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2013

This past Backyards and Beyond Conference in Salt Lake City, I had the good fortune to meet up with Cathi Kramer the Horseshoe Lake Firewise Coordinator from Alaska.  It had been more than a year since I was last in her ‘neck of the woods’ celebrating her community's 5th year as a recognized Firewise Community. 

After catching up with Cathi, I was happy to learn that her Firewise community in collaboration with the Mat-Su Borough Emergency Managment Department had created a very informative video on their 1996 Miller’s Reach Fire experience that resulted in them developing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan and ultimately becoming a the first Firewise Communities/USA® site in Alaska in 2006.  Hopefully, this very well produced video will inspire other communities in Alaska and beyond to consider the value of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan and maybe even pursue national Firewise Communities/USA recognition.

 

To learn more about the good things the Horseshoe Lake Firewise Community is doing please visit their website

Wildfiregraph

Reporting on the numbers game of wildfire strikes me as very similar to reporting on the swells and ebbs of the stock market. How many, how big, how caused - what does it all mean? A year-to-year analysis of the number of reported wildfires and their size doesn't give us a good sense of trending, but in a year like 2013, it might provide some needed perspective.

USA Today reporter Doyle Rice interviewed me last week for his retrospective on this year's season and we had a good chance to discuss just what a year like 2013 meant. Fewer fires - the fewest in over a decade according to the National Interagency Fire Center - and a much smaller acreage burnt, according to the same news. So should we be jumping for joy? Not quite.

The devastating losses of people and property in Arizona, Colorado and other areas this year is one reason for sobriety in the face of a "slow" wildfire year. The impact on water supply, public health, and local economies is another. Weather patterns made 2013 an atypical year, but development patterns dating back 20-30 years show us that even in years with fewer fires, catastrophic losses may be the new normal. 

Wildfire is a natural phenomenon and is not going away. All the more reason for communities throughout the country to find out what it takes to adapt to the reality of wildfire and embrace wildfire safety principles that make a real difference in reducing risk. 

Last week at NFPA's Backyards & Beyond Conference, in Salt Lake City, Utah, I had the chance to attend the Waldo Canyon Fire - Success Stories and Lessons Learned Pre-and-Post-Fire breakout session.  Christina Randall and Amy Sylvester of Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) http://www.springsgov.com/SectionIndex.aspx?SectionID=11 presented a recap of opportunities and obstacles experienced during the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire in the Wildland Urban Interface, foothills of Colorado Springs. 

Colorado Springs is home to many govenment installations, including the US Air Force Academy, NORAD, Fort Carson, and Peterson Shreiver Air Force Base.  Approximately, 416,000+ residents, 36,485 residents and 28,800 acres are included in the CSFD coverage area. Extensive education and outreach programs have been in place for over 10 years.  Proactive mitigation measures such as wildfire hazard assessments, cost/share fuel reduction projects and chipping programs in 110 neighborhoods had greatly reduced fuel loading in the area. 

Major factors attributed to the loss of homes, in initial findings, were incidences of fuel loading, spotting/branding and an incredible ember storm which easily ignited cedar fences, roofs, and decks.  The take away message is it's the "little things" or the "weakest link" which create home ignitions.  Many homes lost were not directly in the path of the fire, but the wind driven, Waldo Canyon Fire reached deep into adjacent communities. For more information about home ignitions refer to http://www.wildfireoptions.com/what_is_a_home_ignition_zone.html.

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

  • Learn about the updated online Firewise communities renewal process.  
  • Get a link to the Fire Break blog where you can find highlights, videos and photos of the 2013 Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City.
  • Find a list of great wildfire safety activities to do on May 3, 2014 – National Wildfire Preparedness Day.
  • Read about the effects of wildfire smoke on our health…

… 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.

US FOrest ServiceThe USDA Forest Service is currently offering a "Planning for Growth and Open Space Conservation" webinar series for natural resource professionals, land use planners, private landowners and others to learn from experts about issues facing our open lands.

In Session #19: Community Wildfire Protection Planning; three experts discuss how wildfires have become more intense and frequent due to the lack of forest management, fire management, legacy forest policy and climate change.  During this session three experts discuss what planners and communities need to know to reduce risks of wildfire.

With little more than a month to go before the end of the year, the 1,000 Safer Places:  The Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program Challenge is quickly coming to a close.

Firewise CommunityAre you a recognized community that needs to renew your status but just haven't gotten around to filling out your application? Well, now's the time to get that paperwork done if you want to be included in our 2013 numbers!

Maybe you're hesitant about the steps involved? Well, fear no more! Firewise makes the process even easier now with its enhanced online renewal process feature. Check it out here! Not only can you renew your status online, but you can also review detailed information about your community, and make edits and updates to your community profile. More of a paper person? We've got that covered, too. Download our paper application and follow the simple instructions. It's that easy! 

Being Firewise means your neighborhood is making great strides to lower its wildfire risk! And what better New Year's gift to give yourself and your neighbors than the gift of safety! And don't forget, as an added, awesome bonus, by renewing your status now, you're eligible to win great prizes next year to help further your wildfire safety activities. So what are you waiting for, Firewise communities...

...renew today!

Brush_fires_reportMarty Ahrens from the NFPA Fire Analysis and Research department recently published the "Brush, Grass and Forest Fires" report.  This report uses National Fire Incident Reporting Data from 2007-2011 and is a reflection on how often local (municipal or county) fire departments around the county are called to smaller brush, grass and forest fires.  According to the report local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 334,200 brush, grass and forest fire per year.  this translates to 915 such fires per day.

In three-quarters (76%) of the brush, grass, and forest fires handled by local fire departments, less than an acre burned. Only 4% burned more than ten acres. Fires in forests tended to be larger than other vegetation fires. Only three-fifths (59%) of the forest fires were less than an acre, while 9% consumed more than ten acres.

Resources:

1. Brush, Grass and Forest Fires report.

2. Local Fire Department Responses to Brush, Grass or Forest Fires fact sheet.

 

Thanksgiving generally has one of the greatest home fire starts from cooking.  It is important to make sure that you follow some tips to make sure that you have a safe and fun holiday while we are already spoiling our diets!  According to an NFPA blog posted on November 16th 2012 by Lauren Blackstrom, “Thanksgiving is the leading day for home cooking fires, with three times as many fires occurring on that day.”


 

One source of these Fire Starts especially outside is the deep oil Turkey Fryer !  They make a wonderfully cooked turkey in a fraction of the cooking time but can also potentially be a source of a home fire and since most are used outdoors a wildfire!


Tips for Safe Use:


  • Make sure that the fryer is at least 10 feet away from the home or other combustible structure.  It should never be used inside of a home or garage no matter how cold it is outside.  Never place the fryer under overhanging branches.  Make sure that the area around the fryer is Firewise, free of debris or other flammable materials at least 10 feet in all directions. 

  • A functioning/fully charged multi-purpose fire extinguisher should always be within reach.

  • When putting oil in the fyer always remember that the turkey will raise the level of oil in the fryer.  Review the instructions on the fryer.

  • Monitor the temperature of the oil if it is smoking it is too hot.  Turn the burner down or off if the oil is smoking.

  • The turkey should be completely thawed and dry before putting in the fryer.  Wet and frozen meat can cause the oil to boil over.

  • Wear gloves, long sleeves, safety glasses etc when putting the turkey into the fryer.  The turkey should be lowered into the oil very slowly.

  • Make sure that you are watching the fryer at all times.  Once the turkey is in the fryer do not walk away, even to have a piece of pumpkin pie.

  • Always make sure that pets and children are not near the fryer during the cooking process.

  • If the oil ignites do not use water!  Use your multipurpose extinguisher and call 911 if needed.


 


!http://i.zemanta.com/222385466_80_80.jpg|src=http://i.zemanta.com/222385466_80_80.jpg|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Turkey fryer safety tips from James River Insurance
!http://i.zemanta.com/222131977_80_80.jpg|src=http://i.zemanta.com/222131977_80_80.jpg|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Deep Fried Turkey Safety Tips

 

California has increased the number of recognized Firewise Communities by 9 with this new community this year alone.  The new community is Lookout/Lookout Ranchettes in Modoc County, California .  They were assisted in their formation by neighboring Firewise Commnities in Lassen County !  Dan Douglas, the Director and Education Coordinator and Tom Esgate, Managing Director for Lassen County Communities assisted the new community with their application process.  They shared their successes at the Backyards and Beyond Conference last week.  The California Fire Safe Council is the acting California State Firewise Liaison .  They are all working together to make California residents safer in the event of a wildfire!  Check to see the status of your state on the Firewise Challenge!


 

An application to become a recognized Firewise communities can be found on-line along with a template to complete your community's assessment.  To renew your community status something new, just click on the Firewise website .  We all can make a difference in the outcome for our homes, families and firefighters during a wildfire event by some of the simple changes we can make to our homes and landscape!


 


!http://i.zemanta.com/136364314_80_80.jpg|src=http://i.zemanta.com/136364314_80_80.jpg|alt=|style=margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px currentColor; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%;!Join the Firewise Challenge and get recognized!

This past Friday I had the opportunity to present a case study on wildfire preparedness at the recent Backyards and Beyond Conference in Salt Lake City.  Prescott, Arizona was the community in focus and it was a real privilege to be able to make the presentation with several Arizonans in the audience.  Prescott epitomizes what it means to be a fire adapted community, although I prefer to use the phrase ‘fire adapting community’ instead. Prescott is an example of excellence in wildfire preparedness and collaborative planning.

Arizona is ranked 8th in the nation with regards to number of Firewise Communities/USA sites with 51 active Firewise communities.  Of those 51 communities, 21 are located in the greater Prescott area.  If Prescott was a state it too would be ranked 17th in the nation.

Prescott has a long storied history of wildfires.  One only needs to visit to Yavapai County Courthouse to learn this real quick.  The pathway leading to this beautiful building has the history of Prescott etched into concrete walkway.  Every third or fourth major event listed in this walkway a significant wildfire event has been recorded.

One of the more remarkable events that happened at the turn of the last century was the Whiskey Row of 1900.  Legend has it that the community salvaged the Brunswick carved bar from the burning Palace Restaurant and Saloon that was established in 1877.  According to Shirley Howell, the Treasurer for the Prescott Area Wildland-Urban Interface Commission who was participating in the presentation, the city folk not only salvaged the bar, but they relocated it into the County Courthouse and continued drinking while the rest of the town, including the Palace Restaurant and Saloon burned down.

There are a couple of lessons from this story:

  1. The only hardened structure, the County Courthouse survived the wildfire.  All the other wooden structures were destroyed.
  2. The community demonstrated even at this early juncture the following important characteristics: resiliency, ingenuity and prioritization.

All three characteristics have been critical in this towns evolution as one of the benchmark communities in the United States at it relates to wildfire preparedness.

Timeline

Image 1: Prescott, Arizona a wildfire preparedness timeline

The tragedy that occured June 30, during Yarnell Hill Fire earlier this year where 19 members of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew perished has certainly put a huge strain on this closely knit community.  If the past is a good predictor of the future, I am confident that this community has the resolve to regroup, repurpose and continue to blaze a path of excellence in wildfire preparedness into the future.

The United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association, together with the Prescott Fire Fighters Charities, have established a 501(c)3 relief fund

The village of Palisades located in Randall County, Texas recently became the second Firewise Community to be recognized in the Texas Pandhandle region, the other being Borger located about 60 miles north next to the Lake Merideth national recreational area.  

Overall Texas has 59 recognized Firewise Communities/USA sites. To qualify for the recognition, the community worked side-by-side with the Palisades Volunteer Fire Department to develop a long term fire plan. It also held educational days for residents and clean-up days; removing hazardous fire material away from homes. Altogether the community had to pass a series of five requirements.

Palisades_pics

According to Chief Dennis Massey the tragedy of 2011 where the community lost 27 homes drove the community to become a recognized Firewise Communities/USA site.

Nick Harrison the Texas Firewise State Liaison in an interview with the local Amarillo 7 ABC news network said "In any community, if you don't have the citizens involved, if you have a catastrophic fire like the one we did in 2011, we don't have enough resources in the state to handle them, there is just too many homes to protect".

HandCurrently there are 993 active Firewise Communities/USA sites.  Check out the latest Firewise Communities Challenge Leaderboard for the month of October.

 

 

View Larger Map

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A great combination of speakers presented this morning at Backyards and Beyond, including Shawn Stokes with IAFC, Steve Quarles with IBHS and Nick Goulette with Watershed Research and Training. They discussed the National Wildland Fire Cohesive Strategy which highlights the need for communities to be fire adaptive. 

Shawn spoke first discussing how the Cohesive Strategy leads to better execution before, during and after wildfire. He highlighted several success stories; a public and private partnership that developed a model plan for fire in Eagle County, Colorado and a Montana state Ready, Set, Go! video that was collaboratively created. He also made a point about 2 nearby counties in California, Ventura County who is very aggresive with thir code enforcement and who only saw 7 structure losses in a 10 year period, and San Diego County who does not enforce codes and saw 7,986 losses in the same time span. 

Steve then went into some background on IBHS and the elements of FAC that they assist communities with - CWPP's, local codes, and buildings/landscaping being designed to resist fire. Their laboratory and field experiments give them the information they need to make the best recommendations. Finally, Nick gave further detail on Fire Adapted Communities and the FAC Learning Network. He shared some information about the eight pilot communities in this program and some of the early findings and considerations that had been developed. 

Together, these men shared how existing resources could be utilized to complement the efforts of FAC and the Cohesive Strategy. To learn more, visit www.fireadapted.org

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When it comes to recruiting volunteers to help with your community's wildfire safety efforts, here are some questions to consider:

1) What do volunteers need to know in order to be able to complete the tasks that are needed in communities?

2) What information and skills do volunteers need to learn in order to be effective leaders?

These thoughts were the basis of "Citizen Fire Academy: Increasing Reach Capacity of Wildland Fire Agencies Through Education and Volunteer Service," one of the many Saturday sessions at NFPA's Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, given by Rhianna Simes and Stephen Fitzerald of the Oregon State University Extension Service. Despite the rainy, cold morning, the presenters and audience were fully engaged and energized about the topic.

Citizen Fire Academy (CFA) is a collaborative, education and service program designed to increase the outreach capacity of residential and wildland fire agencies, and to help communities in Oregon and beyond maintain and enhance more fire adapted communities.

While the session consisted of a formal presentation, most of the time the group participated in an open discussion, sharing lessons learned and ideas for how to create Citizen Academies across the country. Ultimately Ms. Simes and Mr. Fitzgerald plan to take many of the ideas they garnered during the discussion and create additional training materials to provide to others so they, too, can continue this great work!

You can find the full presentation on the 2013 Backyards & Beyond conference presentation page. 

Bob Mutch, long-time forest fire researcher and fire management expert,says the fire community and interface leaders are failing to communicate to policy-makers and interface residents about the enactment of unsustainable fire policies that are producing catastrophic outcomes. But are we making any progress at all?

 

Watch this video on YouTube.

Read more about Mr. Mutch's presentation at Backyards & Beyond.

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Bob Mutch (right) speaks with attendees after his presentation at NFPA's Backyards & Beyond conference.



 

“We are failing miserably to tell our story,” said Bob Mutch, long-time forest fire researcher and fire management expert, during today’s featured presentation at NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City.


Mr. Mutch, retired from a 38-year career with the U.S. Forest Service, said the fire community and interface leaders are failing to communicate to policy-makers and interface residents about the enactment of unsustainable fire policies that are producing catastrophic outcomes.


He was referring to fire bans and the practice of quickly responding to every fire in an effort to keep them from raging out of control. Mr. Mutch said this policy leads to long-term harm to forest ecosystems and primes our forests for even more destructive fires in the future.


“These policies fly in the face of 50 years of fire research that tells us that it makes no sense to try to keep fire out of systems that are inevitably going to burn,” he said. “I am not here to point fingers, but we have to realize  that together, we have a responsibility to tell our story better, more clearly, and more completely, so that those who need to know get it”.


How can we better frame our stories? Mr. Mutch suggests conducting after action reviews (AAR) on fire ban policies (in particular, the May 25, 2012, "fire ban edict" from the U.S. Forest Service) and taking to heart the lessons learned.  “We also need to heed the call for outside review of sustainable fire policy issues and take advantage of the strength of interagency partnerships,” he said, because if we don’t provide the facts, “others will rush in and fill the vacuum.”


 

Mr. Mutch dedicated his presentation to the memory of Anne Veseth, a 20-year-old wildland firefighter from Idaho who died while battling a 43-acre wildfire, as well as to the 19 members of Arizona’s Granite Mountain hotshot team who died last June in or near their shelters while on assignment.&#0160;</p>

Carole Walker is executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, Speaking at NFPA's Backyards and Beyond conference, she said homeowners need to protect their property and finances because the unthinkable can happen. "When you lose your home, I can tell you that the first thing you think about is your insurance. But then it's too late. This is our opportunity to tell people, before it happens again, at least on an annual basis, to review your coverages, make sure you have enough insurance to rebuild or repair your home in today's dollars." Read more about the insurer's perspective on wildland fires.

 

Watch this video on YouTube.

Dr. Stephen Pyne from the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, specializes in environmental history and the history of fire. In his presentation at NFPA's Backyards & Beyond conference, he offered his perspective on what wildland fires over the past 100+ years have taught us, how our national approach has changed, and what lies ahead. Dr. Pyne said three approaches are at play: regressive (a revival of the suppression-centric mindset); proactive (modifying landscapes to create more fire resilient communities); and reactive (the “is what it is” mindset, just dealing with fires as they happen). Read more about Dr. Pyne's presentation at this conference.

 

Watch this video on YouTube.

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Linda Masterson, Carole Walker, and NFPA's Michele Steinberg talk about the insurer's perspective on wildland fires.



 

Why do homeowners prepare for – or not prepare for – the possibility of wildfire destroying their home and property? During a panel session at NFPA’s Backyards &amp; Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, moderated by NFPA’s Michele Steinberg, presenters talked about the insurer’s perspective and how homeowner loss mitigation actions actually matter when it comes to their overall ability to survive and recover from the impact of a wildfire.


 

Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association , said her key message to homeowners is to think about and plan for their insurance coverage before an incident occurs.


“It needs to be part of your overall fire protection planning process,” she said. “You need to make sure you are financially prepared if the unthinkable happens." She suggested reviewing your insurance policy on a yearly basis and determining what it would cost to replace or repair your home in today’s dollars.


 

* !http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef019b012789d0970b-150wi|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef019b012789d0970b-150wi|alt=Surviving Wildfire|style=width: 150px; margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px; border: 1px solid #000000;|title=Surviving Wildfire|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef019b012789d0970b!Linda Masterson* and her husband learned the hard way. They lost their home and 72-acre tree farm during a Colorado wildfire in 2011. “We were more prepared than most, but nowhere near as prepared as we could or should have been,” she said. She details her story in a book, &quot;Surviving a Wildfire: Get Prepared, Stay Alive, Rebuild Your Life&quot;.


“We started building our house in 1998 and moved into it in 2000. Outreach efforts to inform the public about wildfire risks were really just getting started. During the entire building process, no one – not the architect and not the builder – ever said anything about mitigation issues. Today, it’s different. There is so much available information, and the challenge is to find a way to funnel it down into something that’s actionable.”


“I saw a banner here at this conference that said ‘Your Home Doesn’t Have to Burn’, and I think that message is so powerful,” said Ms. Masterson. “In order to get through to people about the importance of mitigation and the value of understanding their home insurance policies, they have to first believe that what they do can make a difference.”


Ms. Walker agreed. “In order to make a difference, you need to get consumer buy-in. Homeowners have to understand why we ask them to review their insurance coverage, to invest in mitigation efforts, and to keep up with the latest building code upgrades.” She showed clips of a video public service campaign called “Wildfire Ready” that was designed to help educate Colorado citizens about steps they could take to be prepared for wildfire.


 

The panelists said one of the most valuable things homeowners can do is to conduct a comprehensive inventory of their home and their belongings. It can be as simple as doing a walk-through of your home with a video camera to capture details. “Technology can make it easy to conduct your inventory,” said Carole. “More and more insurance companies offer mobile apps to help with the process.” They also referenced a website knowyourstuff.org that walks homeowners through the inventory process and stores the information on a remote site.</p>

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At a Friday afternoon session here at Backyards & Beyond, Ryan Babcock, the Open Space Manager for the Genesee Foundation Homeowners Association and also a member of the Genesee Fire and Rescue talked about the successes and challenges the  Genesee community has faced over the past 11 years.

As a recognized Firewise community since 2001, Ryan explained in detail how they've overcome some of their hurdles and how other communities can learn from their success as they chart their own course to becoming Firewise!

GoatsUsing goats for fire protection comes with some pros and cons, but for Kathy Christensen and her community of Emigration Canyon in Utah, they have shown to be very helpful in managing wildfire risk. 

The community got started with a FEMA grant and one willing homeowner who agreed to use the goats on their property. They have used goats since then year after year. As far as equipment, electric fences and portable water troughs are necessary. Placement of the goats should be kept away from streets, but around developments, near forests, in common areas and private yards. 

Advantages of using goats include their ability to access steep areas as well as remote areas that are tough for cutting crews to get into, they also eat weeds or poisonous vegatation without harm, and they prefer brush to grass. There are some problems to be aware of however; dogs that are off leash can kill or stampede the goats, a barnyard smell does arise, and escapees need to be found, rounded up and rejoined with the group - a task that can prove difficult. 

Due to the goats efforts, and a fire break that was created in a strategic location in the community, a 2007 wildfire was quickly stopped and contained, helping to demonstrate to some of the naysayers that they can be useful. 

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It began with just a handful of agencies including CalFire, Napa County and the Napa City Fire Department helping residents with defensible space and chipping, but according to Stephen Gort who presented "The Napa Communities Firewise Foundation:  Using the Firewise Model," what started small turned into something bigger. At this Friday afternoon session at the Backyards & Beyond conference here in Salt Lake City, Mr. Gort explained to an engaged audience how a number of Napa (California) communities have rallied together and set their sites on becoming a Firewise County. 

And yes, if/when they do succeed, Napa might just be the very first Firewise County of the program! Developing a Firewise Board of Directors, creating a business model, applying for grants/funding and writing a comprehensive CWPP have been just a few of the important steps these communities have taken to continue their journey towards creating safer neighborhoods. But probably the biggest key to success, says Mr. Gort, is asking for help.You don't know what resources await until you try!

While they are still working on their ultimate goal of creating a Firewise County, Mr. Gort says that the communities that make up Napa County are well on their way to achieving success through proper planning, hard work and collaboration. I'm sure he'll keep the staff at NFPA headquarters updated on his progress! And we look forward to hearing from him!

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Antonio Patrao with the Portuguese Forest Services and the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Coimbra, spoke during this morning's education session time slot. Forest fires represent the main natural risk in Portugal, with forests making up about 35% of the land surface in the country, followed by shrublands making up another 28%. Portugal suffers from about 20,000 ignitions a year, 95% of which are human caused. Since the 2003 and 2005 extreme wildfire seasons which consumed more than 1.2 million hectare and cost about 1 billion Euros per year, measures were taken to examine current strategies and plan for future changes that would be necessary to manage the wildfire issue. 

The main findings were that prevention, mitigation and preparedness in advance of wildfires as well as rehabilitation of the environment and communities following a wildfire were two of the most important changes or resolutions that the country looked to make. They are working toward this goal now, but realize that involving the communities will be much more helpful than relying solely on fire service and governmental authorities to manage the whole problem. 

It was interesting to hear about how another country, like Portugal, is working to tackle the wildfire issue in their area, and to see that the things they have found to be paths to success are some of the very same things we here in the U.S. believe to be helpful. We look forward to hearing more updates from Portugal in th future!

Faith
In one of the Friday morning sessions here at the Backyards & Beyond conference, Faith Berry, NFPA's southwest regional Firewise advisor, talked to an engaged and interested audience about three critical wildfire safety assessments: a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), a Firewise Communities neighborhood assessment and a home assesment. In her discussion, Faith not only talked about the different components of each, but also, how they work together in creating a larger fire adapted community. In Faith's words, by changing the character of a home ignition zone, you may save a structure. By modifying a community's ignition zone, you have the opportunity for altering the path of a wildfire for the entire area.

The takeaway:  by addressing wildfire at all scales and collaborating with more people on these assessments, your plans will be better written, more people will understand the problem and their risk, and ultimately, given this great information, they will be moved to action. 

Find additional resources on the NFPA wildfire webpage regarding the home ignition zone and CWPPs. You can also find information about NFPA's HIZ workshops that may be in your area. If you need additional help, Faith, along with our five additional NFPA Firewise regional advisors are happy to answer any questions you may have and provide additional resources as you need them. 

PYNE Big Blowup

The Great Fires of 1910, also known as “The Big Blowup” were a formative trauma for the American wildland fire community. These fires, scattered over six distinct areas in the northern Rocky Mountains, burned more than 3 million acres, killed 78 firefighters, and launched a national debate about fire policy.

Dr. Stephen Pyne, a professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, specializes in environmental history and the history of fire. In his presentation at NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, he took the opportunity of the recent centennial of the 1910 events to offer his perspective on what the Big Blowup meant – both back more than 100 years, and what we’ve learned, how we’ve changed, and where we might go next.

Stephen Pyne
Dr. Stephen Pyne of Arizona State University

Dr. Pyne, who spent 15 seasons as a wildland firefighter at the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. said the 1910 fires pushed the U.S. Forest Service into a singular strategy of suppression for more than five decades. He said the fire community spent all of their efforts trying to take fire out of the landscape.

Then in the early 1960s, a new approach evolved that argued against all-suppression policies and focused on forest restoration and the healthy, natural benefits of wildland fire.

“Certainly politics were a contributing factor, but it was mostly a change in attitude,” said Dr. Pyne. “People wanted to live on that land and they knew they needed to learn how to related to fire in a different way.”

So how is America coping with fire in the wildlands today? Dr. Pyne said three approaches are at play: regressive (a revival of the suppression-centric mindset); proactive (modifying landscapes to create more fire resilient communities); and reactive (the “is what it is” mindset, just dealing with fires as they happen).

“All three approaches are at play, and we don’t know how it will all be sorted out,” said Dr. Pyne, “but it seems we are defaulting to the reactive strategy, which is most economical and safer for firefighters, but it going to produce a lot more burned areas.”

Allan Fraser, senior building code specialist for NFPA, talks about the need for communities to be proactive about the creation of emergency plans that include the participation of people with disabilities. Allan was a featured speaker at NFPA's Backyards & Beyond conference on November 14. He said that 20% of American have disabilities that may affect their ability to act quickly during an emergency. Read more about his presentation. You can also learn about NFPA's free resources on fire safety for people with disabilities.

 

Watch this video on YouTube.

With scientists predicting more frequent and severe wildland fires in the coming decades, how do communities prepare for and adapt to this shifting landscape? Faith Ann Heinsch, PhD, a physical scientist at the USDA Forest Service, was the featured speaker at NFPA's Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City on November 14 and reviewed the science of climate change and projected impacts on wildfires. She also outlined several national strategies already in place. Read more about her presentation.

 

Watch this video on YouTube.

Backyards and Beyond 2013 is in full swing and the atmosphere is a buzz about Firewise. Gloria Edwards, Program Coordinator with the Southern Rockies Fire Science Network, Colorado State University, was one of the first presenters of the day. The mission of the Southern Rockies Fire Science Network is to support fire science from mesas to mountains; ensuring awareness and use of credible fire science among researchers, managers and communities. The Network is committed to find solutions to improve on the ground fire management in South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and central Utah. They distribute their information using online information; website, E news, twitter and research briefs. They also conduct face-to-face events consisting of workshops, field trips, presentations and webinars. They have developed partnerships with local community groups, regional agencies, universities, non-profits and other consortia. To learn more about the Southern Rockies Fire Science Network, you can visit their website at www.srockiesfsn.org     

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The 2011 wildfire season in Texas saw some staggering numbers; 31,453 wildfires burned over 4 million acres across the state, resulting in 2,947 homes lost. Justice Jones, with the Texas Forest Service and the Austin Fire Department presented at Backyards and Beyond this afternoon about these wildfires and some of the lessons learned. Weather, population, and changes in land use are all factors of the fire regime in Texas. 70% of Texas wildfires are caused by humans, 41% of the population lives in the WUI, and 80% of wildfires occur within two miles of a community which make it important to find common denominators among wildfires to learn how to best protect against them. 

Some of these common denominators determined by looking at all 2011 wildfires in Texas include embers, structure to structure ignition, combustible attachments, windows not designed to withstand heat, landscaping (mulch, cured grasses, landscape timbers), and secondary fuels leading to loss after the main fire has passed. 

There are also many barriers to the fire spread however, including driveways, retaining walls, stand alone structures and Firewise principles at work. Austin makes sure to educate the population on each of these to help them prepare. They have also learned to pair the fire preparation message with the fire prevention message, because they realize the fire service can't always protect every home, but each member of the community is a potential fire starter AND fire fighter. 

Faith Ann Heinsch
Faith Ann Heinsch, research ecologist at the USDA Forest Service

Global climate change and its resulting impacts are the focus of much scientific study. Faith Ann Heinsch, PhD, a physical scientistt at the USDA Forest Service, was the featured speaker at today’s opening session of the NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, where she reviewed the science of climate change and projected impacts on wildfires.

Does climate change cause wildland fires? The simple answer, for now, said Dr. Heinsch, is “no”. The typical causes of wildfire are the ones we’re familiar with: arson, accidents, lightning, downed power lines, etc. A better question, she said, is in what ways is climate change likely to affect wildland fire.

The greatest challenge in the coming decades, said Dr. Heinsch, will be the extremes. “We’re expecting to see hotter temperatures and drier years, and we expect that these hot, dry conditions will result in more fires, an increase in fire intensity, and fire severity,” she said.

With more frequent and severe wildland fires, how do communities prepare for and adapt to this shifting landscape?

“It’s going to take everyone – individuals, communities, agencies, and state- and federal-level organizations – working together,” while also allowing ecosystems to adapt to the changing climate, as it has done naturally for thousands of years.  she said. “One thing we can do through education is to work to reduce the number of human-caused ignitions of wildfires."

There are also several national strategies already underway, including the Cohesive Wildfire Management Strategy, a project involving government and non-governmental organizations, as well as the public, working together to seek solutions to wildland fire management issues. 

Another initiative, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project, encourages a science-based approach to restoring forests while being sensitive to ecological, economic, and social sustainability issues.

Dr. Heinsch also underscored the importance of the fire adapted community approach, where members of a community take responsibility for its wildfire risk. Actions address resident safety, homes, neighborhoods, businesses and infrastructure, forests, parks, open spaces, and other community assets. The more actions a community takes, the more fire adapted it becomes.

There is no “one size fits all” approach, said Dr. Heinsch, but by working collaboratively, we can better manage and keep wildfires on the landscape and make our communities as safe as possible.

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NFPA's Allan Fraser


 

At today’s Backyards &amp; Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, NFPA’s Allan Fraser, senior building code specialist, talked about the need for communities to be proactive about the creation of emergency plans that include the participation of people with disabilities.


He said that 20% of American have disabilities that may affect their ability to read or understand preparedness information, hear alerts and warnings, use accessible transportation during an evacuation, or other activities we may take for granted.


 

“When we talk about disabilities, it’s not about a specific group of people,” said Allan. “It’s about a specific time for all of us. It may be a short time (if we break an arm or a leg) or a longer period of time. But if we all think about what we want our environment to be when we become disabled, instead of if we become disabled, we’re all better off.”


Allan referenced a 2013 United Nations survey that declared that a high proportion of persons with disabilities die or suffer injuries during disasters because they are rarely consulted about their needs and governments lack adequate measures to address them. He said one strategy is to empower people with disabilities with the knowledge and practice they need before disaster strikes.


“Make time to go out and train this part of your population,” said Allan, referencing senior centers, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, churches, and schools. “This will reduce your work when responding during an actual event.”


Allan provided examples of resources attendees could use to learn more about creating emergency plans that best serve people with mobility, visual, hearing, speech, and cognitive disabilities, as well as everyone else. “By clearing the path for people with special needs, you clear the path for everyone,” he said.


Those resources include:


NFPA&#39;s Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities

e-ACCESS, NFPA’s quarterly newsletter on issues of related to the safety of people with disabilities


 

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Global climate change and its resulting impacts are the focus of much scientific study. Faith Ann Heinsch, PhD, a research ecologist at the USDA Forest Service, was the featured speaker at today’s opening session of the NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, where she reviewed the science of climate change and projected impacts on wildfires.

Does climate change cause wildland fires? The simple answer, for now, said Dr. Heinsch, is “no”. The typical causes of wildfire are the ones we’re familiar with: arson, accidents, lightning, downed power lines, etc. A better question, she said, is in what ways is climate change likely to affect wildland fire.

The greatest challenge in the coming decades, said Dr. Heinsch, will be the extremes. “We’re expecting to see hotter temperatures and drier years, and we expect that these hot, dry conditions will result in more fires, an increase in fire intensity, and fire severity,” she said.

With more frequent and severe wildland fires, how do communities prepare for and adapt to this shifting landscape?

“It’s going to take everyone – individuals, communities, agencies, and state- and federal-level organizations – working together,” while also allowing ecosystems to adapt to the changing climate, as it has done naturally for thousands of years.  she said. “One thing we can do through education is to work to reduce the number of human-caused ignitions of wildfires.

There are several national projects already underway, including the Cohesive Wildfire Management Strategy, a project involving government and non-governmental organizations, as well as the public, working together to seek solutions to wildland fire management issues. 

Another initiative, the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project, encourages a science-based approach to restoring forests while being sensitive to ecological, economic, and social sustainability issues.

Dr. Heinsch also underscored the importance of the fire adapted community approach, where members of a community take responsibility for its wildfire risk. Actions address resident safety, homes, neighborhoods, businesses and infrastructure, forests, parks, open spaces, and other community assets. The more actions a community takes, the more fire adapted it becomes.

There is no “one size fits all” approach, said Dr. Heinsch, but by working collaboratively, we can better manage and keep wildfires on the landscape and make our communities as safe as possible.

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Einar Jensen of South Metro Fire Rescue in Colorado led an interesting and informative session today here at the Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City. "Wildfire Matters, Teaching Kids About the Wildland/Urban Interface" centered around the importance of empowering the next generation of adults to be better informed about wildfire safety, and better prepared to take action to reduce the risks in their communities.

Through quizzes, interactive games, field trips and more, Mr. Jensen engaged a number of fourth grade classrooms across the state. According to Mr. Jensen, fourth graders are a great group to work with ...they are eager to learn and are ready for personal and community responsibility. Behavior, he says, is the promised land, and the kids he worked with really got it!

More sessions regarding youth and wildfire are planned throughout the conference. Stay tuned for updates right here on our blog and keep checking NFPA's web page for updated content on the Backyards & Beyond conference. We'll be posting presentations from the conference for all to view.

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Earlier this morning at the Backyards & Beyond opening general session, Chief Robert Gann received the first-ever Wildfire Safety Exemplary Service award, and this afternoon he gave a great presentation on the High Park Fire in Rist Canyon, Colorado. On June 9, 2012, lightning sparked a wildfire that eventually burned 87,284 acres, destroyed 254 homes and led to one fatality. 

The size of the fire was based on many unique factors, inlcuding the area's terrain, the dry, hot and windy conditions, and the remoteness of the area and the homes within it. Only 4 roads were in the entire 87,284 acres, so access to homes and to the edges of the fire was very limited. However, the residents and fire service members had been preparing for a wildfire of this type for years. Many houses did survive because of the focus on defensible space in the community. Chief Gann admits that more emphasis could have been placed on home ignition to educate the public on the home ignition zone, but they now know to focus on this for the future. The evacuation was also very timely and orderly, people self-evacuated before they were told to do so. The response was also a success, all regional crews worked together following years of training and working together on other fires. All of this helped to alleviate any issues that came up. 

Overall, the 21 day evacuation was one of the longest the community, or any other fires of similar scope, have seen. Many important lessons can be learned from Chief Gann and the Rist Canyon community, and brought back to attendees communities to help them prepare and react to wildfires of any size in the future. 

Robert Gann
Chief Robert Gann
of the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department in Colorado is the recipient of a new award established to honor organizations or individuals who help NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations division further its safety mission.

Chief Gann was instrumental in the development of “Before the Smoke! Preparing Your Community for Wildfire”, a video created for volunteer fire departments located in the wildland/urban interface areas for use in training, education, and outreach efforts.

“But more importantly, while working with Chief Gann on the video, we were privileged to personally witness his deep involvement in his community and the connection he has with everyone from firefighters, to residents, and other area stakeholders,” said Dave Nuss, manager of NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations group. 

“Chief Gann takes to heart the principles of fire adapted and Firewise communities and through his efforts, has made a significant impact on educating homeowners and reducing the risks faced by his community,” said Dave.

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Richard Buehler of the Utah Division of Forestry spoke at NFPA's Backyards &amp; Beyond conference.



 

<br />by NFPA&#39;s Lauren Backstrom


 

Richard Buehler, director of the Utah Division of Forestry, spoke at this morning&#39;s opening session of NFPA&#39;s Backyards &amp; Beyond conference. Mr. Buehler started his career in 1973 and since that time has seen many changes in wildfire frequency, intensity and severity throughout his state. Utah itself has a wide range of elevation (from 2,000 - 14,000ft) as well as a wide variety of fuel sources. To this end, Richard and the Division of Forestry work very hard to educate the population, train the fire service, and reduce the risk to life and property by creating defensible space across the state.&#0160;


With 500-600 wildfires per year when Mr. Buehler first began his career, to over 1,400 just last year alone, there is an important need to make sure the appropriate programs and resources are in place. The Grteat Basin Engine Academy offers courses in Utah to train the fire service on fighting and managing wildfire. Because of these academy's offerings, 98% of the wildfires each year and contained through the initial attack. In addition, a fuel break is being created along a large stretch of terrain that will help to protect a necessary watershed as well as several of the state's ski resorts.


Mr. Buehler said that new legislation in Utah that requires the inclusion of WUI codes in construction, that the right equipment be owned by the fire service, and that certain human behaviors that have led to many wildfires in the area be restricted. Human-caused wildfire in the state made up about 50% of the fires last year, and this year make up only about 30%, so it is clear that these efforts have had an enormous impact.


NFPA appreciates the work that the Utah Division of Forestry has done and hope they can be an example to other states and communities.

 

Savannah Lakes Village
During the opening session of NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, Michele Steinberg presented a 10-year anniversary award to four representatives from Savannah Lakes Village, South Carolina. The team was honored for having been recognized as a Firewise Community ten years ago – and maintaining that recognition for the past decade.

From left: NFPA’s Michele Steinberg, Michael Bozzo, Rose Rudden, Steve Moore, and Bill Wiley.

“The success of Firewise is measured not only in the number of communities that engage initially,” said Michele, “but also in the sustainability of the program over time.” She said that over the past 12 years, some 1,200 communities have entered the program and a full 80% of them have continued their recognition, “staying on the path to greater wildfire safety.”

It’s in our human nature to look for what’s going wrong…we seek out problems and we focus hard on how to fix them. But with issues that could be characterized as “wicked problems” – large, socially complex, multi-faceted problems – we have no end of interconnected problems that resist a simple or single solution.  The problem of homes burning down during wildland fires is one of those wicked problems that we struggle and struggle to fix.

It’s easy to focus on this problem and all of the negative aspects of wildland fire’s destruction and the devastating impacts on property, community, infrastructure and natural resources. But what if we try another approach? What if we look for what’s going right? Can we find “bright spots,” individuals, homes or organizations that are bucking the trend of disaster and loss?

At the 2013 Backyards & Beyond Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, I presented about how NFPA has found bright spots about wildfire safety and preparedness thanks to scientific research, its outreach to WUI residents, and most of all, through its Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program. Bannercloseup
 

You can check out my presentation here. It walks you through the concepts of “positive deviance” (aka bright spots) and helps you understand how we in the wildfire mitigation world can use concepts discussed in a great book about change (Switch by Chip and Dan Heath) to help us engage and motivate people who can take steps to change their behavior to reduce their wildfire risk.

Want to share your stories on what's going right? Be sure to submit ideas for presentations at the next Backyards & Beyond in October 2015 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

FW Challenge
As part of its strategic plan, NFPA has a corporate goal of increasing the number of recognized Firewise Communities to 1,000 by the end of 2013. Firewise Communities develop an action plan that guides their residential risk reduction activities, while engaging and encouraging their neighbors to become active participants in building a safer place to live. Learn more about how your community can apply to be Firewise.

Earlier this year, NFPA launched the Firewise Challenge to get people engaged and excited about bringing on more communities. 

“We have a month-and-a-half to go, so keep those applications coming in,” said NFPA’s Dave Nuss at this morning’s opening session of the Backyards & Beyond conference, “but I am thrilled to report that as of today, we are at 989 recognized communities.”

To celebrate the success of the Firewise Challenge and the near-completion of the goal, Dave said a “Salute to our National Firewise Family” will be held on March 1, 2014. Watch for details on the Firewise Communities website.

Dave Nuss
Dave Nuss welcomes attendees to the Backyards & Beyond Conference.

In his opening remarks at today’s Backyards & Beyond conference in Salt Lake City, Dave Nuss, division manager of NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations division, welcomed attendees from throughout the United States, Canada, as well as guests from Russia and Portugal.

Dave also thanked the sponsors whose generosity made it possible for representatives from several Firewise Communities to attend the event: ESRI, Hoover Treated Wood Products, Phos-Check, Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the Utah Division of Forestry.

“It has been a busy couple of years since our last conference in Denver,” said Dave. “Colorado has had a record number of homes lost to wildfires three times. The Rim Fire in California threatened the water supply and power grid to San Francisco 100 miles away. And most tragic was the lost of 19 firefighters in the Yarnell Hill, Arizona, fire.”

Dave said there has never been a greater need  or opportunity for finding ways to instill -- in homeowners, elected officials, and professionals – the principles of Fire Adapted Communities, Firewise Communities, “Ready, Set Go” and other pre-fire prevention and mitigation messages. “That’s what this conference is all about,” he said. 

In the past year, more than 65,000 wildfires have burned more than 9 million acres across the United States, affect thousands of lives and create millions of dollars of damage.

This staggering statistic underscores the importance of this week's gathering in Salt Lake City, where hundreds of people have gathered for NFPA's "Backyards & Beyond" wildland fire education conference.

"NFPA is committed to investing in additional resources, collaborating with partner organizations and building new relationships," said NFPA President Jim Shannon via video. "To address these challenges, all of us will need to work together, to be creative and share our knowledge and understanding, our training opportunities and our ideas."

 

Watch Mr. Shannon's video on YouTube.

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Author Linda Masterson



 

I&#39;m honored to help moderate a session tomorrow at Backyards &amp; Beyond in Salt Lake City featuring author Linda Masterson. She&#39;ll be talking about her book, +Surviving Wildfire: Get Prepared, Stay Alive, Rebuild Your Life+ and its impetus from her own experience of doing just that.&#0160;


 

Linda and her husband lost their home near Fort Collins, Colorado, in the Crystal Fire in 2011. After working through the insurance claims process and rebuilding her life, she used her significant talents to research and write a handbook that every property owner in the WUI should own. I was privileged to review and provide comments on her draft manuscript. Linda has so much important information to convey that every homeowner should know.&#0160;


 

Linda will also be a featured speaker along with Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association &#0160;during our lunchtime presentation on Friday. I&#39;ll be moderating this discussion about "Why Do We Prepare? A Property Insurance Perspective".</p>

James ShannonLast June, the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Over the past century, we have come to see events such as the Yarnell Hill Fire as infrequent but inevitable, says NFPA President Jim Shannon in "First Word" in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal. We treat the wildfire problem as though it is some sort of fluke, he says, when it is a problem that will grow steadily worse over the next generation, inflicting death on the scale of Yarnell Hill again and possibly much sooner than in the past.

The federal government's response has been uneven, pulling resources away from the most basic needs of communities threatened by wildfire. While the government supports excellent programs to help communities adopt policies to make them safer, such as the Firewise and Fire Adapted Communities programs, those efforts are not enough. To prevent another Yarnell Hill, Shannon says we need a better coordinated national effort to deal with fundamental changes in the nature, scope, and consequences of wildfires.

--By Kathie Robinson

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Within a couple of minutes of recently talking with Chris Chambers (Forest Division Chief) and Ali True (Firewise Communities Coordinator) with the City of Ashland Fire & Rescue, I instantly knew they’re part of a robust team fully committed to making Ashland, Oregon a fire adapted community

The collaborative undertakings of this city are impressive; they’ve worked hard to incorporate the many concepts that make them a great example of how much can be accomplished when stakeholders work together to make a plan come to fruition.   

After our conversation, I couldn’t stop thinking about the progress that’s been made in reducing their community’s wildfire risk, their proactive actions, and acknowledgment of surrounding resources and assets is a model for others to emulate.  In addition to Ashland Fire & Rescue, actively involved stakeholders include the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, BLM and the Nature Conservancy, along with private and city owned properties, all working together to perform cross-boundary wildfire fuels reduction work.

A recently produced video from the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project demonstrates the collaboration that has been embraced by the community, businesses, elected officials, along with environmental and safety leaders.  Everyone with a role in wildfire mitigation should take ten minutes to watch this video and share it with their partners and residents.  There's lessons we can all learn from our sister community's successes -and this story takes those lessons into the major leagues.

Their efforts have extended into outreach projects with youth, including the Ashland Watershed Youth Training and Employment Program, Firewise classroom outreach to fourth graders, and clean-up days sponsored by the local sanitation company; along with events during their Firewise Week campaign. Twelve communities participate in the national Firewise Communities/USA recognition program and the fire department provides wildfire assessments to every resident.

Ashland is proving what can be accomplished and is setting the bar very high for others to follow!

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A kick-off to the Backyards & Beyond conference here in Salt Lake City, NFPA's 2-day HIZ workshop began this morning with over 65 people in attendance from such industries as forestry, insurance, fire service and others.

Instructors Pat Durland of Stone Creek Fire, LLC and Jack Cohen, physical research scientist, USDA Forest Service, led today's discussion and workshop modules that highlighted major issues contributing to WUI fire losses, how wildfires ignite and approaches that can be used to reduce home loss from wildfire exposure. Tomorrow, the class will visit a few neighborhoods to see first hand how wildfire mitigation is working in Utah communities.

During the next few days, stay tuned to our Fire Break blog as we cover the conference. You'll get all the latest coverage regarding session highlights, exhibits and special presentations. You can also check out photos, videos and daily commentary! Are you here with us? Tell us about your experience. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

The Firewise Mapper Application has been updated with some new features. &#0160;Map layers include the Ready, Set, Go! Partners as of 07/17/2013 and the Fire Adapted Learning Networks as of 11/10/2013.


 

Currently there are 993 Active Firewise Communities and 204 Inactive Firewise communities. &#0160;The Inactive sites can only be seen at the state level. &#0160;These layers can be viewed in the Firewise web map and the Firewise Mapper Application.



[View Larger Map | http://nfpa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/OnePane/basicviewer/index.html?appid=0c2b5f4125464877be6de7140bedbbec]

The NFPA Standards Council is seeking public opinion on a proposed reorganization of the Technical Committee on Forest and Rural Fire Protection (FRU-AAA).  The committee submitted a request to the Standards Council at its October 2013 meeting to reorganize into two new technical committees with more well-defined scopes.  The newly proposed committees would separate the current document workload, increase the number of wildland fire protection experts involved, and increase the capacity for taking on new projects.  In addition to the proposed reorganization, FRU-AAA has revised its current scope and, in conjunction with the Technical Committee on Water Additives for Fire Control and Vapor Mitigation (WAB-AAA), passed responsibility of NFPA 1150, Standard on Foam Chemicals for Fires in Class A Fuels, to WAB-AAA.    

The proposed reorganization of FRU-AAA would result in the following two new committees and corresponding document assignments:

Technical Committee on Wildland and Rural Fire Protection

Scope:  This committee shall have the primary responsibility for documents on fire protection in wildland, rural, and suburban areas.

Responsibilities:

• NFPA 1141, Standard for Fire Protection Infrastructure for Land Development in Wildland, Rural, and Suburban Areas

• NFPA 1142, Standard for Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural Firefighting

• NFPA 1144, Standard for Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fire

Technical Committee on Wildland Fire Management

Scope:  This committee shall have the primary responsibility for documents on wildland fire management.

Responsibilities:

• NFPA 1143, Standard for Wildland Fire Management

• NFPA 1145, Guide for the Use of Class A Foams in Manual Structural Fire Fighting

 The Standards Council will make a final ruling on the proposed  reorganization at its March 2014 meeting, once Public Comments have been reviewed. Anyone interested in commenting on the reorganization is invited to do so in writing. E-mail or mail your comments to: Codes and Standards Administration, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169-7471 by January 20, 2014. In the meantime, NFPA is looking for individuals who are interested in serving on these proposed committees. If you wish to participate on one of these Committees if the reorganization is approved, please go to WRP-AAA for the proposed Wildland and Rural Fire Protection Committee and WFM-AAA for the proposed Wildland Fire Management Committee and fill out the online application. Please note: You will be asked to sign-in or create a free online account with NFPA before using this application system.

 -Ryan Depew

Column
Budget cuts, record-breaking home losses and firefighter tragedies make it hard for us to remember at times the positive outcomes we've seen from our collective actions to mitigate wildland fire.

A few years ago, the Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) initiative was launched, a FAC coalition was formed and a whole host of projects, activities and research has continued to push our wildfire safety message out to the public. In other words, A LOT of progress has been made.

Read the latest Wildfire Watch column in the 2013 November/December issue of NFPA Journal, which highlights these national accomplishments, and let us know the progress you're seeing in your own communities!

Volunteers in Black Forest putting slash in trucks
One of the best parts of my job is hearing about actions homeowners and communities throughout the nation are taking to reduce their wildfire risk.  There’s a plethora of stories about champions in thousands of communities organizing neighbors to work together to further their impact and effectiveness at making their homes better able to survive a wildfire.  Many of these folks tirelessly devote hundreds of hours over the course of many years, because they know wildfire is the natural hazard that they can most easily and cost efficiently mitigate.

They invest sweat equity into fuel reduction projects, encourage and mentor their neighbors, look for grants, coordinate work projects and activities.  Often, these individuals work without any recognition or acknowledgement, and from what I’ve seen that’s ok with them, because living in an area where wildfires can and do happen was their choice, they’ve accepted the risk, and they’re diligently working on making it a place that has a chance of surviving a wildfire, while also reducing post-fire impacts. 

These wildfire champions are concerned and involved residents making a difference, but I consider them much more, I consider them pre-event first responders. I suppose you’re asking, what the heck is she referring to, there's no such thing as a pre-event first responder?  (The term first responder refers to fire fighters, law enforcement and medical personnel that are first to the scene of an emergency situation).  Perhaps it's time to change that, and the professionals previously known as first responders, would be called second responders; since the true first responders are the everyday people working hard to reduce injuries, save lives (including those of our trained “first responders”) and property, long before a wildfire occurs.

To the laypeople coordinating and performing mitigation work, you are true community heroes, and in my book, important pre-event first responders!   

20130918_161857
Members of the Alapine Village community with Alabama Forestry Commission staff
I recently visited with the Alabama Forestry Commission staff to learn more about their growing Firewise activity. Enrollment stands at 10 active communities with Firewise Communities/USA recognition, but this represents a doubling of active communities just in the last two years.  

Alabama Firewise liaison Coleen Vansant took me to visit the recognized community of Alapine Village, in the far eastern central area of the state, right on the Georgia border. I met this close-knit community of organized and determined folks who have been truly successful in forming a productive partnership with their state forestry wildfire specialists and in reducing their fire risks.

Community leader Barbara Lieu wrote up a great story about how the community became involved in Firewise and their successful efforts to date. You can read it on the Firewise "Success Stories" page under the subpage for Alabama.

Blog
I can’t believe there's only 10 days to go until NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference in Salt Lake City. If you’re like me, you’re probably curious about the area you’ll be visiting, especially if you haven’t been there before. We did our research and found a whole host of great attractions to visit and restaurants to eat at, along with fun things to do both in the City and across the state. (Skiing anyone?!)

Check out our conference web page for resources, links and descriptions to dining options, attractions and sightseeing activities while in Utah.

If you haven’t registered for the conference but still plan on going, the process is easy and takes only a few minutes. Check out ourregistration page for step-by-step instructions. You can also book your hotel and find resources to help with your travel arrangements.

Want to learn more about our sessions and special presentations? They are all available on our conference website. Take a look and begin mapping out your attendance. You’ll find many great topics from which to choose including sessions on Firewise principles and community success stories, Fire Adapted Communities, teaching kids about the WUI and wildfire safety, regulations and ordinances, planning and preparing for wildfire and so, so much more.

Won’t you join us? Visit the 2013 Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference web page for all of your conference needs. We look forward to seeing you!

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