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Yesterday’s virtual workshop was a great success, with over 50 participants learning from Joanne Drummond and Courtney Peterson about the value of yearly action by communities at risk. 

If you missed the event, you can view the YouTube video of the workshop from its site page

We know that many Firewise Communities are hosting “watch parties” that will bring together residents to watch the workshop and share in discussion.  We encourage others to follow this example and use it as a great educational tool about sharing the community's story of achievement.


If you are a Firewise Community and have yet to renew for 2015, the virtual workshop can help guide you through that process and explain the value of you sharing the story. 

On a particularly nice day, stop into Myrtle Beach State Park after Backyards & Beyond sessions. Myrtle Beach State Park was the first State Park to open in South Carolina back in 1936, and allows for a number of great activities and scenery, with boardwalks, beaches, nature trails and campgrounds. Mb_pier_lg

Along a one-mile stretch of undeveloped beach, you can hunt for shells and shark teeth, or take a dip in the Atlantic. Fishing is allowed on the pier, although a fishing license is required, and can be purchased at local bait shops.

Take a stroll along the Sculptured Oak Nature Trail, which the park’s website declares “a rare opportunity to see one of the last stands of maritime forest on the northern coast of South Carolina.” Let your eyes take in a variety of beautiful trees and plants as well as native birds, reptiles and amphibians. You can even grab a birding list on the website for birdwatching help! The trail runs for a half-mile, and joins up with another trail of similar length, the Yaupon Trail. Both trails are designated as easy, and lead to beaches and boardwalks.

Visit the State Park’s website for more details on activities, fees, rules and regulations, as well as information on the species of plants and animals within the park. The website also offers materials for scavenger hunts.

Regular admission is just a few dollars, and the park is open from 6 am to 10 pm. Be sure to stop in the gift shop on your way out and grab some ice cream. The park will be a great getaway into the beauty of nature, although if you really can’t get away from your devices, there is free Wi-Fi!

Author(s) Faith Berry, NFPA

A big part of strengthening community involvement in preparedness is education. When you can demonstrate how Firewise practices can help your neighbors to protect their homes and property, they see firsthand what they can do.  Plus, they are motivated to take action.  The Firewise program is a vital source for these kinds of materials — and they are provided free of charge.

In Part 1, Firewise How-To introduces the resources available on its website that can be useful to your community and some of the ways you might put them to use. 

In Part 2, which will be posted this Thursday, How-To will discuss the growing popularity of Firewise materials and how you can access them.

Did you know that the Firewise website offers a variety of resources for promoting Firewise practices within your community, and that you can order these materials at no charge, with no shipping costs?

These resources include informational brochures, booklets, DVDs, stickers and more.

How can your community use these Firewise materials to meet its goals for protecting homes and property in the event of a wildfire?

FW Materials in useFor starters, if you’re planning to host a fire department open house, Community Wildfire Protection Plan meeting, Firewise Day or other wildfire prevention awareness meeting, consider getting some materials to hand out as a complement to your event. 

Providing print materials can help attendees remember the key principles you aim to impart. And when they get home, they can refresh their memories by reviewing critical information. They also can keep it handy to remind them of helpful activities they can do. And they can use the information to create checklists of the actions they can take to make their properties and homes safer.

While brochures and booklets are handy handouts at Firewise Days, fire department open houses, home owners association meetings and neighborhood gatherings, DVDs can reinforce key messaging during educational forums, or when displayed at fairs and other community events.  They also can be given out, so that community members can view them at home with their families or neighbors, offering important reminders backed by memorable visuals.

Firewise materials also have been included in welcome baskets for new home owners,  helping them understand the responsibilities that accompany living in wildland/urban interface(W/UI) communities. These educational pieces are often referenced in press releases and at media events as well, further reminders to community members about the actions they can take to protect their property and neighborhoods.

Check back this Thursday when Firewise How-To will discuss the growing popularity of Firewise materials and how you can access them.

Read previous posts in the Firewise How-To blog series.  

Lincoln Bramwell, Ph.D., the Chief Historian for the USDA Forest Service, will be a featured speaker on Friday October 23rd at the Backyards & Beyond Wildfire Education Conference. He will be speaking about how homeowners expose themselves to an environmental force beyond their control when they build homes in wildfire prone areas. 

The synopsis for his presentation states: “Residential developments nestled along the forest edge created a tremendous problem for wildfire managers.  Unable to change the economic and political forces that propelled suburban sprawl into wildfire vulnerable areas, fire managers instead respond by asking for increased budgets and human resources to fight fires more aggressively, creating a false sense of security and outsized expectations from homeowners.” 

Conference participants will learn more about how public expectations, firefighting success, accumulating fuels, climate change and more people moving into wilderness areas has created a prescription for the inevitable wildland urban interface fire situation.

Dr. Bramwell will also be available to sign copies of his new book, Wilderburbs, Communities on Nature’s Edge. A synopsis on says,“Wilderburbs tells the story of how roads and houses and water Wilderburbsdevelopment have transformed the rural landscape in the West. If
you have a copy bring it along, if not, you may purchase a copy onsite.  Bramwell introduces readers to developers, homeowners, and government regulators, all of whom have faced unexpected environmental problems in designing and building wilderburb communities, including unpredictable water supplies, threats from wildfires, and encounters with wildlife. By looking at wilderburbs in the West, especially those in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, Bramwell uncovers the profound environmental consequences of Americans’ desire to live in the wilderness.”

The new generation of veterans are finding meaningful employment and a renewed sense of mission working to reduce the wildfire risk in South Dakota.

Lt. Tim Weaver of the Rapid City, SD Fire Department and Jerry Derr of Meade County, SD employ recently discharged vets on a mitigation crew providing them an opportunity to utilize skills learned in the military on a new mission.

Veterans come to an employer with a strong work ethic, self-discipline, and experience working in a team but often find difficulty translating that to a fulfilling sense of accomplishment in the private sector.  Rapid City’s mitigation crew is helping them do just that.

Rapid City Fire is actively engaged in working with homeowners in NFPA’s Firewise program but found that there are large areas that border the City under private and other government ownership that needed serious fuel reduction.  In cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management's, ( BLM) Wildfire Community Assistance Program, vets were hired as crew and the City put up $250K in equipment so that those areas could be worked. RCFD mit crew

The crew works on parcels from 10 to 100 acres to reduce the threats adjacent to neighborhoods creating shaded fuel breaks of 300-400 feet.   This provides a vital link in the overall strategy of reducing the risk to neighborhoods and communities at very little cost to the jurisdiction, but that is only part of the story.

Besides learning fire mitigation and forestry knowledge and skills, these vets are feeling a sense of community, of doing something important.  At the same time, most are also in college or tech schools.  Several have moved on to become firefighters, including Dave Ferrier, a former Marine, who joined the Wyoming Hotshots this May and was active on the fires in the Pacific NW this summer. See them in action here.

“I have a love for my community and a love for veterans and this program brings that together”, says Weaver.  “They help us, and we help them, it’s a win-win”.

The veterans that move through the Rapid City program become part of Weaver’s extended family, keeping in contact with him as they progress and grow.  “I get just as much out of this program as they do”, said Weaver.  “I grow with them”.

Tim will be presenting his program with co-speaker Jerry, “Heroes in the Woods”, at NFPA’s Backyards and Beyond Conference in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015 from 2:15-3:15.  If you plan on attending, don’t miss this presentation!  See you there!

(photo credit: Rapid City Fire Department)

As the summer comes to an end and we prepare to enjoy more indoor activities, it is important to make sure that home heating appliances are operated properly.  NFPA has a wonderful safety tip sheet about heating safety. It references standards NFPA 97 and NFPA 211, with information about how to safely install and use home heating appliances.  It is so nice to curl up by the fireplace or wood stove with a cup of cocoa, blanket and your pet close by, and even nicer to know that you are safe while doing so.

Some tips to consider are: Puppy

  • Make sure that the equipment is properly installed and vented.
  • Install a carbon dioxide alarm and test. 
  • Make sure that you have a working smoke alarm.
  • Keep anything that can burn (such as paper or wood) three feet away from all heating appliances. 
  • Have chimneys and vents cleaned and inspected by a professional.     
  • Only use the recommended fuel.
  • Dispose of hot ash properly.   Ashes should be cool when placed in a metal container that is kept away from the home.   
  • Never use the oven to heat your home. 
  • Make sure that you have a spark screen in front of the fireplace.
  • Make sure that you have a properly installed chimney cap.  
  • Make sure that tree limbs are 10 feet away and never overhanging the chimney. Keep leaves and pine needles off the roof.

Remember most heating fires occur during the winter months.  Be warm and safe this autumn and winter as we embrace a Year of Living Less Dangerously From Wildfire. YLLDW Banner



Do you have a great product or technological application that you want to showcase at a nationally recognized wildfire prevention conference?  Showcasing what you have to offer to residents, fire departments and community leaders attending the Backyards and Beyond® Wildland Fire Education Conference  can promote the value as well as the successful application of your product.

NFPA’s 2015 Backyards & Beyond conference in Myrtle Beach will offer approximately 50 breakout sessions that will explore topics like defensible space, volunteerism, environmental design, community planning and evacuation, and many, many more. Top experts in the field will provide information and insight into the most talked about wildfire issues today, including climate change, wildfire policies and practices, insurance and the environment.

Some of the industry leaders exhibiting to date include: Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau, ESRI, Fire Smart Roofing, PHOS Check, IAFC/Ready Set Go Program, Firewise, Voss Signs, TenCate Protective Fabrics, Waterax Corporation, Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety (IBHS), EnviroVision Solutions, USA and the South Carolina Division of Forestry.

As an industry supplier, you can bring your solutions and expertise in pre-fire mitigation and prevention into the mix and help advance the NFPA mission of reducing the devastating effects of fire.

For information on exhibiting or sponsoring this event

Mark Sorensen
Companies A-L plus numeric
Call +1 630-271-8218

Zenieda Feliciano
Companies M-Z
Call +1 630-271-8227 

For information on sponsoring this event

Laura Koski
Call +1 630-271-8226

FMGlobal_229-11(R)_300high resolution color
Thank you FM Global for participating in the 2015 NFPA Backyards & Beyond sponsorship program! We appreciate your continued support.

For 175 years, many of the world’s largest organizations have turned to FM Global to develop cost-effective property insurance and engineering solutions to protect their business operations from fire, natural disasters and other types of property risk. FM Global ranks #545 among FORTUNE magazine’s largest companies in America and is rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best and AA (Very Strong) by Fitch Ratings. The company has been named “Best Property Insurer in the World" by Euromoney magazine and “Best Global Property Insurer" by Global Finance magazine.

You can view the full list of exhibitors and sponsors who will be participating in the 2015 NFPA Backyards & Beyond event at

If you’re exhibiting in this year’s event and would like to learn more about the 2015 NFPA Backyards & Beyond sponsorship program and how you can get involved, please contact Laura Koski at 630.271.8226 or

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you in Myrtle Beach!

Sometimes it’s fun to do something totally unplanned. Who knows what you’ll feel like doing from one day to the next? If that’s the case, the ideal place to go after a day at the Backyards & Beyond Conference in Myrtle Beach may be Broadway at the Beach. Broadway

Advertised as “South Carolina’s favorite Travel Destination and the largest entertainment venue of its kind in the state” on Trip Advisor, Broadway at the Beach would be an excellent destination for the indecisive tourist. There is a huge variety of options in this area, as it is home to numerous outlets, shops, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, and an array of other attractions. Head on over and take a walk around, take in the options and try a little of everything!

Grab dinner at one of 21 restaurants, including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Landry’s Seafood, or Yamato Steakhouse Japan before grabbing dessert at Ben & Jerry’s or The Fudgery. WonderworksTour the Hollywood Wax Museum or see what’s playing at the Palace Theatre. Venture inside the eye-catching upside-down building WonderWorks and exercise your mind in over 100-hands on exhibits.

You can have fun even without entering any of these establishments just by taking a stroll and observing the sights. You may even see some folks ziplining overhead across the lake, which is the centerpiece of the park. Generally, the area is open until 9 p.m. most nights, although hours for restaurants, attractions and nightclubs may vary. Check out the Broadway at the Beach events calendar to find out what’s going on during your visit.

4_FirewiseLogoColor_NFPA_transparency 5With Firewise community renewals coming in, we have updated the annual renewal video to provide current guidance on 2015 investment data collection.

If you have completed your Firewise Day event, renew today at and easily record the attendee count, investment, date, location, and brief narrative of your achievement.

The updated video will help guide you through this process and explains how to collect certain community event information. 


This year, share your community’s Firewise Day event success story by November 15 and continue your active recognition status.  If you host a late November or year-end event in December, you can record it in the online system now. 

Thanks for all you do to keep your community safer from wildfire. 

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Conferences are more than just exhibitor interaction and agency networking – which this year’s Backyards & Beyond Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC, has in great value – but are also solid educational opportunities for you to learn new ideas and bring them back to enhance your local efforts.
Backyards&Beyond Session pic1 (2)This year’s conference has over 50 educational sessions on that Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, covering topics like community safety approaches; wildfire suppression and operations; social and ecological research; new technology; and policy adoption. 

Keynote presentations will focus on fire response; building relationships; the developing WUI; data use; and insurance incentives in the WUI. 

The value of educational offerings at Backyards & Beyond is known by others as well. 

Gary Marshall, Retired Deputy Fire Chief, Bend, Oregon, shared with me that:

“This conference has a great variety of education for everyone, from the Firefighter to Elected Officials or from the Homeowner to the Land Developer.  The quantity of short presentations allows each participant to attend varied educational tracks to return home with a plethora of knowledge about wildfire and what steps can be done to mitigate and prevent the devastation to homeowners, businesses and communities."

I also had the opportunity to hear from Jeff Shapiro, resident of the Jester Estates Firewise Community in Austin, Texas.  Sharing from the homeowner prospective, he explained that:

“The conference is a one stop shop for a Firewise Community leader to get the latest information on how to start and grow a successful local program.  There’s no better venue for national experts and local community leaders to network and exchange ideas.”

Register today to attend Backyards & Beyond 2015 in Myrtle Beach, SC, and gain valuable knowledge for the work you do every day in keeping communities safer from wildfire. 

Join the Firewise Program at 1:00pm EDT on Tuesday, September 29, as we learn from state and local experts about the value of community action and the importance of sharing that local story.

Firewise Photo Library Community Workshop Image pulled 2July15 ComWorkshops10The virtual workshop will highlight why Firewise requires and collects this information; how communities can tell their success story; and the value in sharing this achievement with others. 

This will be helpful for all those at the local level, especially existing communities and new community point of contacts both navigating the renewal process and understanding this yearly value. 

The speakers will be Courtney Peterson, Wildfire Mitigation Education Coordinator with the Colorado State Forest Service, and Joanne Drummond, Executive Director of the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, CA

They will share the value they see in local community action and how volunteer work by communities at risk is making the difference in wildfire preparedness across the nation.

Registration here to participate

Photo Credit: The Firewise Photo Library


In households with pets and horses, we treat them as members of our family, and like their owners they require proactive planning and actions to ensure they can be safely evacuated when wildfires occur.

As of today, getting pets and horses ready for a wildfire just got a whole lot easier! NFPA has developed a fun video and preparedness checklists developed specifically for middle and high school students to get them started making the animals in their lives ready for a wildfire. The video was created for teens to share with friends on social media and encourage them to get involved too!

Youth living in a community with a wildfire risk believe one of the most important contributions they can make to their family is helping prepare their household pets and horses to evacuate in the event of a wildfire or other natural disaster.

Take a few minutes and share these resources with the young adults, teachers and youth leaders in your life, and help give our teens an opportunity to play a role in helping both their animals and family be better prepared for wildfires. Being familiar with what happens in an evacuation, knowing how and when to leave, and building a kit for each animal increases the likelihood that all family members will leave safely and together long before a fire reaches their property.  

Foresters logo

Foresters, do you need CFE credits?  Well, here's some good news! The Society of American Foresters has approved NFPA's 2015 Backyards & Beyond® Wildland Fire Education Conference as a provider for professional Continuing Forestry Education credits.

Actual CFE credits will depend on which and how many of the individual presentations the attendee chooses to attend. There are over 50 educational sessions in four tracks, including:

  • Community Safety Approaches
  • Wildfire Planning, Suppression & Operations
  • Research (Physical, Social, Ecology & Environmental)
  • Technology, Policy & Regulations

Credits are also available for those who attended either the Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone or the Prepare, Mitigate, and Respond with GIS pre-conference workshops.

CFE Attendance Forms will be available at the NFPA Conference Registration Desk.  Simply fill out the form during the conference and return it back to the registration desk before the end of the conference to receive credits for work completed.  Attending Backyards & Beyond will also provide you with a good opportunity to network with people from different fields to broaden your knowledge about the latest in wildfire mitigation techniques. 

When you’re looking for something to do following a day of wildfire discussion at October’s Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C., take a stroll up the street to Ripley’s Aquarium. Just a little over a mile north of the Convention Center, the Aquarium could be the perfect destination for a rainy day (or a sunny one!).

The most popular exhibit is Dangerous Reef. Home to large sharks, giant sting rays, tarpons, a sea turtle, Sandbarsharl-headerimg and more, this area features a 340-foot long glidepath through the tank. Patrons pass through an acrylic tunnel that offers spectacular views of sea life swimming overhead, giving the feeling that you’re really in the depths of the ocean. The glidepath is the world’s largest underwater tunnel with gliding sidewalks.

Other exhibits to check out include Ray Bay (yes, you can touch the rays!), the Indo-Pacific Reef, Rio Amazon and more, each featuring creatures from their respective parts of the world. Sign up for a tour or peruse at you own leisure.

The Ripley’s Aquarium website recommends setting aside two hours or more to fully tour the 1.4 million gallon facility. The building is open until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Stingray-columnheaderimgs-spottedeagleCameras are allowed and the building is wheelchair friendly.

An individual pass (good for the whole day) is $22.99 for adults. The Aquarium offers group rates, as well as discounts for AAA and AARP members and active and retired military. Customers can also buy combo packs for discount admission to Ripley’s other Myrtle Beach attractions, including Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Ripley’s 5-D Moving Theater, and Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze.

For more information on the Aquarium or facts about the species there, visit the website or email Check back next Wednesday, September 23 to learn about another Myrtle Beach attraction. 

With drought on our minds in many parts of the country, mulching is something many homeowners are incorporating into landscape design with other methods to reduce water consumption.  I was looking for mulch to freshen up the yard for next year and there are so many options and colors available, making mulch shopping fun.  A great article from Mulch Masters lists some reasons to mulch:

  • Reduce surface evaporation from the soil
  • Improve water penetration and air movement
  • Moderate soil temperature fluctuations
  • Protect shallow-root plants from freeze damage and frost-heave
  • Discourage weed growth
  • Improve soil structure and nutrient availability as they decompose

Other reasons to mulch are to control soil erosion, control dust, prevent soil compaction and to create a more visually pleasing landscape design.

I remembered a Firebreak blog that a good colleague previously wrote about mulches and I decided to take a look at some of the choices out there with their flammability in mind. 

Middletown, RI FD Mulch Fire
Picture of damage to a home's front porch from the Middletown Rhode Island Fire Department

When choosing mulches close to the home, especially in wildfire prone areas, it is important to take care to make a mulch choice that will help you use less water and be Firewise. The NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division has developed a helpful virtual workshop on research about the ignitability of mulch.

There have been some very interesting studies about types of organic mulches and their flammability including recycled rubber.  Some organic mulch types studied in a University of Arizona research project included pine needles, bark nuggets, shredded bark, grass sod, garden compost, wood chips, and wheat straw. In this study, pine needles, straw and wood chips have the greatest flame length.  In yet another study by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, The Combustibility of Landscape Mulches, all of the mulches evaluated were combustible under the test conditions of dry, hot and windy weather and more than 2½ months of outdoor exposure.  The mulches in this study that produced the top 3 flame lengths were recycled rubber, pine needles and shredded Western Red Cedar.

Wildfire simulations at the IBHS Research Center demonstrate that the location of the mulch within the first 5 feet of the home that can contribute greatly to a home ignition. On the Wildfire Demonstration page of their website, IBHS states, "The mulch and vegetation in the re-entrant (interior) corner was ignited by embers, and subsequently ignited the combustible siding, resulting in rapid flame spread to the soffited eaves." The dictionary definition of a re-entrant corner is where the angle points inward. It is here where embers can easily collect and cause mulch to ignite other flammable materials, ultimately catching the home on fire.  

After doing research, I decided to use a different alternative type of mulch within the first 5 feet of the home.  Some beautiful alternative mulch choices for this area include river rock (round rock), recycled glass, recycled porcelain, recycled concrete, crushed shells, gravel, paver stones and DG (degenerated granite).  The beautiful organic mulch that is located away from my home will be kept wet and thinly spread to help prevent ignition.  You can mulch with Firewise landscape design in mind.   

It is the little things that we can do to embrace changes to the home and landscape surrounding the home that can help us have a Year of Living Less Dangerously From Wildfire. 

Glass landscaping
Image of beautiful recycled glass and rock landscaping from the Joyful Glass Landscaping website

Esri logo
Thank you Esri for participating in the 2015 NFPA Backyards & Beyond sponsorship program! We appreciate your continued support.

Please visit Esri in booth 205 October 22-24 to learn more about their products and services.

GIS software from Esri enables search & rescue personnel to capture and create an integrated picture of information in the form of interactive maps and reports on the desktop, handheld, or in the emergency vehicle. GIS will help you unlock the spatial component of your valuable data and see your information from a new perspective. 

You can view the full list of exhibitors and sponsors who will be participating in the 2015 NFPA Backyards & Beyond event at

If you’re exhibiting in this year’s event and would like to learn more about the 2015 NFPA Backyards & Beyond sponsorship program and how you can get involved, please contact Laura Koski at 630.271.8226 or

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you in Myrtle Beach!

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Image from Oregon Live: Fire burns into the Pine Creek drainage on the north flank of the Strawberry Wilderness on August 26, 2015. The home of Tye and Jenny Rookstool was spared. Fire officials credit preparation by homeowners and fire crews in advance of the fire for saving all the homes in the Pine Creek area. Todd McKinley/Grant County Sheriff’s Office.


Community-wide preparation for wildfires can make a significant difference in the outcome after a major event.  A recent story from The Oregonian on their Oregon Live website highlighted the community of Pine Creek, where residents took the responsibility of living in a fire-prone area to heart.  Many from all walks of life trained as volunteers at the local fire department.  They were the first to respond to two fires that burned in close proximity to homes. Their dedication was credited with helping to save many homes.


However, it was not just the volunteer fire suppression efforts that were credited with saving lives and property, but also the Firewise program, that was embraced by residents long before the fire.  In author Les Zaitz's article, Volunteers take stand between Canyon Creek wildfire and rural homes, residents and fire professionals alike testify to the value of Firewise:

“Under Firewise, neighbors band together to help each other make their homes and neighborhood more fire resistant.  The prime focus is clearing flammable materials away from the homes, pruning vegetation and keeping grass well-watered.  It’s not run by the government,” said Howard Geiger, who lives on Pine Creek Road and runs the Firewise effort, “It is run by the community.”

Chuck Wright, who has lived in the area for 20 years said the program is, “all about protection.  Once the fire starts, it is too late to prepare.”

Roy Walker, who leads fire suppression efforts for the Malheur National Forest, believes that Firewise helped prevent destruction of homes on Pine Creek. And Irene Jerome, a forester contracted by the county to help organize Firewise neighborhoods said that the resulting survival of homes in the community is convincing other homeowners to join.


Pine Creek was recognized as a Firewise community for their efforts last year. In an article by Ms. Jerome in the Grant County Blue Mountain Eagle, Pine Creek: One of a kind, the community was credited with working hard to receive recognition as a Firewise Community long before the fire.  They developed a plan and acted upon it, embracing changes that have now become a way of life.  They have learned how to have a Year of Living Less Dangerously from Wildfire this year.


Do you know what your risk is before a wildfire burns through your community?&#0160; Has your community organized like this one to work together to make science-based changes to homes and their surroundings? It is easy to make these changes instead of taking chances. Check out the many success stories and simple-to-embrace information shared on the Firewise website!</p>

Fire BreakThe September 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:

  • Information about TakeAction:  Empowering youth through new wildfire awareness campaign, which speaks to middle and high school students who want to help their neighborhoods better prepare for wildfire.
  • Year of Living Less Dangerously from Wildfire campaign: Residents embrace widlfire safety actions.
  • How-To Tips on incorporating Firewise principles.
  • Virtual workshop to focus on Firewise community days to be held on September 29 at 1:00 PM EST.

...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.


Wondering what your teen daughter or son can do for a creative community service project this fall? NFPA's here with its TakeAction resources to help your teen find a project that will get community service credit, help his neighbors become safer from wildfire AND could win her a $500 scholarship!

Young people between the ages of 13-22 can turn school and club community service requirements into a $500 educational scholarship or donation to a charitable organization, thanks to sponsorship of the Year of Living Less Dangerously Community Service Contest by State Farm. Students must complete a wildfire risk reduction project between September 1 and November 15 and submit a simple application. Your teen could receive one of twenty $500 funding awards to use for future educational costs or as a donation to her favorite charitable organization.

Ideas on this easy-to use list (in PDF) include work around homes and neighborhoods, developing evacuation plans, helping older relatives become more prepared, and helping the community recover from post-fire impacts like erosion and flooding - just to name a few! The list includes helpful links to information and resources, including tips for keeping safe while conducting these creative and helpful projects.

Wildfires continue to have tremendous impacts on life safety and property, but there IS something you - and your teen - can do to make your home and community safer. Take action now!



Firewise communities across the United States have accomplished incredible things. Some have developed videos to educate residents, and many have hosted community clean up days. Community groups helped seniors and others clean up around their homes, and supported training opportunities to educate residents about their risk and what can be done to lessen that risk.  During 2014, Firewise Communities contributed approximately $33 million dollars in value of fire mitigation work throughout the United States by embracing wildfire safety principles in action.

It is important to share these success stories, especially when we learn that $243 million dollars was spent suppressing wildfires during just one week in 2015.  The value of the work completed by communities computes to an even greater value if you consider the value of property and lives protected by this work.

So how do you share your success? 

  • Start by crafting a simple press release.  Look at press releases from your local government or state agency to craft a working template.  Write your press release with brief paragraphs describing what you accomplished, who helped or participated, as well as what the expected benefit of the project is.
  • Avoid emailing the press release as an attachment since many corporate email services flag attachments as spam. 
  • Create your own list of contacts by talking to local media representatives.  Ask other non-profit groups for contact information that they can share with you.

As a communicators, you have the opportunity to highlight the critical importance of wildfire preparedness while providing information on the news of the day. Materials are available on the Firewise website to provide you with consistent, actionable information about wildfire safety you can use when talking to the media or in your own press releases.

Why should you promote your efforts to reduce risk?

  • To encourage participation from other members of your community as well as neighboring communities
  • To show that your projects are making a difference. (Grant funders want to support work that is already successful)
  • To share your success so that others can learn from and emulate your good work

I am always amazed by the selfless efforts of volunteers in Firewise Communities.  They are unsung heroes who help protect other’s property and lives and try to make the work of wildland firefighters safer.

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Child 1
This year’s fire season has drastically affected many Americans across the nation. It has been so sad to hear about the tragic loss of lives, and property.  Children especially can feel vulnerable and scared when they hear about these events and have not had any education about what they can do to be prepared and help their family prepare before a wildfire.

State FarmNFPA has launched a new campaign called TakeAction in collaboration with State Farm Insurance that highlights activities and a contest for youth Child 2 from the 6th through 12th grades.   Take a look at the videos and opportunities for this age group to learn about what they can do and perhaps win a scholarship for project work completed. Information and resources for younger children are also available on the NFPA website

Scout leaders, schools and families can all help children and youth learn what part they can play to help their communities be safer by using the resources available.

Image credits: These images were submitted by American children to the NFPA. 

Join the Firewise program at 1:00pm EDT on Tuesday, September 29, as we hear from Firewise leaders about the value of local action and how to host successful Firewise Community Days.
Firewise Photo Library Firewise Day image pulled 1June15 FWComDay3
Courtney Peterson, Wildfire Mitigation Education Coordinator with the Colorado State Forest Service, and Joanne Drummond, Executive Director of the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, CA, will share the value they see in local community action and how volunteer work by communities at risk is making the difference in wildfire preparedness across the nation.

You’ll learn why Firewise requires and collects this information, how to tell your community’s success story, and the value in sharing this achievement with others. 

Registration for “Sharing your Community's Story - The Value of Firewise Renewal" is now open.

Photo Credit: The Firewise Photo Library

Facebook Cover Photo_WMA_2016

Leaders, innovators and pioneers - stand up and be recognized! Nominations for the 2016 Wildfire Mitigation Awards are now open. 

Sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the USDA Forest Service, these awards recognize outstanding service in wildfire mitigation efforts and activities to increase public recognition and awareness of the need for continuing mitigation efforts.  

Categories to demonstrate excellence in mitigation include the Fire Adapted Community Fire Service Leadership Award, the Wildfire Mitigation Innovative Award, and the Community Wildfire Preparedness Pioneer Award.  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. 

The nomination deadline is November 6, 2015, and the awards will be presented in Reno, NV, at the Wildland-Urban-Interface Conference in March 2016. 

Learn more about the individual awards and their criteria.  Nominations can be submitted online.

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

If you've been planning to get to NFPA's Backyards & Beyond wildfire education conference next month in Myrtle Beach, we've got great news for you! Discounted "early-bird" registration is still available til Friday, October 9.

The 3-day educational program featuring more than 50 sessions is not the only thing that your registration fee buys you. Registration includes the Wednesday evening exhibitor reception, continental breakfast Thursday–Saturday, lunch on both Thursday and Friday and all coffee breaks.

Remember that there are limited seats available to our pre-conference offerings, Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone and Prepare, Mitigate and Respond with GIS. You can benefit from the extended time for a discounted registration, but don't wait until it's too late! Register now to take advantage of all that this conference has to offer.

The September/October NFPA Journal is out and in its latest WildfireWatch column, I wrestle with the idea of what we are collectively willing to invest in the future we want to have.

Wildfire cover photo NFPA Journal Sept15 WildfireWatch ColumnFor some backstory, I’ve seen the costs of large fires out west dominate recent news and agency operations budgets, while accepted development in the wildland urban interface continues.  Individual counties are going to welcome economic development and new population.  Yet, preparedness and prevention for wildfire in those areas are seen as luxuries to be taken for granted when states debate annual budgets and the amount we should invest to ensure proper stewardship of lands. 

NFPA, Firewise, and local stakeholders all see the value in an ounce of prevention and I offer a consideration on the future we should embrace.

YLLDW Banner

As we embark on a Year of Living Less Dangerously from Wildfire we explore what it means to embrace change that creates resiliency.  Embracing change to better prepare for a wildfire event means accepting and acknowledging the risk, understanding what needs to be done to lessen the risk and grasping, holding tightly good principles based on scientific research to make change a part of your lifestyle.

Explore how you can embrace change, by learning what piece you have to solve the wildfire disaster puzzle whether you are a fire fighter, insurance agent, community leader/legislator or resident.  Puzzlepieces2Everyone holds a piece.

The new phase explores opportunities for engaging in activities that can help you learn and make lasting changes.  As John F Kennedy has said, “One person can make a difference and every person should try.”

In just a handful of weeks, wildfire folks will be flocking to Myrtle Beach, S.C. for the bi-annual Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference. The event runs from Oct 20-24, but there will be plenty of free time following a day of wildfire knowledge sharing to take in the local flavor. While walking down Oceanfront Boardwalk, it will be hard not to notice SkyWheel, a 187-foot tall Ferris wheel in the center of the 1.2 mile beach-side stretch.

Erected in 2011, SkyWheel offers spectacular views of the Boardwalk, beaches and surrounding communities for a very reasonable $13. Discounts are available for children under 12, Slider-2seniors and military, as well as group rates available for parties of 15 guests or more.

Wheelers will complete their circular journey in closed, air-conditioned cabin cars that seat two to six. If your party has fewer than six people, strangers will not be brought in to complete your car, allowing for a comfortable experience. The ride involves three full revolutions and will take about eight to 10 minutes.

The wheel, which is handicap accessible, is open daily from 11 a.m. until midnight, weather permitting. After dusk, the wheel is lit with vivid colors, so you’ll want to snap some photos of the ride itself as well as the views from its zenith.

For more information, visit the SkyWheel website or contact Check back here next week to learn about another attraction you can visit during your stay in Myrtle Beach.

Did you know that large wildfires can create their own weather patterns?  New data from a recent NASA

Picture of a pyrocumulonimbus storm from the US Naval Research Lab by Mike Fromm
Picture from US Naval Research Lab by Mike Fromm

research project studied clouds formed by large wildfires called pyrocumulonimbus and how they can affect the spread of wildfire as well as their ability to funnel pollutants into the stratosphere. 

According to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, “Cumulonimbus clouds are thunderstorm clouds that form if cumulus congestus clouds continue to grow vertically. Their dark bases may be no more than 300 m (1000 ft) above the Earth's surface. Their tops may extend upward to over 12,000 m (39,000 ft). Tremendous amounts of energy are released by the condensation of water vapor within a cumulonimbus. Lightning, thunder, and even violent tornadoes are associated with the cumulonimbus.

Pyrocumulonimbus clouds, according to the NASA website, are "an explosive storm cloud actually created by the smoke and heat from fire, and which can ravage tens of thousands of acres.  And in the process, 'pyroCb' storms funnel their smoke like a chimney into Earth’s stratosphere, with lingering ill effects.”  According to NASA research scientist Dr. Glen K Yue from the Langley Research Center, “An individual PyroCB can inject particles into the lower stratosphere as high as 10 miles.”  Data for this research was collected from a SAGE II instrument on the Earth Radiation Budget satellite that orbited the earth from 1984 to 2005.

Pyrocumulonimbus cloud near Canberra, Australia NASA website credit; New South Wales Rural Fire Service

Dr. Yue co-authored the paper "The Untold Story of Pyrocumulonimbus," in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The paper documents the devastating effects of pyrocumulonimbus storms, including a major wildfire near Canberra, Australia in 2003, when the cloud’s strong winds caused the fire to spread rapidly into the nearby city. It also documents these effects in the 2002 Hayman Fire in Colorado, where the winds generated by that storm caused the fire to rapidly consume 138,000 acres. 

Research on these fire driven weather patterns may help wildland firefighters make better decisions as they deploy resources to fight these large wildfires in the future. 

If you’ve done the work, renew today – no need to wait until the November 15 Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program renewal deadline.

2014 Firewise Day completion rate graphIn 2014, over 79% of Firewise Day activities were completed by communities before the end of September and 91% had their “Day” done by the last day of October.

This year, share your community’s Firewise Day event success story by November 15 and continue your active recognition status.  

If you host a late November or year-end event in December, you can record it in the online system now. 

Use the online renewal form at to easily record the attendee count, investment, date, location, and brief narrative of your achievement.

Thank you for all you do to keep your community safer from wildfire. 

FM Global Presentation
From left: NFPA President Jim Pauley; Gary Keith, vice president, Engineering Standards manager, FM Global; Michele Steinberg, NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division manager; Ronnie Gibson, vice president, chief engineer, FM Global.

NFPA thanks FM Global for their support of the Backyards & Beyond Conference Scholarship fund. FM Global, one of the world’s largest commercial property insurers, is supporting scholarships for public and fire service participation at NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference, being held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, October 22 – 24, 2015.

FM Global leadership presented the award of $5,000 to NFPA President Jim Pauley and members of the NFPA Wildland Fire Operations Division on September 9 at a ceremony at NFPA headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts.

While conference registration is open to all, members of the fire service and homeowners at risk from wildfire are often unable to participate due to limited budgets for such educational opportunities. The grant from FM Global enables NFPA to provide homeowners and fire service professionals from high-risk areas the chance to join the wildfire discussion with industry experts and peers, exchange valuable information and share lessons learned. The grant will support up to 8 scholarships to the conference.

Can a solution to the wildfire problem be engineered?  NFPA's Daniel Gorham, an Associate Engineer in Hazardous Chemicals/Materials and a member of the Society for Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), certainly believes that fire protection engineering has an important role. Dan will be presenting information about two research papers concerning wildland fire spread and fires in the wildland/urban interface at NFPA's Backyards & Beyond conference in October. SFPE

On Friday morning, October 23, Dan will present on research he conducted as part of his master’s thesis. Wildland Fire Spread with Stationary Burners will cover a methodology of using stationary burners to examine the phenomena of fire spread in wildland fuels, a project done in collaboration with the US Forest Service Research Center in Missoula, Montana.

Later in the day, Dan will present information on the study Pathways to Fire Spread in the Wildland Urban Interface on behalf of his mentor, Dr Michael J Gollner. An assistant professor in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, Dr. Gollner was the principal investigator on a recent project for the Fire Protection Research Foundation. The study examines pathways of exposure from direct flame contact, radiation exposure, and fire brands and how building components interact with these different exposures. 

If you are a fire protection engineer and are interested in expanding your knowledge about advancing the use of engineering best practices for wildland fire mitigation and expanding your technical knowledge about wildland fires, we think you'll enjoy Dan's presentations and the great networking opportunities available at Backyards & Beyond in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, next month. Check out our conference page for all the program details and how to register!

We often get questions around how to reduce fire danger in common areas such as greenbelts, open space and such.  Partnerships are one way that worked for the Antlers Homeowner’s Association (HOA) in Colorado.

Prior to coming to NFPA, I was the senior Ranger/Land Manager for Douglas County Open Space.  One of my many responsibilities was forest management on County owned lands.  One of these was approximately 6 acres of heavily forested land that adjoined another 7 acres in the same condition owned by the Antlers HOA.

Most forested areas along the Colorado Front Range consist of overgrown Ponderosa Pine stands.  In Douglas County, just south of Denver, Gambel oak, a woody shrub, adds a ladder fuel component which increases crown fire potential.  Due to suppressing wildfires for over 150 years, these stands have become thick with regeneration of Ponderosa Pines and heavy bands of Gambel oak in the understory.                          

Kristin Garrison, District Forester for the Colorado State Forest Service, (CSFS), and Jill Alexander, Douglas County Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, were working with Barb Harbach of the Antlers HOA on their CWPP and began discussions of treating their 7 acre HOA open space.  Since the 6 acres the County owned is adjacent and identified for treatment, they began working with Open Space on how they could partner on the joint treatment.  However, cost was a barrier.

The State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources put out three grant opportunities for a total of $9.8 million to be used for Wildfire Risk Reduction.  Douglas County obtained one of these grants and that money was used for the County’s portion of this project and the Antlers HOA was able to apply for a grant from CSFS for their portion.

Douglas County staff and CSFS put together a plan with the goals of improving forest health, increasing forest resiliency to fire, insects and drought, and to reduce wildfire risk by thinning trees to increase crown spacing and removing some Gambel oak to reduce ladder fuels.

Capture Antlers pics

A contractor was selected to do both parcels but was paid from the two different grants.  The work went far to reduce wildfire risk and improve the resiliency of the natural resources.  Ms. Harbach said, “We could not have accomplished this project without the help and support of Larkspur Fire, Douglas County and the Colorado State Forest Service”.  “The support we received was outstanding….in order to complete the mitigation project the right way”.     

This type of private/public partnership is just one way communities can embrace living less dangerously from wildfire.  Communities can partner with each other, with their local fire department and with their local government to significantly reduce their risk from wildland fires.

Using partnerships to reduce our risk, we make our communities, our firefighters, and ourselves safer from wildand fires. 

(Photo credit: Jill Alexander)

For the second time in two weeks, residents had to evacuate their homes in the wake of yet another devastating wildfire.  On August 10 in the California community of Lower Lake, residents were advised to evacuate from a second fire in the area that burned about 9 square miles. According to a Fox News report, “Authorities couldn't say how many homes were evacuated or how many people were told to be prepared to flee. The fire was burning about 100 miles north of San Francisco.”

A previous blaze in the area has burnt almost 109 square miles. For you football fans, 100 square miles is the equivalent of more than 58,000 football fields!

One interesting story that followed these fires was the use of inmate firefighters to help battle these blazes.  According to the report, I Hung Out With the Prisoners Who Fight California Wildfires, "More than 30 percent of California's wildfire fighters are state prisoners—low-level felons who volunteered to spend their sentences doing the manual labor of forest fire prevention and response rather than remaining behind bars."

"The roughly 4,000 inmate firefighters receive a sentence reduction and $1 per hour while fighting fires, saving the state $80 million per year. After passing a physical exam and going through the same two-week training course that civilian firefighters do, they're sent to one of 44 "fire camps" across the state—barracks-style quarters that serve as a home base from which to fight fires.” 

This seems to be an innovative solution to help with the personnel shortage,while at the same time cutting suppression costs and providing meaningful training to potentially help rehabilitate individuals incarcerated for low level felonies.  For more information about current wildfires in California check out the CAL FIRE incident information page.

Fire protection inmates from the CAL FIRE website


Wildfire rages in Spain

Posted by faithberry Employee Sep 2, 2015

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Spanish wildfire from the website


The wildfire season in the United States has been difficult this year and Spain is now suffering from an extreme wildfire.&#0160; So far, horrific wildfire conditions have scorched 5,000 acres of grass and wooded areas in Northwest Spain.&#0160; Efforts by local firefighters have been hampered by gusting winds and high temperatures.


According to news reports, more than&#0160;500 firefighters and military personnel were deployed to assist with firefighting efforts.&#0160; Residents were also reported to be assisting, using wheelbarrows and&#0160;buckets of water.


According to aReuters report,&#0160;homes were at risk in the community of Cualdero. During
some tense moments of the firefighting efforts to protect homes, a helicopter battling the
blazes used a basket to get water from a swimming poolat a villa outside of Malaga.</p>

TakeAction_banner final JPG - 4.9.15
Take a step over adults, because you're about to be joined in your wildfire mitigation efforts by a powerful group of middle and high school students that want to be involved in their communities and contribute to making where they live a safer place. Youth now have a resource designed specifically for them where they can get wildfire risk reduction information complete with videos, project ideas and safety tips

It’s an exciting day at NFPA, as wildland fire educational resources developed for the estimated 8 million middle and high school age students living in a U.S. community with wildland fire risks is launched. TakeAction’s educational resources will significantly help students in their efforts to develop local grassroots community service projects that increase individual and community safety and preparedness, which can also improve a home and property’s chances of surviving a wildfire.

Included in the TakeAction launch is funding from State Farm for twenty $500 community service funding awards to eligible U.S. residents ages 13 -22, who complete a wildfire risk reduction, or post-fire community service project between September 1 and November 15, 2015 and submit an application when the project’s completed. The twenty project recipients selected can use the funding award for future educational costs, or they can donate it to a charitable organization of their choice. The funding awards are part of NFPA's Year of Living Less Dangerously from Wildfire campaign.

Research shows youth are an extremely valuable and important resource for bringing preparedness information into their homes. In a 2012 NFPA study, middle and high school students living in areas that experienced wildfires shared details on what they need and want to know about wildfire and how they want to be involved in their community to reduce fires and its impacts. During the study, participant’s parents said when their kids learn the benefits simple personal actions can have on a topic that is meaningful to them, they’ll mercilessly nag them and other adults in their lives to change behaviors and undertake new views and attitudes. So parents fasten your seat belts and put on that bike helmet your kids convinced you to use, because you’re about to get a strong dose of wildfire risk reduction from the young people in your life!

Youth have had great successes influencing adults and have gotten them to look at social issues through a new set of eyes. They’ve influenced behaviors and mindsets about recycling, water conservation and a host of other important issues. I’m telling you to be prepared, because we're all about to be the recipients of a power that will seep into homes and communities everywhere and you may soon find yourself embracing wildfire risk reduction with a new fervor; one that could just save your life, or that of a firefighter.  

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