you started around your home. There’s also a page dedicated to talking points that can help you and your neighbors start a dialogue about wildfire safety and mitigation projects.  But it doesn’t stop there … there are also ways you can partner with other residents in your area to create a more fire adapted community. It’s all about learning your role and what you can do as a homeowner, civic leader, planner or landscaper, business owner or firefighter. Find out more when you visit theFire Adapted Communities website.

During this high fire season, it’s everyone’s responsibility to prepare for wildfire. Tell us about the projects you’re working and you may just inspire others to do the same!

Authored by: David R. Godwin, FAC Amabassador

 Access to local fire science is now easier than ever!

With most professionals, including natural resource managers and wildland fire specialists, time is a very limited commodity.  After meetings, paperwork, fieldwork and all of those unscheduled pop-up projects, often little time or energy remains for keeping up with the latest fire science research.  In spite of this common limitation, resource managers and wildland fire specialists at many levels are often expected to base their management decisions on the latest published scientific evidence.

An experimental prescribed fire in a mechanically treated pine flatwoods forest in the Osceola National Forest in north Florida.  This research site was part of a fuel treatment efficacy workshop and field tour hosted by the Southern Fire Exchange consortium in 2011.  

Photo Credit: David R. Godwin

In 2010, after recognizing the need for improved adoption of recent fire science research, the federally funded U.S. Joint Fire Science Program began the nationwide Knowledge Exchange Consortia project.  The Knowledge Exchange Consortia is comprised of fourteen unique regional consortiums that represent nearly all of the major wildland fire fuel types and ecosystems found across the U.S.  In addition to improving access to and adoption of the latest in wildland fire science, each consortium is also tasked with increasing communication and collaboration between the scientific research community and natural resource professionals and wildland fire managers.  While the individual consortiums vary in organizational structure, staffing, and product development, all are mandated to be unbiased brokers of wildland fire science

For resource managers and wildland fire specialists, the Joint Fire Science Knowledge Exchange Consortia program is designed to make access to the latest regionally applicable wildland fire science easier and faster.  Consortiums have hosted free webinars by federal and university researchers, organized field tours and workshops of experimental forests and demonstration sites, developed short informational videos showcasing research syntheses, and published factsheets that translate lengthy scientific journal articles into useful and relevant summaries.  Because the individual consortiums are comprised of local scientists, experts, and managers, each program is designed to provide the latest regionallyapplicable wildland fire science that addresses the specific needs and questions of the local resource managers and wildland fire specialists.

To help make your community more fire adapted, improve your management decisions, and find timesaving access to the latest fire science for your region, connect with your local Joint Fire Science Knowledge Exchange consortium.

Just recently, NFPA's Molly Mowery hosted a panel of wildfire experts including Vince Urbina, Sheryl Page and Ron Biggers on Aspen’s (Colorado) GrassRoots Community Network. Their discussion focused on Fire Adapted Communities and related wildfire topics such as the role fire plays in our natural landscape and the mitigation work done before and after the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs.

Looking for ways your community can start preparing for wildfire? The panel also provided examples of mitigation projects and programs that a number of communities are already engaged in, in their efforts to become more fire adapted.

So check out the show below. The lively discussion is filled with great info you can start using today!


NFPA will host its 5th Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel in Utah from November 14 - 16. 

With more than 60 breakout sessions in five educational tracks, the Backyards & Beyond conference offers a unique opportunity for participants to share knowledge, build relationships, explore key issues and learn about important wildfire mitigation tools, community evacuation issues, wildfire planning and suppression, and current social and ecological research affecting those living in wildfire prone areas. 

Video: Dave Nuss, Manager of NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division, offers a sneak-peak at the special presentations, speakers and sessions available at this year's Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference.

The general session at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday, November 14 will highlight Faith Ann Heinsch, Ph.D., a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service, who will deliver the keynote address entitled, “Climate Change, Climate Variability, and Ecosystem Response in the Western U.S.”

Featured presentations include: 

  1. How progress towards real preparedness is being made in communities committed to inclusive emergency planning with the participation of people with special needs
  2. The role of The Great Fires of 1910 in spurring national debate about fire policy and the country’s wildfire suppression strategies
  3. A panel discussion regarding the insurance industry and how major wildfire events impact insurers and policy holders, including the role of insurance in loss recovery
  4. The role that fire behavior science plays in framing successful wildfire solutions for policy makers, politicians and residents

A pre-conference workshop, Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone, will be offered November 12 – 13 with instructors, Jack Cohen, Physical Research Scientist, USDA Forest Service, and Pat Durland, president and wildland fire consultant, Stone Creek Fire.

Registration for both the pre-conference workshop and the conference is available online, by phone or mail. Visit NFPA’s registration page for more details. Additional information about the sessions and educational tracks, speakers and schedules can be found on NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond conference webpage.


Patrick Mahoney who works with communities in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Lousiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee, did a question and answer feature in our Firewise Summer “How To” Newsletter. During his work as a wildfire mitigation specialist in southwest Florida, Mahoney assisted small neighborhoods in achieving Firewise recognition. He has served as a public information officer on small and large fire incidents. 

In this feature he answers an array of questions regarding different challenges, success stories and general Firewise concerns. Check out this article! If you are a resident in one of the above listed states and want more information regarding Firewise and how your community can be officially recogznied, feel free to contact Patrick at

Fire Prevention Officer Bode Mecham explains in 90 seconds what you can do to create a defensible space around your home.

To learn more about defensible space please visit


Thanks to the US Forest Service for the video.

What do we really mean when we talk about the wildland/urban interface (WUI)? That’s the question Molly Mowery poses in her latest Wildfire Watch column in theJuly/August 2013 issue of NFPA Journal. Turns out, not only can the “definition” of a wildland/urban interface area vary broadly across the country, but WUI conditions can vary greatly as well.

ReadMolly’s column to learn how NFPA actually defines the WUI, and what these different WUI communities across the U.S. are doing to address their wildfire risk.

Guest post from NFPA's Southwest Regional Director, Ray Bizal

Ray BizalLast week, I attended the memorial in Prescott Valley for the 19 wildland firefighters who died at Yarnell Hill, Arizona on June 30, 2013.  It was a huge event for the fire service in Arizona to put together in such a short time frame, given the fact that they are still battling wildfires, and the chiefs have their conference coming up July 23.

It was held at the arena in Prescott Valley, which was unable to hold the entire crowd inside.  Most of us on the inside were family, friends or fire service.  There were seating areas set up outside of the arena, with jumbo screens to watch and listen.  When the memorial ended, it was nearly 100 degrees outside and the outside seating area was full.  Thousands attended this event, and the logistics were done well. The Red Cross was stationed outside and in, providing all sorts of assistance.  Security was high but unobtrusive.

I saw our fire service friends from all over.  I happened to park next to Paul Cooke, the Director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.  He was with a large contingency from his office.  I met with fire service members from CA, OR, CO, NV, NM, and of course AZ.  I had a chance to talk also with Ernie Mitchell from the USFA and folks from FEMA region 9.  My most touching conversation was with the Prescott Division Chief  Darrell Willis, who commands the Granite Mountain Hot Shots for the Prescott Fire Department.  Chief Willis was just the leader you would expect.

I saw department patches from just about every state in the U.S., London, Quebec, and Toronto.  And there were shirts of many Hot Shot crews from around the country.  I am sure people were there representing all of our NFPA regions.  

During the event, I sat next to the Crisis Management Officer from the Phoenix Fire Department, and on the other side, I sat next to a mother and her young boy who was stepson of one of the fallen.

This was a fitting tribute to these firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice – they exhibited uncommon valor as Vice President Biden said in his speech. The Master of Ceremony was Tim Hill, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of AZ.  He did an outstanding job getting through the ceremony with great sensitivity.  Division Chief Darrell Willis (head of the hot shots) paid tribute to his hot shots, followed by Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo.  Chief Fraijo paid tribute to his department and the hot shots, presenting members of the families of all 19 firefighters with both American and Arizona flags.  It was clear that both of these chiefs felt a tremendous amount of loss. 

Mayor Marlin Kuykendall, Governor Jan Brewer, and Vice President Biden all paid tribute to these fine firefighters in a heartfelt way.  IAFF Prescott Chapter VP Dan Bates really hit home, addressing the families (and extended fire service family) of these 19 young men.  Of course, Harold Schaitberger also spoke and provided comfort and medal’s to the families of the fallen. 

The most touching presentation was the reading of the Hot Shot’s prayer by the only surviving member of the crew, Brendan McDonough.  As their watch, he gave them the evacuation order when the wind changed so quickly.  Unfortunately, they were unable to escape.  He is a brave man and a wonderful soul to have been able to say the prayer at this memorial.  I cannot imagine what he is going through. His character is not being defined by the crisis he endured; his character is being defined by his tremendous reaction to that crisis.  It was a moving gesture.

At the end of the memorial, after the Final Alarm and Taps, the Arizona Fire Fighters and Public Safety Massed Pipes and Drums played Amazing Grace.  This corps was the largest I have ever seen assembled, over 200 members participating.  I believe that this memorial will help the family, friends and co-workers move along in the grieving process.

This tragic incident has touched many around the world, as was evident in the distances traveled by many attendees.  It even reaches us in southern California, as one of the lost Hot Shot’s, Kevin Woyjeck, attended Los Alamitos High School where my wife works.  In the fall, I will be speaking again at the high school Fire Technology class, once attended by Kevin. I will present them with a program from the memorial, my ticket to enter, and the purple ribbon that was provided to everyone.

It truly was fulfilling event honoring the 19 fallen.  I felt honored to be there representing NFPA.  I trust that we can learn from this incident to help provide strategies, equipment and apparatus that will help reduce the risks faced by wildland firefighters.

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With the summer season in full gear, wildfires are
spreading rapidly. Our feature about reaching into your Firewise Toolkit in the
summer issue of the Firewise
“How To” Newsletter

focuses on prepping your home or summer

residence. This article gives great tips on how to take certain precautions for

preparation in an event of a wildfire. We list simple action steps you can take

now and throughout the year to reduce the risk of your home and property of

becoming fuel for a wildfire. The work you do in preparation can make a huge

difference. To see these tips check out our issue!</p>


To learn more about this new media campaign please visit this New York Times article.  To see a montage check out the below clip.


Smokey the Bear, Smokey the Bear.
Prowlin' and a growlin' and a sniffin' the air.
He can find a fire before it starts to flame.
That's why they call him Smokey,
That was how he got his name.

On July 11, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held an oversight hearing in Washington, D.C. on “Wildfire and Forest Management.” Conservationists, a lumber industry spokesperson and officials from the U.S. Forest Service and other state and federal agencies were in attendance. The hearing focused on what members believe is a need for increased forest management as an important way to reduce hazardous fuels and the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

SubAccording to a press release from the Committee on Natural Resources, all of the witnesses were in agreement about this need. In light of the recent tragedy in Arizona where 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters lost their lives on Yarnell Hill, witnesses made a plea that the House Natural Resources subcommittee moves forward with their efforts “with urgency.” During the hearing, the Subcommittee also heard remarks from the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior about their plans for preparedness for this and for future fire seasons, and discussed current suppression efforts.

Read the press release to learn more about the conversation and what committee members had to say. Additional resources, information and member statements are also available on the Committee on Natural Resources' website.

Fire triangle forest
As an instructor for NFPA’s seminar “Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone," I know that wildfire is a common event throughout many areas of the United States.  Did you know that wildfire is the easiest natural peril to mitigate? And did you know that wildfire takes place outside of “forested” areas? Many believe that if they live in the city or a suburban area that they have no wildfire risk and their odds are good, but this is a common myth. As an instructor, I am a myth-buster!  Wildfire spreads by a “set of conditions” of fuel types, not only in the forested areas or “mapped” wildfire hazard zones, but also urban and suburban areas. 

Fire behaves according to the laws that guide the combustion process.  Fire spreads as a continual process of combustion.  It is not a moving force that cannot be stopped, as conditions must continue to meet the requirements of combustion for it to continue.  The “dragon,” as some firefighters and the media may call this combustion process, is where gasses from a fuel ignite from an energy source to create a flame.  The fire triangle demonstrates that three items are needed for this chain reaction called “fire” to happen: fuel, heat and oxygen.  Remove any one of the three and the fire will die.  No more Dragon. 

When a fuel (whether natural fuel like trees and brush or an urban fuel like a house or wooden lawn furniture) is heated, it produces a gas which when mixed with air (oxygen) and ignited with a heat source, begins to burn.  To break the fire triangle, one of the three sides must be removed. Since it’s impossible to remove the air, and often difficult to have enough water is available to cool the fire to reduce the heat, firefighters often target their efforts on removing the fuel. Interrupting fuel continuity can reduce a fire’s intensity, making it controllable. 

Homes and vegetation normally ignite from convected heat (flame) or conducted heat (embers).  Homes do not normally explode from external heat and flames during a wildfire, but can and often do ignite from flame contact against exterior materials or when firebrands enter openings and cause internal ignitions. 

Homeowner efforts do make a huge difference for firefighters.  Reducing the ignitability of a home and any fuel around the home reduces fire intensity and improves firefighter and personal safety.  Firefighters are trained to efficiently suppress wildfires, but their effectiveness is reduced when they do the work during the fire that the homeowner should be doing before there is smoke on the horizon.  Moving woodpiles, cleaning gutters, closing windows and garage doors, cutting tree limbs and removing brush and combustibles against the home should be the homeowner’s responsibility before the fire -- not the firefighter’s job. 

Residents need to understand there will never be enough fire fighting resources to protect every house during a large catastrophic wildfire event.  But residents can improve their odds against wildfire this season.  Residents need to take action now and encourage others in their neighborhood to do the same.  Visit and get educated on identifying fuel hazards and reducing ignitions risks and developing evacuation options.  By doing this the losses of lives of firefighters and residents and the destruction of homes from wildfires can be significantly reduced.

In the newest issue of the Firewise How To newsletter, we feature Shagbark, a private community nestled in the rolling foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Tennesse and their commitment as a Firewise community since February 2011. Shagbark has ten to fifteen wildfires a year which burn approximately over 1,300 acres. Due to its mountainous nature, the average fire size is generally larger than that of a county as a whole. feature includes the efforts they made, along with the individual efforts done by Firewise committee members Laurie and Bob Schad and Gray Tustiso. This community participated in numerous Firewise activities to help reduce their risk from wildfire. You can read more about these efforts in the Firewise Summer “How To” newsletter!

FWlandscapeA recent article in the Colorado Springs Gazette has some Colorado property owners extremely upset about wildfire mitigation. An insurance spokesperson is quoted as saying, “We recommend cutting all trees within 100 feet of a house,” and then referencing changes in NFPA’s recommendations about wildfire safety and defensible space.

So what does NFPA’s Firewise Communities programactually recommend? And have we changed our recommendations?

For more than 15 years, NFPA’s wildfire safety recommendations have been shaped by fire science research on how homes ignite. Our Firewise Landscaping and Construction Guide, one of our primary information resources, has stated, for some time now, “The primary goal for Firewise landscaping is fuel reduction — limiting the level of flammable vegetation and materials surrounding the home and increasing the moisture content of remaining vegetation. This includes the entire ‘home ignition zone’ which extends up to 200 feet in high hazard areas.”  The document then breaks out the home ignition zone concept into intermediary zones, starting with a 30-foot perimeter around the house and attachments.  This information is not new…and it hasn’t changed in years and years.

Safety in the "home ignition zone": The concept of the home ignition zone was developed byUSDA Forest Service fire scientist Jack Cohen in the late 1990s, following some breakthrough experimental research into how homes ignite due to the effects of radiant heat. The 30-foot number comes from the very minimum distance, on flat ground, that a wood wall can be separated from the radiant heat of large flames without igniting.  Because of other factors such as topography, the recommended distances to mitigate for radiant heat exposure actually extend between 100 to 200 feet from the home – on a site-specific basis.

Authored by: Faith Berry, Fire Adapted Communities Ambassador

In 2008 the Camp Fire, part of the Lightning Complex, originated in Plumas County and traveled into Butte County scorching 60,000 acres.  It also destroyed over 200 homes and took a life.  It affected the Concow side of the Yankee Hill Concow Firewise Community that is also a Firesafe Council.  Before the fire occurred, residents in Concow had fortunately taken a multi-pronged fire adapted approach to reducing their risk by participating in the Firewise Community program, writing and implementing a a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, performing mitigation activities such as limbing up trees and properly spacing them, hardening homes, implementing Ready, Set, Go! principles, and identifying water sources with their local fire departments.

On the night of July 7th 2008, the fire decimated 350 acres of an unmanaged treed lot, threatening the homeowner across the street as the fire crowned in the trees. Fire burned through so hot that mature conifers perished, resulting in a clear cut brush field.


This picture is courtesy of the Yankee Hill Firewise Community.  See the fire moving through the wooded lot across the street towards the home!


Because the homeowner has been  a good steward of her property through Firewise landscaping techniques, (limbing and spacing trees, eliminating ladder fuels),  most of her mature trees survived even though there are still fire scars visible on the bark.  The fire went from a crown fire from the decimated neighboring property across the street and dropped to the ground on the homeowner’s Firewise property, lowering the intensity of the fire.  Her home also has well watered landscape and the building materials are fire resistive.  In addition, she had an approved water source that was identified. This combination helped her home's chance of survival, and illustrates the value of preparing your home through Firewise principles before a wildfire event. 


This picture was shared by the Yankee Hill Firewise Community.  This is the same Property after the fire.  You can see the tree with the address sign, and you can see the bark scorched about 3 feet up.  Note the decimated unmanaged property across the street. Note the picture of the well watered area around the same home today below.

I recently attended a workshop in this community where residents discussed how they could capitalize on their Firewise Community efforts and increase their resilience even more in the event of another wildfire event.  They looked at the steps listed on the Fire Adapted Communities website, and in the new Fire Adapted Community brochure to see what additional ways they could increase their resilience.


Is your community prepared in the event of a wildfire? Take action today and learn how you can be better prepared, have better plans and work collaboratively with agency partners start by visiting the Fire Adapted Community Website, where you can also learn about the Firewise Communities and Ready Set Go! programs.  "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." — Benjamin Franklin.  Protect your home and the lives of those you love. 

Who knew that a 15 minute presentation early last December could pay off with so much interest?

I attended the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Executive Board meeting with Lucian Deaton from the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and together we provided information about the Ready, Set, Go! and theFirewise Communities/USA Recognition Programs. Our presentation was greeted with interest and the Executive Board made and passed a motion to accept and support both programs. This led to Firewise attending the annual Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Conference this year in the Wisconsin Dells.Firewise info board in community building

The conference drew approximately 300 fire chiefs and their staff from across the state. The expo was well supported by fire service-related businesses. NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA was one of those businesses proud to be represented this year. This was the first time Firewise Communities/USA was represented at the conference and what a response!

Russ Sanders, NFPA Central Region Manager, gave a presentation about NFPA in the opening ceremony. During his presentation, Russ briefly discussed the success of the NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA program. After the opening ceremony, the attendees were allowed a break before classes started. The expo was opened for anyone to browse for information and free goodies were given away. The Firewise booth started to get busy. By the end of the first day, almost all of the information at the booth was taken, including handfuls of business cards. My voice was even fading from all of the talking! But it didn't matter to me; the response to the program was incredible! I was able to talk to several fire departments that showed interest in obtaining their recognition. Here are some of the positive results that came out my attendance:

  • A group of fire departments from northeast and northwest Wisconsin invited me to talk to their organizations about Firewise.
  • I am invited to attend the Wisconsin Fire Inspectors Conference, as well as the State Fire Chiefs Conference.
  • Everyone who stopped by the booth to learn about Firewise agreed that it was a good program and saw the benefits.

Firewise HouseThe day before the conference started, I was able to tour a few of the recognized Firewise Communities/USA communities in Wisconsin. Jolene Ackerman, Wisconsin DNR and Firewise State Liaison, and Amy Luebke, Wildland-Urban Interface Specialist Wisconsin DNR, took time out of their busy schedule to show me the tremendous amount of work that is being done in Wisconsin to make their communities safer against wildland fire.

Wisconsin currently has 15 recognized Firewise Communities/USA communities. See a full list of communities in Wisconsin and across the US at and learn more about how your community can stay safer from wildfire with tips and actions steps developed by the Firewise Communities Program

The Western Wildland Threat Assessment Center (WWETAC) recently published an interactive 'wildland threat mapper' (WTM).  This mapper was based on the research that employs a novel 25-km radius neighborhood analysis in an effort to highlight locations where threats (wildfire, insects and disease and development) may be more concentrated relative to others and to identify where multiple threats intersect. Such neighborhood analyses and overlays can help policymakers and managers to anticipate and weigh the implications of potential threats and their intersections in regional- and national-level assessments.

Image 1: Wildland Threat Mapper (WTM) image of interactive mapper. *Click on image to view WTM.

According to the primary researcher involved with this project - Jeffrey Kline, this geospatial technique will be applied to the rest of the United States and is scheduled for realease on the WWETAC website sometime next year.

Ken Willette, NFPA's division manager for Public Fire Protection, fielded questions about the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire from PBS news anchor Judy Woodruff during a recent broadcast of NewsHour. Nineteen firefighters lost their lives in the ongoing blaze, which is considered the deadliest incident for firefighters since September 11.

Willette offered insight into the duties and responsibilities of the "hot shot crew," a team of wildland firefighters known for their physical agility, extensive training in wildfire suppression, and ability to self-sustain for days in potentially dangerous conditions. All 19 fallen firefighters were part of this team.

While their causes of death are still undetermined, Willette says responding to the conditions in the area--ample amounts of low vegetative fuel and high heat, for example--was "probably one of the hardest firefighting tasks a firefighter can ever encounter."

Willette also shed light on "fire shelters" and its use during fighting wildfires. See the entire interview here:


Watch Firefighters Who Perished in Arizona Faced High Heat on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.


FAC Ambassador and photo credit:&#0160;Jennifer Hinderman

Fire Adapted Communities is all-encompassing approach to dealing with a world-wide problem that requires a shift in the way we live in and with our environment.  Guidance and resources are provided for use at the local level to help communities learn to accept fire as part of the natural environment.  Adaptation of our communities living in the wildland urban interface is key as the size and severity of wildland fires continues to increase. 


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One of the main concepts behind the fire adapted approach is that a community should understand its fire risk and take action to minimize harm to residents, homes, businesses, parks, utilities, and other community assets.  Collaboration between these entities allows for a comprehensive approach to developing a safer environment.  

Many populations around the nation that are already taking a fire adapted community approach without even realizing it.  One such community is Skagit County in northwest Washington State.   As far as the frequency of intense, large acreage wildfires compared to the central and eastern part of the state, Skagit County ranks pretty low on the list; however, Skagit County has good reason to be aware of the potential for wildfire to occur and be destructive.  Eighty percent of the county is forested; it’s wet in the winter and spring which allows for growth of dense underbrush that in turn dries out rapidly toward the end of summer and early fall; the population continues to expand into the wildland areas; and it has the 6thhighest wildland-urban interface growth potential of all counties in Washington*.

Over the last eight years Skagit County has been active in creating a more resilient community and expanding the collaboration of those efforts.   Successful partnerships were formed early on that included:

    • Washington State Department of Natural Resources

    • Skagit County Fire Marshal’s Office

    • Skagit Conservation District

    • Skagit County Planning Department

    • Skagit County Department of Emergency Management

    • Skagit County Commissioners

    • Local fire districts

    • U.S. Forest Service

    • Homeowners

Steady stakeholders efforts of have included:

    1. Development of a county-wide CWPP that was integrated into the county’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan

    2. Outreach and education about forest health and preventing and preparing for wildfire

    3. Use of the Firewise Communities/USA® and Ready, Set, Go! programs

    4. Collaboration on fuels reduction projects

    5. Shared funding resources

    6. Continued promotion of successful outcomes

Stakeholders have also recently engaged and gained support from local land conservancy agencies and utility companies, as well as local realtors, and insurance companies.  Skagit County currently has seven active Firewise Communities®, and there are many others that are working hard to mitigate their wildfire risk.  Skagit County continues to work on engaging other partners and improving the resilience of their community. 

The success of Skagit County’s efforts to become better prepared has been recognized around the state and NW region of the U.S.  Their model is now being implemented around Washington and the response has been very positive.  One way this is evidenced is in the number of communities involved in the Firewise Communities/USA® program; Washington State has over 100 Firewise Communities, the second highest-ranking state in the nation.

As we can see by looking at Skagit County, effective changes in the way we address global issues begin at the grassroots level.  Those most directly affected by the threat and destruction of wildland fire – whether it be the firefighter battling it, the incident commander managing a wildfire event, the landowner whose house is in the path of a fire, a business owner suffering monetary losses from lack of customers during a wildfire, or a local community leader responding to a state of emergency – have the drive and the power to implement solutions for dealing with wildland fire issues.

Although Skagit County has developed a relatively successful grassroots model, let’s remember that becoming more fire adapted community is an ongoing process.  This means being flexible and adaptable to all kinds of environmental and economic changes when they occur.  A community that collaborates, knows how to access the right resources, and has implemented useful tools will have more success at adapting to our changing wildfire environment. 

*Adapted from:&#0160;

 July 2013 artwork

The Napa, CA Firewise Program’s featured artist of the month for July is nine-year-old Emily Teagarden.  Her drawing of two animals surrounded by wildfire demonstrates the importance of including pets, large animals and livestock in emergency preparedness and evacuation plans.

Having a plan and being prepared can save both animal and human lives. Carol Rice, a wildfire expert working with Napa, CA Firewise provided the following tips on what you can do to protect your animals during a wildfire.

Pets are not allowed in disaster shelters, so making advance plans with a friend or family member outside your immediate community is important.  Since friends and family may not always be available when needed, it’s important to know if your local Humane Society has an emergency shelter program.  As a contingency plan, make a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians that shelter animals and also include hotels in adjacent communities that allow pets to stay in rooms along with their owners. 

There are fewer options for larger animals and livestock and trailering may be necessary. Try to select a friend’s pasture or a boarding facility that is well away from the fire to avoid moving animals multiple times. Larger animals also need more time to evacuate, so evacuating should be started early, even before you need to leave.

 Include the following in your pet emergency preparedness kit:

  • Medications and immunization records in a plastic zip-lock type of bag
  • Leash, collar, and pet carrier
  • Favorite types of toys and treats
  • Photos of the pets (in case you are separated and need to claim your animal)
  • Food, water and containers/bowls for both
  • Cat litter and pan
  • Manual can opener

Large animals require more stuff and more effort. A plastic trash barrel (with a lid) can store necessities for equine care and handling for 72 hours:

  • Water bucket
  • Extra lead rope
  • Halter
  • Crop
  • Sheet or blanket
  • Wraps and other equine first aid items

The storage container should be light enough to easily get into a vehicle. Use leather halters and cotton lead ropes since synthetic materials can melt and burn your horse and its handler.

For further information regarding planning for pets during an emergency visit the Red Cross and Human Society sites.

Love animals?  Consider volunteering with your community’s or a neighboring area’s Community Animal Response Team (CART).   


NHMAI'll be headed to Colorado in less than two weeks for a unique set of workshops all about natural hazards and loss reduction. There's still time for you to register, so please check out the agenda and the links for the Natural Hazards Research & Applications Workshop and the subsequent International Hazard Mitigation Practitioners Symposium

My Denver-based colleague Cathy Prudhomme will present at both events, covering information about NFPA's investigation into the wildfire safety needs of youth. I'll be moderating the panels which feature experts on youth and family  concerns related to natural disasters.

Not only will Cathy and I get to talk about NFPA and its initiatives, but we'll have the opportunity to learn from and network with experts in disaster safety from around the world. If you'd like to join us, act now and get your registration in by signing up on the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association web page.

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