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2014

   Funny River Fire photo
Reading through emails this morning, I opened one with a link to a Facebook post from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska where this week wildland firefighters were fighting the Funny River Fire.  While working the fire they found a den of 5 two-week old wolf pups that’d been left behind after their pack fled when flames advanced through the area.  Since it’s Friday, and because I was mesmerized by the photo of the pup and the firefighters providing assistance, I just had to share it with you.  My colleagues told me everybody but me has already seen this picture, so for those few out there that may have missed it too, remember who you got it from. 

According to the FB post - The pups had porcupine quills that were removed by the medics working the fire line and were given water and glucose.  Alaska Department of Fish and Game and refuge personnel removed the pups from the area and transported them to Anchorage where they’re now in the care of the Alaska Zoo who says they cannot be released into the wild now that they've been handled by humans. The zoo is working to find a new home for the pups.

The pups - three males and two females were so dehydrated that wildlife officials believe they had been abandoned for several days. A sixth pup was also in the den, but was dead by the time rescuers got to it.

Ecosystem recovery from wildfire image

 

By the time a wildfire is finally extinguished, a huge trail of destruction is often left behind in its wake. Smoldering remnants of trees, scorched grasslands, and even the ruins of homes can be common sights after a raging blaze. Because much of the attention is focused on how damaging wildfires are to the areas in which they spread, many forget that wildfires are nature’s own refresh button, clearing out dead or dying plant life to make way for new seeds to grow and flourish in the newly fertilized land.

In 2013, over 3,000 acres of Mount Diablo State Park in California were burned by a wildfire that caused 75 homes to be evacuated and forced the park to be closed for weeks. After the park reopened to visitors, Nerds for Nature, a volunteer organization dedicated to creating new tools “to help people discover, protect, and understand the world around them,” teamed up with the Mount Diablo Park service to create a citizen science project dedicated to monitoring wildfire recovery in the area. Visitors to the park can take pictures of the terrain and then upload the images to social media, where researches will compile the data and record how the area is responding to the wildfire.

To learn more about the citizen science project and view the recovery in progress, check out the website!

To learn more about Nerds for Nature, visit their website!

Since we started posting the National Building Museum's Designing for Disaster online video quiz, many of you have told us you've enjoyed the short animated videos that "draw" out the answer and yes, most of you have answered the questions correctly. Nice job! If you haven't taken the quiz, go ahead, test your wildfire knowledge. Before answering the question below, check out Question #1 and Question #2 in our previous blog posts. Then move on to the one below:

Question:  What conditions are required for fire to burn?

 

Learn more about the exhibit on the Building Museum's website, where you'll find additional quizzes, interactive modules, case studies and more. The exhibit is currently showing in Washington, D.C. through August 2, 2015.  

Missoula Fire LabThis past week I had the opportunity to participate in the Large Fires Conference in Missoula, Montana.  The conference was a joint effort of the International Association of Wildland Fire and the Association for Fire Ecology.  More than 600 wildfire experts from around the globe - New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, France, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and South Africa to name a few were represented at this international conference. The array of presentations was quite remarkable and included presentations from political, social, economic and environmental scientists.  The keynote speaker Jerry Williams articulated the current American wildland fire experience quite admirably, as did  speakers from Australia and Canada.  One of the highlights for me was participation in a field trip to the famous USFS Missoula Fire Science Lab.  The research being conducted at this facility is quite remarkable and something we as a nation should be proud of.  Currently researchers are focussed on the physics of fire ignition to help improve our understanding of wildland fire behavior.  One of the more interesting findings of late is the critical role convection plays in fire spread.  The implications of these findings may ultimately result in significant wildland firefighting safety policy changes in the future.

Firewhirls

Image 1: Researchers demonstrating how they go about testing the physical properties of fire whirls using two different laboratory techniques to replicate the phenomenon.  The first image shows a closed system where a vortex is used to simulate a fire whirl.  The second picture shows an open system where the predetermined configuration of the flames can be combined to create a fire whirl.

SEQUENCE

Image 2: Shows the progression of controlled test fire in a wind tunnel, that is scaled down for experimental purposes to try and better understand the physics of fire spread.  The material substrate is lazer cut cardboard that resembles haircombs arranged at set intervals to create uniform fuel for the flaming front.  By executing these experiments, researchers are able to better define fire characteristics that ultimately will help wildland fire managers make better decisions in the event of a wildfire or when doing mitigation planning in and around communities.

As promised, here is the second wildfire safety video quiz question designed by the folks at the National Building Museum for its Designing for Disaster exhibit.

Did you miss Question #1? You can find it right here on the Fire Break blog. Try your hand at this question first.

Then, answer the question below and play the video to see if you answered it correctly! The cool animation makes looking up the answer half the fun! More quiz questions coming your way. Stay tuned!

True or False:  It only takes one ember to set a house ablaze.

 

Learn more about the Designing for Disaster exhibit on their website, where you'll find additional quizzes, interactive modules, case studies and more. The exhibit is currently showing in Washington, D.C. through August 2, 2015.  

The Funny River Fire, in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, has grown to nearly 160,000 acres as of yesterday, leading to mandatory evacuations and threatening cabins, vacation homes and year-round residences. The good news is, fire officials have no reports of injuries or structure damage. News reports also point to cooler temperatures and rain forecast for today and throughout the remaining part of the week, which should help containment efforts.

Alaska
Michelle Weston, spokeswoman with the Alaska Interagency Management team reports that wildfires in Alaska’s remote areas are not unusual during the summer months. In fact, an average of a million acres burn each fire season. But according to The Weather Channel, while large wildfires are not unusual for Alaska, the state doesn’t normally see fires of this size so early in the season. It’s a conversation that all too many states are having this year – greater wildfire activity so early in the year being blamed in large part to prolonged drought and unseasonably warm temperatures.

For states like Alaska, Arizona and California that are seeing an uptick in wildfire activity to date, predictions continue to point to ongoing significant fire activity now through August. For residents living in these areas of high-wildfire risk, preparing ahead as much as possible is important in helping keep you, your home and property safe.

Still, we know it can be confusing to know what to do ahead of a wildfire or how to react when one is close to your area, but NFPA can help. To start, check out our “before, during and after” wildfire safety webpage, which provides a great overview of action steps. Print it out, share it with friends and family, and refer to it often throughout the summer.

Second, take a look at NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program resources that complement the "before, during and after" webpage and get into more depth. An example of these include:

* Firewise Tips Checklist for Homeowners

* Wildland fire safety tips document for residents

* Creating defensible space” webpage

In the same vein, evacuations during a wildfire event are often inevitable. But before you ever get that message to leave your home, NFPA suggests putting together your own emergency supplies kit and developing a family evacuation plan. Having a supplies kit and a plan in place goes a long way to helping you feel more safe, secure and comfortable.

Have questions? We want to help. So, feel free to contact us for more information. You can also visit the International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC) Ready, Set, Go! Program web page that outlines many of the same steps and provides additional resources (including information about evacuation) they have in place to help residents.

Taxfree
Did you know that four U.S. states offer tax breaks to encourage you to prepare for disasters? I found out about this through the excellent Mitigation Nation blog connected to the Designing for Disaster exhibit at the National Building Museum. 

Through Saturday, the state of Virginia waives taxes on a variety of items you can purchase to prepare for hurricanes. Many of these, including first aid kits and bottled water, are great for any kind of emergency. Notably this year, you can get a tax break for the purchase of chainsaws - helpful when trees are toppled by hurricane winds but also a very useful tool for thinning out flammable vegetation before wildfire threatens.

Florida's state tax holiday starts June 1 and runs for a full two weeks. The window for Alabama and Louisiana's preparedness tax holidays has already passed, but you can check this site for all approved tax holidays for preparedness and other items during 2014.

At the start of the Arizona tourist season, firefighters have already found themselves battling a wildfire in a scenic recreation area between Sedona and Flagstaff. According to news reports, the Slide Fire has burned nearly 8 square miles and more than 3,000 residents in the area remain under pre-evacuation orders. Thankfully, there are no reports of injuries or structures burned. The Slide Fire comes less than year after the Yarnell Hill Fire took the lives of 19 firefighters in nearby Prescott.

Arizona
Drought once again is being named as a contributing factor to the uptick in wildfire activity across Arizona and others states in the west. According to NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center), California, Oregon and Nevada are also experiencing above normal fire potential due to less than optimal weather and environmental conditions.

While firefighters continue to battle the blaze, NFPA reminds residents in Arizona and in other high-risk areas to prepare as much as possible ahead of time for wildfire. Research confirms that embers blowing in the wind from a grass, brush or forest fire can ignite flammable objects on or around the home. Embers can also blow into attic vents, open windows, under decks and into nooks and crannies on the roof. Firewise recommends that we reduce the risk of wildfire damage by focusing on our homes’ vulnerability to these flying embers and creating defensible space around our property.

How can we do that? There are a number of NFPA resources you can use to help you get started, including our Firewise Toolkit, which provides a great Homeowners Checklist that spells out action steps for creating this defensible space. Print it out and tack it to your fridge. It’s an easy way to keep wildfire safety top of mind during this summer season. You can also download our newest safety tips sheet and read more about defensible space on our Firewise website.

Remember ... take the time now to prepare. With a long wildfire season seemingly ahead of us, it's important to recognize that as residents we can make a difference. While we may not be able to prevent all wildfires, we can certainly work together to create safer places to live for all.

*Photo courtesy of NBC News

As part of the National Building Museum's Designing for Disaster exhibit, curatorial associate, Christine Canabou, put together a series of very short online video quizzes related to each of the galleries (earth, air, fire and water). Test your wildfire knowledge. Answer the question below, then play the video to see if you answered it correctly! Stay tuned for other quizzes on wildfire in our Fire Break blog.

True or False:  Wildfires always take the high ground.

 

Learn more about the Designing for Disaster exhibit on their website, where you'll find additional quizzes, interactive modules, case studies and more. The exhibit is currently showing in Washington, D.C. through August 2, 2015.  

Until 1998, when I first learned about wildland/urban interface fire and Firewise principles at a workshop, I worked for a decade on flood mitigation and safety. I thought wildfires were something that “belonged” to firefighters; I’d never thought about what people could do to prevent damage and loss. During the workshop, the most eye-opening information for me was a census map showing US population growth by census tract from 1990 to 2000. The presenter (later my boss at NFPA) pointed out how many places experiencing rapid growth were also known wildfire hazard areas. “Where wildfires have been,” he said, “wildfires will be again.” 

WUI_Census_Map_2000

As my personal “aha!” moment unfolded, I realized that wildfires, like floods, were natural phenomena that only became disasters when interacting with our (frequently unplanned and seldom appropriately engineered) built environment and patterns of development. I realized this problem of disastrous wildfire losses with hundreds of homes burning down in a single event was largely a matter of design and planning. Just like our national history with floods, quakes and windstorms, Americans were building in harm’s way and failing to take natural phenomena like wildfire into account when designing and developing communities, homes, businesses and infrastructure.

Unlike floods, hurricanes and earthquakes, however, wildfire is quite easy to mitigate if you know where to begin. Fortunately for property owners exposed to this risk, it’s often the little things they do – clearing gutters, trimming lawns, using readily available and affordable building materials – that help their homes and businesses resist ignition and thus minimize the likelihood of being counted among disaster victims when the next wildfire burns. Fire science research has shown that home design and materials make an enormous difference in resisting ignition. Thoughtful landscaping and careful maintenance are an important part of the safety package for properties in high risk areas, as these practices reduce available fuel for a fire. 

Because wildfires are the only natural hazard that can be instigated by humans through careless action or malicious intent, many people assume that fire response and suppression efforts are all that is needed to solve the disaster problem. Fire suppression tactics are successful in keeping fires small in the vast majority of cases, and community and structure design can contribute to the effectiveness of firefighting during wildfires. When fire conditions are extreme, however, and fire suppression is overwhelmed, the design, siting, construction and maintenance of structures can make all the difference between a large fire and a major disaster.  Where we build and how we build are the key factors in wildfire safety today and into the future.

Image credit: Mapping Census 2000: The Geography of U.S. Diversity, Brewer & Suchan, ESRI Press, 2001. Dark blue counties experienced up to a tripling in population from 1990-2000; the 15 fastest-growing counties are circled; most have significant wildfire exposure.

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

  • Get a glimpse of the U.N.’s latest report on Climate Change
  • Find out about NFPA’s role in the National Building Museum’s, Designing for Disaster exhibit
  • Learn the truth about sustainable fire policies
  • Discover the power of an hour of volunteer time
  • Find general roof maintenance and design tips to help keep your home safe in the event of a wildfire 

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

Firebehavior
There are many potential pathways for wildland fires to ignite buildings within the WUI. These pathways (including both fire and ember exposure) depend on the characteristics of the wildland, the characteristics of the community, and the characteristics of the interface. The Fire Protection Research Foundation is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to plan, manage and communicate research in support of the NFPA mission. The Foundation is seeking a contractor to compile information on structure ignition pathways in wildland fires and identify gaps to inform prevention and protection strategies in NFPA standards. Deadline for submission is May 30.

PoinsettiaFire
The level of fire activity in May in California is not completely unexpected, but dramatic nonetheless. Fire officials and environmental monitors alike have been worrying and warning for months about the severity of the statewide drought conditions and their potential to give the fire season calendar a 180-degree spin. Forget the classic Santa Ana winds of late October - there is no more "in-season" for severe fires, it appears.

The images and stories coming out of the region further reinforce the need for property owners and community leaders to take action to prepare home ignition zones by limiting the opportunity for wind-driven embers and flames to ignite vulnerable roofs and decks or enter vents in homes and other structures. The image above from the Poinsettia fire in Carlsbad shows homes igniting from embers that have blown into attics or onto roofs and gutters while the green vegetation around them is intact.

These same stories also tell about the broader impact of fires. Thousands of people have been evacuated and many more may have to take shelter elsewhere as fires burn around the region. Children have been kept at school for extra hours in places where it is too dangerous to let them go home or for anyone to drive on smoky roads. Schools and business have been forced to close, and a power outage along with the local fire conditions forced the popular Legoland California amusement park to evacuate guests and suspend operations. Firefighters are challenged to fight fire and attempt evacuations and rescue simultaneously, all under extreme fire and heat conditions. 

NFPA's Firewise program advises people to start with their home and work their way out to prepare it to resist ignition from wildfire. We champion the IAFC message, "Ready, Set, Go!" that includes preparation that can save lives. Ultimately, all of us faced with the reality of wildfire must take these steps but also do more to work with the local governments that maintain our infrastructure and services, the businesses that employ us, and the schools that educate - and shelter - our children. The need to apply the concept of Fire Adapted Communities becomes very clear at times like these. It's our whole community that will be affected during an extreme wildfire event. It should be our whole community that comes together ahead of time to plan, prepare and act to reduce our risks and losses.

Photo credit: NBC 7 San Diego

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present a 2 day Firewise Principles workshop to a bunch of fire professionals and community leaders at the Wildland Fire Training and Conference Center at the McClellan Business Park in Sacramento California.  During the course of the second day I had the privilege to learn about an interesting program that was born in California almost a quarter of a century ago.  The Volunteers In Prevention (VIP) program of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is an efficient fire prevention and loss reduction education force that serves the state at a local level.

According to Pete Padelford, the VIP Coordinator for the community of Blue Lake Springs located in Arnold, California there are essentially five areas where community volunteers can participate in the following activities:

  1. Fire and Life Safety Education
  2. Public Information Education
  3. Wildland Occupant Firesafe Program
  4. Red Flag, Holiday, and Arson Patrols
  5. Communications

Pete took on the role of CAL FIRE VIP Coordinator in February 2011, at the time the program had lost some momentum.  Pete being a successful business man in his previous life, made the necessary changes to bring the program back to the successful side.  Pete’s community in particular has really focused on item #3, Wildland Occupant Firesafe Program to great effect.  This effort is a collaboration between Blue Lake Springs Homeowners Association, CAL FIRE and the Ebbetts Pass Fire District.  It was exciting to learn about all the good work Pete and his cadre of volunteers are doing to make his community more fire safe (firewise).  This successful inspection program is based on the CA Public Resources Code 4291 and addresses properties with homes or other structures, and an Ebbetts Pass Fire District Fire Ordinance that addresses unimproved lots.  The initial impetus behind the inspections is one of awareness and education.  If, after appropriate inspection and notification without tangible modification and homeowner compliance, an enforcement officer from CAL FIRE is called in.  According to the Nancy Longmore of CAL FIRE, the VIP program is a critical component in reaching out to the community and has helped reduced agency (State) costs and at the same time is achieving the desired outcome of a more fire safe (firewise) community. It all starts with education and awareness.

Pete's VIP Keys to Success

Funnel_plus words

This past weekend, Pete and his volunteers planned and implemented their first Firewise Day and hope to become eligible for Firewise recognition in the coming months.  Based on the energy and efforts of the Pete and his VIP team I am confident the Blue Lake Springs community will one day be a recognized Firewise Communities/USA® site. 

We spoke today with Nick Harrison, Texas Firewise Coordinator, with the Texas A&M Forest Service, and he shared an update on current fires in the Texas Panhandle.

 

The Double Diamond wildfire that broke out on Sunday, May 11, 2014, near Lake Meredith and the town of Fritch, remained at 85% contained at 2,583 acres. Resources from the Texas A&M Forest Service, the Fritch Fire Department, Hutchinson County EMC and Sheriff’s Office and the National Park Service, along with multiple area fire departments continued to work to finish containment lines, monitor, and mop-up hot spots on the fire.

 

TSF Double Diamond areal pic 2
Photo provided by Pilot for TFS

 

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Assessment work continues to determine home & outbuildings lost, damaged and survived.

 

Harrison stressed that, "it’s not if a wildfire will strike but when, as evidenced by this latest wildfire in the Texas Panhandle”. He noted that the drought continues to impact the wildland fuels in Texas, especially in the western half of the state and that despite recent rains in the eastern half of the state, the drought continues and without continued rains the summer heat will impact these fuels as well.

 

TFS Double Diamond Fire areal pic 1
Photo provided by Pilot for TFS

 

Harrison recommends that residents utilize Firewise practices to create defensible space to reduce the threat of wildfire to their homes and property.

For additional information on how to create defensible space around your home and in your community, please log on to www.texasfirewise.org.

 

Texas has 66 Firewise Communities, which include the Texas Panhandle communities of the City of Borger, in Hutchinson County, and the Village of Palisades, in Randall County. Harrison highlighted that both of these communities have taken a proactive approach to protecting their residents and communities, through becoming a NFPA recognized Firewise Community.

 

For updates on the fire, Harrison shared these valuable links from the Texas A&M Forest Service:

 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/txforestservice and

 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/texasforestservice

Two helpful wildfire preparedness tips sheets were recently published by the U.S. Fire Administration.  The first one revisits some Firewise Principles and the second is a closer look at personal/family evacuation planning.  In addition to these very important actions, one also need to begin thinking about their home in relation to others, because what one homeowner does directly impacts a neighboring homeowner in the event of a wildfire.  One way to engage the community as a whole is through the National Firewise Communities/USA® recognition program.

Hiz

Image 1: Graphical representation of overlapping Home Ignition Zones.

SacMetroReg
It's not too late for folks to register for this weekend's Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone workshop in Fair Oaks, California. Click on the image to sign up for this free training to learn how to prepare homes to resist wildfire hazards!

When you visit the National Building Museum's Designing for Disaster exhibit in Washington, D.C., you'll not only be able to review case studies, participate in interactive modules and see artifacts from a handful of natural disasters, you'll also get the chance to watch a number of short but powerful videos featuring interviews with industry leaders. Jack D. Cohen, a Research Physical Scientist at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, U.S. Forest Service, is highlighted in one such video as part of the "fire" gallery.

 

Jack's post-fire field examinations and laboratory-based research on fire dynamics has led to the concept of the home ignition zone, a phrase he coined and one we use often when talking about Firewise and its principles. Cohen also co-developed the U.S. National Fire Danger Rating System and contributed to the U.S. fire behavior prediction systems.

You can learn more about the Designing for Disaster exhibit by visiting their website. 

One of the first questions most people ask when they learn about the Firewise Communities/USA recognition program - or about the concept of Firewise safety action in general - is, "Will I get a break on my insurance?" 

Until today, the answer to that question was "No," with very few anecdotal, site-specific exceptions. This week, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced the approval of a set of rate changes submitted by USAA that will provide anywhere from 12 to 16 percent savings on homeowner insurance premiums for the typical USAA customer in California. And if that customer happens to live in a recognized Firewise community, they will enjoy an additional 5% break.

USAA, which provides a full range of financial products and services to the military community and their families, has been working with NFPA for several years pursuing the possibility of providing incentives for residents of wildfire-prone areas to take steps to create safer, more fire-adapted communities

This is fantastic news not only for those USAA customers in recognized Firewise sites in California, but for property owners throughout the state and in other states with serious wildfire risks. For the first time, a major insurer and an insurance regulator have agreed that wildfire mitigation for homes and communities is worthy of this kind of financial incentive. We can only hope that other state insurance departments and other major insurers take notice of what Commissioner Jones calls "USAA's enterprising decision" to address wildfire risk reduction.

5-12-2014 3-11-58 PM

*as of 5/12/2014

The Firewise communities map has been updated.  As of today there are 1,050 nationally recognized Firewise Communities/USA® sites impacting 1.3 million people in 41 States.


View Larger Map

From earthquakes and hurricanes to wildfires and flooding, natural disasters can strike anywhere and at any time, costing millions of dollars of property loss and human suffering.

In light of this reality, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has co-sponsored the National Building Museum’s multi-media exhibition titled, Designing for Disaster, that opened on May 11 in Washington, D.C. This really amazing exhibit is actually a call-to-action for citizen preparedness and speaks to everyone from design professionals and local decision-makers, to homeowners and school kids, providing us with information on how and where to build communities that are safer and more disaster-resilient. 

NBM Wildfire Gallery
National Building Museum's Designing for Disaster Exhibit. Wildfire Gallery.

Several NFPA staff previewed the exhibit last week and were incredibly impressed at the work put into it. First, the exhibit is organized into galleries named by the destructive forces associated with each of the earth’s elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. When you first enter the exhibit, you’ll see artifacts from past disasters such as a door marked after Hurricane Katrina, singed opera glasses from the Waldo Canyon wildfire, and stone fragments from the earthquake-damaged National Cathedral, that all express the destructive power of nature. 

As part of the “fire” gallery, NFPA worked with National Building Museum staff to provide resources and information about how residents can work together to create more fire adapted communities and the principles behind having a Firewise home and neighborhood. NFPA is proud to be a part of this wonderful exhibit and as the curator of the exhibit, Chrysanthe Broikos, told our group, now is the perfect time to have this discussion.

NBM Firewise from the StartAll too often now we hear about tornados in the midwest, major hurricanes on the East Coast, large wildfires in the west or massive floods in the south. Citizens, however, don’t always know the questions to ask or how to get involved in helping address the issue of risk management. Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, we are not always ready to accept our own risk. This exhibit provides us with a framework to start the discussion. It forces us to realize that yes, we all are at risk from natural disasters, so we must accept this risk and ultimately we must take action. Read an interview with Ms. Broikos on the Designing for Disaster web page.

In this vein, all of the galleries include interactive quizzes that test your preparedness knowledge, action steps you can take around your home and community, short videos that feature experts who discuss the issues at hand (including wildfire's Jack Cohen, Research Physical Scientist, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, U.S. Forest Service), and case studies that point out a range of design and planning schemes, policies and more that can help to reduce risks before the next disaster.

If you find yourself in D.C., you must visit the Designing for Disaster exhibit, which runs through August 2015. It’s a great way, as citizens, to understand our role in lessening our risk for any kind of natural disaster, and to see that by working together, we can truly make a difference. Let us know what you think once you’re there. Mitigation Nation

For more information, visit the National Building Museum’s website. From what the great folks at the Building Musuem have told us, more information will be added to the Designing for Disaster web page so stay tuned and visit often. You can also follow their Mitigation Nation blog, which will feature guest posts from all of the sponsors, including NFPA, throughout the coming months. You’ll be glad you did.

Wildfire watch may
In the latest issue of NFPA Journal, Lucian Deaton titled his new Wildfire Watch column, "Why Ask Why?" Throughout it, Lucian details some personal anecdotes that have shaped the way he thinks about land use issues.

With 84% of the WUI not yet developed, he forsees many challenges in the future regarding weighing wildfire policy with the goals and ideas of urban planners, economic development specialists and others. 

Lucian makes sure to point out that it is our responsibility to identify and propose what works to enact desired change in the process. But we need to also consider what is influencing that initial local behavior by playing the long game and asking why communities make such decisions in the first place.

Read Lucian's full Wildfire Watch column in this month's NFPA Journal to hear more about this issue. 

KFOR-TV Logan County Fire photo
Photo Credit, KFOR-TV, Oklahoma City

A controlled burn* that got out of control due to high winds Sunday night has burned over 3,000 acres near Guthrie, Oklahoma, just north of Oklahoma City.  Over 20 homes and out-structures have been raised and 1 life has been lost, with over 1000 residents evacuated. Though 75% contained as of Monday afternoon, high winds and hot, dry weather continue to fuel the fast-moving fire and 150 homes remain under threat.  

Oklahoma City’s KFOR-TV is keeping a running blog of updates on the Logan County fire

In speaking with Brian Hall this morning, Forest Health/Protection Staff Foster with the Oklahoma Forest Services, he stressed the importance of “defensible space concepts,” explaining that this focuses residents on easy to do activities that reduce the wildfire threat to homes.  As the fire unfolds, Oklahoma Forest Services wants residents to take responsibility of creating defensible space for firefighters so they can be more effective and safe around homes and within communities. Firewise principles echo this important message. 

Brain also shared that while Eastern Red Cedar, prevalent in Oklahoma, does pose a challenge when containing wildfires, it is not the main reason wildfires continues to burn out of control. He noted that the combination of cured vegetation and high winds are the reasons they are having issues regarding current containment efforts.

The fire in Logan County reminds us that even with grass fires, the threat of blowing embers from a wildfire or structural fire can pose a risk to surrounding homes and property under windy conditions up to a mile away. 

You can learn more about preparedness information from Oklahoma Forest Services. 

Firewise principles of debris clearing and ignition zone considerations also help residents understand the risk embers can cause and see the value in steps they can take to reduce exposure.

There are 42 recognized Firewise Communities in Oklahoma.  We encourage all those residents to share wildfire risk information with their neighbors and neighboring communities.

*Correction: At time of publishing, news reports focused on a controled burn as the casue of the fire.  Subsequent reports have raised questions as to the cause.)

Ear
I saw this blog, Ear to the Ground, from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, come across my email recently and I thought, hmmm, this is a great reminder for us all that May is Wildfire Awareness Month for a handful of states in the West. As the authors plainly state at the top of their post, it is time for all residents to take responsibility for our families and our homes and property! They go on to say that every year catastrophic wildfires threaten Washington and many other states across the country. So the big question is ...

Is your community prepared for wildfire?

Below is the post from Ear to the Ground ...

This year, six governors from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and California have joined together to announce May as Wildfire Awareness Month. It’s an important month to learn more about collaboration in local communities to become better prepared for wildfire.

As more and more people live in and around forests, grasslands, shrub lands, and other natural areas – places referred to as the wildland-urban interface (WUI) – the fire-related challenges of managing wildlands are on the increase.

The WUI is commonly described as the zone where development meets and intermingles with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels. This WUI zone poses tremendous risks to life, property, and infrastructure in associated communities and is one of the most dangerous and complicated situations firefighters face.

We all have a role to play in protecting ourselves and each other from the risk of wildfire. To save lives and property from wildfire, the Firewise Communities® Program (www.firewise.org) teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together and take action to prevent losses.

In order for a community to take full advantage of this new opportunity, it must first prepare a Wildfire Community Protection Plan (WCPP). Local wildfire protection plans can take a variety of forms, based on the needs of the people involved in their planning and development. Community Wildfire Protection Plans may address issues such as wildfire response, hazard mitigation, community preparedness, or structure protection—or all of the above.

Did you know that one out of three homes nationwide is in wildfire country?

You can find more resources and tips on how to prepare for wildfire at DNR's wildfire prevention website.

Thanks to "Ear to the Ground" for reminding us of this important information. Additional resources can also be found on on NFPA's wildfire division webpage. Check out both today!

20 States represented on the Communty Events map.  South Dakota tops the table with 11 events scheduled for tomorrow.  California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington all having 8 events; Texas 7; Florida 5; Nebraska and Georgia 3; Nevada, Hawaii and Montana 2 and; Arizona,  Idaho, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, New JerseyNew Mexico and Wyoming all having 1 community event.

  
VIEW LARGER MAP

For further information about this national event please visit this weblink.

Flash
Our friends at FLASH (Federal Alliance for Safe Homes) are encouraging you to "Make Wildfire Protection Your Burning Desire," and participating in tomorrow's first national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day! 

Their blog at http://protect-your-home.org/ features a story from the Austin, Texas, area about a fire engineer who prepared his home and encouraged his neighbors to become Firewise. Due to their efforts, Jester Estates was recently recognized as one of the newest Firewise Communities/USA sites in Texas.

Best wishes to all the wonderful people and organizations taking steps to become safer on May 3 and every day! 

Tomorrow is May 3 and that means hundreds of residents across the country will be engaging in risk reduction projects for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. NFPA’s wildfire division and State Farm are thrilled beyond measure at the overwhelming response we’ve received from neighborhoods, residents, organizations and groups who have shared with us their plans for the day.

As you prepare for your event tomorrow, the staff here at NFPA is busy entering all of the projects into our Prep Day project map. At this point, we have close to 100 entered already! Haven't entered yours yet? There's still time! Head to our wildfire prep day page and follow the simple instructions. Thanks to everyone who submitted their information. The creativity and thought that was put into every one of these projects is truly amazing and inspiring! Prep day

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone to take photos at your event and share them. Whether it's before and after shots, group photos or action shots, we'd love to hear from you. Find us on Facebook and post your photo at any time tomorrow or after your event.

Curious about what other folks are doing? You can join the conversation at any time. Just follow us on @Firewise, at #WildfirePrepDay.

And lastly, it’s also not too late to hand out our safety tips and safety gear guidelines to your participants. You can find this and other great resources on our wildfire prep day webpage.

Thanks again to everyone who is participating tomorrow. Because of your passion and devotion to community safety, you have made this Prep Day event a HUGE success.

And don’t forget ... stay tuned to NFPA’s wildfire social media platforms and websites after May 3 to get the final results from the day, along with all of the stories and photos you provided.

Good luck everyone! Stay safe and have fun!

If you’re between 6 – 18 years old and love to draw or know someone who does, then now’s the time to show off your talents and enter NFPA’s 2015 Firewise Calendar contestCalendar

Create a drawing or original artwork or take a photo of your project that illustrates a wildfire activity, event or project about wildland fire safety or something that helps firefighters stay safe. Send it along to NFPA's wildfire division in Quincy, Massachusetts and be eligible to win a great prize.

Find the entry form and contest rules on the Firewise website.

Deadline to submit your artwork is June 2, 2014. Enter now! We can’t wait to hear from you!

FEMA Corps - Denver Parks April 30 2014                                   Photo Credit:  FEMA Region VIII

Denver, CO residents tend to think wildfire isn’t a risk they have to think about in their urban core, but the city is surrounded by parks and open space that's part of the city’s Parks and Recreation Mountain Division.  With 14,000 acres of recreational space located in areas at high risk and in close proximity to residential communities, the city is working to mitigate the hazard and create awareness. 

As part of FEMA’s nationwide community based America’s Preparathon (April 30) – a team of volunteers helped the Denver Mountain Parks forester clear brush. 

A group from FEMA Corps, a 1,600 member service corps that’s part of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) participated in the project.  Members are part of a division within AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) focusing on disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery activities.

FEMA Corps members serve a 10-month term, with an option to apply for a second 10-month term of service. NCCC- FEMA Corps is a full-time, team-based, residential service program for men and women, between the ages of 18 to 24, operated in the same campus structure as AmeriCorps NCCC. FEMA Corps members are assigned to one of five NCCC campuses, located in Denver, CO; Sacramento, CA; Perry Point, MD; Vicksburg, MS; and Vinton, IA. FEMA Corps members receive a living allowance of approximately $4,000 for the 10 months of service (about $200 every two weeks before taxes), housing, meals, limited medical benefits, up to $400 a month for childcare, if necessary, member uniforms, and a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award upon successful completion of the program.

FEMA Corps members are national service participants and will provide support in areas ranging from working directly with disaster survivors to supporting disaster recovery centers to sharing valuable disaster readiness and mitigation information with the public.

As we approach Wildfire Community Preparedness Day this Saturday, May 3, we send our thanks to youth everywhere helping to reduce the nation's wildfire risk!

NBM
From earthquakes and hurricanes to wildfires and flooding, natural disasters can strike anywhere and at any time, costing millions of dollars of property loss and human suffering. In light of this reality, NFPA has co-sponsored the National Building Museum’s multi-media exhibition titled, Designing for Disaster.  The exhibit is a call-to-action for citizen preparedness—from design professionals and local decision-makers to homeowners and school kids—investigating how and where to build communities that are safer and more disaster-resilient.

The exhibition opens May 11, 2014 and runs through August 2, 2015. NFPA joins several other co-sponsors including the Home Depot Foundation, American Red Cross, and The Nature Conservancy.

If you’re in Washington, D.C., check out the exhibit. It’s definitely not to be missed. In the meantime, take a look at the Designing for Disaster exhibition companion blog and outreach campaign called MitigationNation. It can be accessed at go.nbm.org/MitigationNation.

More information about the National Building Museum’s Designing for Disaster exhibition and NFPA’s role in the campaign can be found on NFPA’s wildland fire web page.

Powerful winds with gusts of up to 80 mph has fueled a wildfire that has now burned more than 800 acres in the mountains near Rancho Cucamonga, some 40 miles east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino National Forest, according to news reports. Powerful Santa Ana winds are largely responsible for the quick moving Etiwanda Fire that also forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 homes yesterday afternoon. Fire officials have since lifted the evacuation order.

The gusty winds combined with temperatures nearing 100 degrees prompted red flag warnings across much of this region on Wednesday. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), months of severe drought conditions across California has put the state at risk for one of its most severe fire seasons ever.

Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berland, in an interview with ABC News 10 says, “These drought conditions that we’re seeing are absolutely playing a huge factor in the size and the number of wildfires we’re responding to.” Berland went on to say that, “Northern California (also) has the above average potential for large and damaging wildfires.” Cal

Cal Fire has announced that since the start of the year, it has responded to nearly 900 wildfires that has burned close to 2,400 acres, nearly triple the average number and acreage for the same time period in years past.

In light of these wildfire events and the severity of the situation, the department has urged residents to take an active role in protecting their homes by creating defensible space around their property. Firewise has a number of resources to help residents do just that.

NFPA’s Firewise Tips Checklist for Homeowners walks you through the simple yet effective action items that help create this defensible space around your home. NFPA’s wildfire division has also created a safety tips sheet that lists the steps that you can do right now to reduce the risk of damage from impending wildfires. Looking for information on emergency planning and preparedness? NFPA's consumer safety pages provide a great number of resources and information to help you plan for an evacuation, create an emergency supply kit, and more. 

As the warm summer months approach and with hotter than normal temperatures, high winds and severe drought conditions affecting much of the country, it’s now more important than ever to take a stand for wildfire safety. Learn more about protecting your home and creating safer more fire adapted communities today. Because every little bit you do today makes a huge difference tomorrow ...

Photo: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times / April 30, 2014

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