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September 16, 2014 Previous day Next day

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 |], 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.


!|src=|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


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!

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, research team at the University of Maryland.

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