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The Horizons at Barnegat in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey 

According to information posted on the community’s website; “Horizons at Barnegat is an active adult community located in Barnegat, Ocean County, New Jersey. It is a small, intimate community comprised of 164 single-family residences built by Kara Homes. This community is the perfect site for active adults aged 55 or better who are looking for an affordable home with a relaxing lifestyle, but are not concerned with all the activities of a large community.”  This retirement community provides a great example of diversity in resilience.

New Jersey
The location of Barnegat Township in New Jersey

The Horizons at Barnegat Firewise Committee held its Firewise Day on April 24, 2014. The Horizons is a retirement community located in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. The event was called “Fire and the Pinelands – Maintaining Our Local Diversity.” They had a great turnout at their open house and events. Dane Ward from Drexel University spoke about the uniqueness of Pine Barrens ecology and its fire dangers. Representatives from New Jersey Forest Fire Service, the local fire department, and township officials also presented information on protecting homes from wildfire. The fire department’s brush truck was on display. Firewise Day was a good opportunity for residents to meet fire protection professionals, build relationships, and ask questions. The community celebrated being presented with a State Farm Award in the Firewise Challenge.

The Horizons at Barnegat Bay Firewise Committee shared their approach with us, “the Horizons at Barnegat Firewise Committee focuses on the three “Cs” when planning its open houses and events: Communication, Collaboration and Camaraderie. Our objectives include educating the community on Firewise principles to help make residents safer, and strengthening our relationships with our local, state and national partners, while providing an enjoyable social experience for residents in the process.” 

Goedverwacht FWC SAWildfire is a global issue and Firewise is playing its part around the world by enabling residents to make a difference, wherever they live. 

In early February, NFPA had the great privilege to meet with its wildfire partner in South Africa, the Kishugu Non-Profit Company (NPC), and others in fire and emergency services in Cape Town to learn from them about their experiences with wildfire and how NFPA can be a part of their preparedness outreach. 

Since 2006, Kishugu NPC has worked with NFPA in adopting the Firewise Community model to help at-risk residents with wildfire educational materials and empowering community action. South Africa has 11 official languages and socio-economic hurdles that make such positive outreach all the more valuable.  Kishugu NPC, implements the South African Government's Working on Fire Programme, utilizing Firewise as a job creation public benefit.  

20160204_110528Each Firewise Community has a committee that delivers neighbor-to-neighbor educational outreach, risk assessments, mitigation project work, and even evacuation response as trusted voices in their community.  Working on Fire also trains and employs wildland firefighters across South Africa for response efforts, while building their fire professional abilities.

While there, NFPA attended a beneficial meeting hosted by the Western Cape Government Disaster Management staff which highlighted the common wildfire issue and challenges we all face to public perception and education.

20160201_124541-1NFPA visited with Chief Fire Officer Ian Schnetler, City of Cape Town Fire & Rescue, to learn about the department’s experience with wildland fire response across the Cape region and its work with residents on WUI fire understanding.  

NFPA also spent time with Chief Director Colin Deiner, of the Western Cape Government Disaster Management and Fire & Rescue Service, to learn about their fire public education and preparedness efforts with populations at risk.  NFPA’s Learn Not To Burn and other initiatives have been used by them for fire safety messaging to school children.  

IMG-20160204-WA0003Out in the field, we were honored to visit the Kishugu - South Africa Firewise Community of Goedverwacht, north of Cape Town, and applaud their Firewise board members who received fire training certification from their regional Fire Protection Association. 

Goedverwacht, like many others, utilize a Firewise Garden to explain less fire-prone succulent plant use around structures.  

20160204_100652-1NFPA also spent time visiting with the Firewise Community of Sir Lowry’s Pass east of Cape Town (committee pictured above) to learn from their experiences in community outreach. We look forward to the work ahead with Kishugu NPC and all those addressing wildfire risks in South Africa.  

Opportunities like these provide NFPA great learning experience in the field and illustrate where we can positively work with international partners to provide influence to the truly global conversation on fire safety. 

In 2015, over 1230 communities across 40 states played their part in local preparedness and mitigation work to reduce their wildfire risk.  We applaud all the volunteer hours, project support, and educational outreach achieved by recognized Firewise Communities.

Firewise Overview 2015 - 2016 Infographic

Not Firewise yet?  Make your community part of this national effort.  Connect with your state forestry staff and receive the tools you need in 2016 to make a difference.

FEMA Disaster Dec

Looking at the FEMA issued map of disaster declarations for the last 50 years, I realized that there is a lot more work and research that needs to be accomplished to help communities be more resilient.  What does it mean to be resilient? From a NIST statement, it is; “The ability of a community to prepare for anticipated hazards, adapt to changing conditions, and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions.”

The NIST report went on to state; "Over the last 10 years, natural disasters have caused, on average, $62 billion in damages and killed more than 550 people annually.  From 2011 to 2013, the federal government spent an estimated $136 billion on disaster relief." The message is a wake-up call for every community that we need to be better prepared to fare better in the event of a disaster. 

Wildfire is one event that can be prepared for predisaster.  According to a US Forest Service study, "Wildland fire and related natural disturbances continue to grow as major global threats to property, lives, and ecosystem integrity." The data from NIST state that more than 46 million homes and 77,000 communities in the US are at risk from wildfire.

So what can you do? Insurance industry leaders have looked at the data and recognized the value of living in a nationally recognized Firewise Community. NFPA's Firewise Communities program enables residents, firefighters, and community leaders have the information, education, and tools that Disaster Infographicthey need to understand what their risk is and how they can best "mitigate" or work towards lessening their risk to loss from wildfire.  NFPA is currently offering two activities directed at residents and firefighters. The first, National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, on May 7th and the second, FEMA funded Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) training for firefighters. These activities will give individuals the opportunity to learn about and implement wildfire preparedness principles. You can also refer to the Firewise website for success stories, no cost grant funded educational products, and tools that you will need to develop and grow your own nationally recognized Firewise Community.

The Pine Barrens Region of New Jersey is prone to wildfire events. A recent fire in early September 2015, spread to more than 100 acres in Woodland Township.  Residents in New Jersey Firewise Communities recognize their risk and have worked collaboratively with local agencies to create solutions to lessen these risks, ultimately creating more resilient communities. There are currently 15 active Firewise Communities in New Jersey and many like Washington Township do not have a lot of residents.  Despite their small size, they have all accomplished great things by working together.

New Jersey Wildfire
Picture of a wildfire in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey submitted by Sammy Moore III

Washington Township, Burlington County, NJ

Washington Township is in a very rural area of the Pine Barrens region of southern New Jersey. The resident population is very small, only 600 people, plus seasonal recreational visitors. The low population presents a small pool of available/capable people for volunteer emergency responders and managers. The location in the coastal plain, surrounded by pine forest and cranberry bogs, makes it vulnerable to both flood and fire.  The 2014 Office of Emergency Management/Firewise Day event was an educational day for natural

Washington Township
Firewise Day recognition of the Boys Scouts in Washington Township, New Jersey submitted by the community

hazard mitigation of both wildfires and coastal storms. OEM posted a bulletin called, “Look Up, Down, and Around Your Property. Public information was distributed and also made available at the Town Hall. There was a recognition proclamation for the Boy Scouts and the State Park Service for sign markers along the Pinelands recreational waterway, Wading River. An endorsement resolution was given to NJ State Forestry for the proposed Washington Turnpike fuel break in Wharton State Forest.

Washington Township tell us, “locally, the Firewise “event” is not so much a single day or occasion, but half of the local equation for year-round awareness and emergency preparedness to mitigate the twin natural hazards of wildfire and storms that affect this rural community.”

Feb firebreakThe February 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:

  • Scholarship opportunities for firefighters who want to attend the Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone seminars
  • Our newest wildfire e-book that highlights three steps to building a safer Firewise home, developed by Green Builder Media and NFPA
  • Tips on finding the best grant opportunities for your wildfire projects
  • A blog series that captures our Firewise success stories around the country

...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.


Cushing Island slash and wood chips from the Firewise Day submitted by the community.





Another Firewise community that shared about their Firewise Day in Maine was Cushing Island in Portland, Maine.  They are listed on the State of Maine's Firewise Communities . The community completed a chipping day that was complemented by individual home inspections.  




Cushing Island at Portland, ME




 Firewise Day on Cushing Island featured a brush chipping day. Approximately 2.5 tons of brush were chipped roadside. An additional 4 tons were chipped at the quarry, as some homeowners brought their brush to the quarry for disposal. Forest Ranger Kent Nelson also conducted a few Firewise home inspections to demonstrate what homeowners will learn from a home inspection, and the kind of specific recommendations that are made. In August, Portland firefighter and Island Representative Ned Doughty provided fire prevention training to residents who volunteer for the Cushing Island Fire Department.



The Cushing Island community tells us, “we are doing a fire training with Portland Fire Department PFD on June 28th. The focus of this will be to review the fire equipment on the island and effective communication. Members of the community have created a map of the



untitled.pngThe location of the Portland, Maine area from Wikipedia




island highlighting landmarks, fire equipment/hydrants, and homeowners’ contact information.”


Cushing Island is actually part of the city of Portland, Maine which is located in the southeast corner of the state. Whether you live on Cushing Island, the southeast or southwest, embracing Firewise principles together as a community creates a more resilient community in the event of a wildfire.

TakeAction_banner final JPG - 4.9.15
Why this Saturday instead of any other day?  Because this Saturday, February 20th, is National Love Your Pet Day!  Seriously, it is.


When wildfire threatens, your cat, dog, horse, bird, or any other beloved critter in your family will need your attention to ensure its safety.  This family safety issue is especially important to the more than 8 million students in grades 6 -12 across the United States that live in a community with wildfire risks.


Take Action Pet PreparednessLuckily, NFPA’s Take Action campaign has the tools and guidance you’ll need for planning and preparing your pets and horses for a wildfire evacuation.


For your pet, Take Action has guidance for you to build each pet their own pet evacuation kit. It doesn’t take a lot of time to build one, and it can usually be done using things you already have at home. A checklist will help you customize an evacuation kit for the pets in your family and ensure they’re ready to go if you need to evacuate during a wildfire.


Take Action Hore PreparednessPreparing horses for a wildfire evacuation requires an extra level of planning, preparedness and practice.


Take Action has guidance on developing an evacuation kit for each horse, and having a plan for them that’s been practiced, increases the potential your horse will be able to leave when you do.


Take Action Pet Safety Preparing for Evacuation videoTake Action also has a great video you can share with family, friends, and even your furry friends.


The video highlights how to prepare your pet, how to make a pet emergency kit, and what to expect with them if you do have to leave quickly.


This Saturday, make sure to love your pet by preparing them for wildfire so your entire family is safe!

Firefighters who want to know more about how to protect homes from wildfire will have a chance to learn, free of charge. NFPA is offering 175 scholarships to fire service personnel to attend its two-day seminar, "Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone ." DHS/FEMA has provided a Fire Prevention & Safety Grant to NFPA to cover registration, travel, meals and lodging for eligible participants. If your department has been looking for the opportunity to learn the most effective ways to help residents make changes to their homes to be more resilient in the event of a wildfire, now is your opportunity to attend!


6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb08b619d1970d-320wi.jpgThe seminar will be offered in five locations across the country starting in March. It teaches attendees the science behind wildland fire property loss and how to advise property owners about effective mitigation measures to protect their homes. The scholarships are funded through a nearly $360,000 DHS/FEMA grant, which covers not only participant registration and class materials, but also lodging, travel and meals.


The locations and dates of these seminars are:


1. March 22-23, at the Doubletree Hilton in Sacramento, California
2. April 14-15 at the Doubletree Suites in Phoenix, Arizona
3. April 22-23 at the Residence Inn Oklahoma City Downtown/Bricktown in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
4. May 5-6 at the Courtyard Portland Downtown/Convention Center in Portland, Oregon
5. May 20-21 at theThe Davenport Grand, Autograph Collection in Spokane, Washington



Each seminar is limited to 35 students, and is taught by wildland fire specialists who have helped develop the course, understand the related NFPA standards, and have direct experience in the field. By participating in this 2-day training, you will also be able to achieve educational credits including CFEs from the Society of American Foresters and 1.4 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). For a nominal fee, you can opt to take NFPA39's new Certificate of Educational Achievement online exam to demonstrate proficiency in understanding the seminar topics.


6a01b8d094a1ff970c01b8d19b5da6970c-320wi.pngThe seminar will provide expert training that will enable you to assess wildfire risks and help develop mitigation measures with your local communities using collaborative problem-solving techniques. Materials included in the seminar, including NFPA 1141 and NFPA 1144, will enable you to develop an assessment for residents in your community that outlines their challenges and strengths, and helps them plan to create effective solutions for their wildfire risks.


Priority will be given to members of local volunteer and paid fire departments. Eligible applicants also include state employees engaged in wildfire mitigation or response and tribal fire service members. Scholarships will be awarded on a first come first serve basis so it is important to apply right away. Apply today for your opportunity to attend this one of these seminars!




(Bottom photo submitted by Genesee Firewise Community of local wildland firefighter partners.)

You might not think of Maine when you think of states with a wildfire risk, but Maine has a long history of wildfires, including the Great Fires of 1947. This massive wildfire complex caused devastation to more than 200,000 acres statewide.

As part of our Firewise success story series, check out stories from two Maine communities who worked to help residents understand and mitigate their wildfire risk. Learn more about Firewise at


Indian Point at Georgetown, ME

Firewise Day in Indian Point featured a trifold display by Forest Ranger Kent Nelson. Residents and members of the Georgetown Fire Department attended the event and made plans for a brush chipping day on August 21st. The brush chipping day was very successful and over 23 piles of brush and slash were chipped around houses and along roadsides. Individual Firewise discussions were held with homeowners during the day. The community tells us that they enjoy working with the Firewise program.

Sprucewold at Lincoln, ME

Firewise Day at the Sprucewold community featured a demonstration of the Simtable fire simulator. Residents looked at various scenarios by which wildfires might spread and threaten the community. The exercise increased public awareness of the wildfire threat, existing hazards, and the importance of evacuation routes. The 1000 Safer Places award from State Farm Insurance was discussed. A successful brush chipping day was also held on August 21st with 12 tons of brush chipped.

Sprucewold community reports that, “the Simtable simulator exercise not only demonstrated potential paths for fires to spread, but it also raised awareness of fire hazards and led to an excellent discussion of limited evacuation route options. Chipping day removed flammable material and encouraged annual trimming and thinning of wildfire fuels.”

HIZcollageFirefighters, land managers and community safety advocates all flock to the annual IAFC WUI Conference in Reno, Nevada, every March. NFPA's a long-standing proud partner with the International Association of Fire Chiefs and continues to offer its premier wildfire mitigation seminar as a pre-conference training opportunity.

Register now for the two-day Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone seminar that runs March 6-7 at the Peppermill Resort. and learn the latest science behind how homes ignite during wildfire and what can be done to significantly reduce potential losses. Students will receive expert instruction and training materials packed with diagrams, illustrations and assessment tools, including the latest editions of NFPA 1141 and NFPA 1144. Students wishing to demonstrate their proficiency with understanding the seminar topics can opt to earn a Certificate of Educational Achievement after the seminar is over, by taking an exam for a nominal fee. And the value to you in your work? As one recent student who works as a wildfire mitigation specialist put it, "I thought I was going to get a checklist but instead I got an understanding of a process that I can apply anywhere!" 

Participants who attend this seminar and stay for the full conference program get another benefit - a free pre-conference session on Tuesday, March 8 covering "What's New in the WUI," from NFPA. Attendees will learn what's upcoming and new in the arena of public preparedness education, professional development, and codes & standards for wildfire safety, and hear an update on key research that involves fire departments dealing with wildland fire hazards.

Don't miss this great opportunity to learn, network and achieve your professional education goals. Check the IAFC WUI Conference website for details on how to register.

Firefighters, land managers and community safety advocates all flock to the annual IAFC WUI Conference in Reno, Nevada, every March. NFPA's been a proud partner with the International Association of Fire Chiefs and continues to offer its premier wildfire mitigation seminar as a pre-conference training opportunity.

Register now for the two-day Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone seminar that runs March 6-7 at the Peppermill Resort. 

  PrepDay Landing Banner - 1.28.15

Activities implemented during national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day that increase wildfire awareness, reduce risks, or address post-fire impacts are eligible to apply for a $500 project funding award. A total of 125 awards will be provided. To be considered, applications must be submitted by Sunday, February 28 at 11:59pm EST. Monetary support for the project awards was generously provided by State Farm.

Applying for a project funding award is easy and takes only a few minutes to complete. Applicants will provide a brief overview that outlines the project’s details and its resulting benefits, along with a description of how, where and who will be implementing the activity on Saturday, May 7, 2016.

After submitting an application participants are encouraged to solicit support for their project from friends, family and neighbors by asking them to vote for their favorite project using the “Voting” feature on and also on the Firewise Facebook page. An NFPA panel will review applications and select the 125 funding recipients. A project’s total # of votes will be considered in NFPA's final determination of the applications selected to receive a funding award. View the official rules here. Recipients will be announced by Thursday, March 3, 2016. 

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is an opportunity to participate in risk reduction or preparedness activities that contribute to making a community more wildfire resilient.

Visit and check out the free resources and materials that can be used to promote activities.There’s even an extensive list of potential project ideas to help get you started, or browse through the 2015 project photo album. Start coordinating a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project/event today!  


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Photo submitted by Sunset Vista Estates Firewise Community from Flagstaff, Arizona


 [USAA  |]has worked with the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Wildland Fire Operations Division over several years to investigate the possibility of providing incentives for residents of wildfire-prone areas to take steps to create safer, more fire-adapted communities. NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program provided the community action framework and local data that enabled USAA to offer this new discount to policyholders.  To date, the discount is already being offered to members in Firewise communities in California, Colorado, and Texas, three states prone to wildfire activity.On February 15, the discount will be offered to members in Firewise communities in the state of Arizona.

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 residents of more than 1,200 communities across 41 states have put in to become safer from wildfire through the Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program has resulted in significant saves and success stories. USAA®, a financial services provider that serves the military community and their families, has analyzed the experience of their members living in Firewise communities in several states. Their analysis demonstrates that the influence of the Firewise program in a community actually results in reduced wildfire losses compared to communities in the same state that do not engage in wildfire mitigation programs. Arizona is the latest state where USAA has analyzed loss data and proven that Firewise is working.

USAA homeowners policyholders living in a recognized Firewise community will automatically receive the discount at their first renewal after February 15. New USAA policies for homes in recognized communities also qualify for the discount, but homes must meet USAA’s underwriting standards before a new USAA policy can be issued. 

At NFPA, we’re excited that the value of the Firewise program is being provided this kind of recognition from a major insurer. And because each state’s insurance regulators have to approve USAA’s discount, they too are aware of the benefits that consumers and citizens can reap from taking action at the community level. As USAA looks into more states to offer this reward for proactive wildfire loss reduction, we hope that other insurers and private sector partners will be interested to learn how Firewise can help promote safer behaviors that lead to fewer disaster losses


In this third segment of an interview with Jeremy Keller, NFPA's Faith Berry asks about how the treatment of the immediate zone - from zero to 5 feet of the home - can impact the effectiveness and safety of first responders during a wildfire. Keller serves with the Macochee Joint Ambulance District and Bellefontaine Fire & EMS, in Ohio, and is a member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Wildland and Rural Fire Protection. He shared observations in the September 2014 Firewise Virtual Workshop on rural community preparedness. Here, he provides the responder perspective on what you can do to make both your home and your local firefighters safer from wildfire. 

Q: From your perspective as a firefighter, what do responders look for in the 0 to 5-foot zone around a structure that would be of risk to them and their wildfire fighting operations?

A: My principle concerns are going to be any accumulation of firewood and junk (sorry, "treasures") on and around porches, decks and the perimeter of the structure. These represent both a concentration of fuel and a site for embers to congregate, so they are a double threat. The heat generated by a stack of firewood or pile of "stuff" in "open storage" can be tremendous, posing a threat to fire crews and potentially making a structure indefensible. You can practice good housekeeping by keeping these items well away from the home.

Utilities -- propane, gas, fuel oil and electrical service -- will be another big concern. All connections to the structure need to be well maintained, readily identifiable, and capable of being shut off, if needed. These can pose a serious hazard to fire crews, so please keep them properly maintained.

Another thing not mentioned in the preceding questions would be combustible mulches and landscaping up against structures. Mulching with pine straw, bark nuggets, and things like shredded wood creates a potential threat that is difficult to mitigate during an emergency. We may be able to quickly remove a small pile of firewood, but we can't really shovel out a landscape full of mulch.

Lastly, don't neglect outbuildings. Most efforts focus on the home itself, while sheds and other smaller structures get overlooked. You may not be that concerned about losing these outbuildings, but if they ignite, the heat and embers they produce may wind up burning down the main structure. So give these minor buildings some attention, too.

Q: Have you worked with any residents to help them clean up their 0-to-5-foot zone?  What guidance did they need, and how did the before/after change the risk?

A: When I assist folks, I tell them that the best thing they can do is focus on the basics. I remind them that when one lives in a wildfire-prone area, they are not necessarily going to be able to do whatever they want with landscaping, porches, and decks.

I tell them that using inappropriate materials and failing to follow basic housekeeping practices not only puts your home in danger, it also puts your neighbors at risk. If your home goes up in flames, it will generate far more heat and embers than fire that is just burning vegetation. Such heat has the potential to ignite neighboring structures.

Failure to properly maintain your home also puts fire crews at risk. Your local fire department will make every effort -- sometimes to the point of taking unwise risks -- in an effort to protect homes in their community. Don't put their lives on the line through your negligence.

To learn more about the home ignition zone and what you can do, visit

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


To better understand what residents can do in the immediate area around their homes, Faith Berry of NFPA's Wildland Fire team spoke with Jeremy Keller, who serves with the Macochee Joint Ambulance District and Bellefontaine Fire & EMS, in Ohio.  In this second installment, he shares his observations on safety around propane tanks. 

Q: Many homes use propane or oil and have those tanks near their structure.  How should a resident maintain the area around tanks, and what should they do if there is a wildfire risk?

A: Propane and oil tanks pose a definite risk to both the structure and fire crews during any wildfire incident. When they are installed, be sure that they are placed a safe distance from the home. And, if an existing tank is closer than codes recommend, consider having it relocated. Gas and oil companies will generally follow NFPA 58 or local codes, and place tanks at the correct distance from a home, but older installations may not be compliant with current practice. Check with your gas or oil company, the fire department, or the local code official for safe distances in your area.

Keep all propane and oil tanks free of vegetation. They should not be in a position where direct flame impingement is a possibility. Pay attention to overhanging branches as well. Ensure that all service lines going to the home are buried deep for protection from flames and vehicle traffic.

Before and after: vegetation around a propane tank. Photo credit: Heidi Wagner

When necessary, be sure that these tanks are visible and well marked. Don't hide them behind shrubs, fences, or anything else in an effort to camouflage them. Fire crews will want to be aware of their presence and location, so please keep them conspicuous. Also ensure that all utility connections to structures are well maintained and clearly visible. Fire crews may need to shut off gas and electric service, and will need to find these service connections in a hurry.

To learn more about the home ignition zone and what you can do, visit

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


Is Firewise making a difference? This is a common question asked of NFPA when we describe how we are working with communities to reduce wildfire risk. We can show the number of communities participating in the Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program – more than 1,200 in 40 states. We can show the amount each community invests every year in its own safety – more than $34 million dollars in 2015 from newly participating and long-standing communities. But what we’d love to be able to show is the quality of the great work going on in neighborhoods all over the nation. Fortunately, we have more than 100 great examples to share through this blog over the next several months.

Participating Firewise communities must renew their Firewise status year after year by engaging in an educational or work day to promote wildfire prevention awareness and on the ground efforts to make their community safer in the event of a wildfire. This is called the “Firewise Day,” though many communities engage in these efforts over a period of weeks or months. The efforts they coordinate -- oftentimes with federal, state and local partners -- are as diverse as the demographic of the community, type of home, topography, vegetation and weather conditions that are the building blocks of their communities.

NFPA receives descriptions of the incredible efforts that communities make voluntarily each year to reduce their risk and promote resiliency in the event of a wildfire. We chose to highlight stories of recent Firewise Days from 130 different communities. You’ll see the regional diversity as you read through the blog posts, as we ensured we got stories from every part of the U.S. Over and over again, the residents of these communities roll up their sleeves to accomplish on the ground work and provide individualized educational opportunities for their neighbors on a totally voluntary basis, often times with no compensation or funding. 

We wanted to share with you the stories of these communities’ dedicated and selfless prevention and mitigation efforts accomplished as Firewise Days, which they have so enthusiastically shared with us. We hope these stories will inspire you to talk to your neighbors about Firewise – maybe your community will have a story of its own to tell in the future! 


Sun 1
Photo submitted by Sun City Firewise Group in Texas


51 (1)
Photo submitted by Horizon's at Barnegat Firewise Committee in New Jersey

To better understand what residents can do in the immediate area around their homes, NFPA's Firewise staff spoke with Jeremy Keller, who serves with the Macochee Joint Ambulance District and Bellefontaine Fire & EMS, in Ohio. Jeremy also serves on NFPA's Technical Commitee on Wildland and Rural Fire Protection. He shared observations in the September 2014 Firewise Virtual Workshop on rural community preparedness. Here, he again provides his responder perspective on what you can do to make both your home and your local firefighters safer from wildfire. 

Q: Burning embers pose a great ignition risk in the 0- to 5-foot zone around a structure.  Since porches are often in this zone, what do you suggest residents do concerning risks on, around, and under porches?

A: Porches and decks pose potential ignition exposure in two ways: They can trap embers, and they can be combustible themselves.

Most porches and decks are of wooden construction, so there are limited options when addressing their inherent combustibility short of initially constructing or rebuilding them using fire-resistive materials. Where the porch or deck is already a part of one’s home, residents can still take action in terms of general maintenance. This includes keeping decks and porches in good repair, since dried-out, checked and rotted boards will be more prone to ignition. Also ensure that gaps in decking comply with NFPA 1144 (or local codes where appropriate). If the opportunity presents itself, replace the porch or deck, or retrofit it using non-combustible materials such as stone or concrete.

Photo credit: Texas A&M Forest Service

To address the issue of porches and decks trapping embers, residents can do several things. First, they should be sure to do general housekeeping. Limit or remove furniture, flowerpots, and other items often left on decks and porches. Swirling wind currents during a fire can cause embers to get trapped in and around these items, creating an ignition potential. These items also can be combustible themselves, which can pose further risk. For example, foam padding in deck furniture can generate tremendous heat when ignited. If a wildfire is encroaching, keep porches and decks as bare as possible, and be sure to move any furnishings indoors.

Be aware that the construction of the porch or deck can also trap embers. Be sure that openings below these structures are screened in per NFPA 1144 or local codes. Eliminate points of ember accumulation by boxing them in or changing out railings. Bottom line, don't tolerate small corners or nooks and crannies where embers can accumulate.

Finally, lots of people like to store firewood both on and under decks and porches. This is a major hazard for the home and for fire crews. Firewood is dry, has plenty of surface area, and represents a tremendous concentration of potential heat energy if ignited. A firewood stack is also an ideal place for embers to accumulate. So please, please, please don't store firewood on or under porches and decks, and keep it well clear of all structures. At least 30 feet from any structure is what is generally recommended.

To learn more about the home ignition zone and what you can do, visit

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


Dr. Jack Cohen was among the featured presenters at last fall's Backyards & Beyond Conference, held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He highlighted his research results, which he has shared with NFPA’s Firewise Communities for many years. As we chatted privately, he discussed his insights on current fire conditions and what homeowners can do in the event of a wildfire to create a safer environment for those they love. While at times the news about the intensity of current wildfires and associated home destruction is grim, following my interview with Dr. Cohen I was encouraged by the fact that homeowners can make a difference.

I asked Dr. Cohen what he noticed about the change in intensity of wildfires in recent years and if he had ideas about what might be causing those changes. 

He responded, “I think we have a problem with wildfire in the wildland/urban interface (WUI) and ecologically without climate change. Climate change may be generating persistent patterns of dry conditions laid on top of a dramatic reduction in the historic fire occurrence under all weather conditions.

There is a change in the frequency and intensity of wildland fires from historical occurrence 150 years ago. Scientists estimate that the annual burned area on average was on the order of 70-105 million acres per year under all conditions that would spread fire. These figures are adjusted for land use in the lower 48 states. The current average for acres burned per year is much less, around 5 million acres. This is more than 10 times less than historically occurred. But today a significant portion of the 5 million acres burns under extreme conditions and that has dramatically changed the frequency and conditions of fire as an appropriate ecological factor. We need to keep in mind that fire has been a principal factor in the development of most ecosystems since the end of the Pleistocene Age.”

I shared with Dr. Cohen that I had seen many reports about recent wildfires that seem to indicate that there is little hope for individuals to protect their property and loved ones from wildfire. I asked him, with current fire conditions as extreme as they are, can changes made to the home and landscape immediately surrounding the home really make a difference?

Jack said, “The research I have done indicates, ABSOLUTELY! This is possible because the home ignition zone (HIZ), that area that includes the house in relation to the fire brand exposure and immediate surroundings within 100-200 feet principally determines the home’s ignition potential under extreme conditions; thus, we need not control the uncontrolled extreme wildfire to prevent the WUI fire disaster. HIZ Diagram

All research that I have done is in the context of extreme fire behavior. The disastrous fires I’ve examined have all been in extreme fire behavior conditions. We should not confuse the inability to control wildfire with an inability to prevent a residential fire disaster. 

While wildfire is inevitable and wildfire under extreme conditions is inevitable, wildland/urban interface (WUI) fire disasters need not be inevitable.”


It seems that recent news accounts concerning wildfires relate stories of fires that burn hotter and out of control, moving swiftly across acres of fire-prone areas with seemingly little one can do except hope to get out of the way. At last fall's Backyards and Beyond Conference, NFPA’s Faith Berry had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jack Cohen, among the world’s leading researchers of fire behavior, about his insights regarding the nature of wildfires and the actions we all can take to protect our homes and communities.

Despite the changes to fire behavior that have been observed during recent fire seasons, Dr. Cohen affirmed that proactive efforts to prepare the home ignition zone (HIZ) can still make a difference. By taking action in the HIZ—the property encompassing 100 to 200 feet around your home—you can create a cushion of defensibility that could save your home and protect your loved ones.

These preparations can include clearing combustible debris from gutters and any nooks and crannies around or under structures; making sure you’ve used building materials that follow recommended codes; repairing mesh screening and other openings to prevent easy access for embers; keeping grasses cut, and trimming tree limbs that are within 6 to 10 feet of the ground, particularly those within 100 feet of your home; installing fire breaks, such as gravel, stone or asphalt pathways; and keeping logs for your fireplace at least 30 feet from structures.

Faith shares Dr. Cohen’s insights in her Firewise How-To blog, “Interview with Jack Cohen: Offering Perspective on Current Wildland Fire Conditions.”


The Black Forest Fire wrecked devastation in 2013
Photo courtesy of the Denver Press

After seeing the devastation wildfires brought to his hometown of Colorado Springs, Hayden Noel decided to help his community better prepare for future wildfires. Hayden, a 20-year-old college student, decided to go door-to-door in his neighborhood to spread awareness about fire safety. With the help of his roommate, he distributed informational packets about evacuation preparation. Hayden compiled the packets himself using research from various sources including his own experiences as a Colorado Springs Fire Department Explorer, a program coordinated by the Colorado Springs Fire Department. His special delivery included instructions for making a Go-bag, directions for home escape plans and secondary escapes, communication ideas, and suggestions to ensure one’s insurance covers fires.

Hayden was particularly inspired by the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012 and Black Forest Fire in 2013, both of which affected his hometown. 

“I witnessed so many families lose so much because they were unprepared and didn't know what to do. By making a simple plan you can avoid unnecessary loss,” he said. 

Hayden explains most people that he and his roommate encountered were receptive to their message. He said that many had been previously unaware of fire risks and mitigation techniques that they can adopt in their homes and on their property to improve wildfire safety. 

Hayden said his neighborhood is diverse, with a mix of families and college students. Since starting this project, his neighbors have not only become more aware of potential fire hazards, but they have also become more proactive with wildfire preparation. Members of his community have gotten into the habit of alerting their neighbors to potential dangers; and this camaraderie, he says, is just as important as the fire safety itself. 

“I think it is important to build social solidarity in communities so that we may handle catastrophic events with ease and lean on each other in times of peril… In the grand scheme of things this project was more about bringing communities together than fire preparedness. The more we are all involved in each other’s lives the more we can help each other, especially during a fire.”

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