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It is always sad as the holidays come to a close to have to dispose of the tree that was once so brightly decorated. Many trees end up in the yard or elsewhere which can create potential fire hazards, especially when they are tossed out in parks or wilderness areas.  According to Susan McKelvey in the NFPA TODAY blog post, "Dispose of your Christmas Tree promptly, nearly 40 percent of Christmas Tree home fires occur in January," it is important to remove the tree soon.Fox News old christmas trees

According to an article in the Reno Gazette Journal, which was also featured in USA Today,“Goats will help you recycle your Christmas tree” ! The article described one community in Washoe Valley that has come up with a unique solution spearheaded by Vince Thomas, a volunteer firefighter with the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District. His main concern with these unwanted trees was that they seemed to be dumped quite frequently in natural areas.  According to the article, he said, “I’ve seen them everywhere; all you have to do is get off the beaten path a ways, and you’ll see trees all over.  It was amazing to me to see how many Christmas trees people would toss out there.”

Thomas and his 40 goats created an alternative solution to this local problem.  They have created a Christmas tree disposal program which features the voracious appetite of these hungry little goats.  The trees are taken to the Truckee Meadows fire station which has a lot more space for the goats to work their magic.  They give the goats the trees to eat as long as there is no residual tinsel, ornaments or other items and the goats make quick work of eating the pine needles and leaving only the skeleton of the tree which is easier to dispose of.

Goats eating pine needles is a little unusual but Thomas said, “I did a lot of research on that, and its ok for the goats……for goats, it’s a natural dewormer, and pine is very high in vitamin C so it is healthy for them.  This is a great “out of the box”, solution to a seasonal fire hazard.  For more sucess stories about how communities have creatively mitigated the wildfire threat in their communities, visit the  Firewise Communities/USA® website. Christmas-tree-recycling-goats

The top image is from Fox News.  The lower picture of the goats eating the tree is from Marcella Corona with the Reno Gazette Journal.

Well, the day I have been dreading for many months is finally here. On this last day of 2014, I say goodbye to my very dear friend and colleague, Linda Coyle, as she goes off to a happy and healthy retirement.

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Cheryl Blake, Linda and me, December 2014

Linda's one of a dwindling breed. Here at NFPA, there are a number of women in administrative (formerly known as secretarial) positions who are, as we say, "of a certain age." Linda has happily been part of this group that lunches together daily, calls themselves "The Golden Girls" with big smiles, gets together for extracurricular events sometimes, and quietly and efficiently keep the wheels turning behind the scenes at NFPA. As her lunch bunch has, one by one, sailed off into the retirement sunset, I knew it was inevitable that Linda would join them at some point. As much as they like to be known as a group, however, I have known Linda for 15 years and I recognize her individual talent and contributions, regardless of title, status, age or anything you could use to put her in a category.

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Linda with Kathy Murphy and me at Backyards & Beyond in 2006


Even before I came to NFPA, I knew Linda through my work as a partner on the Firewise Planning Workshops that began in 1999. Besides her deep and thorough knowledge of NFPA's procurement, accounting and other procedures that keep things ticking, Linda became the voice and the go-to for Firewise, with people from all over the country getting in touch with her during the workshop series and later when we initiated our semi-annual Backyards and Beyond wildfire safety education conference.

I cannot count how many times people have told me, in person, the phone or email, how much they appreciated Linda's customer service and her willingness to go the extra mile to assist them in any matter for which they needed help. 

Linda and I had the great good fortune to travel together A LOT for the workshops from 2002-2004, and what fun it was!

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Firewise Team in Hilo in 2002

From touring Volcano National Park on Hawaii's Big Island to finding out how the cattle in the Black Hills survived the night (no, they don't have nice New England red barns in South Dakota) to checking out the hot tub at a New Mexico resort, we have lots of great memories and stories that we still laugh about today. We worked hard, we had fun, and we laughed pretty much every day over the past dozen years.

In our day-to-day work in the office, Linda has been a bit like my "Radar" from the old M.A.S.H. TV show. She could anticipate what I was thinking and what needed to be done well before it hit my conciousness. With all due respect, she has also served the role of "office mom" in a very caring way, especially making sure that staff (OK, mostly me) did not have a hair out of place or any wardrobe malfunctions.

Linda started doing something years ago that used to bother me. When I was in the role of answering all kinds of questions about Firewise, she'd forward me a call from an inquirer, then stand listening in my doorway while I responded. Having her hovering there made me nervous - but then she told me she wanted to hear how I answered so she could learn better how to answer a future similar inquiry. How could I ask for more from a colleague in terms of motivation to learn and excel? 

Linda, my golden girl, my Radar, my protective mom-at-work, my friend. I'll miss your presence terribly, as will all your friends at NFPA and the many, many folks around the country with whom you've developed such great relationships during your time here. I wish you all the best!

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Linda with hubby Bill, who threw her a surprise party for her retirement.

Over the past decades, a series of devastating wildland fires have burned millions acres of forests, grasslands, and wildland-Urban Interface (WUI), causing inestimable environmental loss and unfavorable injuries and fatalities of firefighters. The successful application and popularization of geospatial technology in planning and responding to emergency events has gained great interest from the wildland and WUI fire management community. 

Geospatial technology includes systems such as Geographic Information System (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS), and Global Positioning System (GPS). This study focuses on identifying, evaluating, and analyzing current geospatial technological applications used to address wildland and WUI fire events, with a focus on presenting the characteristics of each technology for wildland and WUI fires of different scale and magnitude. 

The goal of this project is to compile a collection of the latest geospatial technological approaches to clarify the methodology, application and utility of various geospatial techniques and data for wildland and WUI fire events. This report is intended to improve understanding and enhance decision-making for fire preparedness, mitigation, and rehabilitation in the wildland and WUI. The deliverables of this project collectively review the available baseline information, and identify the fundamental principles and key details involving current applications of geospatial technology to address wildland and WUI fire hazards. They provide a summary of core information regarding the features and specific use of different geospatial tools, with a primary focus on Graphic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS), and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies.

Download the complete report, free of charge, from the Fire Protection Research Foundation website

I read an article in Firefighter Nation that was forwarded to me by a fellow member of the NFPA research division, Hylton Haynes.  The article, “Community Risk Reduction, Changing the Focus of Fire Service”, discussed the importance of fire departments implementing effective prevention plans.  The author referred to how good ideas such as bicycle helmets, sprinkler systems and airbags, among other things, have been collaboratively developed to provide better public safety and ultimately firefighter safety. 

It made me think about this last summer’s experience that I had working as a forestry aid for CAL FIRE in the town of Julian.  My supervisors and partners were very supportive of providing good public information about what residents could do to make their homes more survivable in the event of a wildfire in Julian, California.  That summer a wildfire, “The Banner Fire”, burnt up the back side of a very steep area into the east side of Julian.  Because many homeowners had followed Firewise principles and worked with the local BLM office on a shaded fuel break below the steep slope, many homes were saved and firefighters were able to make a stand in a much safer area.

Photo 2

Ultimately it is not the event itself that creates a catastrophe but rather the steps that are (or are not) taken before the event that can make a difference in the outcome.  The NFPA and their Firewise program have many tools available in their toolbox such as codes and standards, online workshops, and assessment templates that can make it much easier for departments and communities work together to ultimately create a safer community.   This lasting legacy of public safety is one that departments and communities can work together to accomplish in the coming year.

I took the picture of the team that I worked with this last year at the Monte Vista station in El Cajon, California.

Australian has some monitoring tools available at their disposal.  FireWatch by Landgate is a national bushfire monitoring system that provides timely information about hotspots to emergency service managers across Australia. The mapping system allows users to identify fire locations with a potential risk to communities and property.  Their website provides a variety of mapping information for residents and fire departments in Australia.

One application on the site, My Fire Watch has been developed as a collaborative effort between Landgate and Edith Cowan University.  It provides real time bush fire information in a real time easy to use format for the public.   I noticed that you can also click a box on the map to show you where lightning activity has occurred and notice that many of the current fire locations correlate with where recent lightning strikes have occurred. You can also click on the box to see the fire history for Australia last year and the year before. Picture from AP wire-Australia-Wildfire

This application is very similar to MODIS, a tool utilized by the US Forest Service that we explored in a previous post.

The picture is from the AP wire (Evan Colis) article from January of this year, "Wildfires Blistering Heat Scorch Australia"


There have been unmanned aircraft specifically helicopters developed by companies to fly in dangerous areas and at night in Afghanistan.  Two companies who have developed such aircraft are Boeing and Kaman Aerospace.  The Unmanned Little Bird demonstrator, which Boeing built from a civilian [MD 530F |], first flew on September 8, 2004, and made its first autonomous flight (with safety pilot) on October 16, 2004.The Kmax helicopter has been produced by Kaman Aerospace and programmed for pilotless flying by Lockheed Martin for dangerous missions in Afghanistan.


Author Jordan Golson's article in +Wired magazine, "Military’s Self Flying Helicopter Gets Modded to Fight Wildfires," covers this new technology. According to Golson, "+Lockheed and Kaman took the K-MAX to an FAA drone test facility in upstate New York to demonstrate its capabilities for experts from the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Forest Service, the folks who manage much of the land that’s especially susceptible to wildfires.”

Golson also reported, “One thing a human can do that the K-MAX cannot is actually spot flames. So Lockheed gave the helicopter a partner: A five-pound quadcopter called the Indago, which used an infrared camera to locate the (controlled) fire and report back to a control center. Then the K-MAX, lugging a bucket that can hold hundreds of gallons of water, spent an hour flying dropping more than 2,800 gallons of water on the fire, with trips to a nearby pond for refills.”

What do you think about the potential for this new tool for wildland firefighting?

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We grieve with those who have lost loved ones this last year in our Firewise Communities.   As we end this year and celebrate accomplishments that are quantified in the community renewals we receive, we wish to pay tribute to those whose tireless volunteer efforts have made a difference.   It has been brought to our attention in this last year that two men whose work helping others in our southwest region’s Firewise Communities have left an incredible lasting legacy. Their efforts have made their communities much safer and more resilient in the event of a wildfire.  Roger Terry, a “Firewiseguy” from Colfax County, New Mexico, and Gary Roysdon “Mr. Firewise”, from Prescott, Arizona, both passed away during 2014.   Both men made such lasting contributions to Firewise efforts that Firewise is part of their moniker in their respective communities.  Both lived large for Firewise and organized large Firewise coalitions of communities and agency partners in their area!

 I contacted a longtime friend of Roger’s, Larry Osborn. He told me, “Roger Terry was a Firewise Guy along with Billy Donati and me.  This was an effort to add humor into fire safety tips, because they are all kind of gloom and doom.  We obtained a contract with the Three Stooges Estate, and used some of their material with fire safety tips, coining the term, don’t be a knucklehead, be a “Wise Guy”.  The Tip of the Week still continues on local Radio today.”


According to Zoom Info, Roger Terry spent 16 years working in urban forestry and 30 years in !|border=0|src=|alt=Roger Terry picture|width=7812%|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Roger Terry picture|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb07c67c02970d image-full img-responsive|height=473!firefighting.  He taught firefighting all over the world, and created a curriculum for the Saipan fire department.  He also developed two fire systems that have been patented.  Roger began his fire training in 1977 as a volunteer firefighter in Bradenton Beach, Florida.   He soon moved to a paid firefighter and paramedic's position in Sarasota, Florida, and worked through several certification levels including "Fire Service Instructor" and "High Rise and Water Rescue." After being part of the fire service industry, Roger relocated to Denver, Colorado.  In Denver, Roger began a career which spanned the better part of 20 years as Green Industry Department Manager and Urban Forester.  He held a "Colorado State Agriculture Qualified Supervisor Certification", "Trees and Shrubs Certification", "Forest Agriculture Certification" and was recognized as one of the experts in the field of "Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), Firewise Community Assessment". 

According to Larry Osborn, “Roger washired by Colfax County, New Mexico through a grant from the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources as the County Forester.  He worked together with me, the County Fire Marshal, and together we started seven different Firewise Communities in our County.  At one time we were the fastest growing Firewise County in the Country.  We also created the first countywide coalition of Firewise Communities to be recognized by the national Firewise program, and that coalition continues to this day.  Roger was also instrumental in the construction of a pellet plant located in Raton, NM, which would utilize hogged material from a post and pole plant.  We also worked together on several grants for our primary watershed which resulted in several thinning projects, along with an educational facet that involved the school system.    These are just a few of the many things that Roger was able to accomplish during the short time he was with us.

Roger was one of those unique individuals that brought with him a passion for the forest, and for firefighting that seemed to spread to whoever he came in contact with.  He truly believed in what he did.  He was a man driven by a thousand ideas, his mind never stopped working and dreaming of how he could make things better.  He was a great inspiration to many people in our County, and is greatly missed.”

 Gary Roysdon, according to Joanna Dodder at the Prescott Daily Courier,“…was a man on a mission to reduce wildfire danger in the Prescott region.”
He figured out how make a direct impact, by volunteering an inordinate amount of time to the Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC).

"This man did a minimum of 20 hours per week,” PAWUIC Chair P.J. Cathey said.

I first met Gary in February 2012 when I did a tour of the community with Michele Steinberg and Hylton Haynes.  Gary’s enthusiasm and dedication were infectious.  He helped multiple communities complete their assessments in the Prescott area and gain Firewise Recognition.  He took us on a whirlwind tour of the communities to see all of the projects that they worked on in order that the communities would be safer in the event of a wildfire.  I had a hard time keeping up with the 70+ year old man in the cowboy hat and cowboy boots who cared and worked collaboratively with many agency partners and was instrumental in organizing the local collation group known as PAWUIC. 


 In his other life Gary was a nuclear physicist, college professor and a restaurant owner. His final occupation was doing volunteer work, helping communities to become Firewise.  His final act was to have memorial gifts go to the PAWUIC committee to benefit Firewise communities in the Prescott area.

 We cherish our Firewise Community volunteers collectively. They have made a difference for more than 1,100 communities to date.  If you would like to leave a lasting legacy of fire preparedness in your community we invite you to visit [ |] and learn how you and your community can become Firewise!





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The picture of Gary is from his obituary and the

picture of Roger the middle Firewise Guy is from a KRNT radio employee.

Dec Fire BreakThe December issue of Fire Break, NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division newsletter, is now available for viewing. Here’s what you’ll find in this month’s issue:

  • A link to NFPA’s “Large Loss Fires in the United States in 2013” report that highlights Colorado’s Black Forest Fire that resulted in $420.5 million in damage, the highest in terms of direct property loss of any fire in the country.
  • Information about the newest members of the Wildland Fire Operations Division
  • Some interesting statistics about lightning and its connection to wildfires
  • A link to our new Sparky wildfire videos
  • Resources to help prepare seasonal properties for the spring fire season …

...and much 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.


Hawaii is working on updating four Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) utilizing grant funding from the US Forest Service .  The communities include South Kona, Volcano, Ka’u and Ocean View. 


What is a Community Wildfire Protection Plan and why is it important? CWPPs are authorized and defined in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 . Part of the process of a CWPP includes garnering input from the public and local, state and federal land management agencies and fire jurisdictions to develop effective mitigation projects that look at structures and landscapes.  Completing these plans are a prerequisite to applying for federal funding for projects that provide educational opportunities and on the ground projects. has some great information about CWPPs and their three key components; collaboration, prioritizing fuel reduction and treatment of structural ignitability.


Creating a CWPP is an important assessment tool that is the first part of creating a Fire Adapted Community .  They help larger communities that are comprised of smaller Firewise Communities and other partner groups work together to address large scale issues.  People working together all giving their input into these plans create an effective planning tool to address wildfire hazards.  I think about a saying that was a part of one Hawaiian Fire Chief’s meeting, “Hand in Hand Together We Can!”  Working together we can make a difference in the outcome of a community in the event of a wildfire.





!|border=0|src=|alt=Satellite view of Hawaii|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Satellite view of Hawaii|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b8d0ab7819970c img-responsive!A true-color satellite view of Hawaii shows that most of the vegetation on the islands grows on the northeast sides which face the wind.&#0160;This picture comes from the Wikipedia website.</p>




Early detection and aggressive initial attack helps keep wildland fires small, less dangerous, and less costly.  “Safe, aggressive, initial attack” is one of the guiding principles of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.  Over the years, we have searched for smoke with fire lookouts in towers, vehicle patrols and aircraft.  But newer technology is now being applied to wildland fires. Firetower1

Scientists in Nevada are developing and expanding an earthquake detection system using cameras that can also detect wildland fires around Lake Tahoe, California.  With three cameras in place and a fourth to be added soon, the system uses wireless, digital, microwave communication technology.

The plan is to expand the program to 15 stations, which can also obtain weather data.  The total cost of the program is expected to be about $2 million.

And, the system has already been successful.  In August, 2014, the Spooner Fire, on the east shore of Lake Tahoe was detected using this technology and it was contained to a half acre.                    

North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Chief Mike Brown said, “What they have to offer is awesome Hidden-Cove-summerwhen it comes to early detection.”

This is a great example of where science, government, the Fire Service and communities are working towards the goals of Firewise and Fire Adapted.

photo credit: Missouri Dept. of Conservation (firetower) and (lake tahoe)

Project Wildfire blog - Dec 2014
Photo courtesy of Alison Green (Project Wildfire)

A recent networking day hosted by Project Wildfire (the community organization in Deschutes County, OR that facilitates, educates, disseminates and maximizes community efforts toward effective fire planning and mitigation) connected Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) practitioners in a forum focused on a peer exchange opportunity.

The meeting was the first of its kind in the area and was aimed at building the local network and focused specifically on Firewise Communities/USA program participants; a similar meeting design could be applied to a broader FAC event in any community. Project Wildfire and their partners designed the meeting around a series of guiding questions that allowed participants to share their successes and challenges; building relationships and trust. Check out some of the insights FAC practitioners shared and consider how you might apply these lessons in your efforts.

When asked about how to encourage residents to take action, participants offered the following:

  • Don’t give up - be persistent and consistent with your message
  • Be the model and set the standard in your neighborhood
  • Illustrate a fire-ready home and remind people that mitigation work is an on-going process
  • Organize property assessments and consider utilizing agency partners, such as a local fire chief/marshal, to bolster credibility and add increased validity to your effort
  • Host social events for neighborhoods to connect residents around shared values
  • Work with your local HOA, or other governing body, to incorporate appropriate fire mitigation standards into Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) or local codes

Participants shared memorable turning points when they began making progress toward their Firewise goals:

  • Area wildfires can motivate people to action—being ready with FAC messages after a fire can help get the word out and support community needs
  • Field tours offer some of the best learning opportunities
  • Organizing a neighborhood walk-through can help establish a shared understanding of baseline conditions
  • Grant programs can subsidize the cost of treatments and jumpstart implementation in a neighborhood
  • Funding assistance may take the form of chipper days, individual grants and cost-share programs or disposal fee reductions

Creative outreach activities shared by participants included:

  • Provide welcome packets to new residents (both homeowners and renters) that include fire history, community resources and local contractor contacts
  • Work to incorporate your FAC messages into the local public service announcements
  • Be introspective - recognize what motivates you to take action and capture that in a story 

Participants reflected on how they could inspire action in the future:

  • Incorporate these three steps when working with volunteers: train, utilize and recognize!
  • Be realistic
  • FAC requires a long-term sustained effort
  • You will never be done, but you can make progress together
  • This is not just about my home or property; this is about all of us

These lessons and many more were shared by participants at the first Firewise networking day in Deschutes County. To learn more about the event, or for advice on hosting your own networking day, contact Alison Green at

Our thanks to Michelle Medley-Daniel for submitting her article to the Fire Break Blog.  Michelle is a member of the FAC Network Coordinating Team. 

While the winter months are upon us, it may seem like wildfire is the last thing on most of our minds. But the truth is, in some areas of the country, wildfires continue to be a threat. And, as my colleague, Lucian Deaton pointed out in an earlier blog post, it's never too soon to start preparing our seasonal properties for the upcoming fire season

This holiday season, as you begin thinking about those new year resolutions, consider making wildfire safety one of them. Creating a plan early and tackling these mitigation activities a little at a time not only cuts down on the "stress" factor, but it will go a long way in helping keep you and your family safer during wildfire season.  Wildfire safety

NFPA has created a great wildfire safety checklist that can help you manage these tasks. From clearing leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks to removing dead vegetation from under your deck or porch, to screening areas below decks with wire mesh to prevent combustible materials from accumulating, many of these activities require just a bit of elbow grease and cost next to nothing to do.

Not sure where to start? Download our safety tips sheet and follow the list. Pick an item or two a week to get started and before you know it, you'll have completed the whole list come springtime! Learn more about wildfire safety for homeowners by visiting our Firewise website, and check out our events and activities, research and other wildfire related information on our wildfire safety pages at  


Currently, 41 states actively participate in the national Firewise Communities/USA® program and represent a combined 1,142 communities that have achieved recognition status for their work to reduce their community’s wildfire risk. Nine of the sites have participated for more than a decade and have been with the program since the original pilot was launched in 2002. 

Up until recently, only two states – Arkansas and Washington had achieved the milestone of 100 plus participating communities; Colorado now joins the distinction of attaining the major accomplishment of reaching that benchmark. The Colorado State Forest Service is the program’s state liaison. In their role they work with stakeholders and private homeowners on wildfire mitigation projects and completing the criteria for program recognition. With 105 participating community's, Colorado is now the state with the third highest number of total communities successfully completing the requirements.

The Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program is a process that empowers neighbors to work together in reducing their wildfire risk. Each community must annually demonstrate their on-going efforts of taking action and ownership in preparing and protecting their homes against the threat of wildfire. Using a five-step process, communities develop an action plan that guides their residential risk reduction activities, while engaging and encouraging neighbors to become active participants in building a safer place to live.  

The program is co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.

Research by Jack Cohen of the USDA Forest Service (USDAFS),  and Dr. Stephen Quarles Ph.D., of the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), have both done significant research on how homes burn in Wildland/Urban Interface (WUI) fires.  But unless you have actually experienced or fought a wildland fire, you have no idea what an “ember blizzard”, as firefighters call it, actually looks like.

However, now you can.  Using technology from the new fire detection and reconnaissance aircraft purchased by the Colorado State Division of Fire Prevention and Control, (CDFPC) you can see it for yourself.

The photograph on the right is a screen capture from a You Tube video that was taken using the Screen-grab-Colo-IR-videoElectro Optical/Infrared, (EO/IR), sensor equipment on board a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft currently employed by CDFPC.  The image was taken from 30,000 feet, to give you an idea of the systems capability. 

In the center of the photograph embers are showering out of the top of the heated smoke column, transported by the convection of the fire and wind.  You can also see the heat signatures of several small spot fires caused by embers contacting flammable vegetation. Embers can sometimes carry over a mile, depending on weather conditions, topography and the species of vegetation that is burning.

In order for homes to survive these ember storms, Firewise principles must be accomplished by homeowners and communities well before a fire happens.  It can mean the difference between survival and total loss.  A Firewise home also allows a greater degree of safety for firefighters and can give them a fighting chance to protect your home, themselves, and your community.

photo credit: CDFPC

There is a website that offers a “near real-time geospatial overview of the current wildland fire situations.”  You can view this US Forest Service website at   .  

MODIS stands for “Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer”.  According to the US Forest Service website, the MODIS instrument is located on board two NASA EOS Satellites, Terra and Aqua.  Their names respectively mean land and water.  Each MODIS sensor acquires data from the earth with a wide field of view 2,300 kilometers. Data is collected twice daily by each sensor.  Modis Satelight Picture from US Forest Service Website California South 11 30 2014

For more information about the data available on the website, including Burn Scar Data which would be helpful in planning reforestation projects after a wildfire event, visit the US Forest Service Website.

For mapping information about the location of Firewise Communities in your area, go to the NFPA’s Firewise Communities/ USA ®website.

The picture above is from a MODIS sensor of the Southern California Region taken November 30, 2014 and can be viewed on the US Forest Service’s website.

CaptureOver 1,000 communities across the country have worked tirelessly and passionately to earn the honor of being able to call themselves “Firewise”. But even after they get the recognition, they need to work just as hard to retain the title.

One of the requirements is having to host an annual “Firewise Day”. The Firewise Day is essentially one day that is set aside to hold events with the intention of educating neighbors about being Firewise, building community spirit and improving their current wildfire readiness strategy.

Every community has an underlying common factor in that they have all taken the necessary steps to be Firewise. But each community is different, with different needs based on their geographic location, climate, so their respective Firewise Board has complete freedom in deciding what, where and when their Firewise Day is.

Over the years, communities have hosted state fair exhibits or community clean-up days. An event that is quite popular is planning a “chipper day” in which volunteers gather equipment and chip up brush and limbs to make the area less of a fire threat. 

In this season’s Firewise How-To Newsletter, we talk to Sheila Doughty, Arkansas Firewise Information Officer with the Arkansas Forestry Commission, for insights on planning a fun, educational Firewise Day. With 139 recognized Firewise communities in Arkansas, she has experienced a lot of various Firewise Days.

One event Doughty particularly enjoys is when an Arkansas community combines their Firewise Day with their Halloween program at a local school. Everyone in the community who trick-or-treats receives Firewise handouts and candy, and is registered to win a prize.

There are many other events people have held to fulfill their Firewise Day activity requirement and if you want to read all about them, check out our Fall Firewise How-To Newsletter where Doughty highlights them all!

As winter sets in, many have closed up seasonal cabins and retreats and put their sights on warmer months to come.  In many states though, the spring fire season may start before the recreational season for those properties.  Is your property ready now?

A recent article by the Michigan State University Extension shared valuable Firewise information to ensure cabins in the wildland are ready for spring fire risk. 

NWCG pc April Deming, NPS 2014_09_09-19_36_23_966-CDTThe article encourages cabin owners to consider that, “Although “fire season” probably won’t be until next spring following snow melts; it is unlikely most owners will have time to Firewise their structures at that time. A better plan is to leave your property prepared rather than to “hope to get back in time” next spring.”

I caught up with the Michigan Firewise State Liaison Dan Laux, who is also a Wildfire Prevention Specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  He shared great prospective that should resonate with seasonal cabin owners in Michigan and beyond.  “As snow is starting to cover the northern parts of Michigan and the firearm deer season has just come to a close it is a good time as your closing up your camp or cabin for the season to take a few moments to practice Firewise safety tips you have learned.  Many times the spring wildfire season arrives long before the frost is out of the roads enough to make it in to your cabin after the snow melts for that first check of the new season.”

Dan further explained that, “Fires will occur in those area’s long before you have the chance to clean up around your cabin or camp in the spring making it that much more important to take a little extra time on your last visit this fall to clear the leaves and debris from under porches,  roof valleys, gutters and around the structure in general even though it might be wet now, that dead grass will dry and be ready to burn that first sunny day in the spring and the steps you take now could make a big difference a few months down the road.”

The Firewise program has many seasonal cabin communities and we continue to learn from the risks they face.  If you have a seasonal cabin and have best practices that you employ at season’s end, please share them with us at

 photo credit: April Deming, NPS, NWCG photo library

Last month we launched a new series of videos for the young members of our wildfire audience. For the first time, NFPA's Spokesdog, Sparky the Fire Dog, is reaching out to kids about wildfire safety, and we're thrilled that he's helping us in this effort. In the three videos we produced, Sparky provides a number of safety tips that families can do together to help keep their homes safer from wildfire.

In the third and last video of the series, Sparky highlights our "Firewise Tips Checklist for Homeowners" that is filled with some great project ideas for our young ones and the adults in the family. Find out more by watching the video, "Sparky and NFPA's  Wildfire Safety Checklist" and get started on your project today!


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