Skip navigation
All Places > Fire Break > Blog > 2014 > October

Texas workshop watch event - 10.23.14

I have to put it on my calendar for next week to ask Dan Dodson, the Firewise Education Coordinator with the Sun City Texas Community Association, what he did in his former career before taking on his current homeowner’s association role. I'm betting it's something related to coaching, education or training, because he’s turned our Firewise Virtual Workshops into a group educational training complete with a robust Q & A at the end of the live broadcasts. 

He’s taken the basic home party concept to a whole new level - and the product he’s selling is wildland fire education and awareness! In his community, he’s creatively made the workshops a coordinated training opportunity for residents. Once Dan learns a session’s date and time he books a room in their community center and invites homeowners to participate in the group training event.

To you Dan, our kudos for your creativeness, and also for having a genuine concern for making Sun City residents safer while increasing their wildland fire knowledge and awareness. The Sun City Texas Community Association has participated in the national Firewise Communities/USA program since 2009.

Fires in the wildland/urban interface (WUI) are mainstream news these days. According to NFPA, nine of the 25 costliest (in terms of property loss) fires in U.S. history were described as forest, wildland or WUI fires, and the eight costliest fires were in the last two decades.

These numbers come from a 2013 NFPA report, Brush, Grass and Forest Fires, which provides many great statistics about the types, the sizes, the causes and circumstances of wildfires, firefighter fatalities and more from 2007 - 2011. If you haven't taken a peak at the report, check it out today. Not interested in reading the full document? NFPA just completed a great infographic highlighting some of the major statistics of the report. Find it below and on our wildfire reports page of the NFPA website.

Download it today and share the information with your colleagues: 


1410FRwui3A super article in Firefighter Nation this month addresses fire incident command and the special challenges of coping with fast-moving fires that enter subdivisions and communities - those tricky, dangerous wildland/urban interface fires. Author Jim Linardos, a friend of Firewise, a fire service leader and no stranger to WUI fires over his 34-year career in such places as Reno, Nevada, and Austin, Texas, hammers home the notion that the day of the fire is not the time to start thinking about who you'll call for mutual aid or what you'll order for lunch for a crew of 100 on the scene.

Whether you are an incident commander, crew boss, wildland fire specialist, or someone who lives in an area prone to fast moving fires through brush, grass or forest, check out the article, Taking Command of the WUI Fire, for some perspective on what it really takes to cope with a series of structure fires simultaneously with wind-driven wildfire. In addition to preparing for extended attack, Jim recommends that fire service leaders engage in long-term planning with the community to make it more fire adapted - which might mean one or two fewer things to worry about when wildfire is on the doorstep.

Arkansas Firewise efforts include the whole community, including animals in shelters. Read for inspiration and great cat photos!

It's a jungle out there...

This local story link requires a quick free survey to read the entire article.

According to NFPA, decorations are the first thing to ignite in 900 reported home fires each year. Two of every five of these fires were started by a candle.

With Halloween just a week away, we thought we'd remind everyone about the importance of fire safety, especially if you love to decorate, or use candles (or torchlights) around your home and in your landscape such as along walkways or driveways. Just one flyaway spark, especially with drought conditions across the U.S., could easily start a grass, brush or forest fireHalloween

NFPA is a great resource for information about Halloween safety. Our tips sheet serves as a great reminder of the do's and don'ts of fire safety as you put the finishing touches to your decor (i.e. consider using flameless candles in place of real ones). Download it and share with friends and family. Our Halloween safety webpage also offers great information including videos, tips on decorating, costumes and more. Don't forget to check them both out today, before you hit the pavement with your family. 

Halloween is a great time of year to indulge in our love for tricks and spooks, and our favorite sugary sweets, so this year, make it a point to put your safety and the safety of others first, then go ahead, enjoy that extra piece of candy knowing you've done all you can to play it fire smart!

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

  • A link to Kathleen Almand’s Journal column highlighting the research behind the three ways structures burn in the WUI
  • Information about the October “Ask the Expert” webinar, which will focus on ways to improve access for wildfire personnel
  • Additional resources for the 2015 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event
  • A link to Jim Pauley’s “First Word” column in Journal about the role NFPA is playing to address the wildfire problem in the U.S.

… 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.

Yesterday, I was in Boise, Idaho, meeting with our USDA Forest Service partners on the Firewise Communities/USA program and Fire Adapted Communities
  NWLFF Memorial 2 LHD
Following our meeting, I took some time to visit the National Wildland Firefighters Monument, which is on the grounds of the National Interagency Fire Center.  The monument is maintained by the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.  The foundation lists the names of the fallen and serves to honor their sacrifice.  Five have been added to the honor rolls thus far in 2014. 

Walking its paths lined with commemorative stone markers that honor those wildland firefighters who have died in the line of duty, I was reminded of the great responsibility communities have, not only for their own safety, but for those who serve and protect them. 

In its small way, Firewise helps communities come together and collectively tackle their wildfire risk.  Wildfire is an important part of natural resource ecology and will always be with us.  Reducing the risk wildfire poses to us and our communities is where residents can play their valued role in ensuring a safer environment for all. 

William J. McCammon, Treasurer of NFPA’s Board of Directors, died in his sleep on October 13, Treasurer2014. Chief McCammon was appointed to the board for a three-year term at NFPA’s Annual Meeting in June 2009, then was re-elected in June 2012 for a second three-year term. During his tenure as an NFPA board member, he had served on the Governance, Executive, Finance, Compensation and Scholarship Committees. As Treasurer, he had chaired the Finance and Compensation committees. 

Chief McCammon also served on NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division Advisory Committee. Established in 2010, the Committee provides advice and direction to NFPA and the Division for projects and initiatives related to wildland fire protection and prevention. The Committee was instrumental in helping develop the Division’s initial three-year work plan that provided direction in efforts to help reduce the losses associated with wildfires.

Chief McCammon was the first Fire Chief of the Alameda County (CA) Fire Department from 1993-2006. He began his fire service career working for the Dublin-San Ramon Services District Fire Department (SLFD). During his 14 years with SLFD, he held the ranks of firefighter, Engineer, Captain, Battalion Chief, Deputy Chief-Fire Marshal and Fire Chief.

Chief McCammon served in all positions on NFPA's Metropolitan “Metro” Executive Board including President. At the time of his death, he was representing the Metro as one of four vice chairs on the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) to the First Net Board. Chief McCammon also represented the Metro on SAFECOM, which is an advisory committee to the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) in the Department of Homeland Security. The Committee reviews issues surrounding interoperability and makes recommendations to the agency. 

He led the effort to create the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority (EBRCSA), which built and operates a communications system for 43 public agencies within Alameda and Contra Costa counties. He was currently serving as the Executive Director for EBRCSA. In 2012 he was appointed Vice-Chair for FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee.

October 15 starts the Fall wildfire season in many eastern states and recent articles I’ve seen highlight beneficial outreach by state forestry agencies in Virginia and Tennessee.
Photo Credit Leon Konz TDF
Wildfire is not just a “western states issue” and we applaud all communities who have adopted Firewise as the tool to bring residents together.  

Fred Turck with Virginia Department of Forestry shared with me that Virginia is home to over 5,000 woodland home communities, communities that are surrounded by the forest or are built within the forest.  Their website, is a great resource for fall wildfire information.

Leon Konz, with Tennessee Department of Forestry also shared the common theme of burning permit program outreach and explained that this is a big prevention tool for wildfire understanding in Tennessee.  Their website, provides great prevention resources and a, “wealth of Firewise information for the public.”

Visit your state forestry agency website for fire season information in your state and learn how you can be Firewise.

Photo credit: Leon Konz, TDF

ThursleyGroup_CatEdgerlyImagine a place where people live surrounded by beautiful natural areas, where residents love the environment and enjoy recreational opportunities such as riding, outdoor sports and just walking the dog. People live in homes that they cherish, and are engaged in local community activities such as school, church and local clubs. Put wildfire into this scenario and then imagine where you are. If you are American, you might be thinking about many U.S. communities in traditionally fireprone areas, perhaps even your hometown. You probably are not thinking about a small village in the south of England.

Thursley Village in Surrey, less than an hour's drive south of London, has all of these values, and yes, a significant threat to these values from wildfire. In 2006, more than 550 acres burned in the Thursley Common National Nature Reserve, one of the largest remaining heathlands in Surrey with a mixture of woodland, lowland heath and mire (bog). Homes in the village and the surrounding areas were threatened and firefighters were injured. Plants, animals and the longterm recovery of critical habitats were severely impacted. Members of the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service and the national Chief Fire Officers Association of the United Kingdom (CFOA-UK) have worked for years to try to bring the problem of wildfire threats to the attention of both national policymakers and local officials.

The Thursley Parish Council, who are elected officials at the local level and residents of the village, have paid heed to the words and work of the Surrey FRS. Council member Karen Tyler said, "When Alan Clark and Dave Medley (Surrey FRS officials) came to talk with the Council about this, we could see how seriously they took it, and we felt it was important for us to pay attention," to the wildfire risk and implementation of safety actions.

Ms. Tyler and her fellow Councilmembers, including Chairman Peter Hunter (depicted above with Surrey FRS members), were all on hand on October 11 for the first community-wide event on Firewise and a launch of activity in the community. Fire officials spoke to approximately 40 residents about the risk and people shared their experiences of the 2006 fire and what has been done as a result. A Natural England representative (an equivalent to the U.S. National Park Service) has been working closely with the community on fire recovery and future fire prevention.  

Surrey FRS volunteer Heather Clark signs up residents for home risk evalutions

A demonstration of new firefighting equipment engaged families and children. Surrey FRS volunteers talked one-on-one and in small groups with residents and encouraged people to sign up for a home safety visit by the fire department. Fire officials aim to conduct outside "walk-arounds" with property owners of 140 homes deemed most at risk from future wildfire by the end of this year. Ms. Cat Edgeley, one of only a handful of British academics deeply involved in wildfire research to date, was also on hand to observe and provide context to this new activity in southern England. Ms. Edgeley will be initiating her graduate studies in Natural Resources (with a strong focus on wildfire) at the University of Idaho in January.

Congratulations to the Village, the fire department, the land managers and all who have engaged in improving their collective safety and protection of irreplaceable natural values in this beautiful and historic corner of the world. NFPA and its partners hope to learn important lessons from how Firewise and Fire Adapted Communities are applied in this setting.

Photo credits: Top - Cat Edgeley; center - Michele Steinberg


!|border=0|src=|alt=3 forest ridge picture|width=615|title=3 forest ridge picture|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b8d07ddacb970c image-full img-responsive|height=411!

Home to the Olympic National Park and infamous Mount Rainier National Park, no one can dispute the fact that Washington is one of the most scenic states in the country. And with steep canyons lined with emerald green pine trees, the Forest Ridge community is quite possibly one of the most picturesque places in a state which is aptly coined as the “evergreen state.”

Homes in the Forest Ridge community are large, have wood shake roofing and are mainly located in heavily forested areas with little or no defensible space. The roads snaking around the homes are narrow with dead-ends that make it nearly impossible for rescue vehicles to turn around. And while aesthetic, the thick vegetation in the area serves as a major wildfire threat.

When local residents realized just how much at wildfire risk their community was, they decided to take immediate action.

Homeowners, local elected officials, Chelan County Fire District No. 1 and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), held a community meeting and created a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), which outlined all the main fire-hazards that needed to be tackled.

Then the Cascadia Conservation District and the DNR awarded a grant to the Chelan County Fire District. This grant was used to clear out forest fuels in a plot of land in Forest Ridge. Residents, seeing the success of this decided to take it upon themselves to take similar measures and continue the clearing up initiative.

Two years later, the community members banded together to create the Forest Ridge Wildfire Coalition (FRWC), which is dedicated to the continued efforts to prevent wildfire disasters in the area.

Their Firewise Day events in the past have included guest speakers, a show-and-tell with Firewise equipment and a pot-luck lunch.

For their efforts to keep their community safe from wildfires, Forest Ridge not only became a proud Firewise-recognized community in 2010, they also became one of the five Firewise Challenge winners!

For their prize, they get $5,000 to use toward Firewise efforts. They plan to use this money to continue their ongoing efforts to remove and chip brush and make sure homes in the community are prepared for a fire.


There are other communities in Washington that have just as exciting stories. Read about them on their success stories page!

Hartstene Pointe

Lake Cushman

Lummi Island Estates

Orcas Highlands

River Bluff Ranch


Shelter Bay

Tolt</li> </ul>

A story in yesterday's Payson Roundup elaborated on how leaders in this fire-prone community were working on educating residents to become safer from wildfire. Today's community event was specifically tied in to national Fire Prevention Week and was designed to help people learn what they can do to make their homes more Firewise.

Read more about Payson's efforts and their strategies to protect lives and homes in a place where nature's wildfire is part of the landscape: 

As my NFPA colleagues have pointed out in earlier blogs this week, Fire Prevention Week began early in the 20th century as a response to the 1871 Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire. Major urban conflagrations at the end of the 19th century and on into the early 1900s also informed the scope and mission of the newborn National Fire Protection Association. Notably, Boston burned in 1872, and Baltimore lost 1,500 buildings in its downtown over two days in 1904, in spite of more than 1,200 firefighters on scene. 

In Baltimore's case, heroic efforts by firefighters arriving from as far away as New York City, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and Washington, DC, via rail were not enough to stem the losses. The hose couplings from the other fire departments did not fit the Baltimore hydrants, and this lack of prior planning undermined the collaborative efforts on-scene.

As urban conflagrations like Chicago, Boston and Baltimore fade into history, we need only look a few years past to realize that wildland/urban interface fires are the new fire threat that requires careful planning and collaboration to avoid disastrous home loss. An excellent case study of a modern community spurred to action by wildfire threats is Prescott, Arizona and surrounding areas of Yavapai County.

Case Study: Broad Collaboration for Community Protection

The Prescott Area Wildland/Urban Interface Commission was born in 1990 from the flames of an earlier fire in the region. The 1983 Thumb Butte fire was a catalyst for a long-term effort to improve communication and standardization of equipment among area firefighting agencies. This broad collaborative approach blossomed over the years to include participation by dozens of entities in all aspects of fire adaptation across the City of Prescott and Yavapai County.

The Prescott area example is just one of many case studies featured in the new Guide to Fire Adapted Communities reference document available at www.fireadapted.orgRead more about how cooperative alliances and mutual aid agreements can help your area become better prepared and more well-adapted for wildfire.

IMG_2099I attended an excellent workshop on October 9 led by Rob Gazzard of the Forestry Commission England, along with members of the fire service in southern England, Nature England staffers, and a lead volunteer from the Heathland Conservation Society. Land managers and fire fighters alike shared knowledge and worked through a new "practice guide" or handbook on building wildfire resilience into forest management planning.

Statistics from Britain's fire incident reporting system show trends toward many more fires in vegetation that harm enviromental values, disrupt business and threaten lives and properties. The workshop walked us through fire behavior, mitigation strategies, and included a field visit with teams working on planning for a fictional community in a real-life setting. 

Forward thinking and collaborative, UK land managers, conservation activists and fire fighters have come together in a positive way to start creating fire adapted communities. Check back on this blog for more to come!

During NFPA's Fire Prevention Week (FPW), we’ve been highlighting a handful of great case studies/stories about communities that are making a difference in reducing wildfire risk. Today, we’re highlighting the town of Taylor, Florida that has shared with NFPA their success in creating a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Taylor

A major component of the CWPP, according to Taylor officials, was a 30-foot wide and 11-mile long control line (firebreak) around the community. The control line was nearly complete when the 2007 Bugaboo wildfire approached. But firefighters were able to set backfires along the control line, thus guiding the fire around the community and preventing the loss of any buildings in Taylor.

Particularly during this time of the year when we highlight fire prevention and safety stories with our audiences, it's great to share news like this with other communities looking to do similar work. Learn more about Taylor and the work they did around the CWPP in Chapter 2 (page 11) of the FAC Reference Guide.

You can also find additional information about Community Wildfire Protection Plans on the Firewise website. Have a success story related to fire safety and prevention you want to share with us this week? Let us know. We're always happy to hear from you!

As Fire Prevention week rolls on, FPW 2014 Smoke Alarms Save Lives Bannerfire departments are sharing with residents valuable information about how working smoke alarms save lives.  In New Mexico, the state forestry agency is taking the home fire safety message one step further and encouraging residents during Fire Prevention Week to also consider fire risk outside the home. 

They’re promoting Firewise and other wildfire preparedness programs to raise awareness of land management, defensible space, and home construction techniques resistant to wildfire

All of these efforts combine in a “Fire Adapted Community” that is taking an integrated approach with residents, public safety, local officials, land managers, insurance, and others to collectively confront their risk to wildfire. 

Village of Ruidoso, NMThe recently released Guide to Fire Adapted Communities explains these roles and provides a beneficial case study on local fuels management ordinances from Ruidoso, New Mexico. 

The wooded mountain community of 9,500 residents is surrounded by the Lincoln National Forest and sees a large increase in summer residents visiting vacation homes.  The village passed a set of fuel management ordinances to ensure defensible space around properties and works to advance the understanding of this valuable fire safety practice.  

Learn more about the efforts in Ruidoso and how you can play your role in a Fire Adapted Community.

photo credit: Village of Ruidoso, NM 

More than a decade ago, former NFPA staffer Denise Laitinen, a journalist and community and fire education specialist, moved to Hawaii and instituted local Firewise programming in cooperation with the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife. Under the auspices of Firewise Communities Hawaii, Denise recently conducted an unprecedented week-long Firewise training program in the Northern Mariana Islands on the island of Saipan. She’s sent a great story (below) as a guest blogger for us to include here on the Fire Break blog. Mahalo, Denise!

Firewise Training from Hawaii to Saipan:

Saipan is located in the Western Pacific Ocean and is one of 15 islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. island territory. It’s located about three fourths of the way between Hawaii and the Philippines and is a little less than 6,000 miles from the west coast of the U.S.

The second largest island in the Mariana Island archipelago, Saipan is about 12 miles long and 5.6 miles wide covering 44 square miles. The island community is home to slightly more than 48,000 people. The CNMI Fire Department is under the jurisdiction of the territory’s Department of Public Safety and has seven fire stations spread out across the island.

In the U.S., Saipan is most well-known for the Battle of Saipan during World War II, a long and hard-fought battle that changed the course of the war in the Pacific. More than 24,000 people (civilians and soldiers) died in the battle that led to Japan’s surrender. With its sandy beaches and warm tropical waters, today Saipan is a popular tourist destination for visitors from Russia, Japan, Korea, and China. However, the tropical island does have wildfire issues, especially in wildland/urban interface areas.

CNMI Fire has a trained wildland strike team (some of whom were recently deployed to California’s Happy Camp Fire). Recent brush fires locally in Saipan have resulted in the loss of homes. As a result of those losses, CNMI implemented an island-wide brush abatement program. The department requested my help as the Firewise Communities Coordinator for Hawaii to provide training to the wildland strike team and help the department create a Firewise public safety outreach campaign. In August, I conducted a week-long series of Firewise training workshops for fire department personnel, including some specialized Firewise training for the CNMI wildland strike force team. This training included the basics of how to conduct wildfire hazard assessments, a full day of field work conducting wildfire hazard assessments, and a half day of training on Firewise landscaping and how to build a Firewise home. 

During the training, I provided CNMI fire department with 500 Firewise brochures, 200 landscaping checklists, 100 FW bookmarks, 25 booklets on creating Firewise communities, 25 Firewise catalogs, 25 Firewise door hangers, and numerous Firewise videos and materials which are available free of charge from the NFPA Catalog in the wildland fire section.

The training also covered the basics of conducting a Firewise public education campaign. As part of this training, firefighters developed customized public education materials, including five radio and four TV Public Service Announcements (PSAs). I selected one of the class team’s PSAs and read it on the air during a live radio interview in which I was interviewed along with CNMI Fire personnel. The radio host liked the PSA so much he asked CNMI Fire’s Jay Jairam if he would bring by the other PSAs so that they could also be read on the radio. 

FW in CNMI paper.7.14
Coverage of Firewise training in Saipan

As part of the training, the class was broken into groups. On the last day of training, each group gave a presentation on Firewise as if they were speaking to residents at a community meeting. At the end of the training, each participant completed and successfully passed the Firewise online training course for conducting wildland hazard assessments. 

Photo credits: Denise Laitinen, Firewise Communities Hawaii. Top photo, Denise Laitinen with members of CNMI fire department.

As Fire Prevention Week continues, so do our FAC case studies.  But first, I'd like to quickly share this year's Fire Prevention Week theme:

Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives:  Test Yours Every Month!

We all know smoke alarms save lives.  96% of US households have at least one smoke alarm, but they have become so common place that many people forget they are even there.  One-quarter of the nearly 3,000 people who died in a home fire last year had a smoke alarm but it did not sound or it was nonfunctional.  With that in mind, this year's theme is a valuable reminder that only working smoke alarms can save your life.

Today's case study highlights the hard work the Four Forest Restoration Initiative and other stakeholders have done to create sustainable ecosystems by restoring forests to their natural and healthy state.  In the process, they have also managed to create a sustainable wood products industry and increase jobs throughout the region.  Check out the Guide to Fire Adapted Communities for more case studies on communities taking action to reduce their wildfire risk.

Creating Forest Restoration
Photo credit: Four Forest Restoration Initiative

Case Study: Accomplishing Creative Forest Restoration

Four national forests in Arizona—Kaibab, Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves, and Tonto—are actively engaged in the collaborative, landscape scale Four Forest Restoration Initiative. Together with a diverse group of stakeholders, the four forests are working to restore ponderosa pine forests, providing for fuels reduction, forest health, and biodiversity, while creating sustainable wood products industries and jobs in the region. Through innovative use of GPS technology, managers are carrying out 40 different prescriptions for forest thinning that are specifically tailored to ecosystems and wildlife habitats in each area as demonstrated by the before and after photographs.

Visit the Forest Service website to find out more about the Four Forest Restoration Initiative.

Registration for October’s Firewise Virtual Workshop is now open. The Thursday, October 23 session, Improving Access for Wildland Firefighters features Jeremy Keller as this month’s Ask an Expert presenter and is scheduled for 3:30 to 4:30pm eastern daylight time. This topic will be of great interest to multiple stakeholders including: homeowners, Firewise Community/USA recognized site coordinators, emergency managers, community planners and insurance professionals.

Session participants will discover how modifications can increase a driveway’s accessibility for firefighting apparatus, the importance of address visibility, information on what fire personnel look for when making decisions on which homes may be defendable; along with simple tips on how homeowners can help firefighters prior to evacuating. This unique learning format provides wildland/urban interface homeowners and stakeholders with information on how to implement important actions at homes with a wildland fire risk.  

The one-hour agenda includes a thirty minute informational presentation followed by a thirty minute “Ask an Expert” component where questions related to the session’s topic are answered in the live format. Registrants are encouraged to submit a question for the Ask the Expert component – to be considered submissions must be received by Monday, October 13 at 8am EDT. To submit your question send an email with the question you want to ask to    

This month’s guest presenter Jeremy Keller brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the session. He's a certified forester, both a wildland and structural firefighter, fire officer, fire instructor and fire & life safety educator; and he has a bachelor’s degree in fire administration, and also a bachelor’s and master’s degree in natural resources management. 

The series of virtual workshops provides an opportunity for stakeholders to attend a live, no-charge, sixty minute interactive educational module, with the option of downloading the full session at a future date and time. Previous sessions were limited to the first 100 registrants, but in response to increased demand a new platform has been acquired that will now accommodate an unlimited sized audience. Transcripts are also available for each session.

To register, or access the recorded workshops visit


&#0160; !|src=|alt=Image1|style=width: 335px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;|title=Image1|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b8d0783cbb970c img-responsive!


&#0160;Photo Credit: &#0160;Orange County Fire Authority


Fire Prevention Week (October 5 – 11) rolled into full swing yesterday and in tribute to communities throughout the nation taking proactive efforts to reduce their risk, our wildland fire operations division will highlight five case studies during the week from the recently released Guide to Fire Adapted Communities.


Before we get to today’s featured case study, I wanted to do a quick refresher on how and when Fire Prevention Week began.&#0160; It was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire, the tragic 1871 conflagration that killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The fire began on October 8, but continued into (and did most of its damage) on October 9, 1871.&#0160;

While the Great Chicago Fire was the best-known blaze to start during this fiery two-day stretch, it wasn't the biggest! That distinction goes to the Peshtigo Fire, the most devastating forest fire in American history. The fire, which also occurred on October 8th, 1871, and roared through Northeast Wisconsin, burning down 16 towns, killing 1,152 people, and scorching 1.2 million acres before it ended.

Historical accounts of the fire say that the blaze began when several railroad workers clearing land for tracks unintentionally started a brush fire. Some survivor accounts said the fast-moving flames whipped through the area like a tornado. It was the small town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin that suffered the worst damage. Within an hour, the entire town had been destroyed.

Those two fire events changed the way firefighters and public officials thought about fire safety and on the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America (today known as the International Fire Marshals Association), decided that the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should henceforth be observed not with festivities, but in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.  In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first National Fire Prevention Day proclamation, and since 1922, Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls. According to the National Archives and Records Administration's Library Information Center, Fire Prevention Week is the longest running public health and safety observance on record. The President of the United States has signed a proclamation proclaiming a national observance during that week every year since 1925.


Here’s a peek at a few Fire Prevention Week themes over the years:

1927:  Why this Mad Sacrifice to Fire?
1928:  FIRE…Do Your Part – Stop This Waste!
1929:  FIRE – The Nation’s Greatest Menace! Do Your Part to Stop This Waste!
1930:  Fight Fire Waste with Fire Prevention. Do Your Part
1931:  Do Your Part to Prevent Fire
1932 and 1933:  Your Life - Your Property
1934:  Now War on Fire
1935:  What Would Fire Mean to You?
1936:  Stop It
1937:  Help Prevent Fires
1938:  Is This Your Tomorrow?
1939:  Was Somebody Careless?
1940:  Keep Fire in Its Place
1941:  Defend Against Fire


With that bit of history as a segue into this week’s series of blogs on successful wildfire risk reduction stories, today we’re highlighting work done by the Orange County Fire Authority. Check out the Guide to Fire Adapted Communitiesfor more case studies on communities taking action to reduce their wildfire risk.


Case Study: Collaboration for Wildfire Protection in a Populated Area



The Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) i s a regional fire service agency that serves 23 cities plus unincorporated areas in a large California county with over 1.6 million residents. OCFA provides services from 71 fire stations and 10 reserve stations, including defensible space assessments for individual properties, planning and development services for new projects, community education, cooperative planning for wildfire defense, and a systematic approach to wildfire risk reduction in member communities. OCFA also implements Ready, Set, Go! in neighborhoods, maintains a fuels reduction corridor between wildlands and developments, and publishes wildfire risk maps for the entire county.</p>


April's devastating fire in Valparaiso, Chile, reminded me in many ways of similar scenarios in the US, including the media's tendency to call out each fire event as "the worst" that has ever happened. But in many ways, government leadership included, Chile's recovery from a "worst ever" event in a wildland/urban interface might end up having a very different outcome than what we typically experience in our country.

NFPA Journal Latinoamericano editor Gabriela Portillo Mazal invited me to share my "punto de vista," or point of view on the Valparaiso wildland/urban interface fire and the reaction by leaders from the mayor all the way to Michelle Bachelet, Chile's president. Can Chile lead the way in sensible, safe and sustainable rebuilding in wildfire prone areas, as it has proven it can in its earthquake-vulnerable cities? I'll be watching and learning from them in my work at NFPA. 

See page 18 of the latest Journal Latinoamericano (in Spanish or Portuguese) for my article pondering Chile's fiery past and the psossiblity of a safer future. A version for "norteamericanos," in English, is available as an NFPA Journal Online Exclusive here.

 Image courtesy ReachGlobal

You can tell when fall arrives, especially here at NFPA in the Wildland Fire Operations Division because suddenly there’s an uptick in renewal applications flooding in, and folks across the country, working on mitigation projects, are now completing and submitting their applications before the December 31 deadline to become a new, official Firewise Communities/USA site this year.  Dollar

As I’ve mentioned during the past few weeks, the benefits to becoming a recognized Firewise community are many. Just check out our “success stories” page and read our testimonials and stories around the Firewise Challenge and Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and you’ll get the picture. It’s no wonder that every year we receive more and more applications from residents dedicated to creating a safer, more fire adapted place to live for themselves, their families and friends. And while every community may have a different reason for what brought them to the program, in the end, the intended outcome is the same:  to reduce the threat that wildfire brings to their homes, property and neighborhood.

And so with that, here’s the seventh and “last” program benefit provided to us by residents involved in Firewise, from our “Top Seven Benefits to Becoming Firewise” list:

7. Access to Funding and Assistance
Preference is sometimes given to Firewise Communities/USA sites over other candidates when allocations of grant money are made for wildfire safety or fuel mitigation. The reason is that there are invariably more requests than available funds when grants are available through state or federal agencies. If requests are equally worthy, some officials tend to have more confidence in communities that have demonstrated the foresight of becoming a recognized Firewise Communities/USA site.

Check out where you’ll learn more about grants and funding, wildfire mitigation action steps to take around your home and how to get your neighbors involved in the process. Also find a host of projects, ideas and tips you can share with every member of your family, local organizations and other groups of which you are a member.

With three months to go before the end of the year, you still have time to submit your application and learn more about the Firewise program. Need help? Contact us at any time. We’re here to support you!

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: