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2016

The Wildfire Mitigation Awards Committee, jointly sponsored by NFPA, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the USDA Forest Service (USFS) recently announced the winners of the 2016 Wildfire Mitigation Award. Established in 2014, the awards are the highest commendation for the innovation and leadership displayed by individuals and organizations committed to wildfire preparedness.

The three categories for the awards include Fire Adapted Communities Fire Service Leadership, Wildfire Mitigation Innovation and the Community Wildfire Preparedness Pioneer.Recognizing the comprehensive challenge posed by wildfires, these awards commend the outstanding dedication to wildfire preparedness and safety across a broad spectrum of activities and among a variety of individuals and organizations. By honoring these achievements, the award sponsors also seek to increase public recognition and emphasize the value of wildfire mitigation efforts.

Read NFPA's latest news release to get the names of the winners. More information about the awards can also be found on NASF's website..

The awards will be presented at the IAFC Wildland-Urban Interface Conference (WUI) in Reno, Nevada on March 9, 2016.

Wildfire Mitigation Logos

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Sarah Groenwald




After years of significant wildfires across the front range of Colorado, Wildland Restoration Volunteers (WRV) began work on fire restoration projects. Sarah Groenwald, a 20-year-old student at Colorado State University, worked on these projects as a volunteer, and for her efforts was awarded a $500 TakeAction education funding awards from State Farm. Groenwald is one of ten middle school through college age students selected from almost 40 applicants to receive the TakeAction wildfire risk reduction community service project award for her efforts to curb the risk of wildfires in her community.


Groenwald has worked with WRV for four seasons in various roles. This year she was an intern and project leader for a fuels reduction project at Ben Delatour Scout Ranch.  In this project, certified sawyers cut down trees to create buffer zones in an effort to reduce the likelihood and intensity of fires. Volunteers also assisted in removing dropped logs out of the treatment area. As a project leader, Groenwald was responsible for recruitment, site visits, interacting with landowners, sending out project updates, running briefings and managing crews in the field, among other tasks.


She was inspired to get involved with wildfire work after witnessing the impact fire can have before and after a blaze. 


“I was in high school in Boulder when the Fourmile fire came through,” Groenwald said. “A lot of people I knew were evacuated and unsure of what would happen to their homes. I later did work on a couple projects following the High Park fire in Fort Collins where I saw first-hand the insane destruction that wildfires can have.”


Groenwald said that their work helped protect the Elk Creek watershed and the Scout Ranch, allowing for more boy scouts to enjoy the outdoors and learn about protecting natural lands. “I could not be happier with the outcome and impact of the project,” she said. She is already working with the program director to schedule more fuels-related projects for next season.


“The more we work to make the high-risk areas safe from destructive wildfires, the less uncertainty people will have surrounding the safety of their homes,” she said, “and there will be less to rebuild in a fire’s wake.”


 

 

Dept of Energy and Natural Resources
There will be a Senate hearing for the US Forest Service budget for the fiscal year 2017 on March 8, 2017.  The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will host the hearing at 10:00 AM EST led by the committee’s chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski R from Alaska.   Other committee members include: Republicans John Barrasso, Wyoming, Jim Risch, Idaho,  Mike Lee, Utah, Jeff Flake, Arizona, Bill Cassidy, Louisiana, Cory Gardner, Colorado, Steve Daines, Montana, Rob Portman, Ohio, John Hoeven, North Dakota, Lamar Alexander, Tenessee, and Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia, the ranking member Maria Cantwell, Washington and Democratic committee members, Ron Wyden, Oregon, Bernard Sanders, Vermont, Debbie Stabenow, Michigan, Al Franken, Minnesota, Joe Manchin III, West Virginia, Martin Heinrich, New Mexico, Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii, Angus King, Maine nd Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts. The hearing can be listened to on a live webcast on the Department of Energy’s website.

The budget request for the Department of Interior will also be heard by this Department on February 23, 2016 at 10:00 AM EST.  The live webcasts are a great opportunity to listen in on these important budget hearings.

GreenBuilderHow can home builders and developers address the daunting risk of wildfire? A beautiful new e-book from Green Builder Media and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows how in just eight pages.

“Design with Fire in Mind: Three Steps to a Safer New Home,” is based on principles from NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program, which addresses site design, construction and landscaping, as well as property maintenance and wildfire safety education of residents.

These principles are based on solid fire science research into how homes ignite, and comes from the world’s leading fire experts (we’re looking at you, Drs. Jack Cohen and Stephen Quarles) whose experiments, models and data collection are based on some of the country’s worst wildland fire disasters.

In addition to links to educational resources and videos that can easily be downloaded and shared for free, readers will be able to get a more in-depth look at the e-book’s three main topics:

  • Creating a Firewise landscape, including limiting the amount of flammable vegetation and materials immediately surrounding the home
  • Considering the impact of flames, embers and radiant heat when building homes
  • Understanding the role of home and property maintenance in reducing damage from wildfire

Download this free e-book resource HERE, or visit www.greenbuildermedia.com and www.nfpa.org for more information.

Fire break janThe January 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 how to apply for a funding award from State Farm and NFPA for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day
  • A year-end wrap up focusing on the new communities that became recognized Firewise sites
  • Tips for cleaning out gutters to help resist ember ignition during a wildfire
  • Four ways to take compelling Firewise photos

...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.

I just read a heartwarming story about a dog reunited with its owner four months after a wildfire destroyed their home and neighborhood. The dog somehow escaped from the home during a massive wildfire that burned in Northern California in September. The dog’s owners, Darci Andrews and Bernie Hosmer, live in Hidden Valley Lake and said that they lost other pets and all of their possessions in the wildfire that occurred in their community.

Tia, a Husky/pit bull mix, was somehow not only able to escape and survive the wildfire but in January was also reunited with Darci and Bernie after a man who cared for the dog contacted them. He said that he tried to call the number on the dog’s tags but the phone line no longer worked. According to another report, he was later able to find the owner and contact her on Facebook.  It was 116 days before Tia was reunited with her family.

This story emphasizes the importance of making sure that your pet has proper identification so that if it is separated from you in a wildfire or other disaster, it can be returned home safely and quickly. The owners were fortunate that the man who found their pet took the time to try and find them on Facebook. Some steps that pet owners can take to make it easier to be reunited with lost pets include:

  1. Make sure that tag information is up to date.
  2. Make sure that the tag number is linked to a cell number or Skype number that would not be “lost” in the event of a wildland fire.
    Jen
    Bulldog Mugsy Berry and owner Jen Berry make sure that they know how to be reunited in the event of a wildfire event. Picture submitted by Jen Berry
  3. Better yet, have an identification computer chip placed in your pet by your vet. This would include birds, cats, dogs and horses.
  4. Notify Veterinary hospitals in the area with a description of your lost pets including breed, and any unusual characteristics.
  5. Notify local animal shelters about your lost pet. Check the shelters frequently and don’t give up, like this dog some pets can turn up later.
  6. Post flyers up at local parks, community centers, libraries and veterinary clinics.
  7. Post information about your lost pet on social media outlets like Facebook. Sites such as Aiken Pets United do not charge fees to post pictures of your lost pet, so that folks can return your pet to you.

NFPA has created excellent guides for preparation of your household pets and horses in the event of a wildfire. Check them out along with other great tips and tools at TakeAction.org

Little Guy writingGrant funding can provide great assistance to help a community complete a project. Before applying for grant funding, make sure that you assess your business capacity. Different grants require varying levels of financial capabilities and staffing hours to manage funds in varying levels of detail. Some grants, especially federal grants, require that you maintain a non-profit organization to be eligible to receive funds. Forming a non-profit organization requires filing yearly federal and oftentimes state tax paperwork for the non-profit organization. It is a good idea to contact a local attorney or accountant -- perhaps a community member who could assist pro bono -- to discuss exactly what resources and time would be required to manage not only the grant funds but your paperwork, including yearly tax paperwork requirements. 

Some grants do not require that the organization receiving them is a nonprofit entity. However, it is still a good idea to keep the grant funding in a separate bank account to ensure that there is no commingling of money.   These small grants from businesses or organizations that partner with you will require some grant reporting so that they can share with others how their donation made a difference in your community.  Take some good before and after pictures to include as part of your report.  Some grantors also like to receive video of the work being completed with some before and after shots included.  Ask your grant funder how they would like to receive the success story you are going to share with them.

One easy and timely way to get funds for your community without writing a formal grant proposal is to submit a simple application for a $500 project award for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. There are 125 such awards available, but make sure you apply by February 28! Firewise communities can use the May 7 "Prep Day" to complete their annual requirements for the Firewise Day.

Another new online opportunity to obtain funding for Firewise work to be completed in your community is to explore crowdfunding sources such as Gofundme.com, Kickstarter.com and others.  Do some research to make sure that the site is reputable and that you follow all of the guidelines established by the website.  It is also a good idea to check to see if your community or you as an individual would have tax liabilities for funding received. Moneytree

There are many other ways to find help for wildfire safety work, short of a formal grant application. Some stores will share gift cards with your community that can be used to purchase tools, gloves, trash cans and more for your community clean-up day.  One community secured the
donation dumpsters for green waste and solid waste that encouraged the community to clean up what some call trash and others call “human treasures," those items that can become ember catchers around the home in the event of a wildfire.

Don't forget to look to volunteers for help. Some organizations have groups of volunteers that are willing to donate their time to assist with projects. These may include faith-based groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, veterans' organizations and others.  Some large companies also have volunteer pools where you can request assistance. Creating Firewise community organized volunteer work days can also be a sense of community where neighbors help neighbors. Helping someone in need in your community to tidy up their home and or landscape actually helps you be safer from loss in the event of a wildfire.  

Some agency partners such as local foresters, parks, and other groups might be able to supply chipping services or other assistance such as road grading depending upon the resources they have available and the goals of the organization.  Sometimes it is good to have a designated member or members from the community attend public project planning discussions that agency partners host because perhaps there is a need addressed for their community that their project can be expanded to assist with.

There are limitless opportunities to get assistance - monetary and otherwise - for fire prevention and mitigation efforts in your community.   If you can think outside of the box, there is a way to accomplish changes in your community that can make a difference.

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Sun City Texas Firewise Community sent the NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division a copy of their latest newsletter, The Firewise Trumpet. The information included in the newsletter was

Sun City Texas Presentation
Picture submitted by Sun City Community. Paul Ohlenbusch and Dan Dodson receive recognition for their volunteer efforts.

very telling. We knew they were doing something big in the state in which “everything is bigger!” To start with, Sun City, Texas, is the largest HOA in Texas to become a recognized Firewise Community - a status it has held for over 7 years.  It is located in Williamson County and is an active adult 55 and over community. The community is still under development with 7,200 homes currently completed and about 13,500 residents. Speaking of big, the community encompasses 5,200 acres!  But Sun City residents realized that they live in an ecosystem that is prone to wildfire, so they have worked hard together with the Texas A&M Forest Service to make residents in their community safer in the event of a wildfire.

Three major steps they have taken include:

  1. Training, for themselves, community evaluators, landscape professionals, and other neighboring communities.
  2. Networking, with fire professionals, researchers, and other communities.
  3. Developing an integrated approach to wildfire preparedness.

Two of the Firewise Group members were fire professionals, so they know the importance of beginning and growing their program depended upon great training for themselves and then sharing that knowledge they gained with fellow community members, adjoining communities, local landscape vendors and others.  They enjoyed attending this year’s Backyards and Beyond Conference because they said they were able to see that the value of what they were doing was confirmed by others, including Jack Cohen’s work.  They also shared how they benefited from the Home Ignition Zone Training that they have received.  They have become so proficient in all things Firewise, that they taught a session at Backyards and Beyond.   According to Paul Ohlenbusch, ”We enjoy sharing our experiences with others.”  They also find beneficial and share with others the virtual workshops that are available on the NFPA’s Firewise webpage. They told me that they have been able to use all kinds of things that they have found on the Firewise website.

They springboarded from the training they have obtained from NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA® program and customized it for their needs, training people in their community they then dubbed Home Ignition Zone Evaluators.  The Firewise Group currently has over 40 people trained to be Home Ignition Zone Evaluators for 60 neighborhoods in their community.  They call them evaluations instead of assessments because assessments have a negative connotation for the people living in their community.  The completed evaluations are only shared with each homeowner.  They are never turned over to the community standards committee.  This encourages voluntary compliance, with many people living in this community embracing these changes.  They said that the education is working.  The evolution that they are seeing their community making is incredible. According to Paul Ohlenbusch, ”The fact the residents are adopting Firewise concepts even without having a HIZ Evaluation has been rewarding.” They also publish articles in the monthly community magazine to educate homeowners.  When fire conditions are bad the association sends out a notice via e-mail.  The Firewise Group also provides information on their community sponsored web page.

Preparedness Crew
Photo submitted by Sun City Community 2015 Wildfire Preparedness Day Crew


Each year late in January, the community provides training for vendors who make landscape improvements for homeowners. They have developed this training in collaboration with the Texas A&M Forest Service. They provide them with a recommended plant list. The vendors that successfully complete the class are kept on a list available to residents.  Paul shared, “Training landscape vendors lets them apply Firewise concepts in Sun City for other clients.”

The local Firewise group also looks for every possible opportunity to network with others.  They find that it not only helps them grow their own program but have also been able to help many others, like real Firewise heroes.  They work with their community providing training with their local agency partners and by actively participating in projects that make a difference.  This helps residents have a cohesive mind.  The residents are comfortable with the program that is carefully run by staff and volunteer’s which is reassuring to the 13,500 residents who live there.  Additionally, they have invited other communities to attend their HIZ training to see how it is done.  “Our goal is to help other communities develop their program faster”, according to Paul Ohlenbusch.

They also work with the Georgetown Fire Department to help other communities learn how they can become Firewise through a mentoring program.  They told me they have been especially working closely with the Assistant Chief.  They have had other communities attend a training that they put together to see how it is done.  They have even been recognized by their city council for their work.  They have also worked closely with Justice Jones, Wildfire Mitigation Division Program Manager, Austin, Texas Fire Department, another Firewise ambassador in Texas and across the nation.  They have hosted individuals from USAA insurance company.  They took them on a tour of their community and explained to them how they implemented the program.  They told me that before they knew about the announcement from USAA a homeowner called them and thanked them for their work so that they got a discount as a resident within a Firewise Community in Texas.  Paul Ohlenbusch shared, "That a major property insurance company offers a discount is the break we have been waiting for. Other companies are watching. We are hoping that they will follow USAA's lead and offer a discount soon.”  They told me that they have a standing invitation for USAA to visit frequently.

Finally, this community has adopted an integrated method of implementing their wildfire preparedness strategy.  They work with a variety of committees from their HOA including the Wildlife Management Committee, Emergency Management Committee, and Property and Grounds Committee which all act as advisory committees to the HOA Board of Directors.  This management plan which focuses on the common areas with special emphasis on mowing the first 30 feet beyond the homeowner’s property line improves their safety in the event of a wildfire.  Combined with removing Ashe juniper (cedar) it also improves their protection from flooding and improves wildlife habitat.  A win-win-win scenario.  They have effectively learned how to engage people in making change that creates a more resilient community. “Our program is a success because of the efforts of Dan Dodson and Paul Ohlenbusch and all of our Firewise volunteers who take this matter seriously.  Because of their efforts, our community is safer, has mitigated the chances of a wildland fire causing our community harm and our homeowners feel safer because of the work they have done.”  Is your community Firewise?  It takes the community working together with fire professionals, insurance professionals, researchers and others to make a lasting difference.

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Australian bush fire image from the Australian Government/Geoscience Australia



 

With 2015 being reported by the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology as the fifth warmest year on record , bushfires (wildfires in Australia) are becoming an increasing concern. Western Australia's bushfire season generally runs from November to April .  These wildfires can cause severe damage and our neighbors in Australia are working towards trying to help residents become safer in the event of a wildfire.  A friend from ‘Down Under” shared with us an interactive map that is updated according to the level of threat in an area, from the Western Australian Government Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DEFS). The map includes helpful information  about phone numbers that can be called to report bushfires, what fire threat level a community is in, how often threat levels are reported on in the website and what to do to protect your property and lives before a wildfire occurs.  Other natural disasters such as Tsunami’s, earthquakes and floods are also included on the emergency warning map.


 

There is alegend on the map that allows individuals to see at a glance what their risk level is and where fires are and have occurred.  The Blue flame “Bushfire Advice”, means there is a fire in the !http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b8d18f9ec5970c-800wi|border=0|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b8d18f9ec5970c-800wi|alt=Bushfire_warnings_table|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Bushfire_warnings_table|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b8d18f9ec5970c img-responsive!area but there is no immediate danger to structures and that information will be provided on the site to update individuals living in the area.   The yellow flame alerts residents to the fact that a fire is approaching and conditions are changing so residents need to evacuate or prepare to defend their homes.  A red flame lets people know that they are in peril of immediate danger and that they need to take action to survive, and an emergency warning siren they call the Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) is used at this time.  The black flame indicates bushfire all clear but also offers advice on hazards to be aware of as you return to your property after a bush fire.  The frequency of the alert notification depends upon the level of the threat.  A blue flame (Advice) warning is issued twice a day at 11 am and 4 pm.  The yellow flame indicating Watch and Act is issued every two hours unless the danger level changes.  The red flame for emergency warning has information that is updated every hour.  Once the all clear announcement is made signaled by the black flame no other notifications are made.


This map is a useful tool for residents that are living in the proximity of a wildfire. Preparing in advance of the wildfire is increasingly becoming an important part of the way Australians work together to help make residents and property safer in the event of a wildfire.  As the intensity of wildfires increases around the globe, programs like NFPA's Firewise Communities USA® will play an increasingly significant role helping residents understand what their risk is as well as learn what steps they can take to effectively lessen their risk of loss due to wildfires/bushfires/forest fires/grass fires and other natural occurring wildland fires.


 

 

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NFPA Instructor Pat Durland leads students on a field exercise

NFPA's lead instructor on all things wildfire reports back from a recent seminar this week in Orange County, California: "We had 33 in the class representing Orange County, Newport Beach, Anaheim, Carlsbad, LA County, San Diego County, San Diego City and more. A great turnout and lots of positive comments."

Pat Durland with Stone Creek Fire, LLC, has extensive wildland fire experience and is passionate about helping communities and companies understand how they can avoid wildfire losses and tragedies. A longtime "friend of Firewise," Pat's past roles on national interagency wildland fire policy committees helped shape much of what NFPA's wildland fire programs do today, including our premier educational offering, Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone, a two-day seminar geared toward fire professionals and others who are in a position to educate and advise residents on wildfire safety measures that could save their property when the inevitable occurs.

Homeassess1
Seminar participants conducting a wildfire risk evaluation on a home

Even for California firefighters who are exposed to frequent occurrences of significant wildfires that impact private property, NFPA's seminar still holds value, as evidenced by some of the comments that this week's participants left for Pat. Students appreciated learning the significance and vulnerability of the space within 5 feet of structures, and that solutions to home ignition did not necessarily involve removing all plants. According to one participant, the seminar was, "very worthwhile and informative. It really drove home the point of fire prevention in the WUI (wildland/urban interface) as being an all-encompassing discipline - the importance of looking at structures and vegetation both as possible sources of ignition and fire propagation."

Contrary to popular belief (and even the belief of at least one student in Pat's class), the big flames we see on TV DON'T actually devour everything in their path - which means there is almost always a possibility for successful intervention with sound wildfire mitigation practices. 

Any fire department that copes with wildfire exposures to homes would benefit from having staff take this seminar. As the students this week shared, the seminar will help you understand:

  • How low intensity fires put homes at risk
  • Heat transfer in wildfires: Conduction vs. Convection vs. Radiation
  • That the "wildland/urban interface" or "WUI" is a set of conditions, NOT a location
  • New findings and research on sources of structure ignition
  • Techniques to approach & communicate with citizens
  • That embers can be more dangerous to homes than radiant heat
  • What to look for during wildfire inspections
  • How to better prepare your community  

Find out more about NFPA's wildfire safety seminar, which includes the opportunity to earn a Certificate of Educational Achievement, by clicking here.

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Class photo - NFPA Home Ignition Zone seminar, Orange County, California

Wildfire cover photo NFPA Journal Jan16 wildfirewatch0116The January/February NFPA Journal is out and in its latest WildfireWatch column, I argue that while historic fires helped shape a resilient urban structural fire environment, we’re missing lessons from wildfires today that should help us shape a resilient wildland-urban interface for the future.

Titles like “The Great Fire of Chicago”, the “1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire”, and the "Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire” have meaning because changes to structural and urban firefighting arose from the ashes of previous building and fire-life safety practices.

Salem Fire June 2014, NFPA ArchivesThe 1870s – 1920s provided lessons for a progressive period to reflect on its relationship with the built environment and fire.

The next cycle of fire-risk learning is upon us, with major conflagrations caused by wildfire.  Yet, our political environment makes it increasingly impossible for local elected officials to embrace long-term progressive change when faced with the immediate need to make communities and budgets whole again. 

In the column, I ague for a collective conviction to support comprehensive responses to wildfire so we do not miss the lessons being set before us.

Journalcoverjanfeb16The January 2016 edition of NFPA Journal also shares other lessons from fire that shape our response to the common risk:

In the First Responder column, NFPA’s Ken Willette explores lessons learned from the need for fire attack hose improvements. 

In the Outreach column, NFPA’s Lorraine Carli highlights the importance of personal stories about fire loss to drive home the advocacy message.

Finally, in the Journal’s Looking Back segment, NFPA’s Mary Elizabeth Woodruff returns to the 1972 Hotel Vendome fire and building collapse in Boston, in which 17 Boston Firefighters became trapped and nine died.  The collapse lead to lessons learned about excessive stresses on load baring walls in building collapses. 

Photo credit: The Charles S. Morgan Technical Library, National Fire Protection Association

Blog - 1.14.16

In 2015, the Firewise program presented another successful series of educational virtual workshops that included engaging topics presented by leading researchers and practitioners. Each workshop provided stakeholders with useful and important wildfire information and actions residents can take to reduce risk. Every workshop is a live interactive sixty minute session that can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection and is recorded for future usage.

The 2016 series begins in May and proposed topics include:

  • New information from top wildland fire researchers
  • Emerging topics in the insurance industry as they relate to homeowner’s living in the wildland/urban interface
  • Wildland Urban Legends Part 2 (due to the popularity of Wildland Urban Legends a new version has been added to the schedule)

In addition to these three topics, you now have an opportunity to make suggestions on what the topic should be for the fourth workshop. Submit your suggestions for topics and/or a speaker and check back soon to see if yours was selected. Send your idea/s to Firewise@nfpa.org.

If you missed a 2015 or 2014 workshop they can accessed through the recorded archives

FWC Recognition sign logoNew Year’s Eve may be for looking ahead but early January always offers the opportunity to reflect back upon the previous year and its accomplishments. 

As the Firewise program accepts the last of the 2015 new community submissions that arrived late in December, it once again highlights the strength of the program and its value to residents in the WUI across the country.

Over 140 communities were recognized by their state forestry agencies and the national program for the work they completed and continue to achieve in wildfire preparedness.

We’ll share more data and success stories about these great communities later in January but current data easily illustrates the diversity and impact these communities bring to wildfire risk preparedness.

The new Firewise communities of 2015 come from 23 different states across every region of the nation.

FWC map Jan16The top 5 states for new community growth in 2015 are Oregon, Colorado, California, Georgia, and Minnesota.

The new communities represent over 110,000 residents playing their role as the resident in wildfire preparedness.

The new communities also achieved over $2.5 million in reported volunteer hour and project related investment around their communities to enhance mitigation, preparedness, and education of residents.

 We applaud their hard work and welcome their recognition as local examples for all to learn from.  Find out more about Firewise and its recognition program.

2016 FB Coverphoto
Plan a wildfire awareness, risk reduction, or post-fire project to be implemented during NFPA's third national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on Saturday, May 7, and your activity could receive one of 125 project funding awards in the amount of $500 each to cover expenses related to grassroots efforts. The project funding awards opportunity along with additional outreach components is being generously provided by State Farm.

Applying for a project funding award is easy and takes only a few minutes to complete. Submit a brief description of the project you or your group will complete on May 7 and include who will be participating. Get family and friends to vote for the project on the official site or on Facebook as a way to demonstrate local support. To be considered applications must be submitted by February 28.

Find easy-to-do project ideas to get you started in planning an activity, or customize one to specifically meet local needs. Take a look at projects from the 2015 campaign and see what others have accomplished. Your actions will contribute to increasing the safety of both residents and wildland firefighters. Commit a couple of hours or an entire day to helping your community and accomplish something great!

Activities can be coordinated by a wide-range of stakeholders: individuals, neighborhoods, recognized Firewise Communities, civic groups, fire departments or forestry agencies working to reduce wildfire risks, advance general wildfire preparedness, or minimize post-fire impacts from a recent wildfire.

Funding awards can be applied for by anyone 13 years or older. Read the Official Rules for complete details and join individuals and groups of all ages on Saturday, May 7 as they participate in national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and make where they live safer.

Once your project details become finalized add them to the Put Your Project on the Map. Include your information and help demonstrate the efforts taking place in communities everywhere. Together we will illustrate the magnitude of risk reduction activities occurring throughout the U.S. during the first Saturday in May.

Promoting your activity is simple when you use free customizable flyers, the official logo, an email signature or web banner, postcard and social media cover photos. Let everyone know what you have planned and encourage them to get involved too!

Share your efforts through social media on Facebook and Twitter using #WildfirePrepDay.

State+of+Hawaii+Fire+History+Map
Did you know that the Hawaiian Islands have wildfires? According to the Hawaiian Wildfire Management Organization, about 0.5% of Hawaii’s total land area burns annually, as much or more than the proportion of land are burned in any other US state. In Hawaii, 98% of wildfires are human caused. These ignitions, along with increasing non-native fire prone grasses and shrubs and a warming, drying climate, contribute to an increase in the wildfire problem in the islands.

 

Wildfire in Hawaii, like anywhere else, threatens the safety of firefighters, residents and homes. It also causes damage to the air quality, which impacts human health, and contributes to soil erosion problems that can cause damage to sensitive coral reefs. One of the partners in Hawaii working to help lessen the loss due to wildfire in Hawaii is the Hawaiian Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO). They are a small nonprofit organization that has been working together with fire departments, the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, communities and others to help develop Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) and Firewise Communities. The HWMO was officially founded in 2000 by a group of South Kohala/North Kona regional experts who wanted to create a non-profit organization to serve as an arm for the fire suppression and land management agencies to conduct prevention, pre-suppression, and post-fire work. They became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2002. Since then, they have grown to not only address wildfire issues for all of Hawaii Island, but also the entire state and some of the Western Pacific (namely Yap, Palau, Guam).

 

According to Pablo Beimler, Coordinator with HWMO, "Although we have a small staff, HWMO is continually able to accomplish a number of projects due to its extensive partnerships. We can't say it enough: by staying in communication with their partners on each project, and expanding partnerships where needed, they are able to ensure our projects stay grounded and effective."

 

The organization has helped create 12 CWPPs  that include the entire island of Kauai, western Ohau, Western Maui, South Maui, Upcountry Maui, Molokai, Northwest Hawaii Island, North Kona, South Kona, Ocean View, Kau, and Volcano. The organization helped a new community, Kanehoa Subdivision in Kamuela, receive Firewise recognition in 2015. Pablo Beimler also shared that, "We are working with communities starting to become Firewise, including: Waialea, Waikii Ranch, Waikoloa Village andPuako on Hawaii Island; Pii Lani Mai and Ke Kai (Anahola Hawaiian Homes) on Kauai; Kula Hawaiian Homes on Maui; and finally Palehua on Oahu." HWMO aims to assist at least 10 communities across the state to become Firewise during 2016.

 

HWMO staff have been in contact with committee members from Kohala By the Sea, (a recognized Firewise Community since 2004) including their new chair, who has helped provide them lessons learned about their Firewise successes. Pablo says, "It's challenging enough to gather a community together to work for a common goal, but to continually work together for a number of years and achieve Firewise status is admirable and has become a model for the other Firewise Community efforts. We look forward to continuing to share KBS's successes with the other communities through work day events and meet-and-greets."

 

Pablo described other wildfire preparedness projects in which HWMO is involved. "We have a Firewise demonstration garden in Waikoloa Village, where we have a number of native, drought-tolerant plants growing strategically around a demo home to give community members an example of good defensible space practices. Our team has held a number of community events at the garden and have had a youth environmental empowerment group called the Malama Kai Ocean Warriors help be the ‘stewards’ of the garden. In terms of other youth outreach, we also go to numerous schools and youth programs to teach students about wildfire prevention and preparedness, including Firewise and Ready, Set, Go! principles. We also hold community wildfire preparedness workshops for various organizations/groups or for the general public where we give people a run-down on Firewise and Ready, Set, Go!."

 

The NFPA Wildland Fire team would like to take the opportunity to say Mahalo (thank you) to the Hawaiian Wildfire Management Organization for their enthusiastic and effective outreach and for using NFPA's Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program to help residents in the South Pacific understand wildfire and work together to lessen their risk of loss.

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Picture from the Ventura County Fire Department's Twitter feed . It was taken inside of a responding truck. Notice the specks of embers visible from the window.

 

 

 

I went back to California to visit my children for the holidays. It was nice to be back but El Nino conditions created cold wet weather during most of my stay. One day during my visit, there were some warm, strong Santa Ana winds. It reminded me of wildfire seasons in the past. Perusing the, I discovered that there was a wildfire burning in Solimar Beach in Ventura County, not very far away from where my daughter lives. This wildfire consumed more than 1,388 acres and forced evacuations of a local campground, with more than 600 firefighters responding to the blaze, according to a Channel 4 news report on December 26, 2015. The fire literally burned all the way to the ocean.  

 

 

That day, I had also visited a community in Topanga Canyon, close to the Santa Monica National Forest.  The terrain was rugged and the winds were gusty as I slowly drove the two lane road up to the community. There had been a deadly fire in the 1960s called the Belair-Brentwood Fire that destroyed many homes and cost people their lives. The current residents were aware of their risks and ad begun working with the California Fire Safe Council using grant funding to work together to lessen their risks as identified in their Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). They were also interested in working together to create Firewise neighborhoods. Each neighborhood that I visited had a different flavor and different critical needs as well as similar ones that needed to be worked on by homeowners and agencies to reduce wildfire risks to life and property.

 

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CAL FIRE poster about fire danger being year round.

 

 

 

 

You can work together with your neighbors to build a Firewise neighborhood that is more resilient in the event of a wildfire disaster. There are currently 101 active Firewise recognized communities in California, all working towards a common goal of wildfire safety with the&#0160;California Fire Safe Council acting as the Firewise state liaison and Anne Pandey serving currently as their representative. Learn more by visiting the California Fire Safe Council website or the Firewise website .&#0160;</p>

A tip of the blogger hat to Gary Marshall of Bend, Oregon (Deputy Fire Marshal, retired) for sharing this video message from Oregon Governor Kate Brown. 

"NOW is the perfect time to prepare your home for the challenges that drought conditions may bring," says Governor Brown. I couldn't agree more. 

 

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