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All Places > Fire Break > Blog > 2015 > October

Don’t let your home look scary.  There are a lot of home and yard cleaning chores that you can do to be better prepared before next year’s wildfire season as the weather cools down.  As Halloween approaches remember the late fall season is the perfect time of year to get in some trimming of deciduous bushes and trees when you can see the branches.  As the leaves fall and this vegetation become dormant before winter you can see more clearly where tree limbs can be pruned away from overhanging the chimney and home.  You can also get a better picture of where some bushes and perennial vegetation needs to be thinned out.

This is also a good time of year to trim when vegetation is dormant.  When you trim take care to prune properly so that you do not cause damage to trees and shrubs which could result in the plant’s infestation by a fungus, or parasitic insect.  An Article on Today’s homeowner gives you some great information about how to properly trim a tree.


untitled.pngFor example when you trim branches take care not to damage the bark of the tree with a chain saw.  If you are not careful and do excessive damage to the bark you can kill the tree by “girdling” it or preventing it from getting water and nutrients from the soil.  It is also important to trim branches as close to the branch collar as possible so that the tree or bush can heal itself.  Cutting it too close to the trunk of the tree or too far away can cause the tree or bush to heal improperly.  For more information about how to properly care for a tree it is a good idea to speak to a certified arborist.

The other great fall project is cleaning up all of that trash that you see around the house.  If you think you may use it someday, so it is not trash but one of those "human treasures" that you have to hang onto make sure that it is stored in a shed or garage and not around the outside of the home or under the deck or breezeway.  The first 5 feet around your home and other outbuildings near the home should be clean and free of easily ignitable materials.

Have a wonderful fall season and don’t be haunted by thoughts of what you should do to make your home safer in the event of a wildfire.  You can easily embrace some changes to make your home safer not scarier as we celebrate a Year of Living Less Dangerously From Wildfire.  To assist in this effort, ISA developed the public education website to provide tree care information and tools for finding a qualified tree care professional within a local community.


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It's not too late to nominate your colleagues for recognition of their outstanding wildfire mitigation efforts! The Wildfire Mitigation Awards were established in 2014 to acknowledge and applaud the great wildfire safety activities going on throughout the U.S. These awards are the highest national honor one can receive for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation.


The 2016 Wildfire Mitigation Awards are sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Association of State Foresters, National Fire Protection Association, and the U.S. Forest Service. There are three award categories, which include:

    • Fire Adapted Communities Fire Service Leadership

    • Wildfire Mitigation Innovation

    • Community Wildfire Preparedness Pioneer

Winners of the awards will be honored at the March 2016 IAFC Wildland-Urban Interface Conference in Reno, Nevada, with a special presentation. 

Submit nominations by November 6, 2015, by visiting Bree Willging of the International Association of Fire Chiefs is happy to take questions about the awards.&#0160;</div>

Backyards and Beyond presenter Jeff Cavanaugh, senior underwriting portfolio manager for USAA, attracted a large crowd to his featured session on insurance discounts for Firewise communities. Cavanaugh highlighted collaborative research between USAA and Firewise which revealed favorable loss performance trends for Firewise residents at community and state levels. The joint effort led to the introduction of the USAA Firewise Community Recognition Discount, a premium discount that supports the goal of rewarding and incentivizing preparation and loss prevention efforts at the parcel and community level. Currently, USAA offers the Firewise discount in Colo Bb usaa photoado, California and Texas.

USAA began offering the discount in California in October 2014, and the incentive launched in Colorado and Texas in May and June of this year. Arizona will become the 4th active state in February; and there are plans to offer the insurance savings in six more states – Washington, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Idaho and Utah.

The speaker acknowledged that the insurance discount, by itself, is not the tipping point but more so a tool in the tool belt. He explained that the fire portion of insurance is only 10% of the premium load so, in essence, USAA is discounting 50% of their average with the 5% Firewise Community Recognition Discount. His session, and a few other presentations at the conference, emphasized that insurance companies are playing an increasingly active role in proactive reduction of wildfire loss. Cavanaugh encouraged attendees to contact their insurance companies and to ask if they offer a Firewise discount. If they respond no, ask why not.

A huge fan of Firewise, Cavanaugh hopes that the USAA discount and his Backyards and Beyond presentation will prompt other insurance companies to offer similar discounts to Firewise communities. He explained that insurance companies know that mitigation works; and reminded the audience that consumers have a lot of power and can influence business with their buying choices. He also pointed out that State Departments of Insurance love this discount.

Strong partnerships with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Firewise community, The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and others were instrumental in USAA creating the Firewise discount. Cavanaugh’s team looked at fire trend data in California, Colorado, Texas and Arizona, did some modeling, and visited communities so that they could convince top USAA executives to offer a discount off insurance premiums.

As Cavanaugh’s session came to a close, he reminded the audience that it takes a village and thanked them for actively working to reduce fire risks in communities.


While I was at the Backyards & Beyond Conference, Bill Tetlow, president of the Winter Park Highlands Firewise Community in Tabernash, Colorado shared with me about the success of their Firewise Community in Colorado.  Bill shared that they had a wake up call about the condition of the community and the obstacles they had to overcome; "After the Grand County community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)  assessment in May of 2009 showing Winter Park Highlands as an extreme risk area for wildfire, the volunteer board of WPHA took action. We were at risk because of our access, fire chimneys thanks to the pine beetles and lack of water resources in case of a fire, the closest water resource was in Tabernash." The community was responsible for a whopping 1,073 acres and 630 developed acres.

They completed an assessment that enabled them to identify their risks as well as the fact that the community's demographics consisted of homes that were second or part time residences for most homeowners. Part time home ownership created an additional logistical problem in organizing Firewise work days. Besides hosting educational outreach events that helped raise awareness of all property owners and working to make Firewise improvements to their homes and properties this community overcame many obstacles to; 

1. Partner with the Colorado State Forest Service to remove dead/dying beetle infested pine trees in an area of over 300 acres throughout the community,

2.They installed over 265 reflective address signs (85% of property owners) to improve emergency response in the event of a wildfire.

3.  They addressed the lack of water in the community to install two additional hydrants and a 30,000 gallon water storage tank to help firefighters meet their need for water to respond to fire today October 22, 2015.

4.  They have as a volunteer organization spent on Firewise projects through the years over $500,000 in grants, donations and volunteer hours.

They wanted to share with others how they became so successful.  The key to their success was working with the Colorado Forest Service to develop effective assessments that identified their real risks and helped them prioritize what they needed to do to mitigate that risk.  Then they shared that they work well with the County, Colorado State Foresters, BLM and other partners to help them with technical advice and assistance in completing these projects. 

"For the past ten years we have been blessed with dedicated board members and  homeowners (62% second homes) who have worked as a team and proven to county, state, and federal officials that we execute our fire mitigation plans in a timely manner.”

 Bill Tetlow, President 2012-16

30,000 gallon water tank and hydrants being installed today Photo Bill Tetlow

This community is one of many who have embraced Firewise Principles, and worked collaboratively to work towards having a Year of Living Less Dangerously From Wildfire".

Cathy P.
NFPA's TakeAction newest youth campaign was the highlight of Cathy Prudhomme's Friday morning session, Impact Future Mitigation Issues Through Youth Outreach Today.

In a more conversational setting vs.a formal presentation, participants with diverse backgrounds, but all with a great interest in reaching the youth audience, shared lessons they learned, while sharing ideas and stories about some of the creative and successful ways we can engage this future generation of WUI home buyers.

There are than 8 million students in grades 6 - 12 living in a U.S. WUI community and it's a large audience that we don't often think about when it comes to wildfire safety.But youth have the great ability to take safety messages and bring them back to their homes, and even more importantly, they are energetic and passionate about helping their families, neighbors and friends, said Prudhomme.

During the hour, she explained the background of the TakeAction campaign and Community Wildfire Preparedness Day, which began with a series of workshops with youth and their parents that gave NFPA the basis for outlining and planning the campaign including messaging and the platform in which to reach them. Through a lively question and answer session, Prudhomme also detailed the components of the campaign like wildfire community service projects and pet safety, and showed a handful of videos that became a large part of the social media launch of TakeAction.

Wrapping up, Prudhomme explained new youth projects that are underway at NFPA and will be launched in 2016 including virtual tours and additional videos. After the session, participants stayed to ask more questions and exchange information and numbers!

For more information about wildfire youth projects, check out

This morning, on day two of Backyards & Beyond, George Baker (retired Fire Chief out of Mashpee, MA) presented by refuting the common myth that "Big Wildfires Don't Just Happen in the West." Chief Baker also delivered a keynote address yesterday, so read the recap if you missed it. Today, he reviewed several significant wildfires that have occurred on the east side of the Mississippi, including what has happened since each fire and what steps, if any, have been taken to prevent another occurrence. 

Eastern wildfires can affect larger numbers of people much quicker than some in the west will, due to the denser populations on this side of the country, so handling of them is much different than it is out west.The eastern wildfires Chief Baker covered were;

  • Marlow-Stoddard Fire (New Hampshire, 1941)
  • Cape Cod Fire (Massachusetts, 1946)
  • Great Fires of 1947 (Acadia, Maine, 1947) which resulted in the formation of the Northeast Fire Protection Compact
  • Mount Desert Island Fire (Maine, 1947)
  • Sunrise Fire (Long Island, NY, 1995)
  • Palm Coast Fire (Florida, 1998)
  • Lateral West Fire (Great Dismal Swamp National Refuge, 2011) which lasted 111 days, and even Hurricane Irene didn't provide enough water to completely extinguish the fire
  • Big Cypress National Preserve Fire (Florida, 2015)

Many eastern fires don't show up in the news because they are smaller, put out much quicker, and don't typically have hundred foot flames that make for great television. While we do have some large fires out east, sometimes, we may have 100 small fires at once, which also makes response challenging. So re-framing the message so everyone knows the east also has a wildfire problem, even if it is a bit different in characteristics than those of the west, and many times affects many, many more people. Wildfire risk reduction is therefore just as important in the east and should not be ignored.  

Lincoln Bramwell
Friday morning, the second day of the Backyards & Beyond conference, Lincoln Bramwell, PhD., chief historian from the USDA Forest Service, talked to participants about homeowners and fire on the forest edge.

Bramwell started his presentation with an example of a large wildfire in a community on the south coast of Maine, which that year had received only 50% of its normal rainfall. Burning 17,000 acres in and around Arcadia National Park/Mount Desert Isle by the time it was contained, it was known as The Year that Maine Burned. It was 1947.

Fast forward to 2015 and Bramwell explained that the fires of today very much mimic the wildfire problems in the 19th century. More specifically, he explained that fires today continue to loom, especially in the east and south, where a growing population has moved out of the urban areas into more rural places he calls the "wilderburbs." Wilderburbs, says, Bramwell, make up about 77% of the nation, and this housing trend is having a huge impact on wildfires, namely how they are impeding our fire fighting efforts.

"We have to prepare in the east as they do out west," says Bramwell. Raising awareness and educating people that fires do exist here and will continue to happen, is imperative, he says, we can't assume that wildfire is only a western problem anymore.

One of Bramwell's observations in his research focuses on this challenge: that there continues to be a disconnect between those that live in these rural areas and what they expect, and reality, especially when it comes to wildfire. As fire fighters, researchers, planners, forestry service professionals and others, we need to continue to communicate more honestly and openly, educate and raise awareness about how homeowners play a huge role in helping prepare and protect their neighborhoods in the wildland/urban interface. While we are still able to contain 97% of the fires, says Bramwell, there are more fires coming that we may not be able to stop unless everyone takes responsibility for their own homes.

The more that people are aware of the fire problem where they live, the more they will come to realize that fire fighters can't save all of their homes and that they should take action. And the more we as professionals collaborate with each other, and talk to residents, the more we can create safer places for all of us to live when the threat of wildfire comes our way.


Through the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention (CFFP) Program, the USDA Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), and the Advertising Council sponsor the national Smokey Bear Awards to recognize outstanding service in the prevention of human caused wildfires and to increase public recognition and awareness of the need for continuing wildfire prevention efforts. The Smokey Bear Awards are the highest national honor one can receive for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire prevention. This merit award has been bestowed on well-deserving groups and individuals annually since 1957.

This year, the highest honor, the Golden Smokey Bear Award, was given out to its deserving honoree at our Backyards & Beyond Conference. Gene Kodama with the South Carolina Forestry Commission, Jim Hubbard with the USDA Forest Service and Fred, the nominator, presented Gwen Hensley with this year's award. Gwen has worked internationally as a visual information specialist with the US Forest Service. She has taken safety and prevention messages and graphically represented them. In doing so, she is able to help people relate to the messages by bringing them to life. 

Gwen, we are honored to share in the celebration of you and all of your outstanding wildfire prevention efforts, and congratulate you wholeheartedly on winning the Golden Smokey Bear Award!

Justice & Jerry
Jerry McAdams with Boise Fire Department and Justice Jones with Austin's Fire Department co-presented about a Fire Adapted Communities Exchange program they implemented at today's Backyards & Beyond Conference. Creating a collaborative environment where mutual learning and shared knowledge could flow back and forth between the two cities was one of the main goals of this exchange program.

Back in February, three Boise firefighters went down to Austin to share best practices and learn from each other as it relates to fire adapted communities and risk reduction. Then, in May, eight Austin firefighters visited Boise. The Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network sponsored these exchange visits. Living with wildfire includes restoring and maintaining fire resistant landscapes, protecting property from wildfire risk and responding with trained fire service when fires occur, and Boise and Austin take proactive approaches to these three issues. 

The camaraderie between the firefighters from the two cities helped to make the learning and sharing of information fun, as well as helped make a comfortable environment where everyone felt comfortable to ask questions and get as much out of the time as possible. Both departments were able to get new ideas (shaded fuel breaks in Austin and Firewise gardens in Boise) that they were interested in implementing back home, as well as new ways to outreach to the public, carry out wildfire fighting tactics, mitigate landscapes, etc. They would recommend more fire departments partner to exchange ideas, lessons learned and knowledge to increase wildfire community survival. 

Austin presention
For every one WUI acre burned we are exposing 10 structures. For every five WUI acres burned in our urban area, we are destroying one structure. So reported Josh Portie, a first responder and wildfire division public educator in the Austin, Texas Fire Department in his Thursday afternoon session at Backyards & Beyond conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Portie talked extensively about the current wildfire landscape in his home state and how and what his department is teaching firefighters and the public about the importance of focusing on the home ignition zone (HIZ) to reduce ignitability of structures during the fire. 

Portie pointed to the Bastrop Complex Fire, the most catastrophic fire in the state's history, the Pinnacle Fire and Steiner Ranch Fire and others for being a huge catalyst for the department to increase its efforts to provide more education to homeowners about their role in reducing risk. At the same time, research from organizations such as IBHS also help inform them with the latest fire science and data so firefighters can more effectively fight the fire.

A few of the key points Portie says his team share with homeowners and firefighters to improve response and structure saves are: 

* Embers are the main culprit for losing structures in WUI fires. Large flames are not often the reason why homes burn.

* Defensible space is our "friend" - keeping homes clear of fuels that are close to the home reduce the chance that the home will ignite by flying embers.

* The principles of Firewise are key to creating more fire resistive landscapes.

* Fuels, weather and topography, are important to understand how to fight fires and what tactics will be used. 

* Home wildfire assessments help both firefighters and homeowners understand the work that needs to be done to help prepare and reduce risk before a wildfire happens.

Portie reminded the audience that it's important to tell homeowners that firefighters are not the only answer. Homeowners can and should play a key role in helping save their homes by engaging in Firewise and defensible space techniques. Firefighters can also do more to help save homes by engaging in more structural preparation and working with residents on their wildfire  home assessments. In the end, the takeaway from Portie focused on this:  the more that residents and the fire service can work together, the better the chance a community can reduce its fire risk and stay safer when a fire threatens.

Darryl Jones
In April 2009, the most destructive wildfire in South Carolina history burned almost 20,000 acres adjacent to Myrtle Beach. This "Highway 31 fire" as it was coined, was the topic of featured presenter Darryl Jones' session at Backyards & Beyond today

The fire exhibited extreme fire behavior, long-range spotting, and resulted in two entrapments. The initial fire destroyed 76 homes and significantly damaged 97 additional homes in a 28 hour period. Major highways into the Myrtle Beach area were closed, schools shut down and tourism was interrupted during peak travel season. Darryl detailed the efforts to control the fire, manage the evacuation and the difficulties found in this peat fuel type of the region. 

Limited resources prevented the teams from fighting the fire itself, and instead the worked on fuel breaks and trying to protect housing developments in the initial path of the fire. Golf course communities on the edges of the fire used their course sprinklers which helped keep the ember storms from igniting more of the area. Rapidly changing winds and unique weather conditions caused this fire to threaten a community within minutes, and despite the evacuation going well, this area was where most of the losses were. In the end, they fought the fire from April 22 through September before it completely burned out. A lot of outside support was offered to help from federal, state and local agencies, the Red Cross, DOT, police, etc which was critical. 

In 2013, there were only 20 days of the entire year that South Carolina Forestry did not fight wildfire. This statistic as well as the large fire highlighted in Darryl's talk demonstrate how much of a myth it is to say that wildfire is only a western issue. This fire became a great educational tool as well to teach communities about Firewise and reducing risk. We hope everyone can learn from some of his lessons learned, no matter where they live. 

This morning, Leigh Kane, senior planner from Horry County, South Carolina and Drake Carroll from the South Carolina Forestry Commission talked to an almost full room of Backyards & Beyond conference attendees about the number of devastating wildfires that have impacted their state, and how the growing population in South Carolina's wildland/urban interface have created continued challenges in keeping residents safer from wildfire.


Their talk, Lessons Learned in Planning and Design, provided a backdrop to the challenges, then demonstrated how experience and collaboration between agencies like Horry County Planning and Zoning, Horry County Fire and Rescue, and the South Carolina Forestry Commission, brought the parties together to create solutions like planning fire adapted communities and increasing the number of Firewise communities following wildfires. As a planner's role increases and plays a crucial role in the development of safer communities, collaborating from the top down with  state, local and federal agencies and really addressing  the local situation is imperative, and we will be able to see direct, positive influence on wildfire vulnerability and emergency response capabilities in the neighborhoods where we live.

Jeremy 2
"Rural Water Supply, Buckeye Style" was presented by Jeremy Keller this morning. Not surprisingly based on the session's title, Jeremy is with Ohio's Fire Chiefs' Association. Rural fire fighting operations, including operations in the wildland/urban interface, often struggle to secure an adequate water supply. Jeremy says that this situation puts the safety of responders and the public at risk and limits tactical options available to incident commanders.

Jeremy 1The Water Delivery Technical Advisory Committee (WDTAC) of the Ohio Fire Chiefs' Association has worked since 2010 to develop tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure adequate water supply for rural fire incidents. The WDTAC has developed innovative approaches to moving water, whether the incident involves an isolated barn fire, a wildfire, or a conflagration on an oil field "fracking pad."

As an example, single lane dump tanks were developed in Ohio - their narrow rectangular shape keeps tanks from blocking narrow rural roadways. They are the same width as a pumper, and hold the same water capacity as a square tank. Hexagon tanks were also developed, that now provide a safety zone between tanks for personnel to work in. 

Ohio now has a systematic process for a mutual aid association to help take areas from "zero" to "big water" in about 3 years, which helps all areas of the state adopt the new technologies and practices that are developed for the water supply systems. They are able to reach water delivery rates in excess of 1,000 GPM. Jeremy warns though that investment in pre-planning, equipment and training are required to make these systems work, but the innovations are very successful in these rural areas, they are worth it. 

George baker
The Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference kicked off today with lots of enthusiasm and energy. At its General Session Thursday, keynote speaker George Baker , Fire & Ice Coaching, and retired fire chief from Mashpee, Massachusetts brought his own brand of humor and passion to the Session through his presentation Building High Energy Relationships for Successful Project a packed room.

Through his own personal stories and anecdotes from his days as a firefighter, paramedic and chief to his current position as an executive/business and life coach, Baker explained the meaning behind group process, which stems around the idea that the success of a project depends largely on how we react to challenges and work with others, trust,l energy levels of the team working on tasks, the team leader and his/her relationship with the other team members. He used example of the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge Habitat Management and Fuels Reduction Program to explain his points, how communication played a key role with those working on the project, and the ups and downs along the way.

You can find more about Baker's work, along with tips and ideas for successful project outcomes at

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is the gracious host of the 2015 Backyards & Beyond Wildland Education Conference, and this morning Jim Pauley, NFPA's President, opened the conference with his remarks. We are currently living through severe drought conditions and rising temperatures that are transforming a region's typical wildfire season into a year-round problem, Jim began by explaining. According to NIFC, so far in 2015, more than 50,000 fires have burned more than 9 million acres, more than three times the amount of land burned in the same period of 2014: a staggering statistic that shows how much work we all still have to do. 

While the wildfire problem is complex, we do know that local behavior change and resident safety action can begin to change outcomes, and continuing to encourage communities to take steps to reduce their risk is important. Jim welcomed the representatives from the Forest Service, fire departments, land management agencies, educational institutions, insurance industry and homeowner associations to this year's conference, and acknowledged that by working together we can all make a difference. 

Jim also hopes that if there is anything NFPA can do to help support efforts to raise awareness and reduce wildfire risks, that people come to us and ask. He reminds us that sharing knowledge and experience will help each other do more to create safer communities, and realizes that this conference is one way to do that. So we share in Jim's thoughts by welcoming everyone to this year's conference, we look forward to a great week!

I've just had the great pleasure of reviewing one of our featured presentations slated for Backyards & Beyond, NFPA's wildland fire education conference which kicks off tonight with a reception and runs through Saturday morning. Chris Roussel of Myriad Development will be speaking on the application of Firewise data in the private sector. In case you think that's a good excuse to sleep in or take a walk on the beach, let me assure you that you do not want to miss this 8 am talk!Myriad

NFPA has been working with Myriad Development for more than a year to figure out how we can share important information about the more than 1,200 communities around the country that have engaged in the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program. As we already know from the analysis and experience of USAA in California, Texas and Colorado, residents of Firewise communities have an edge when it comes to reduced overall property losses. The struggle has been how to get key information about Firewise communities into the hands of more insurance companies and more industry players that influence the homebuying process. After all, wouldn't you want to know about your wildfire risk and how to mitigate it before you bought your home? 

Mr. Roussel's company has provided a large part of the solution of sharing Firewise information across the insurance, real estate and mortgage/title markets. Starting in 2016, Myriad Development will be including information about Firewise Communities/USA status for individual properties through their California real estate disclosure product, "DisclosureSave." This information will reach tens of thousands of home buyers as well as the mortgage companies, title companies and real estate agents at the time of transaction. If properties are within Firewise Communities/USA, that information will be disclosed. If not, there will be information on how residents can find out more about becoming Firewise. 

Chris Roussel has more details and exciting information to share on how Firewise information will soon reach thousands of companies and influence decisions including insurance underwriting and real estate transactions. I can't wait to hear him talk about this groundbreaking partnership that promises to improve safety not only in California but across the country.

The NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond® pre-conference GIS class and Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) training have started today. Individuals from NIST, state forestry, regional fire, insurance, homeowners and more are enjoying the pre-conference classes.

Dr. Jack Cohen, USDA Forest Service and Pat Durland, Stone Creek Fire are teaching this year’s

Jack Cohen HIZ
Dr. Jaqck Cohen teaching HIZ training. Photo by Faith Berry

Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone training. This updated class features information about new research about how homes can ignite during a wildfire and what steps can be taken to reduce the risk of sustaining loss during one of these events.


An exciting addition to NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond Conference pre-conference classes is the GIS class, Prepare, Mitigate and
 Respond with GIS
, taught by three ESRI teachers including Mike Price, Jennifer Schottke and Chris Ferner.  This intermediate GIS class explored GIS techniques that can be used to write and implement an effective Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).  Mapping assets at risk, home construction/condition, wildfire history, vegetation/fuels class and condition, topography and more can help assessors create a CWPP that more accurately identifies areas of risk within a community and defines steps to mitigate that risk.  Students attending these classes shared with staff how excited they are to share what they are learning with others.

Mike Price teaching at ESRI GIS training. Photo by Faith Berry

A devastating conflagration occurred in the scenic hills above the cities of Oakland and Berkeley, California, on October 20, 1991.  Burning embers carried by high winds from the perimeter of a small but growing duff fire ignited overgrown vegetation and led to the further ignition of tree crowns and combustible construction materials of adjacent homes, including many with wood-shingle roofs.

The result was a major wildland/urban interface fire that killed 25 people including a police officer and a fire fighter, injured 150 others, destroyed nearly 2,449 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units, burned over 1,660 acres, and did an estimated $1.5 billion in damage.  

The conflagration that day was so intense that fire fighters were helpless in their attempts to suppress it, and the affected residents suddenly found themselves encircled in flames, blinded by smoke, and helplessly looking for escape.

NFPA members Download this Oakland, CA report.

For more information on the NFPA Firewise Communities USA/Recognition Program

Fire BreakThe October 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:

  • An update on the Firewise community renewal process
  • Information on wildfire funding awards for youth
  • A link to the pet safety component of our TakeAction campaign
  • The latest news from USAA regarding insurance discounts for Firewise communities in Colorado and Texas, and California

...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.

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Picture from the Texas A&M Forest Service Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal Website

An area of Texas that has already experienced devastating wildfires in 2011 is again being threatened by wildfire.&#0160;A wildfire that has been reported to have destroyed 40 homes, caused the evacuation of hundreds of people from their homes and consumed over 6 square miles in Bastrop,Texas appears to have been started by a farming accident.&#0160; A Bastrop County Judge during a new conference reported that the blaze was the result of a “farming operation”.&#0160; The Hidden Pines Fire began on Tuesday October 13, 2015 and is only 25 percent contained with a cool front and gusty winds reportedly predicted for this weekend.&#0160; This area of Texas was affected by wildfires in 2011 where over hundreds of people lost their homes and 2 people lost their lives.&#0160; According to a news report the worst devastation occurred near the ranching community of Smithville where the 1998 Sandra Bullock movie “Hope Floats” was shot.



The Texas A&amp;M Forest Service has called in a DC10 to help them battle the blaze according to a press release from their website.&#0160;&#0160; This large air tanker can drop over 12,000 gallons of fire retardant at a time. According to their website , “Fire suppression resources are spread across Texas battling numerous wildfires fueled by drought and critical fire weather conditions. The DC-10 — as well as the other air and ground resources that we currently have in the state — hopefully will provide much-needed protection for communities and relief for firefighters.” !|src=|alt=TX Firewise|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=TX Firewise|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb0882c938970d img-responsive!


To find the most up-to date information about wildfire activity throughout the state of Texas you can visit the Texas Interagency Coordination Center . According to this site there are 5 other wildfires burning in Texas besides the Hidden Pines Fire.&#0160; The Texas A&amp;M Forest Service recognizes their wildfire threat and has helped communities prepare before a wildfire by supporting[ various wildfire prevention programs including NFPA&#39;s Firewise |]. 


According to additional information on the Texas A&amp;M Forest Service website&#0160;regarding TEXWRAP the hazard assessment Portal. &#0160; “Wildfire continues to threaten people and property across Texas. Rapid population growth into Wildland Urban Interface areas and an increasing frequency of elevated fire weather conditions represent major concerns moving forward into the future. Heightened awareness of wildfire risk, prevention and mitigation are becoming increasingly important to ensure safety. The Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal provides access to information that describes wildfire risk statewide.”

There will be a session about the Texas Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (TEXWRAP) which will describe how the Southern Group of State Foresters Developed the Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal SouthWRAP presented at the Backyards & Beyond Conference® in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.


Firewise-Communities-Annual-Renewal-slide-2015If you are a Firewise Community that has yet to renew their active status for the year, our renewal guidance video can help you navigate the required steps and online submission process. 

The 3 minute video explains how to calculate your “annual investment” of volunteer effort and most importantly, it will help you share your community’s Firewise Day event success story.  
Remember that the renewal deadline is November 15 to 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.  Remember that the 2015 volunteer hourly rate is $23.07. 


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

According to a CNBC News article, “As wildfires continue to rage on the west coast, firefighters are not only faced with high temperatures, strong winds and arid conditions, but drone pilots who are flying their crafts too close to the blazes.”  Recreational drone use in airspace where wildland fires are raging has become a concern for the safety of wildland fire response.  CAL FIRE has even created a public service announcement that warns about the use of recreational drones during a wildfire response.


A US Senator from New Hampshire has proposed new federal legislation to keep recreational drones from interfering with wildfire disaster relief efforts.  U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) on October 7th 2015 introduced the Wildfire and Emergency Airspace Protection Act.  According to the senator’s website there have been 13 wildfires this year that the US Forest Service has responded to that have had drones interfere with wildfire fighting aircraft.  This legislation would be specifically aimed at  criminalizing drone use that knowingly interferes directly with disaster relief efforts.

You don’t have to be around the wildfire business very long to understand that it is not just a problem in the United States.  Destructive wildfires are global yet the story of losses and the potential solutions are often similar, and always local.IWFC2015_Logo_Slogan

This year, the sixth annual International Wildfire Conference is being held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  Korea is the first Asian nation to hold the gathering, and NFPA’s Michele Steinberg, Wildland Fire Operations Division Manager is on the scene.  Michele is presenting on Firewise principles in action as well as acting as a moderator for other sessions.

Notable attendees are South Korea’s Minister of the Korea Forest Service, Shin Won-Sop, and Margareta Wahlstrom, special representative to the U.N. secretary-general for disaster risk reduction.  Well known keynote speakers from the U.S.  include author Stephen Pyne, social scientist Sarah McCaffrey, and Tom Harbour, Chief of Fire and Aviation Management for the U.S. Forest Service. Korea's own Director of Fire Prevention and Control Ko Kiyeon, Winston Trollope, Working with Fire South Africa, and Johann Goldammer, Director of the Global Fire Monitoring Center help round out the keynote lineup.

The theme for this year’s conference is, “Fire of the Past, Fire in the Future”.  The conference will focus on topics such as: the global natural and cultural fire heritage, protecting the global natural and cultural heritage from fire and working towards a global cohesive fire management strategy.  The conference provides a forum for fire management leaders, professionals, policy makers, researchers and practitioners worldwide to discuss critical fire issues affecting communities, resources and ecosystems.

Minister Shin wants to place Korea in a leadership role in forest fire management and control and sponsoring this conference certainly goes a long way in achieving that goal. 

Globally, we all share in the effort to share knowledge and information to reduce the risk and loss from destructive wildfires.

NFPA-Firewise-identity-rebranding_How-toFirewise How To – Firewise by the Numbers for the 3rd Quarter, 2015

From July 1 through September 31, the Firewise Program welcomed 36 new communities who were recognized for their community wildfire preparedness efforts. 

These new communities reflect 16,045 reported residents in the wildland urban interface and collectively achieved $631,429.22 in reported volunteer and project work towards community resiliency

Current Firewise Communities from 40 states are listed here.

FWC Recognition sign logoOverall, 80 new communities from 19 states have been recognized by the program as of October 13, 2015.  Thus far, the new communities of 2015 collectively achieved over $1.7 million in reported volunteer and project work towards community resiliency and reflect 54,376 reported residents. 

In 2015, the top five states thus far for Firewise Community Growth are:

Oregon at 23 new communities;
Colorado at 10 new communities;
Georgia at 10 new communities;
California at 9 new communities; and
South Carolina at 5 new communities
We applaud all these new communities and the preparedness outreach work by state forestry agencies.  We look forward to sharing their achievements in wildfire preparedness in the years to come.  

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

In September, NFPA launched its newest wildfire safety campaign for youth called TakeAction. As part of the campaign, we focus on one of our favorite things in the world - our pets (check out our recent blogs about the campaign)!

Why are pets so important to the TakeAction campaign? Well, the truth of the matter is, when your family receives an evacuation notice, whether it's for wildfire or any other natural disaster, everything happens quickly - too quickly it seems - and often, we don't have time to gather all of the belongings we need to take with us and for our furry family members. PetLife Radio

Just recently, Megan Blake, host of Pet Life Radio/A Super Smiley Adventure invited Cathy Prudhomme from our wildfire division to talk about TakeAction and the importance of pet preparedness and safety during a wildfire. We invite you to tune in and share it with members of your family and friends.

Cathy joined Washington's Brinnon Fire Chief, Patrick Nicholson, with his K9 partner, arson dog Allie, Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office Captain Ross Holt and his K9 arson dog, Ember, and our wonderful partner and sponsor of the TakeAction campaign, State Farm’s Public Affairs Specialist, Heather Paul. During the interview you'll hear from the experts and our host about their personal experiences with evacuation, and learn some great tips and advice you can use for your own pets as you prepare.

If you don't know about Pet Life Radio, it's the largest and #1 pet radio network on the planet, featuring weekly pet-related talk shows hosted by the most well-known pet experts, authors and radio and TV personalities in the world of animals and pets. With over six million monthly listeners Pet Life Radio has hosted celebrity guests like Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Betty White, Rachael Ray, Ryan O'Neal, and many more. Pet Life Radio just recently won a 2012 Genesis Award Honor (Humane Society of the United States), and is the official radio media sponsor of the 2013 and 2014 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards (Read our announcement - Sparky the Fire Dog named Spokesdog for 2012 Hero Dog Awards)!

Check out Cathy's interview then go to our webpage and download the household pet and horse checklists and get started on building your pets' evacuation kit today! Find these checklists, videos, safety tips and more by visiting

Next week is the Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference in Myrtle Beach, S.C.! For any history buffs looking for a bit of local lessons, the journey is not far. In fact, you can get a taste of state history right in the Convention Center at the South Carolina Hall Fame!

Dedicated in 1973 and made the state’s official hall of fame in 2001, the South Carolina Hall of Fame “was created to recognize and honor those contemporary and past citizens who have made outstanding contributions to South Carolina’s heritage and progress,” according to the Hall’s website.

Each year, one contemporary and one deceased citizen may be inducted, and inductees include both native South Carolinians who made their names elsewhere and those who made notable achievements after moving to the state.

Inductees made their marks in a variety of areas, including politics, medicine, sports, entertainment, military, literature, civil rights, industry and more. Some of the most famous members include President Andrew Jackson, Vice President John Calhoun and Senator Strom Thurmond. 2015’s inductees were Susan Pringle Frost, a leader in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and philanthropist Darla Moore.

You can test your local history knowledge on the website, where there is a quiz with three difficulty levels. Try it before and after visiting to see what you’ve learned!

The International Wildland Fire Conference is well underway at the Alpensia Convention Center and Resort in the beautiful mountainous region of Pyeongchang, South Korea. This is the sixth time that delegates from some 80 countries have come together to discuss and work on solutions to the many aspects of wildland fire – from forestry practices to remote sensing to smoke impacts to home destruction – that affect the globe.

More than 2,000 people were welcomed to Korea and the region by the minister of the Korea Forest Service and Choi Moon-Soon, the Governor of Gangwon-do, the province in which Pyeongchang lies. The 6th IWFC is the first to be hosted in Asia, and the hosts are rightly proud and eager to show international visitors the best their country has to offer in art, culture, resources, and of course, wildland fire management. Governor Choi was most welcoming and kindly gave delegates a few lessons in pronouncing Korean place names. Most importantly, he emphasized the very large difference between Pyeongchang and Pyeongyang, which no delegate who heard him will ever confuse.

Most gratifying to me as a representative of NFPA and a longtime advocate for community approaches such as Firewise has been the strong emphasis at the conference on a concept called Community Based Fire Management, or CBFiM. Depending on the place it is applied, it can involve indigenous knowledge of fire and forestry practices and volunteer firefighting. It also strongly emphasizes the same principles we in the US call Fire Adapted Communities, which encompasses programs such as Firewise and more.

Presenters in parallel sessions and plenary sessions called on us to listen to the community, to avoid making assumptions about their knowledge, and to engage people living in fireprone landscapes to take action towards their own safety and well-being. These themes that may be so familiar to Firewise practitioners are critically important to be spread globally at a time when government budgets are stretched thin and firefighting forces struggle to deliver effective response during massive fires.

Firewise Gardens can be a great way to show what wildfire preparedness looks like.  In Part 1, Firewise’s How-To asked J.T. Wensman with the Wyoming State Forestry Division, about the value of this effort and its development at Curt Gowdy State Park, in Laramie.  In Part 2, Firewise’s How-To continues asking about Firewise Garden promotion, signage, educational goals, and lessons learned. 

Can you describe how the park and the garden around the main building help guide a visitor though the Firewise principles?

We tried to connect the park’s interpretative signs with Firewise’s Home Ignition Zone [HIZ] concept, and with Firewise plant and landscape material selection. That way, a person can read about the three zones within the HIZ and see examples of them at the same time. When a person reads about Zone 1 – within 30 feet of the home. There is an actual Firewise example the person is looking at theis much more than just a “zero-scaped” rockpile. There are interpretive signs that explain Firewise zoning as well.

How did you develop those and what was the messaging vision for them?

The signs were a great group effort. They were developed among the State Parks, the Laramie County Firewise Coordinator, and Wyoming State Forestry. We had several meetings where we came up with the concept and design ideas. Then we identified how many signs we would have, where they should go, and what information they should convey. Once we all agreed on design and content, personnel from the State Parks department created the signs.

What kind of promotion will be done for the Firewise Garden and who is involved with that? 

This year, we were only able to do a small promotion. Due to timing and weather, plantings were postponed and rescheduled. We’re hoping to do a big unveiling next summer that will include State Parks, Wyoming Forestry, local volunteer fire departments, USFS, and BLM. We’re also looking into whether we can have Smokey Bear there as well.

What lessons did you gain from working with the master gardener group that other state Firewise liaisons and communities can learn from?

Think outside the box. There was the excellent group of people that were an incredibly helpful resource that I had never heard of. They not only know what will grow in the area, but could identify, drought tolerant, sun/shade species, animal-resistant plants. We gave them the concept and they were able to take it from there.

What do you hope Wyoming residents take away from the Firewise garden and bring back to their communities at risk?

The biggest thing is to spread awareness. I hope they will let their fellow residents know that it is their responsibility to help keep their homes safe from wildfire. And I hope they share that it truly is the little things that add up in the effort to save a home during a wildfire event. If a wildfire occurs, there may not be enough fire fighters to defend every house, so it’s important to get residents thinking: “Could my home survive a wildfire?” If the answer is “no,” they need to be aware of what they as homeowners can do about it. Sharing the information they’ve learned about Firewise plants and landscaping can help members of their community address this important question, so that the answer can be “yes.”

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

As Firewise communities from across the nation submit their annual renewals, we encourage you to join them and share your 2015 success story.  If you’ve done the work, renew today – no need to wait until the November 15 Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program renewal deadline.

Firewise-Communities-Annual-Renewal-slide-2015In 2014, over 79% of Firewise Day activities were completed by communities by the end of September. 

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.  Remember that the 2015 volunteer hourly rate is $23.07

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

  105 Pineview Flagstone Photo

Often, one of the biggest hurdles in getting homeowners living in a community with a wildfire risk to make their home more fire resistant, is the lack of opportunities for them to visit a residence that’s completed the mitigation process; and see firsthand what a property looks like when it’s done. 

If you live in the front range of Colorado, Boulder County's Wildfire Partners is offering an opportunity this Saturday, October 10 from 10am to 2pm, to take a rare look at mitigated homes, through their Tour of Homes event. For details and addresses visit Wildfire Partners and look for the directional signage displayed in driveways.  

Boulder logo - 10.9.15

Sixteen homeowners throughout Boulder County’s foothills and mountains will be participating and letting folks see their beautifully mitigated homes. These homeowners have plenty of reasons to be proud of their homes and landscaping, and they're giving others the chance to envision how the same principles can be applied where they live.

Each home participating in the tour has received an on-site wildfire assessment from one of Boulder’s Wildfire Mitigation Specialists and has either completed, or is in the process of working towards completion, of their customized list of projects that will make them the proud recipient of a Wildfire Partners Certificate of Mitigation. In addition to the certificate each participant receives when the work is finished, they get the mental assurance of knowing they’ve taken proactive actions that will increase their homes chances of surviving a wildfire.

Wildfire Partners was launched in 2014 and is a voluntary program that provides interested homeowners with technical and financial assistance in completing the projects identified through an assessment at their property.

Wondering where you can grab a bite to eat after a day of Backyards & Beyond sessions? There are plenty of well-reviewed restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area, and one of the highest-rated is just up the street!

If you’re in the mood for Italian food, try Toscana Italian Restaurant, located about a mile and a half from the conference center. TripAdvisor gives it four and a half out of five stars all-around, for overall rating, food, value, service and atmosphere. Out of 820 reviews, 638 reviewers rated it “excellent,” with an additional 109 giving a “very good” evaluation.

The interior of the restaurant is described by reviewers as “elegant but homey.” Many call the service outstanding, and that seems to come from the top-down, as the owner/chef has made personal replies to many of the patrons’ comments online. The owner is from Italy, so you can expect the real Italian food experience even in South Carolina!

Florida-grouper-coconut-florentine5On the menu, you can find many standard dishes in the way of ravioli, manicotti, etc. There is also plenty that is a little outside-the-box, including gorgonzola escargot, which one five-star reviewer described as “different but very tasty.” The bread at this restaurant received rave reviews. Prices are reasonable.

The restaurant is open until 10:30 pm daily and dress is always casual. 

Firewise gardens can be a great way to show what wildfire preparedness looks like. Since we get a lot of questions about how to do this and promote it effectively, Fireiwse's How-To spoke with J.T. Wensman, fire management officer for the Wyoming State Forestry Division, who led efforts to develop a Firewise Demonstration Garden at Curt Gowdy State Park, in Laramie.  

In Part 1, How-To asks JT about the value of this effort and its development.  In Part 2, which will be posted this coming Tuesday, How-To will ask about promotion, signage, educational goals, and lessons learned. 
What do you think is the value of presenting Firewise principles in the form of a “garden”?

The Firewise Demonstration Garden is a great way to visually showcase what a Firewise landscape could look like. To some, the term “Firewise” may produce images of barren, plain, or ugly. It allowed us to show what Jack Cohen means when he says, “You don’t have to live in a concrete block home with stainless steel doors and a metal deck around it. You just have to remember that it’s the little things that count.”

You worked with a local master gardener group on the project.  How did you connect with them on the idea?

Betsey Nickerson, one of our Firewise coordinators, came up with the idea. She contacted the president of the Laramie County Master Gardeners and arranged for us to attend one of their monthly meetings. At the meeting, she and I made a Firewise presentation to the group. We talked about the Firewise garden and gained some enthusiasm from the group. Members of the group who had the time then helped construct a list of native, and non-native, animal resilient, and harsh weather-tolerant plants that also are appealing to the eye.

Curt_gowdy10How was Curt Gowdy State park picked for the site, and what was it like to navigate that process from your position with State Forestry?

Curt Gowdy State Park was chosen for two reasons: foot traffic and timing. It is located midway between Cheyenne and Laramie, 24 miles from each. Cheyenne is Wyoming’s state capital, while Laramie is home to the University of Wyoming. They are in an area of southeast Wyoming where many people go to for outdoor recreation. As for timing, a brand new visitor center was being built and we were able to meet with the landscape architect who also embraced the idea. And that’s how the Curt Gowdy Firewise Garden was born.

The main visitors’ building at the park plays a special role in ecology education. Tell us about that. 

The Visitors’ Center is also an interpretive center. Inside you can learn about the wildlife in the area, which includes mountain lions, mule deer, hawks, and trout. Outside, on the center’s beautiful deck, you can read about the construction of Granite Reservoir and the geology of the area. And, as you look down below, you can learn about the Firewise garden.

Check back this coming Tuesday when Firewise How-To asks about the garden's promotion and lessons learned.

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

BY&B 15 Banner2
Attendees at this October’s Backyards & Beyond Conference in Myrtle Beach, SC, are going to learn about the most destructive wildfire in South Carolina history, which burned almost 20,000 acres and took 76 homes adjacent to Myrtle Beach, SC. 

Darryl JonesThe Thursday lunchtime Featured Presentation speaker is Darryl Jones, Forest Protection Chief of the South Carolina Forestry Commission, who will re-account the efforts to control the fire, manage the evacuation, and illustrate the difficulties found in this peat fuel type. 

For some backstory, I spoke with Chief Jones and he shared with me that the main point he wants to get across is, “that that wildfire is not just a western issue, that it is common across the US.”

He explained that in speaking with his counterparts in other states, “getting homeowners, communities, and elected officials to recognize that wildfire is a real, frequent and very likely local threat, is a big challenge. We have had great success using the story of the Highway 31 Fire to get the attention of communities across South Carolina.  There were only a few communities that had achieved Firewise Communities/USA recognition status before the fire, and we now have 30.”

He went onto say that, “I hope the attendees can use this case study, or one from their own area, to spark interest in community wildfire protection planning.  While the fuels, weather, and fire environment may differ, large fires can occur in every state, and the broad tools we have to prepare communities like Firewise, Ready, Set, Go!, CWPPs, and fuels mitigation efforts need to be implemented across the board.”

BY&B 15 BrochureNFPA's Backyards & Beyond Conference will be held October 22-24 in Myrtle Beach, SC. 

Learn about the pre-conference training classes; the various educational sessions and focus tracks that will be held over the three days; and the keynote and featured presentations planned for the conference.  

Register for the conference online and secure your spot today. 

Eligible USAA members can now save money on their homeowner’s insurance premiums by living within the boundaries of a nationally recognized Firewise Community. Currently, those discounts are USAA only available to eligible members in California, Colorado and Texas. A recent USAA press release announced they are in the process of expanding the discount in additional wildfire prone states. 

Firewise Communities/USA® is designed to encourage local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters and others in the effort to protect people and property from the risk of wildfire. For more information visit

USAA chipping
An unstoppable Firewise Community member submitted by the Spanish Peaks Firewise Community

Homeowners and communities do not have to be helpless victims, they can roll up their sleeves and work together to create Firewise Communities. The hard work that these Firewise Communities have invested over the years has seen significant saves and success stories.   Over time a Firewise community engaged in making change year after year and educating and mentoring new residents creates resilient  communities that can suffer much less loss in the event of a wildfire and has now been recognized by USAA.


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NFPA’s bi-annual Backyards & Beyond® Wildland Fire Education Conference is a great place for community leaders, researchers, insurance professionals, emergency responders, homeowners and others involved in wildfire safety and preparedness to share their knowledge and best practices on key wildfire issues that they can then take back to their communities and workplace. This year, Backyards and Beyond is scheduled for October 22-24, 2015 in Myrtle Beach, SC.&#0160;

Next summer in Las Vegas, we will introduce conference sessions focused on wildland fire at the NFPA Conference & Expo®

so that you can keep the conversations going until the next Backyards &amp; Beyond. Session proposals can be submitted online &#0160;through October 14.&#0160;</p>

Do you have knowledge to share?

Would you like to increase your exposure and visibility in your industry?

Maybe add to your resume and list of achievements?

How would you like a complimentary registration for the NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, June 13-16, 2016?

Then we want to hear from you! We need your help now to submit session proposals. We are seeking the industry's best and brightest to share perspectives, best practices, and case studies at our conference. So, we invite you to submit a proposal detailing the wildland fire topic(s) you would like to address.

All proposals must be submitted online by Wednesday, October 14.&#0160;<br />[Submit Your Proposal Now |]&#0160;

For assistance or questions regarding the content of your proposed presentation, please contact Stacey Moriarty&#0160;and for questions regarding the&#0160;Call for Presentations process, please contact Andrea White.</p>



The wildfire predictive index for the month of October highlights a significant wildfire threat in parts of California and Minnesota.  This outlook represent the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.  According to this forecast, most of the United States will see the fire risk back to normal levels. Month1_outlook

However according to the index, “above normal significant fire potential will continue across central and southern California due to continued drought and dry fuels. Central portions of the state will return to normal by the end of the month.  Northwestern Minnesota will see short term elevated significant fire potential through October.”

No matter what your fire risk is, working together as a Firewise Community to reduce your risk to wildfire damage can protect lives and property.  We all can make a difference in the outcome of a wildfire event by making effective changes.

Join Jack Cohen, Ph. D. Research Physical Scientist USDA Forest Service and a co-founder of the JackFirewise Communities/USA® recognition program will present an informal, thought provoking and entertaining perspective.  Jack will speak on how Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) disasters occur and how homes ignite during extreme wildfires.  According to Dr. Cohen, “extreme wildfires are inevitable, but extreme wildland/urban interface fire disasters are not,” if homeowners take proper precautions. 

Join Jack for this presentation and this opportunity to ask him questions after his presentation.  

Comm Service Blog 10.5.15
Students between the ages of 13 and 22 could receive $500 to use for future educational costs, or as a donation to their favorite charitable organization for completing a local community service project that benefits the people and neighborhood where they live. Participation is easy when they choose a project from this ideas list, with more than two dozen project options that can be accomplished in as little as a few hours, or an entire day or weekend.

The eligibility process is easy – complete a wildfire preparedness or post-fire impact community service project (it does not have to be one of the ideas outlined in the project ideas suggestions) and submit the short and simple application form by November 15, 2015.

Help the students in your life turn their school, club, or a civic group’s community service hours requirement into something that increases wildfire preparedness!

Twenty $500 funding awards will be awarded. Funding was provided by State Farm through NFPA’s Year of Living Less Dangerously campaign.


Throughout the U.S. thousands of all-hazard preparedness events took place on September 30, during FEMA's America's PrepareAthon. I had the privilege of attending one of those events at the Los Angeles Fire Department Training Center where fire department personnel and NFPA encouraged pet and horse owners to take the steps necessary to get their animals ready for potential wildfire evacuations.

LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas, along with the department’s Community Risk Reduction and Equestrian Units teamed up with the Los Angeles Image1
Department of Animal Services and NFPA to encourage wildland urban interface residents to include their pets and horses in family evacuation plans.

Parents were also encouraged to empower their teens and pre-teens to take an active role in organizing and building animal evacuation kits and giving them an opportunity to get involved in developing the family’s tools that will increase their readiness for natural disasters.

Image1Chief Terrazas emphasized that residents be cognizant that wildfires often move extremely fast and in those circumstances there may only be enough time to grab items that were pre-packed long before the fire started. Understanding how to evacuate during both a house fire and a wildfire takes planning and practice, and everyone needs to know the two types of fires require dramatically different responses. In a house fire never stop to collect any type of belongings or animals; in wildfires you may possibly have time to collect items and pack them prior to evacuating. Safety officials stressed you should never endanger your personal well-being in a wildfire to collect belongings when the fire is close; life safety should always be the highest priority and evacuating when fire is near, or when notified through an emergency alert is extremely imperative.   

Ensure you and your family know and practice the steps needed to leave quickly and safely during an evacuation! 


As we explore how to have a Year of Living Less Dangerously From Wildfire in light of the horrible loss experienced by some communities this year, a good way to begin is by looking at the success of some communities who have embraced a lifestyle of change by integrating Firewise principles into their community’s work, play and planning. !|src=|alt=Success|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Success|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb087aede9970d img-responsive!


Last month we looked at a community in Oregon that survived two consecutive wildfire eventsbecause they had embraced Firewise change.&#0160; Community-wide preparation for wildfires can make a significant difference in the outcome after a major event. &#0160;A recent story from The Oregonian on their&#0160;Oregon Live website highlighted the&#0160;community of Pine Creek, where residents took the responsibility of living in a fire-prone area to heart. Roy Walker, who leads fire suppression efforts for the Malheur National Forest, believes that Firewise helped prevent destruction of homes on Pine Creek.

This month we are looking at a community that embraced a collaborative effort with an agency partners the Twin Falls Bureau of Land Management, Saw Tooth National Forest, Mid Lake RC&D and the Rock Creek Fire Department to create an infomercial that speaks to residents in their area. This is something anyone can do. The community of Hidden Lakes in Idaho became a recognized Firewise Communities/USA site in 2010.  Their community had suffered loss due to a wildfire event.  This loss spurred them to embrace Firewise change, which included some incredible messaging efforts aimed at helping residents understand what their risk is and how they can embrace these changes, making the job of defending these homes in the event of a wildfire easier and safer for responding firefighters.



Some of their other successful events over the years from their Firewise renewal  information include:

    • All homeowners were invited to pile brush around their property and the Rock Creek FD/Mid-Snake RC&D/BLM chipped the piles either on site or hauled to a central location.

    • Homeowners received Firewise educational information and also Firewise plants grown by the Hagerman and Shoshone Schools' Firewise nurseries.

    • Homeowners received Firewise plants from the Mid-Snake RC&D Schools' Firewise Greenhouse programs.

    • On May 18, 2010, Hidden Lakes Subdivision held its fire annual Firewise Day. Activities included home assessments completed for each homeowner by Rock Creek Fire Department volunteers, BLM volunteers and the RC&D. Homeowners were educated on the actions they could take to improve their home ignition. The RC&D provided a Firewise Trailer to serve as a central location for the assessment team to meet and a place where homeowners could get publications.


Are you a part of the wildfire solution in your area? &#0160;Learn how your community can embrace these changes and share your success with other communities.

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Sharing Firewise plants at a Hidden Lakes Firewise Day.

NFPA-Firewise-identity-rebranding_How-toAuthor(s) Faith Berry, NFPA

In Part 1, Firewise How-To introduced the resources available on that can be useful to your community and some of the ways you might put them to use.  In Part 2, How-To discusses the growing popularity of Firewise materials and how you can access them.

Over the past few years, interest in Firewise Communities products and other wildland fire resources has grown extensively.

The quality of Firewise information and products is even lauded on the FEMA website, where it states: 

“Your best resource for proper planning is, which has outstanding information used daily by residents, property owners, fire departments, community planners, builders, public policy officials, water authorities, architects and others to assure safety from fire — it really works… and free Firewise materials can be obtained easily by anyone interested.”

How can your community obtain these helpful materials and educate community members about the practices they can adopt to protect property and homes?

Firewise CatalogNFPA’s Firewise Communities Program remains committed to providing its broad range of print and multi-media resources for residents, communities, members of the fire service, and others working or residing in the W/UI to use in conjunction with their Firewise activities and events.

However, to continue to provide its materials at no cost, quantities per order for many items are being limited. This also will help ensure that its various materials will be more broadly available for all who request them.

In addition, because many Firewise print materials are in the public domain, they are available for download on the Firewise website and may be reproduced without written permission. If you would like to use the print file so that you can add your own logo and print larger quantities at a print house near you, the program is happy to provide the file. In most cases, files are created using InDesign. 

As before, NFPA will continue to subsidize shipping costs, with the exception of orders involving items for purchase (such as t-shirts, baseball caps, and banners), or when rush shipping is requested.

Firewise Catalog 2So, be sure to take a fresh look at the Firewise website to see the vast offering of resources — available at no cost — that can help you and your community members make well-informed changes — changes that make your community Firewise.

And remember: Questions regarding an order can be submitted online at Or you can call NFPA's customer service at 1-800-344-3555, and then press “1” for sales.

If you are an international customer, please contact the Firewise program by e-mailing, or by calling 1-617-984-7486. You may call anytime between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST), Monday through Friday.

We wish you the best of luck with your next preparedness event, using Firewise materials!

Read previous posts in the Firewise How-To blog series

Source for FEMA quote:

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