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October 2013 artwork

Congratulations to Diego Vasquez, age 9 of Napa, for being the Napa County, CA Firewise featured artist for October. Diego’s illustration of a firefighter challenging a wind-driven wildfire is a reminder of what can occur during Red Flag conditions.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issues Red Flag Warnings & Fire Weather Watches to alert land management agencies and fire departments about the onset, or possible onset, of critical weather and fuel moisture conditions that could lead to rapid or dramatic increases in wildfire activity due to low relative humidity, strong winds, dry fuels, or a combination of these conditions.

Remember, when a Red Flag warning is posted take it seriously - it’s a sign that the risk of a wildland fire is much higher than normal.

It’s important to keep in mind that in many parts of the U.S. wildfire season is truly never over. Wildfire preparedness and mitigation is a year-round effort.  Pay attention the next time you hear there’s a Red Flag alert in your community and make it part of your workplace water cooler conversation or social media posts.

An investigative report on the Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew was released on Saturday at a morning news conference in Prescott, Arizona led by the Arizona State Forestry Division.


Yarnell Hill Fire
A KPHO-TV/CBS 5-AZ.COM image shows fires raging in the hills near Yarnell, Arizona on June 30, 2013 (KPHO-TV/CBS-5-AZ.COM/AFP)
Florida State Forester Jim Karels led the Serious Accident Investigation Team, an interagency task force of experts, commissioned by the Forestry Division that wrote the report. During the conference, the Team provided information about the causes of the fire and the circumstances leading to the entrapment and ultimate deaths of the Hotshot crew.  

According to NFPA, the Yarnell Hill Fire, which occurred on June 30, is the deadliest incident for firefighters since 9/11 and the third highest firefighter death toll for wildland fires.  The 1910 Devil’s Broom wildfire in Silverton, Idaho killed 86 firefighters and the 1933 Griffith Park blaze in Los Angeles, California, killed 29.  Following the Yarnell Hill tragedy, Ken Willette, NFPA's division manager for Public Fire Protection, fielded questions about the fire from PBS news anchor Judy Woodruff during a broadcast of NewsHour. 

While the findings of the investigation and the recommendations which surfaced from this report don’t pertain directly to civilians (non-firefirefighter personnel), the message is still clear: all residents have a role to play in keeping our homes and communities safer from wildfire. Firefighters alone cannot solve the wildfire problems we face. As residents living in the WUI, we have the responsibility to help prepare for and protect our homes, neighborhoods and communities against the threat of wildfire. By doing so, we can help our firefighters do their jobs safely and with less incidents. 

In recent months, more information has been shared about the Hotshot crew’s significant contribution to community safety in nearby Prescott, through their involvement in mitigation activities and creating defensible space near homes. The crew, working together with the Prescott Area WUI Commission and residents, made significant progress in reducing that community’s risk of wildfire damage by incorporating Fire Adapted Communities and Firewiseprinciples. At NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference in Salt Lake City, November 14 - 16, this significant and important work will be examined in a session, Prescott, Arizona – A Case Study in Community Wildfire Defense, and will highlight the effectiveness of the city’s growing  community action movement toward their wildfire threat.

Now is the time for community members to work together to become more fire adapted. Learn how you can get involved and take action. Visit www.fireadapted.organd for more information.

If you are one of the many wildland fire professionals responsible for protecting local forests, educating community residents, and managing operations, suppression and risk management activities, then be sure to mark your calendar to attend the 2014 International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC) Wildland-Urban Interface conference (WUI Conference).

WUIThe WUI Conference, held March 17-19 in Reno, Nevada, offers hands-on training and interactive sessions that will address the challenges of wildland fire and provide the latest information about advancements in the field.

Sessions and workshops are divided into three tracks:

  • Community Protection
  • Operations
  • Wildland Fire Policy

The WUI Conference’s comprehensive program also offers attendees the opportunity to earn NWCG and NIMs certification, as well as professional Continuing Forestry Education credits.

For more information and to register, visit IAFC’s WUI 2014 web page today.

A September 13 op-ed piece in the Washington Post points to our country's approach to wildfire and according to its author, Stephen Pyne, a life sciences professor at Arizona State University and the author of the forthcoming Between Two Fires: A Fire History of the U.S., 1960 to 2012, it is all wrong. 

Using examples such as the Black Forest Fire in Colorado, which killed two people and destroyed 511 houses, Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 firefighters, and California’s Rim Fire in and around Yosemite National Park, Pyne says that these blazes are a good illustration of the major challenges that America's fire scene faces. 

Read the entire op-ed piece

Just under half (44%) of U.S. voters say “uncontrollable wildfires that destroy property and forests "is a serious problem, facing the nation” – with one-in-four calling it an “extremely” or “very” serious problem, according to a recent poll comissioned by the National Forest Foundation. Concerns about this issue are drastically different by region, with 42% of voters in the West saying wildfires are an extremely or very serious problem and two-thirds deeming them to be at least somewhat serious.

The report also acknowledges that this is the highest proportion to register this view since 2007. 

Read the full report to learn more.

Destructive wildfires are affecting many areas across California, threatening communities, risking the lives of firefighters, disrupting residents through evacuations and home losses, and creating millions of dollars of damage to homes, businesses and valuable natural resources. The good news is, there are simple and often inexpensive ways to make homes safer from wildfire. With an understanding of wildfire hazards and mitigation strategies, community residents can effectively lower the wildfire risk and losses to their homes, neighborhoods and our environment.

SacramentoThe Sacramento (California) Metropolitan Fire Department has received a FEMA grant to complete Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) and as a part of that effort is offering the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) One-day “Assessing Residential Wildfire Hazards” and Two-day “Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone” mitigation training to fire service professionals, stakeholders, proactive community residents and others interested in understanding and acting to reduce wildfire losses.

These national courses are taught by experienced wildland fire specialists and offer factual wildfire mitigation solutions and action strategies based on research and post fire investigations. Participants will learn the mitigation techniques that are most effective in reducing wildfire losses in the home ignition zone (HIZ) - the home and the surrounding 100 to 200 feet. The courses will also focus on both the physical and behavioral sciences in completing successful wildfire mitigation.

Register today for workshops beginning October 1.

For more information and to find the nearest workshop location in the Sacramento area, visit


Into the wildfire

Posted by lisamariesinatra Employee Sep 23, 2013

A recent feature article, Into the Wildfire, in the September 19 issue of New York Times Magazine highlights what science is learning about fire and how to live with it.

According to author Paul Tullis, wildfire is a game of politics, economics, law and ecology that involves firefighters, regulators, scientists, politicians, homeowners and others, from Washington, D.C., to state capitals throughout the West. The question Mr. Tullis asks - and as all these different constituencies are asking without arriving at the same answers - as more and more acres burn, what are we going to do about these fires?

Read the article, Into the Wildfire, and tell us what you think. 

The Rim Fire approaches the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the source of water and power for San Francisco.

Made apparent by the recent Rim Fire in California, which threatened the water supply of 2.6 million people living 160 miles from the incident, wildfires have regional impacts.

A story in the latest edition of NFPA Journal provides some perspective on a concern extending beyond the designated wildland/urban interface (WUI). “The threats to water, power, and other infrastructure that could affect  a major urban center are perfect examples of why wildfire is everyone’s  concern,” says NFPA's Molly Mowery, program manager for Fire Adapted Communities and International Outreach. “It’s easy to think that only the people living in  the WUI are affected, but the reality is that the impact of these fires  is often regional. We need to take collective ownership of these kinds  of disasters, and that includes the work we do to prepare for them."

Read the full story in Journal's In A Flash section.

Fire breakThe September issue of NFPA’s wildland fire newsletter, is now available for viewing. In this issue, you’ll:

  • Find a wildfire safety checklist from the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, CA as part of the state’s “One Less Spark – One Less Wildfire” campaign.  
  • Get a link to Molly Mowery’s latest Wildfire Watch column where she talks about her recent trip to Russia for the 4thInternational Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference.
  • Learn about the recently developed Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network that brings national leaders and practitioners together to discuss wildfire best practices.
  • Meet the FAC Ambassadors who have traveled across the country to meet with a wide range of stakeholders to discuss how FAC tools and resources can help communities reduce their fire risk. 

… 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.

A fire adapted community takes responsibility for its wildfire risk.  Actions address resident safety, homes, neighborhoods, businesses, infrastructure, forests, parks, open spaces and other community assets. The more actions a community takes, the more fire adapted it becomes.

In Bend and other communities in Deschutes County, people are taking action to make their community and neighborhoods more wildfire resilient.  To this end a shared vision between community members and professionals on how to to manage the lower elevation dry forests in the county is taking hold. 

The Deschutes Collaborative Forest Project  is working to create a fire and insect resilient forest.  The primary goal is to 'set the clock back' to the pre-european settlement conditions when the forest naturally took care of itself.  In this more natural state, the pines were large and had plenty of space to grow and thrive.  In this natural state the forest floor had less tree litter and ladder fuels because of the more frequent, less intense fires.  With the ecological function of fire restored, the hope is that the frequency of catastrophic forest stand replacement fires and the threat to the built environment will be significantly reduced.

Two historically adversarial groups - loggers and environmentalists are using science and technology to achieve common goals and solutions.   Through partnership building and collaborative planning both groups are now beginning to work on common objectives like healthy forests and sustainable communities.


This recent city of Bend news story is symbolic in that it demonstrates how these central Oregon communities are working together to create a more fire adapted community through collaborative efforts in ecological restoration.

As one of my friends from the great state of Montana once said, “Loggers once took the best and left the rest, and now the industry will take the rest and leave the best”.  The logging industry is an important part of the solution, they have the tools.  With good stewardship, trust and collaboration, forests will become more fire resilient, communities will become more fire adapted, fire fighters will be safer and suppression costs will be lower. 

It may take decades to resolve the issues that humans have created, but programs like NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA, Fire Adapted Communities, Deschutes County Project Wildfire and Deschutes Collaborative Forest program is a good start.

Stephen PyneStephen Pyne, one of the world's leading experts on the environmental history of fire, offered his opinions on the U.S. approach to wildfire in a recent Op-Ed in The Washington Post. His stance is a response to some of this year's biggest fires, including the Black Forest Fire in Colorado and California's Fire, and the ever-present challenges of living in the wildland/urban interface.

"Today, the issue is no longer just ill-sited McMansions but a giant retrofit for 30 years of irrationally exuberant sprawl," states Pyne. "The National Association of State Foresters estimates that more than 72,000 communities are at risk and only 20 percent have a plan for protection.

"We know how to keep houses from burning. And we should know that if we build houses in the fire equivalent of a flood plain or a barrier island, the primary responsibility for protecting them is ours."

Learn how to fire-adapt your community, and read more about Pyne in an interview NFPA Journal conducted with him on America's complex relationship with fire.

Wildland Fire Safety Tip SheetEvery year, wildfires burn across the U.S., and more and more people are living where wildfires are a real risk. But by working together, residents can make their own property —  and their neighborhood — much safer from wildfire.

To help residents get started, NFPA has just developed this new wildland fire safety tip sheet. The free, downloadable tip sheet provides easy to accomplish action steps for around your home, including; 

  • CLEAR leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
  • REMOVE dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house.
  • SCREEN or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • REMOVE flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire,

For the full list of action steps and other safety information, download the new wildland fire safety tip sheet!

Two years ago, the Bastrop County Complex Fire caused widespread destruction in the area and according to residents there, the fire encouraged them to take action to help reduce any future fire risk. As a result, this week, The Colony became the first official Firewise Community in Bastrop County, and joins the nearly 60 recognized Firewise communities in Texas. See a full list of the Texas communities by visiting our community webpage. 

Learn more about The Colony in an online article for Austin's "Your News Now" that includes a video of the ceremony.

More information about the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program can also be found on our website. 

Russian wildfireRussia, like the U.S., is susceptible to a range of wildfire threats. And where there are threats, there will always be solutions to lessen these catastrophic risks. 

Underscoring these solutions was NFPA Journal columnist Molly Mowery, who recently attended the International Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference in Russia. As Mowery highlights in the September/October issue of Journal, the trip was an attempt to engage in international outreach on the wildfire front. Alongside an international programs specialist for the U.S. Forest Service, Mowery met with state government officials, firefighting agencies, and nongovernmental organizations to promote community-based fire management in Russia. 

"Drawing on our experiences with Canadian and South African colleagues, we highlighted the areas in Russia that have shown great interest or potential in adopting a Firewise Communities model," says Mowery. "Although the context is very different, the concept of engaging residents in helping reduce wildfire risk is one that can be embraced universally."

Read the rest in the latest issue of Journal.

The latest fire in California, the Morgan Fire, has forced the evacuation of 100 homes in the Clayton community near San Francisco and to date, has doubled in size. The fire is yet another reminder that 2013 has been a terrible fire season in which watersheds and natural resources have been damaged, residents have lost homes and firefighters have been injured or have lost their lives in the line of duty.

As fire intensity and damage has exponentially increased in the last decade, many communities and neighborhoods have come together to work on ways to reduce their wildfire risk. How do they do this? Many first complete an assessment of their community’s strengths and weaknesses and its vulnerability and ability to withstand fire using Firewise principals. Armed with this information, residents then have taken the action steps needed to create Firewise neighborhoods, which they say have made a big difference in the outcome during a wildfire event. According to our records, there are a number of documented saves that we can point to that illustrate successful mitigation and prove that when communities come together, they can make a difference. Just ask us how ... we're happy to share! And don't forget to take a look at our Firewise success stories page on our website for additional community examples all across the U.S. 

Want to get started? If you would like to help organize a neighborhood event around wildfire mitigation but are unsure how to engage your fellow neighbors, try our interactive Firewise map to check out your closet neighboring Firewise Community. By talking to residents who have been through the process you can share lessons learned and the many simple changes they have done to create a safer home environment. To further help you along in your conversation, we have some great information, tips and templates you can use including talking points, the benefits to being Firewise and how to calculate this important Firewise investment.  

For additional resources, check out the Firewise website and contact your regional advisor. Your advisor is a great resource and he/she can also help you get in touch with your Firewise state liaison who can help you along the way. With all of you working together, you'll be able to accomplish great things including developing a community that not only is Firewise but one that is more fire adapted.  

Getting to know your neighbors can ultimately help you better protect what is important to us all! What are you waiting for? Get started today and don't forget to share your own success stories with us. We'd love to hear from you!

Shayne Mintz has joined our staff as regional director for Canada, so we want to send out a warm welcome to him!

Mintz brings over 35 years of experience in the fire service to the position. He has worked in many aspects of fire and life safety in the field, spending 17 years as a firefighter, rescue technician, and captain before serving in emergency planning and as fire chief for cities in southern Ontario. Most recently, he held the position of assistant deputy fire marshal in charge of Fire Protection Services for the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal.

ShayneMintzPrior to his work in the field, Mintz received both a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Public Administration Degree from the University of Western Ontario. He later earned Master’s Certificates in Operational Risk Management and Public Administration from York University in Toronto as well as a diploma in fire protection technology from the Ontario Fire College.

In his new role, Mintz will focus on improving fire, building, and life safety in Canada by working with provincial and local authorities, to promote NFPA services and the adoption of NFPA codes and standards while supporting research and education and participating in events related to fire safety in his region.

For more on Mintz’s transition to NFPA, check out the official news release.

Please join us in sending your congratulations and warm welcomes to Shane below in the comments. 

The 2013 wildfire season has quickly become one to remember, as several large wildfires burn across the west. In light of the ongoing threat, the Klamath National Forest and CAL FIRE have brought together a special team to conduct a two-week campaign in Northern California, reminding residents to act now to protect their homes.

The special team, which includes public affairs officials and education and fire prevention experts, is visiting area communities to make sure local residents have the latest information on defensible space, a proven method to help save a home when wildfire threatens a community. The Defensible Space Team has been working closely with community leaders, area residents and local fire personnel for more than a week. They’ll continue to visit with local communities on the Klamath National Forest now through Labor Day.

A well-maintained landscape of fire resistant plantings, properly pruned trees and shrubs and a well-watered lawn are all essential elements of defensible space. Trees should be limbed 6-8 feet from the ground. Underbrush and tree limbs should be cleared from around homes. Combustible materials should be moved away from propane tanks.

There are other things homeowners can do as well. “Defensible space is more than just maintaining the lawn and wooded areas around the house,” said Klamath National Forest Supervisor, Patty Grantham. “It can be as simple as moving the wood pile from next to the house to the other side of the yard. Cleaning the gutters or preventing debris from building up under porches can make a huge difference in a home’s survivability.”

Area residents living on or near the Klamath National Forest can request more information about this Defensible Space Campaign or a visit from the Defensible Space Team by contacting Ken Sandusky at 530-841-4485. For more information of Defensible Space please visit

In the wake of the Yarnell Hill fire in which 19 wildland firefighters perished, much has been written about the loss of these men and the impact on their families, their community, and their fellow firefighters. What many didn't realize about the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew was their significant contributions to community safety through mitigation and creating defensible space near homes.

A recent article in Prescott's Daily Courier illuminates the valuable work that members of the crew performed over several years in collaboration with the Prescott Area WUI Commission and with residents in nearly two dozen neighborhoods at risk from wildfire. As we've written in this space before, the longstanding work of a multitude of local, state and federal agencies along with property owners has made a real difference in the overall risk potential of homes and business in Prescott. It is only with the loss of the city's wildland fire crew that the story of their role in making Prescott safer year-round has been told in detail.

As the city continues to ponder its next steps in recovering from this loss, the message captured in the article and repeated again and again by local and national leaders is that firefighters alone cannot solve the wildfire problem. Fireprone communities throughout the US must continue to pursue ongoing safety measures, use Firewise principles, and become fire adapted. 

Anyone who’s seen the massive destruction wrought by wildfire across the western United States this season has no doubt about its potential for disaster. The tragic loss of so many firefighters in Arizona reminds us of the devastation left in its wake.

So what is being done to improve how wildfires are fought and prevented? Well, lots of things. NFPA’s Firewiseprogram works with communities to mitigate the dangers of wildfires. NFPA 1143 addresses preparedness for wildland incidents and mitigation efforts.

Also, GIS (Geographic information systems) is being used in a forecasting tool to model wildfire using a variety of inputs. It is interesting to compare these three approaches to fire modeling that have sprung Farsiteup to deal with the threat.

NFPA 950 and 951 are new proposed documents, due out in 2015 and 2016 respectively, that will address the interoperability of data across exchanges in an all-hazards response. Stay tuned for updates on these standards. 

 - Chris Farrell

September 2013

Congratulations to Marc Forns, age 7, of Napa, California, for being the Napa Firewise featured young artist for September. Marc’s illustration of a threatening column of wildfire should be a motivation to get us all to become participants in September’s National Preparedness Month campaign.

Marc’s artwork was done using the theme of Wildfire Hurts Everyone, but you can create your own personal preparedness month theme.  It’s a great activity for families, students or clubs and an excellent way to segue into a conversation about personal emergency plans and their importance to people of all ages.

Download the National Preparedness Tool Kit and Pledge to Prepare

The Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park in California has become one of the largest fires in state history since it started on August 17, 2013.


!|border=0|src=|alt=RIM Fire Perspectives Map|title=RIM Fire Perspectives Map|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef019aff2a9883970b image-full!
ESRI's Rim Fire Perspectives Map

Click through the tabs on the left side of the map to explore various perspectives about the fire:

  • Critical Points of Interest

  • Fire Progression

  • Yosemite National Park Fire History

  • Power and Water Infrastructure

Click on the legend on the top right to help interpret the perspective and map better.

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