Hands-on learning about the home ignition zone helps firefighters advise on property risks from wildfire

Blog Post created by michelesteinberg Employee on Jan 15, 2016
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.

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.

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