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2014

Hudinfographic
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation, is providing significant resources and support to communities to help them become more resilient. The National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) is a two-phase process that will competitively award nearly $1 billion in HUD Disaster Recovery funds to eligible communities.

Nearly every state and numerous metropolitan areas are eligible to apply, and wildfire resilience is part of the eligible activities. Learn more at HUD's portal site, where there are fact sheets, application details, and a recorded webcast giving many more details. Coming up on October 8, Smart Growth America is holding a free one-hour webinar starting at 1 pm Eastern to provide more information on how these funds can benefit communities. Register here for the webinar.

QuincyHSMembers

This summer’s Firewise How-To newsletter, shows us how a small group of school students can have a big impact when it comes to making a place safer from wildfires.

The small city of Quincy, in Northern California, is located in the granite-rich Sierra Nevada valley. Quincy has relatively mild winters and the summers are hot and sunny, perfect for biking or horseback riding.

Since 2000, there have been large fires occurring with greater frequency in close proximity to the town. Typically, there have been 100 to 200 fires in the area per year. With this being a major issue for the safety of the community, students from Quincy High School’s S club took it upon themselves be a part of the 2014 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. For their project they chose to help elderly residents with clearing flammable debris on their properties to reduce the risk of damage to their property or homes from wildfire. They picked up pine needles, fallen branches and cut brush, and then hauled it away in pickup trucks to the dump.

Read what the Quincy students themselves thought about the project in the Newsletter!

Here we are in the fourth week of FEMA’s National Preparedness Month campaign! Have you participated in any safety preparedness activities recently? If you have, that’s great news; if not, there’s still time to put together a plan. Consider this week’s theme:  (How to) Practice for an Emergency.

All of us hope that we will never have to experience an emergency situation in our area, but in the event we do, it’s important to know the actions to take, and how you would work together with family members, friends and neighbors to stay safe. Emergency plan

During a wildfire, local officials and relief workers cannot always reach everyone immediately. Help may not arrive for hours or days, and if you are evacuated, you may need to find alternative housing including staying with family members, friends or even in a shelter. You and your family (don’t forget your pets!) need to be prepared ahead of time because you won't have time to shop or search for supplies when a disaster strikes. Having a plan in place can go a long way to keeping you safe, secure and comfortable no matter where you may need to stay.

Here are some things to consider before a wildfire strikes your area:

  • Assemble an emergency supply kit and place it in a safe spot. Remember to include important documents, medications and personal identification.
  • Develop an emergency evacuation plan and practice it with everyone in your home.
  • Plan two ways out of your neighborhood and designate a meeting place, especially if everyone is not at home during the evacuation notice.

When a wildfire threatens your area:

  • First and foremost, stay aware of the latest news and updates from your local media and fire department. Get your family, home and pets prepared to evacuate.
  • Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle.
  • Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats and potted plants in wooden containers either indoors or as far away from the home, shed and garage as possible.
  • Close and protect your home’s openings, including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, garage doors and pet doors to prevent embers from penetrating your home.
  • Connect garden hoses and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water. Firefighters have been known to use the hoses to put out fires on rooftops.

It can’t be said enough that you should leave as early as possible before you’re told to evacuate, and do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire, and helps ensure residents’ safety.

The more you prepare ahead of a disaster, the better you will feel. Learn more about emergency preparedness planning on NFPA’s emergency planning webpage or visit NFPA’s wildfire safety information page for a step-by-step guide and safety tips checklist. You can also find additional great information from the following organizations:

Check out these great resources and get started on your preparedness plans today!

The National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) are pleased to invite nominations of candidates for the 2015 Wildfire Mitigation Awards.  It was great to hear these new awards formally announced at the NASF Annual Conference, occurning this week in St. Paul, MN.  Real successes in mitigating wildfire risk occur at all levels every year, but do not get the national recogniton they rightly deserve. Mitigation award NASF Conf sign 

Excellence in mitigation is highlighted by the Fire Adapted Community Fire Service Leadership Award, the Wildfire Mitigation Innovative Award, and the Community Wildfire Preparedness Pioneer Award.  Each recognize outstanding service in wildfire mitigation efforts and activities to increase public recognition and awareness of the need for continuing mitigation efforts. 

The nomination deadline is November 21, 2014, and the awards will be presented in Reno, NV, at the Wildland-Urban-Interface Conference in March 2015. 

Individuals, agencies (federal, state or local), or organizations that have made outstanding contributions with significant program impact in mitigation of wildfires are eligible for nomination.

We encourage you to learn more about the individual awards and their criteria.  Nominations should be submitted on the online form system

Take this opportunity to promote and praise successful mitigation efforts at the national, regional, and local levels. 

Rimrock

With the leaves slowly turning orange, ballet flats being replaced with riding boots and pumpkin spice lattes warming up everyone’s hands, there’s no denying it’s the beginning of fall. And what better state to experience it all than Oregon—the state with fall weather almost throughout the entire year—to highlight for this week’s Firewise blogpost.

Rimrock West, a subdivision in the Deschutes River canyon was densely packed with juniper and pine and entwined with thick brush and grass, which wouldn’t have been a major concern if not for the flammability of the vegetation and its close proximity to houses in the community. Around 40 homes sit on narrow roads with only one access road—which makes a quick evacuation for all the residents during a potential wildfire nearly impossible.

Every year, property owners tried to reduce the fire risk by raking up dead and dry plants. But these efforts alone would not be enough to save their homes in the event of a wildfire. So Oregon’s Department of Forestry (ODF), Bend Fire and Rescue and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducted a fire safety assessment and were able to list all the potential risks.

Most of Rimrock West’s houses were built over 30 years ago when they were required to have wood shake roofs. These wood roofs are most vulnerable during a wildfire because of flying embers from the flammable overgrown brush and vegetation. The residents were quick to find a solution for this. With the help of the Firewise Communities/USA Program tips, they cleared up their yards to help interrupt the fuel pathways from the brush to their homes, and pruned all low hanging limbs from trees.

And now, at least 91 percent of Rimrock West's resident homes meet Firewise standards.

For all their hard work, the community received their Firewise Community status and a National Fire Plan $5,000 matching grant.

Read more about Rimrock West’s efforts on the Firewise stories page.

In addition, there are other communities in Oregon that really worked tirelessly to earn Firewise status. Read all about their efforts! The communities are:

FirewiseInfobanner
What's colorful and loaded with Firewise facts and 7 essential vitamins? Why, it's the new infographic about Firewise Communities/USA, of course! (OK, I made up that part about the vitamins). 

NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division teamed with our communications colleagues to build a compelling visual display of key data about the growth and impact of our signature national Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program. Click here to take a look and use the download link to get to the graphic. You can even interact with the infographic by running your mouse over elements like the map and charts. 

Suitable for use on educational websites and in presentations, the infographic covers the growth and spread of the voluntary Firewise Communities/USA program throughout the US and its impact in terms of investment in local community safety. Important wildfire statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center and other sources complete the picture and help people understand why Firewise action is so important.

  

Listening to the newest installment in our series of virtual workshops, is a lot like spending time on a favorite neighbor’s front porch and hearing firsthand about a life altering experience that compels you to prioritize changes within your own life. Featured workshop presenter Linda Masterson, uses the personal experience of losing her home and almost everything she owned during a 2011 wildland fire to teach homeowners living with a wildfire risk, how they can improve their own chances of creating an entirely different outcome.

Masterson has a genuine desire to reach others through her messages that stress the importance of mitigation and preparedness actions; along with steps on how-to navigate post-fire impacts and issues. 

Accolades about the workshop demonstrate its power to motivate those living in an environment where wildfires exist to take active ownership in making changes that could change the outcome of future fires:  

This presentation was fantastic…We had a huge wildfire at Bass Lake yesterday…I want to send the program to our 40+ homeowners ASAP. The right time is right NOW!

I just watched the Workshop video with Linda Masterson. Really, really excellent. This one was very powerful and brought up lots of worthwhile information in a very motivating way. 

Downloading the Surviving Wildfire – Get Prepared, Stay Alive, Rebuild Your Life workshop may become life-changing for you too! 

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

  • Information about FEMA’s National Preparedness Month (September) and how you can participate in wildfire preparedness activities at your home or in your community
  • An inside look at last week’s Congressional briefing sponsored by NFPA that focused on wildfire issues in the U.S.
  • A link to the Firewise state plant list
  • Wildfire teaching tools and resources for your next meeting 

… 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.

SpotlightAs the headquarters for the national Firewise program, we here at NFPA have often seen our name in the media regarding our wildfire safety programs. But it's always nice to see communities get the same attention for all of their hard work and efforts, especially when they become a recognized Firewise site.

And so with this, I add the 6th benefit to our "Top 7 Benefits to Becoming Firewise" list:

6. Publicity
The national Firewise program provides communities with metal signs, a plaque and other materials that can be presented publicly to honor their status as a Firewise Communities/USA recognition site. These recognition ceremonies are great ways to shine the spotlight on community efforts. News media find this to be a great story to cover, and the national program features community stories regularly on the website and in its publications. All this publicity results not only in satisfaction for the residents involved, but also provides one more way to reach large numbers of people with information about wildfire safety.

NFPA is proud of all of the work communities and neighborhoods are doing to stay safer from wildfire, and we say, "Keep up the good work!" The next time your community gets highlighted in the newspaper or on television, let us know. We'd love to share your story with the rest of our Firewise community!

Wildfires
The Weed Fire, that broke out in Northern California on Monday has burned at least 75 structures, forced the evacuation of about 1,500 residents and has caused the closure of a major interstate freeway (I-5), according to news reports. It is one of 11 major wildfires burning in the state.

Two other wildfires in the northern part of the state have forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. Firefighters are continuing to battle these blazes, including the King Fire in El Dorado County, which officials say has burned nearly 8,600 acres.

At the same time, firefighters continue working to build and reinforce containment lines in steep terrain near a foothill community south of an entrance to Yosemite National Park in central California. About 900 residents there have been asked to evacuate, according to Madera County sheriff’s spokeswoman Erica Stuart. Unfortunately, the blaze has destroyed 21 structures; 20 of them homes.

High temperatures and severe drought conditions are being blamed for the fires as bone-dry grasses, downed debris and other vegetation help fuel the flames that have quickly spread over far distances.

WildfireCalFire spokesman Dennis Mathisen echoes this statement as he told reporters, “These fires are yet another example of how the damaging effect of drought has impacted California.”

Sunset Magazine, NFPA and other organizations will participate in a wildfire Twitter chat tomorrow, Wednesday, September 17, about the wildfire situation in the western U.S. Join us at #SunsetChat at 11:00 AM PDT/2:00 PM ET to learn what you can do to help keep your home and property safer from wildfire.

For additional information about preparedness, including specific actions homeowners can take during and after a wildfire has impacted an area, visit NFPA’s wildfire safety webpage or download our wildfire safety checklist and Firewise toolkit to help get your started. 

 

Join [Sunset Magazine | http://www.sunset.com/], a California lifestyle magazine, NFPA, and a host of other organizations for an informative hour-long wildfire Twitter chat tomorrow, Wednesday, September 17, at 11:00 AM PDT/2:00 PM ET. The discussion will center around wildfires in the west and what residents can do to help reduce their risk. Please follow us at #SunsetChat.


 

!http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c6e13108970b-320wi|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c6e13108970b-320wi|alt=Chat|style=margin: 0px 5px 5px 0px;|title=Chat|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c6e13108970b img-responsive!Some of the questions we'll address include:


* What are the three most important things you should do to help reduce the damage caused by wildfires?


* How do you create a lawn and garden that is fire safe, but still look beautiful?


* What are some rules around fire-safe camping?


And so much more ...


 

Won't you join us? Join in the conversation tomorrow as we share lessons learned, provide support and guidance, and look for ways to continue helping each other create safer, more fire adapted communities ! Here's who will be joining us:


    • Mother Jones 

    • Oregon Department of Forestry

    • USDA Forest Service

    • KQED (California)

    • Natural Resources Defense Council

Horseshoe_lake_1

Nestled between Mount Susitna and the Talkeetna Mountains in Alaska, lies the small community of Big Lake. There are less than 3,000 people who live there and the area receives, on average, 51.4 inches of snowfall per year.

In June 1996, a fire known as the Miller’s Reach Fire, spread through and destroyed nearly 37,000 acres of land. Many Big Lake residents lost their homes and means of livelihood because of how much the fire consumed. Residents of the Horseshoe Lake Community, a smaller community located within Big Lake, had to be evacuated, but none of the residents were, thankfully, hurt.

Horseshoe Lake covers over 3,000 acres in a black spruce, birch and muskeg forest and it houses around 135 homes and recreational cabins. The Alaskan black spruce is known to be highly flammable.

Since the Miller’s Reach Fire, residents have come together to form an informal Breakfast Club to prevent such a disaster from happening again. They have met twice a week since the fire to accomplish tasks that would make Horseshoe Lake more Firewise.

Then in 2006, with the ten-year commemoration of the devastating Miller’s Reach Fire on the horizon, Horseshoe Lake received Firewise recognition. The main goal for the first year of the program was to educate people about wildfires. Firewise material was distributed to property owners and neighbors spent hundreds of hours clearing away fire hazards and creating defensible space.

So far, the community has completed a four-year project designed to bring natural gas into the area, thereby eliminating oil and propane fuel tanks from their properties and a neighborhood directory that includes information such as emergency contacts, residents with fire pumps, and Firewise information has also been scripted for quick use during a wildfire.

Watch their Community Planning for Wildfire video on the Horseshoe Lake’s success page!

Gollnerlab
How do wildfires burn homes? We currently know quite a lot about this question from research from the USDA Forest Service Fire Lab, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). As more fire science research emerges, NFPA has realized that while there are some things we know, there may be much more we don't understand about the details of structure ignition and the pathways of fire spread. 

In the September/October issue of NFPA Journal, Fire Protection Research Foundation head Kathleen Almand describes a new research project to dig into just these details. Why is this important? More and more, "the little things" in a wildfire - embers and how they move through vents, weak links along rooflines or window sills - are being discovered to make a big difference in structure vulnerability. 

The Foundation's research project, “Pathways for Building Fire Spread in the Wildland/Urban Interface,” is being undertaken by Michael Gollner and his team at the University of Maryland, and will generate a report later this fall. 

Image credit: Fire research lab image from gollnerfire.com, research team at the University of Maryland.

Wildfire cover photo NFPA Journal Sept2014 WildfireWatch columnThe September/October NFPA Journal is now available.  In its WildfireWatch column, I make a defense of defensible space as a lesson learned from the May 2014 fires in San Diego and help present the conept to the Journal's diverse readers.

For some backstory, I spent time last summer with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s Air Operations Division seeing first-hand their response capability to wildfire and the challenges they face with San Diego’s often rugged natural terrain.  It was great learning from them and I’m thankful for the opportunity to have experienced the great work they do everyday.  11 months later, that same view from the helicopter saw fire, as 14 total fires burned 26,000 acres over a few days.  Though 65 structures were lost, countless more were saved and I explore that lesson learned from those fires in the column. 

Emergency-preparedness-kit
Whether you call it a go-kit, emergency supplies or a 72-hour kit, during this 3rd week of September, America's Prepare-A-Thon theme is how to build an emergency kit. Have what you need ready to go when you are - and feel more prepared and less scared during a wildfire or other emergency event!

If you're wondering where to start, there are some great resources from Ready.gov including checklists and tips. The Designing for Disaster exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, has a whole wall of supplies to provide a graphic example of what to include (see photo from their website, above). Basic supplies of food and water to last each family member for 72 hours are key, as emergency officials advise that in a major disaster you may have to be self-reliant for that amount of time. Proper clothing, prescriptions and treasured photos are other items to include in your go-kit.

Advisors as diverse as home-organization guru Marla Cilley (aka the FlyLady) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints provide tips and tools online for getting your kit started and maintaining it. The LDS blog even has helpful hints about kit maintenance based on member experience of pop-top cans that "popped" after being left too long, and candy that melted into the other supplies. (Word to the wise: use regular cans but remember to pack a can opener!). 

Want to share what's in YOUR kit? Check out the "30 Days, 30 Ways" site that challenges Prepare-A-Thon participants to complete preparedness tasks in a fun way. Task 8 asks folks to post the most unusual item in their emergency kit.

On September 11, NFPA, the University of California at Riverside and San Diego and the Western Governors’ Association, in conjunction with the Hazards Caucus Alliance, participated in panel discussion at a Capitol Hill briefing about the U.S. wildfire problem. NFPA’s Michele Steinberg was joined by Laura Wilkeson from the Western Governors’ Association, Dr. Richard Minnich from UC Riverside and Dr. Ilkay Altintas from UC San Diego. Briefing 1

In front of a packed room, the panel provided a lot of great information around a handful of hotly debated topics like wildfire policy, science, mitigation and response. Dr. Altintas presented on the National Science Foundation-funded WIFIRE project, which involves the creation of cyberinfrastructure for real-time and data-driven simulation, prediction and visualization of wildfire behavior. According to Dr. Altintas, the lack of up-to-the-minute information limits the speed and effectiveness of fire response. Better infrastructure for real-time data would not only help first responders to attack the fire early, but also manage public information and expectations of fire management and evacuation orders.

Ms. Wilkeson provided an overview of the current WGA wildfire policy, including the many efforts and effective state wildfire mitigation and containment practices that are being used. Ms. Wilkeson emphasized the need for state level participation in fire policy and spoke to the impact of federal land management policy in the west, where the majority of lands are federal property. Briefing 2 (2)

Briefing 2 (1)Dr. Richard Minnich, an expert in the ecology of wildfire at UC Riverside spoke about the environmental conditions and land management practices that influence the size, spread and destructive effects of wildfires. Dr. Minnich illustrated the significant differences in forest management between southern California and the Mexican Bajan peninsula. In Mexico, many more fires occur annually, but they tend to stay small and cause less harm to both people and the ecosystem.

Ms. Steinberg’s presentation covered NFPA’s mission with relation to wildfire safety. She emphasized that the problem of homes burning in wildfires was not just a California problem, nor exclusively a Western problem. She discussed NFPA’s relevant resources including codes and standards, research, and community engagement through the Firewise program.  She closed with an update of how property/casualty insurers, including USAA and State Farm, are promoting Firewise principles through incentives including policy premium discounts and support of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.


NBM eventThe evening before the briefing, Congressional staff and others also attended a reception at the National Building Museum and toured the Museum’s Designing for Disaster exhibit. NFPA co-sponsored this special exhibit, which runs through August 2015 and explores new solutions for, and historical responses to, a range of natural hazards including earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes storm surge, flooding, sea level rise, tsunamis and wildfires. Harriet Tregoning, Director of HUD's Office of Economic Resilience, spoke to the group about the Administration’s resilience initiatives including the recent Rebuild By Design competition and a soon-to-be-funded National Disaster Resilience Competition.

More information about NFPA’s role in the Designing for Disaster exhibit can be found on our website. You can also find what is happening across the wildfire arena in NFPA’s Fire Break blog or by clicking on the panel organizations’ links above, to get an in depth look at their projects.

Photos (top to bottom): A view of the briefing room at the Capitol; Dr. Ilkay Altintas from UC San Diego; Dr. Richard Minnich from UC Riverside; A view of the lobby of the National Building Museum. 

Last week, Keep Oregon Green and the Oregon Department of Forestry brought Mike Riley, Oregon State University Head Football Coach and Mark Helfrich, University of Oregon Head Football Coach together to tackle wildfires.  Riley Helfrich KOG campaign PSA 2014

The three, 30 second, PSA’s remind Oregon residents about the value of defensible space, the risks of backyard debris burning in piles and burn barrels, and guidance for effective camp fire safety.   

Along with the PSA’s, Smokey Bear came out for ESPN’s College Game Day broadcast from Eugene, OR, at last weekend's Michigan State Spartans vs. Oregon Ducks game.  Smokey Bear KOG campaign outreach 2014 You’ll see Smokey Bear 50 seconds into the highlight video from GoDucks.com

I caught up with Kristin Babbs - President / CEO of Keep Oregon Green, who shared that human caused fires on the rise in Oregon this year and that the memories are still fresh from the state’s difficult 2013 fire season.  She explained that both coaches immediately saw the great value in advancing the preparedness and Firewise message.  The toughest part was just lining up their full schedules to make it work. 

Riley Helfrich KOG campaign PSA 2014 2The PSA’s were filmed in June, have been shown during games and shared by the Oregonian newspaper’s oregonlive.com within their wildfire articles. 

Kristin noted that a billboard campaign highlighting the head coaches’ message on the highways leading up to both stadiums is being considered. 

Here at Firewise, we applaud the work of Keep Oregon Green and Oregon Department of Forestry for this great preparedness outreach.  We also thank Head Coach Riley and Head Coach Helfrich for coming together to remind Oregon residents that they all can tackle wildfires together. 

Every community profits differently from being a recognized Firewise site. In my weekly blog series about the "Top Seven Benefits to Becoming Firewise," I've been sharing one adantage a week that residents from a number of recognized Firewise sites have shared with us over time. This week I'd like to talk about citizen pride. It's the fifth benefit on our list:

5. Citizen Pride
While Firewise work can be fun, it isn’t always easy. Neighbors work very hard in Firewise communities to remove brush and debris, clean up common areas, and dispose of green waste. They are rightly proud when they achieve national recognition for their efforts.

Please keep up the great work you're doing! Celebrate 2

I know, at times we feel like our work is never done; we wonder if our efforts will actually pay off. But NFPA is here to tell you the work you do now does make a difference down the road. Just read some of our community success stories, which I know will inspire and encourage you to keep going, or print out our project idea list that provides some great new activities that maybe you haven't thought about before. It's a fact that communities that take the time to plan ahead and prepare, can make a difference in reducing their wildfire risk.

So, go ahead, celebrate your participation and dedication to making your home and your neighborhood a safer place to live. Have a party, plan a parade, shout it from the nearest mountain top. And don't forget to share all that great energy with us. We at NFPA are clapping loudly right beside you!

Learn more about becoming a recognized Firewise community on our Firewise recognition program page, or contact us for more information.

Horseshoe_lake_1

Nestled between Mount Susitna and the Talkeetna Mountains, lies the small community of Big Lake. There are less than 3,000 people who live there and the area receives, on average, 51.4 inches of snowfall per year.

In June 1996, a fire known as the Miller’s Reach Fire, spread through and destroyed nearly 37,000 acres of land. Many Big Lake residents lost their homes and means of livelihood because of how much the fire consumed. Residents of the Horseshoe Lake Community, a smaller community located within Big Lake, had to be evacuated but none of them were, thankfully, hurt.

Horseshoe Lake covers over 3,000 acres in a black spruce, birch and muskeg forest and houses around 135 homes and recreational cabins.

Since the Miller’s Reach Fire, residents have come together to form an informal Breakfast Club to prevent such a disaster from happening again. They have met twice a week for the past ten years to accomplish tasks that would make Horseshoe Lake more Firewise.

 Last year, they completed a four-year project designed to bring natural gas into the area, thereby eliminating oil and propane fuel tanks from their properties. A neighborhood directory that includes information such as emergency contacts, residents with fire pumps, and Firewise information has been scripted for quick use during a wildfire.

For the past three years, residents have also participated in a clean-up project to clear roadways of trash and woody debris.

Then in 2006, with the ten-year commemoration of the devastating Miller’s Reach Fire on the horizon, Horseshoe Lake received Firewise recognition. The main goal for the first year of the program was to education people about wildfires. Firewise material was distributed to property owners and neighbors spent hundreds of hours clearing away fire hazards and creating defensible space.

Watch their Community Planning for Wildfire video

BigBurn
"If you know your history, then you know where you're coming from," Bob Marley once sang. After ten years working on wildfire safety, reading Timothy Egan's The Big Burn really helped me understand the roots of American wildland fire suppression policy and forest management in a new way.

The PBS American Experience show will debut a new film by the same name, based on Egan's book and documenting the 1910 fire complex that burned more than three million acres and killed 78 firefighters. More than a mere tale of nature's wrath, the story of this particular fire shows the ramifications and results set into national policy that would influence a century of thought and action on fire suppression and land management.

The first airing on PBS is tonight at 9 pm Eastern on some stations (unfortunately not in Boston yet!). Check local listings here to watch and experience this truly American experience of wildfire. You can also tell your own story of disaster survival through the American Experience website.

Montana's Mann Gulch Fire of 1949, one of the worst loss-of-life events in fire service history, saw  12 smokejumpers and a national forest ranger die in the event, which had a significant impact on wildland firefighter training nationwide.  Mann

Read the sobering story of how one of the smokejumpers in that crew, Robert Sallee, survived, despite the terrible odds, in the September/October 2014 issue of NFPA Journal. (Sadly, Mr. Sallee, a Seattle, Washington resident, passed away in May at the age of 82.)

For a quick glance into the world of smokejumpers and the work they perform during a wildfire, check out Ryan Depew's blog post from September 2 featuring a video about the California Smokejumpers, courtesy of Los Angeles' KQED.

National Preparedness Month Bog 2 - 9.8.14

As we enter into the second week of National Preparedness Month the theme is knowing how to plan for specific needs before disaster strikes. An important need is ensuring your homeowners policy or renters insurance is up-to-date and will adequately cover your needs after a wildfire. 

Next week author Linda Masterson will be the featured presenter for September’s Firewise virtual workshop series and in her Surviving Wildfire Pocket Guide she states more than half of those who lose a home to wildfire are underinsured by at least 25%

To help in planning for your individual insurance needs she developed this helpful list of important action items:

  • Determine today’s actual cost to rebuild your home by consulting with a local builder – then compare that amount to your insurance Coverage A.
  • Review your coverage with your agent and update if/as needed.
  • Report major home improvements to your insurer within 90 days of completion.
  • Take annual photos of the exterior of your home and outbuildings – include views from each side of the building.
  • Develop a home inventory or update your current version.
  • Take room-by-room photos/video of the home’s contents.  Open drawers, cabinets and closets – include every room including the garage and storage sheds.
  • Document high-value and unique items, art, jewelry, antiques and collectibles.
  • Store a copy of your inventory and photos off-site for safe access post fire.

Find more great planning advice in the book Surviving Wildfire – Get Prepared, Stay Alive, Rebuild Your Life and register to participate in next week’s live Firewise Virtual Workshop, and hear Masterson share her experience of losing her home and contents in a wildfire; and learn how you can become a better prepared wildland/urban interface resident.

 

In the current issue of NFPA Journal, NFPA President Jim Pauley shares some numbers and stats on wildfire and gives his assessment: we still have work to do. 

Read or listen to what Jim has to say about the growing threat of wildfire and where we need to take action. Learn about NFPA's successes in promoting Firewise and Fire Adapted community approaches, including the launch of a national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. Jim calls out USAA Insurance for its leadership with its new initiative in Firewise communities in California as a great example of innovative thinking and action.

 

NorthMyrtleBeach1

Known for its light blue waters and warm grainy sand, North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina is a coastal resort city. The mild subtropical climate means, for tourists, that outdoor activities are present all year-round.

In 2009, a wildfire now known as the Highway 31 Fire, hit the beach, destroying 75 homes in the community of Barefoot, and caused the evacuation of 4,000 people. Pine mulch straw, which is indigenous to the area, was the main reason the fire was able to spread so quickly and on a much larger scale. Many of the homes were bordered with pine mulch, which ignited rapidly and burned all the way up to their attics.

When the residents found out what the cause of the devastating fire was, they swiftly replaced the pine straw landscaping with Firewise-recommended landscaping materials. Soon after they became a Firewise community.

This summer’s Firewise How-To newsletter has more information on exactly how North Myrtle Beach became Firewise. There are also other stories about neighboring communities and their Firewise days. Read their stories and more today!

Articles this past weekend from Bloomberg and The L.A. Times caught my eye as the southwest continues to face growing impacts of the prolonged drought.  Both detailed state legislation sent to California Gov. Jerry Brown that would require local governments to develop groundwater regulations and empower the state to enforce groundwater use restrictions. 

LATimes Drought Photo Allen J. Schaben -20140619-027photo credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Prolonged drought and its risk to vegetation around the home are important considerations for Firewise principles.  Dry shrubs and mulch near the home can pose a risk in what we call the “Home Ignition Zone”, as can dry ladder fuels and accumulation of vegetation debris around the property.  On days of inceased wildfire risk, existence of drought calls for heightened situational awareness by homeowners to keep the risk of blowing embers from communicating fire from the wildland to the built environment.   

NFPA’s Home Ignition Zone page has a great introductory video from Gary Marshall, former deputy fire chief in Bend, Oregon, where he explains outdoor maintenance issues for homeowners in the WUI

A recent post in Fine Gardening also explores Firewise Landscaping and how it can promote defensible space.  The Firewise state-by-state plant list can help you understand vegetation issues in your state.  I also ran across this infographic by the California Urban Forest Council on tree health during a drought that is helpful. 

NPM_logo Week One - 9.2.14

September always draws attention to the importance of individual and community disaster preparedness in recognition of National Preparedness Month. With that in mind, over the next couple of days consider carving out time to participate in a personal wildland fire preparedness experiment. The planning exercise I’m talking about will demonstrate a specific component of your family’s overall preparedness level, and I’m going to venture to say if your household is similar to most, the individual responses may come as a complete surprise.  

Pick a day this week and as part of a mealtime conversation ask household members (include everyone school age and older) where they’d go to reconnect as a group if you were each in a different locale (work, school, at a friend’s house, the mall, etc.) when a wildfire started in your community and nobody could return home due to an evacuation order. Complicate the conversation a little more and incorporate into the scenario a component where there’s no cell phone service because reception towers have been impacted and phones have been rendered inoperable. Ask each person how they would reconnect - where would they go, who would they contact to let everyone know they’re safe? If your household is truly prepared for a wildfire everyone should know how to answer the question and will also be able to provide everyone else’s responses without hesitation. 

I very much believe most individuals will provide a fairly good response, but that response may not be the answer other household members expect. Most of us assume we know the actions our family/household members will choose, but that’s typically only the case when a specific and focused conversation has occurred and there’s a family communication plan that everyone talks about on a recurring basis.

September’s National Preparedness Month has weekly themes encouraging specific actions – and this week the emphasis is having a plan on how to reconnect with family members after a disaster. Commit to taking time this week to ensure your communication plan is in place and ready to implement!  

One of the great themes behind Firewise focuses on neighbors working with neighbors. It stands to reason that no one family, organization or individual can adequately protect homes from the damage a wildfire brings. But together, well, that's a different story ... as the famous adage goes, "It takes a village..." Community

Firewise zeroes in on this very simple thought - working together can make a difference in reducing wildfire risk to communities. But I'd like to take this one step further... yes, you can see the physical results with your very own eyes, but there's an emotional, human connection to this,too, that just, honestly, makes us feel good. Thus, the fourth benefit to becoming Firewise:

4. Community-Building

As neighbors get together to do Firewise work, often meeting one another for the first time, they build a stronger bond with each other. Firewise activity can help rally people to a common cause for the good of the neighborhood. This strengthening of community ties can benefit residents in many ways, and is especially helpful during an emergency.

As you think about ways to make your community fire adapted, consider having a conversation with your neighbor. Plan a block party or an impromptu meeting at your house and get others involved. Pass out materials and have a discussion about the right approach to wildfire safety for your particular area.

Our wildfire online catalog provides some great resources including brochures and pamphlets that you can pass out. You can also download our very popular online Firewise Toolkit, which has a great tips checklist for homeowners, so you can work on these milestones together.

Starting out on a new venture or finding ways to sustain the momentum of an ongoing one can sometimes be a tough task. But we at NFPA are here to help. Feel free to ask us questions and read our online community stories that will surely inspire and encourage you as you set forth on your own path to success. We look forward to hearing from you!  

EtoileStudentsWith big hats and big personalities, everything really is, as they say, bigger in Texas. But as one community in Etoile, Texas, proves, you don’t have to be very big to make a difference.

Etoile in eastern Texas is the kind of small town where everyone knows everything about everyone. There are vast Loblolly pine forests and the Etoile School is the only school in the 80 square mile school district.


The area in and around the community has been plagued with prolonged droughts and extended bans on trash burning. There is no garbage pickup nor is there a close-by landfill to dispose waste. So household debris gets accumulated around homes, thereby created a fire hazard.

In 2008, recognizing the wildfire threat, a Texas Forest Service (TFS) employee chose to educate Etoile School on what it means to be Firewise.  The school administration fully supported and encouraged involving students in the program.

To become Firewise recognized, the Firewise Communities are required to have an advisory board and complete an annual project to reduce wildfire risk. Even though typically adults are the ones who do this, the tasks were designed so that the students could help organize and complete the program. Soon after, Etoile became the first community in the country where students were the ones who put in most of the effort to obtain and renew its national Firewise Communities status.

Read the rest of their journey on their success page.

The students of Etoile continue to educate their neighbors and peers on the dangers of wildfires and even go out into the community to clean up debris.

There are other communities in Texas who have equally interesting backstories. Read all about them on their individual success page!

Take a quick glimpse into the life of smokejumping...

 

Read more here….

 -Ryan Depew

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Newsletter

Welcome to the second News Letter from Surrey Fire & Rescue Service. It has been especially busy over the last few weeks with Firewise meetings and presentations and other Wildfire related projects here in Surrey in the UK.

At the end of July, Area Commander Alan Clark and Watch Commander Dave Medley visited the Peak District In Derbyshire. Alan was a guest speaker at the MoorLIFE launch of their new project “Be Fire Aware” & Wildfire Awareness day, an exciting new prevention/ education initiative The visit was a great success with the chance to network with other Fire & Rescue Services and other agencies and to inform them of our work with regards producing a Fire Adapted Community here in the UK.

In the middle of August, a further meeting was held by Dave and Alan with the Thursley Parish Councillors who unanimously gave the go ahead for Thursley Village here in Surrey to become the first Firewise Community not only in Surrey but in the whole of the UK. Dave is now working closely with the councillors to identify the properties most at risk from wildfire in the village and surrounding areas. In October there will be an event in Thursley to promote the Firewise programme to the local residents and we are hoping to attract substantial media attention for the event. It goes without saying that it is the local communities ‘buy in’ that we need and – whilst early indications are good – we are taking nothing for granted!

Alan had a request from Cat Edgely, who is currently studying for a Masters at Durham University (focusing on identifying and communicating wildfire risk within Northumberland National Park), to be involved in the Firewise launch in Surrey / the UK. She attended the Thursley Firewise meeting and gathered a lot of information that she hopes will help her realise her dream to be offered a fully funded PhD at the University of Idaho in the States, looking at community resilience and wildfires. She is looking to compare and contrast the US and the UK's community approaches to Firewise and the lessons we can learn from its application in the UK. During her visit, Dave took her to the local fire stations to see the Wildfire appliances utilised at Wildfire incidents to help make her trip memorable.

Dave is also part of ongoing Wildfire Patrols here in Surrey where once a month he meets up with other agencies to carry out “High Viz” patrols in specific areas known for fire setting. These areas include Common Land, Forestry Commission and Crown Estates properties. These patrols are carried out jointly with the Heath land Conservation Society, Surrey Wildlife Trust, Crown Estates, Bracknell Forest Rangers and both Surrey and Thames Valley Police Forces. 4x4 vehicles are used during the patrols and engagement and educating the public about the threat of Wildfires plays a prominent role.

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Lastly – and most importantly - we are looking forward to a Firewise workshop in September with Shawn Stokes, in London, and hoping to confirm shortly an October visit by Michelle Steinberg to Surrey. We will be looking to make full use of Michelle’s time and expertise to help us develop further the Firewise materials for the UK and hope that the trip will provide her with the opportunity to deliver a presentation to the wider CFOA Wildfire group.

-Ryan Depew

Yes, you heard that right!

Our deadline for the "call for presentations" for the 2015 Backyards and Beyond conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has been extended.

The new date is now Monday, December 15, 2014.

So, what are you waiting for ... get to work on those proposals and submit your application to NFPA today. Next year's conference promises to be a great one, and we can't wait to get started on promoting all of the wonderful presentations and special events we have in store for all of our attendees!

We look forward to hearing from you soon! And thanks!

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