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2016
A new partnership between the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) andDisclosureSave, LLC will bring wildfire risk management to the forefront of California's real estate community. Starting April 5, DisclosureSave, a leading provider of Natural Hazard Disclosure Reports to the real estate industry and a wholly owned subsidiary ofMyriad Development, Inc., will integrate NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program data into its California Natural Hazard Disclosure (NHD) report.

California's Civil Code Section 1103 requires disclosure of natural hazard risks to prospective home buyers, including wildfire, as well as information on how to mitigate the risk. Including information about whether a particular property is inside or outside of a recognized Firewise community is a valuable service to both real estate professionals and homeowners, helping to spread Firewise awareness and encouraging participation across the state. As the California fire season lengthens year after year, providing a disclosure report that highlights the existence of Firewise communities is indispensable to real estate agents and home buyers looking for neighborhoods that focus on safety. In California, there are currently more than 110 active Firewise communities.

DisclosureSave and NFPA will be working to spread the word about the rare "good news" in a natural hazard disclosure report. California residents interested in finding out more about Firewise can visit www.firewise.org/usa. To learning more about what this disclosure will mean to you in California, see the contact information for DisclosureSave below.

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Podcast

In one of our recent podcasts, Jesse Roman, staff writer for NFPA Journal talks with Val Charlton of Kishugu in South Africa, who visited NFPA in December. (NFPA also visited South Africa in February. Read Lucian Deaton's blog for an in-depth look at his visit).

Kishugu is a private organization that runs and manages Working with Fire, a South African government program that recruits disadvantaged South Africans, and after extensive training, hires them as wildland firefighters. Join Jesse and Val as they discuss the fire regime in South Africa, and how the Working with Fire program is addressing the local issue and the larger, global issue of wildfire.

Interested in additional wildfire and other great topics? Every second Tuesday of the month, Jesse and other experts dive deep into the latest trends and issues in fire. electrical and life safety. So don't miss out on another episode. Download and subscribe to NFPA Journal Podcast on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nfpa-journal-podcast/id261359652?mt=2 or listen to them on your computer from our NFPA Journal Podcast site at: http://nfpa.libsyn.com/.

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Out of the more than 63,000 wildland fires reported last year, specialized wildland firefighters responded to just 112, meaning local fire departments handled the rest. But there is little information about how well trained or capable municipal departments are to handle this job.

Join Jesse Roman, staff writer for NFPA Journal as he sits down with NFPA Senior Research Analyst Hylton Haynes to discuss a new NFPA study that looks at how prepared local fire departments are to deal with the increasing number of wildfire calls they receive each year. Haynes and other NFPA researchers interviewed 46 high-ranking fire officials from urban and rural departments on a variety of topics related to wildfire operations to find out what’s working, and where the pain points are. Hear what they discovered!

Interested in wildfire and other great topics? Every second Tuesday of the month, Jesse and other experts dive deep into the latest trends and issues in fire. electrical and life safety. So don't miss out on another episode. Download and subscribe to NFPA Journal Podcast on iTunes HERE or listen to them on your computer from our NFPA Journal Podcast site.

Across the United States, wildfire season has already begun in places we don’t normally think about.  In Kansas, the smoke from the 620 square mile prairie blaze that started in Oklahoma could be seen from St. Louis, Missouri. 

In Ohio, brush fires spread along a state turnpike in Lorraine County that was fueled by strong wind gusts of 28 to 35 miles per hour. 

In Tennessee, 9 brush fires have been contained by the Tennessee Forestry Service with three more burning.  The warm temperatures have contributed to the fire season in the region.   According to an article by the WBIR news channel, Tips to protect your home in wildfire season, “The fire threatened four cabins, after wind blew a campfire out of control. Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson said if not for good maintenance of the rental properties, the buildings could have been lost.”   On the video, Watson talked about the importance of following Firewise principles as you maintain your home this spring season.

“It’s also important to keep flammable material out from underneath stilted buildings, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Ben Franklin, one of the first volunteer firemen in Firewisenfpalogo500our country said that,” said Chief Watson. “That’s where we’re at, that’s what is important -- getting that word out.”

NFPA’s Firewise® program has some great tools to help you prepare, including no cost catalogue materials, online learning opportunities and the Firewise Toolkit.  Wherever you live you can be Firewise!

Read more about the fire that burnt 400,000 acres in Oklahoma and Kansas and how wildfires are burning in atypical areas across the US.

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Cal Fire has already called in its 400 seasonal firefighters, including many from Northern California, for an early start to the 2016 season, according to Vicki Gonzalez of KCRA News in Sacramento.

Cal Fire Captain, John Hotchkiss, acknowledged his unit has already responded to a number of vegetation fires since January and they are happening more frequently. His unit is responsible for the Empire Mine Historic State Park in Grass Valley, a very high-severity fire zone that includes many neighborhoods behind the park. Hotchkiss normally starts hiring in late April or May but has started the process even earlier this year thanks to state funding.

According to reports, compared to 2015 and the average fire destruction in the area over the last five years, 2016 has been mild:

  • To date, 239 fires have burned 105 acres
  • In 2015, 325 fires burned 7,254 acres in the same time period
  • The 5-year average is 398 fires burning 2,554 acres

Hotchkiss credits the decrease in fires to the residents who have been more aware of fire dangers and have worked to mitigate the risks. The increased rain and snow this year have also helped.

Still, the unit is cautious, noting that wildfires will ultimately break out due to the growing huge grass crops and new green plants sprouting and hiding dead plants (huge fuel sources for fires).

As Captain Hotchkiss’ unit prepares for the season ahead, so, too, is it important for residents to continue their work preparing for and mitigating the risk of wildfire. Check out NFPA’s Firewise Tips Checklist for Homeowners. It’s easy to download and great to post on your fridge to serve as a reminder of what you can do now to prepare for a possible wildfire in the future.

Learn more at www.firewise.org and get started today!

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According to weather sources, Kansas has had its share of uncharacteristic weather during the past few years. While some recent reports have stated that Kansas won’t be as affected by climate change as other states, others are more cautious, saying the unusually warm temperatures as of late are making the region more susceptible to wildfires.

This statement was underscored recently with the Anderson Creek Fire that has burned nearly 400,000 acres in Kansas and Oklahoma, making it the largest wildfire in Kansas history. Thankfully, there have been no reports of injuries or fatalities. Two residences and a number of outbuildings were destroyed, however.

Reports coming out this weekend say that thanks to a cold front, including snow, which fell on Easter Sunday, the wildfire, that started in Oklahoma, is likely to be fully contained within days.

With the unusually dry, windy weather across the country, many more states could face the same challenges. Do you live in a high-risk wildfire area? Have local weather reports pointed to an increased wildfire risk in your area? If so, learn 7 simple steps you can take right now around your homes and in your neighborhoods to prepare ahead of a fire. You can find our safety tips sheet on NFPA’s wildfire safety tips page. Download it for free and share it with your family friends. As the spring weather approaches help make a difference in your area. Find out more at www.firewise.org.

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Have you ever heard a preparedness myth like, “In an emergency, only first responders need to know what to do” or during an earthquake, “Stand in the doorway to protect yourself”?

America’s PrepareAthon! will host a Twitter chat, using its Twitter handle – @PrepareAthon, on Wednesday, March 30 at 2:00 p.m. EDT. Emergency professionals across the country, including NFPA and Firewise, will discuss common preparedness myths and provide facts on preparing for and staying safe during emergencies.

To follow the Twitter chat use #SafetyFacts.

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The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Volunteer & Combined Officers Section (VCOS) and Kidde Fire Safety will host a volunteer recruitment and community engagement webinar on Tuesday, March 29 at 2:00pm (EST). The online seminar was organized so that fire departments can learn the best strategies to engage their community by conducting fire safety events and promote the Step Up and Stand Out program, a national campaign to recognize volunteer firefighters and promote community involvement in fire safety.  

The one hour webinar will help local fire departments:

  • build awareness of the Step Up and Stand Out campaign
  • learn strategies for recruiting and retaining talent in the fire service
  • educate volunteer fire departments how to teach fire and life safety education at community events
  • create an understanding of how to utilize local media as a communications tool

Pancake breakfastEarlier this year country star Craig Morgan, Firehouse Magazine and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, in conjunction with the organizations hosting the webinar, launched The Step Up and Stand Out campaign to recognize current volunteers and encourage citizens to learn how they can become a volunteer firefighter. At select stops along Morgan's 2016 tour, he will meet with local volunteer fire departments, and donate Kidde 10-year sealed battery smoke alarms. Members of IAFC will hold open houses at various firehouses along the route too. Fire departments in non-tour locations are also staging local events or taking part in community programs to draw attention to this campaign. Tuesday’s webinar will give departments, big and small, the tips and tools to successfully plan, participate in or host local events - and connect with local residents, recruits and the media.

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Fire in the wildland-urban interface is a global issue with residents around the world impacted by common risks. 

 

In the March/April edition of NFPA Journal, staff writer Jesse Roman interviewed Val Charleton, division director of Public Benefit Organization at Kishugu, based in South Africa, about their focus on “integrated fire management” and work with NFPA.

 

In the article, and accompanying audio podcast recorded during Val’s visit to NFPA in December 2015, Val and Jesse discuss wildfire causes in South Africa, how Kishugu adopted and adapted NFPA’s Firewise program to meet community needs in South Africa, and their ongoing work in wildland firefighter training.

 

A quote that stood out to me came as they discussed the future of wildfire response.  Val shares that, “We have to recognize that times are changing. International cooperation is critical going forward.  No one country will be able to deal with the potential for wildland fire that they have.”

 

Enjoy the full article online in this month’s NFPA Journal.

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Slatemont Firewise Volunteers

 

 

 

As Firewise communities roll up their sleeves and begin the task of preparing their communities for the wildfire season, maintaining that area immediately surrounding the home is so important to protecting the home.  The Firewise communities of Slatemont in Willis, Virginia, and Redwood of Wildwood Community in California, Maryland recognize their risk and have taken simple steps with old fashioned elbow grease and collaboration with agency partners to lessen that risk. We are sharing their stories of success for others to copy.

 

 

Slatemont in Willis, Virginia

 

 

Slatemont is a small community of 35 homes. On Firewise Day, 15 residents participated in the day’s event, which included pulling dead branches from the woods and pilling them along the roadside in preparation for chipping. They also pruned trees, saplings, and bushes back from the roadways to create firebreaks. The work was followed by a picnic for the volunteers.

 

Slatemont tells us, “This program has created much better Firewise awareness among our members. It has improved emergency vehicle navigation throughout the community, reduced the risks of fire both along the roadways and at the residences, and nurtured strong friendships through our Spring and Fall Firewise Workdays. The volunteer efforts of our members help to keep association dues low.”

 

 

Redwood of Wildwood Community in California, Maryland

 

 

Firewise Day in Redwood of Wildwood was scheduled as a community cleanup day. Residents throughout the neighborhood gathered wood debris, and the Maryland Forest Service provided a chipper truck to chip and remove debris. The community effort totaled 121 man hours of work. This was followed up later in the year with a Firewise presentation on October 23rd. Firewise state liaison David Robbins gave a presentation on Firewise practices to residents at the Homeowners Association’s Annual Meeting.

 

 

Find out how your neighborhood can work together simply by cleaning up dead fall debris and “human treasures” (plywood, windows, doors etc.) around your homes to make your community more resilient in the event of a wildfire.  Your efforts can be recognized as you work together with your state liaison to become a recognized Firewise Community .

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb08cd0397970d-800wi.jpgPerhaps the winter weather has caused your yard to look unkempt. Branches, twigs and left over fall leaves litter your landscape. This is a good time of year to look at the trees and bushes close to your home, before the leaves are on the branches, and decide what needs pruning and thinning. Perhaps you may be wondering how best to care for your trees and shrubs, because you want to keep them healthy and Firewise, and you don't want to cause more harm than good.

 

I decided to contact a certified arborist to learn about and share some best practices for maintaining your healthy Firewise landscape.  I contacted the Massachusetts Arborists Association who referred me to board member Chris Fallon.  Mr. Fallon is a Massachusetts and ISA certified arborist.  He also has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts in Arboriculture, Urban Forestry, and Soil Sciences. He took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions that Firewise communities had asked me.

 

Q. What is an arborist, and when should I call one?

A.  An arborist is a professional in the practice of maintaining health and safety of individual plants and trees. This is not to be confused with logging or forestry. These specialties focus on forest health and management. Arborists understand individual plant species, their culture, and characteristics. A certified arborist has achieved formal certification through field experience and testing. 

 

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) has provided a great deal of training and certifications in Arboriculture and certain specialties within the industry.  Most states also have certification processes for a skilled arborist.  Each requires maintenance of accreditation on an annual basis.

Most states also offer training and licensing in the application of pesticides to treat tree and shrub pathogens.  A skilled arborist diagnoses and controls insects and diseases, climbs and prunes trees, installs cables and braces where necessary and installs lightning protection.

 

If you are planting something, connect with an arborist first to make sure you are putting it in the right place. You want to plant the right tree in the right place -- not under powerlines or next to homes or sidewalks -- and pick the correct species for the zone that you are living in. Many home accidents occur when homeowners try to trim large trees or remove tree limbs themselves. Call an arborist if you think you will have to use a ladder to prune or remove a tree, or if you may have to use a chainsaw.  Arborists are formally trained and experienced in the use of chainsaws. Call an arborist if you notice the tree or shrub doesn't have the color it used to or as much foliage.  Before hiring an arborist, check his or her credentials and insurance.

 

Q: What is the best time of year to trim trees and bushes?

A: Spring and summer may be the seasons to try to avoid, as in the spring, things are blooming and sap is beginning to flow. Wet springs are good for the spread of disease and fungus. Summer pruning can stress trees through drought and sun scald when trees are pruned removing leaf cover and exposing branches to direct sunlight.  As an arborist working in the Northeast, I prefer to prune in late fall and winter because there is less leaf material to deal with, making brush disposal easier. There are also fewer insects and fungal spores in the air that can invade new pruning cuts. Pruning in fall or winter allows the pruning cuts to begin growing over immediately in the spring. This energy can be provided by removing the leaf area while the photosynthetic material it made is still overwintering in the roots.  Less tree plus more food should begin the season with a healthy tree.

 

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How to prune a tree branch at the collar from the Tree Care Website

When you're ready to do your yard work, here are some cutting and pruning tips. If you are trimming a branch, trim to the collar of the branch. You don’t want to leave a stub sticking out that can allow the entry of parasites or pathogens. For trees, remove only 25% of the crown at a time or you can stress the tree out.

 

Q. How do I look for signs that my tree or bush is unhealthy and might need help?

A. Observe the tree or bush from the base of the trunk all the way to the tips. Look for wood decay, fungal bodies, wet spots, cracks in the trunk or seams. Look for dead branches which should be removed. These are found with fraying bark or no bark, and dry branch tips without green growth that break when bent rather than spring back.  You can tell that a branch is dead if it has no leaves when neighboring branches’ leaves are out. Browning foliage around leaf margins can indicate issues related to stress. Note the location of the browning on the leaves and share this information with an arborist. Another way to determine if your bush or tree may be unhealthy is to look for holes or frass (fine sawdust-like material) at the base of the trunk. This can be a sign of wood-boring insects. You may also want to seek the advice of an arborist if you notice the tree or shrub doesn't have the color it used to or as much foliage, or chewed leaves.

 

Q. What are your tips for keeping trees and shrubs watered during drought conditions?

A. For maximum watering, soak the area around the trunk to within the drip line (the area from the trunk to the outer edge of the crown). This should be where the majority of the active roots are. This means moistening the soil up to 18" in depth for mature trees because that is where the roots are. Don't rely on lawn irrigation to water trees and shrubs. Grass actually competes with larger vegetation for water. Installation of mulch at a depth of 1-2 inches around the trunk is recommended for moisture retention and keeping the trunk safe from lawn maintenance equipment. Do not overmulch -- it should not look like a volcano around the stem. It's very important to maintain a good watering schedule for newly planted trees. Don't just plant them and forget them. They must be watered 2-3 times a week for the first year and again the next spring and summer at a minimum.

 

I hope you learned as much as I did from arborist Chris Fallon. Remember that many of the plants in your yard may not be native to your environment and must be treated as individuals. A certified and insured arborist may be able to give you the expert help and advice that you need to maintain a healthy, green Firewise landscape surrounding your home. For more information about Firewise landscaping and Firewise plants for your yard, check the Firewise website.

Blue Mountain Firewise Community, according to their website was created in the late 1950's as a vacation community for Washington residents."The area is known for its scenic overlooks and seasonal wildflowers as well as peaceful mountain living."  The area is a little more than 63 miles due west of Washington DC off Highway 66.  They know their risk of loss from wildfire and have taken steps together to lessen it.

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Blue Mountain at Linden, VA

Blue Mountain’s Firewise Day featured a talk on the local wildfire risk and a discussion of the need to remove debris to reduce that risk. A large amount of deadfall from winter storms was piled up by the residents. This amount was at least twice the amount of previous years. The group noted that the fuel load reduction was the largest in ten years. Residents were congratulated on their efforts. The group was then updated on work being done to keep the dam on Deer Lake clear to meet Virginia dam safety requirements. Blue Mountain Sanitary District taxes paid to keep 15 miles of rural roads open for emergency access.

Blue Mountain shared with us, “What the Firewise program has done for our community over the past eight years is to raise awareness of a forest fire here among many of our 380+ property owners. We did that by telling them the truth, the issue is not whether they will ever have a forest fire here that will significantly endanger their homes and property, it is a matter of when a forest fire will significantly endanger their homes and property, and why.”

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The March 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:

  • A link to the latest Wildfire Watch column that highlights climate change and its effect on wildfire and homes in the WUI
  • A look back at the successes of the Firewise program in 2015
  • Information about the newest wildfire track at this year’s Conference & Expo
  • A recap of our visit to South Africa …

...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.

Loch Glade Sanctuary is located in Swanton, Maryland.  This community located in the Northwest Marylandcorner of Maryland has several recreation areas including Deep Creek Lake Park and Jennings-Randolph Lake.  The community noticed added benefits to participation as a nationally recognized Firewise Community.

Loch Glade Sanctuary at Swanton, MD

Loch Glade Sanctuary held a community cleanup day plus community meetings on the Firewise Day. Two meetings were held. First, there was a Firewise meeting with a presentation and discussions, followed by an HOA meeting which also included a Firewise presentation and discussions. Then the community cleanup work began. The residents worked on brush removal and small tree removal to create a firebreak.  Bracken Drive will be widened for better access by emergency vehicles and to create a firebreak.

Loch Glade Sanctuary tells us, “We are a small community with limited resources to help mitigate damage and disaster from forest fires. Consequently, the Firewise program has been invaluable in allowing us to leverage our dedication, community spirit, and labor in making our neighborhood safer and more attractive.”

Recent news we've been reading highlights areas of the United States that don’t initially come to mind when you think of wildfire. The unseasonably warm and dry weather conditions currently in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states have led to a growing wildfire concern.

In Pennsylvania, because of the incidences of small wildfires, warnings have been issued to refrain from burning.  The weather conditions there have been warmer and drier than usual this winter and early spring. According to Fire Chief Neal Potter in a Pennsylvania E-newspaper called the Bradford Era on Sunday, March 13th, “I believe that’s just because of the winter we’ve had with no snow,” he said. “It’s cleared off, but it’s not as wet as people think it is. It looks wet. If you’re going to be burning on your lawn, make sure you have a hose, or just don’t burn at all,” said Potter. “That’d be even better.”

Wildfire risks are also present in New York State. A map on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website lists many areas of New York under moderate fire danger. map3.jpg

 

According to an article, Wildfire risks in the Hudson Valley: Burn Ban reminder, “While many people may associate wildfires with the western United States, the early start of spring weather, dry conditions and lack of snowpack are increasing the risk for wildfires in New York,” said Acting Commissioner of New York's Department of Envirnomental Conservation, Basil Seggos. “New York prohibits residential burning during the high-risk fire season to reduce wildfires and protect people, property and natural resources.”

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Picture of a grass fire from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website

 

 

 

 

In Ohio, the state is also predicting an earlier fire season in the state due to weather conditions.  According to an article by fire fighter Jeremy Keller, Get Ready for Spring Wildfires, Ohio has an average of 1,073 wildfires reported each spring. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources reports that between 4,000 and 6,000 acres of grassland and forest burns in Ohio’s forest fire protection district. Typically their wildfire season begins in April.

These recent articles are a reminder about the importance of knowing about your state's burning laws and to be aware of seasonal burn bans.  They also share the importance of working together to create resilient Firewise Communities wherever you live.

Oregon

During  General Session 2; Oregon on fire the summer of 2015, at the IAFC Wildland Urban Interface conference in Reno this week, presenters Jim Pena and Doug Grafe spoke about the enormity of recent fires in Oregon recently and the fact that there seems to be a new trend towards larger and more complex fires. They talked about how a community that was Firewise (the Pine Creek Firewise Community in Grant County) had done mitigation work that helped them survive the Canyon Creek Complex wildfire. According to an Inciweb report, Pine Creek came through the fire with no loss of any structures, while other communities that had not done the work had not fared as well. In fact, during the Canyon Creek Complex, 43 homes were destroyed and at least 50 more were damaged. Pine Creek became a recognized Firewise Community in 2014, one year before the wildfire that impacted this area in Oregon. 

The Inciweb report shares a harrowing but very happy story that I could not write any better:

“In the fire’s path sat the small, dispersed community of Pine Creek. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office made the call in the early afternoon to evacuate residents. As flames moved swiftly down the slopes, firefighters strategically maneuvered around the fire’s advances, skillfully knowing when to retreat to safer positions. The fate of homes and property were obscured by smoke and terrain.

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Residents of Pine Creek Firewise Community in Oregon submitted by residents of the community

Barely two years earlier, residents of the Pine Creek community came together to write a Firewise plan, and began making their homes and property more resilient from wildfire’s impacts. Firewise, a project of the National Fire Protection Association, is a collaborative community program that encourages local solutions to fire protection by involving homeowners and stressing individual responsibility for preparing their homes from the risk of wildfire. It is co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.

The Pine Creek community’s attitude wasn’t 'if,' it was 'when' fire would burn through their property. Resident Howard Gieger led the way with many other community members preparing and implementing the Firewise plan. Together, they learned fire behavior, fire-proofing techniques, and evacuation tips. Learning the different evacuation levels helped them prepare to evacuate, not just themselves but also pets and livestock.

The Pine Creek community held meetings, potlucks, and work parties, helping each other with ideas, motivation and physically improving their properties. These community members did most of the work themselves and helped their neighbors, pruning, mowing, thinning trees and improving access routes by clearing away dense vegetation. They built a bridge to provide an emergency ATV route across a creek, located water sources and set up sprinklers where it made sense.

After the fire passed through and the smoke subsided, all of the Firewise participants’ homes survived. Howard built his home in 1978 and it is all that he and his wife have. Upon the Giegers’ return, Howard said they were so thankful for what they found. The fire burned through their property and all around their home, but the home itself was unaffected. Howard was happy to help out

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The poster is from theCanyon Creek Complex Facebook page.

by taking care of his part. Firefighters said Howard and his neighbors should pat themselves on the back for all the preparations they did.”

Mr. Gieger and the neighbors in Pine Creek created a much more resilient community that survived the wildfire event that occurred last fall in Oregon.  The work they did together allowed them to return to their homes after the fire passed through.  Neighbors and communities can work together and make a difference.  The efforts they made can be emulated by others.  According to Pine Creek's 2014 Firewise Day report, one project they completed was to help a resident who was unable to do the work because of health issues.By working together to help this neighbor, they helped themselves be safer as a whole.  Find out how your community can be Firewise and more resilient in the event of a wildfire.

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IAFC WUI, the annual wildland/urban interface fire conference put on by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, continues to grow in participation and in quality. NFPA has participated annually over its 14 year history, and this year, eight staff were on hand to network with participants who represent fire departments from around the country and the world, as well as product vendors, insurance professionals, state forestry staffs, and other wildfire mitigation and safety specialists.

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At the exhibit hall in the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada, NFPA staff were on hand to answer questions about Firewise, support our partners in the Fire Adapted Communities coalition, connect with state and local wildfire safety advocates, and enjoy the networking opportunities. We delivered the Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone seminar to nearly 30 students as part of the pre-conference offering, with the opportunity for participants to earn a Certificate of Educational Achievement. And we were fortunate to be provided with a solid four-hour time slot to bring back our "What's New in the WUI" presentation featuring six NFPA staff presenters and a guest speaker from State Farm Insurance. Topics included updates on NFPA's wildland standards, insurance partnerships, Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, youth programming through NFPA's TakeAction initiative, Firewise mapping and technology, NFPA's international partners in wildfire safety, fire service involvement with the NFPA standards process, and an overview of new research on fire department experience with wildland/urban interface fire incidents. As presenters, we were excited to see what looked like a "sold out" room of more than 100 participants from a wide variety of locations and disciplines.

As the conference wraps up today, staff are looking forward to following up with one another and the colleagues and partners we've seen this week.

The Firewise Community of Tree Bank at North Mountain is located in Star Tannery, Virginia, an unincorporated community in southwestern Fredrick County. The community highlights the importance of getting Firewise work completed by collaborating with agency partners.  You can learn from their ability to work with each other and outside organizations including the NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division and the US Forest Service.

 

Tree Bank at North Mountain, Star Tannery, VA

Tree Bank at North Mountain participated in Firewise Day by holding a “chipping day”. They cleaned up piles of brush that residents

road.png chipping event in the community of Tree Bank at North Mountain, Star Tannery, Virginia. The photo was submitted by the community.

had collected from the woods immediately surrounding their homes. By removing dead wood from the area, they are reducing fuel loads and wildfire risk. They also held an annual meeting, which  highlighted the importance of clearing debris and brush and keeping it clear, to leave little fuel for forest fires near the homes. The chipping effort was facilitated by a grant from the Forest Service.

Tree Bank notes, “Firewise provided excellent materials which made our discussions effective.”

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The March/April NFPA Journal is out and in its latest WildfireWatch Column, I wrestle with the big green monster of climate change. 

 

Though your head may have been spinning at the end of 2015 with various opinions on global climate agreements and El Nino weather patterns in the news, we must all acknowledge that our built environment and social processes are designed for a type of climate that is now past.

 

Climate change and structural fire risks collide in the WUI, where homes and entire communities are located in natural landscapes increasingly at risk from warmer, drier, and windier conditions.  I explore what this all means for structural fires and how we can connect with those residents in the WUI on this risk.
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In the current edition of NFPA Journal, NFPA’s Director of Government Affairs, Greg Cade, also focused on the ramifications of the 2015 Paris Climate Change conference.

 

Greg writes in the WashingtonDC column on how climate change must be considered as part of the future development of codes and standards.

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Nevada, here I come! I'm heading out to Reno in the morning to participate in the annual IAFC WUI Conference, a great event geared toward the fire service and focused on wildland/urban interface fire safety. Pretty soon, I'll be back in the Silver State, a bit further south, in Las Vegas, for NFPA's annual Conference & Expo, which for the first time will have a dedicated wildland fire education track with 11 sessions covering a wide variety of aspects of wildland fire protection.

NFPA's event typically attracts some 5,000 participants, including hundreds of exhibitors, from an enormously diverse set of industries and organizations. These include designers, consultants, contractors, service companies, end-users, and public safety authorities in the arenas of fire protection, security, electrical and life safety. While wildland fire protection and safety is but a portion of what NFPA members and partners work on, we found that at last year's conference in Chicago, our handful of sessions and our Firewise booth on the show floor inspired conversations and interest in learning more from many participants.

In addition to the sessions within the wildland fire track, there are other aspects of wildfire safety included in sessions in the emergency services and business continuity tracks as well. Check the searchable education session area on the conference website to learn more about each session and who's presenting. You can also download the full 2016 conference brochure here for an easy, at-a-glance look at the schedule of events.

Registration is open now. If you're going to be in Vegas in June, this is a must-do event!

riskreduction.pngAs the school year starts to wind down and edges closer to semester’s end - students, parents and school administrators everywhere, are stepping into that frenzied time zone where they’re scrambling to wrap-up those required community service credit hours.

If your middle and high school students are like my kids at that age, a lot of school projects have been procrastinated until the eleventh hour and now the mad rush is on to find a really good project they can get done.

Trust me parents, I’m all too familiar with those “crisis hours” where our kids have known about something for the entire school year and now they’re shocked to discover it’s magically due in a matter of weeks.

Well, the student in your household, you, and their guidance counselor are all going to thank me for letting you know NFPA's - Wildfire Division has more than thirty wildfire risk reduction and post-fire community service project ideas they can easily implement, while at the same time making where they live a safer place. I’m telling you these are not ordinary “check the box” types of projects, these are the kind you’re going to be really proud of when they're completed.

Get those young procrastinators started right now by sharing this fun Wildfire Community Service Video featuring firefighter Richie Rexach. His empowering message is just the thing to get them motivated and moving!

Don’t forget to share their accomplishments with your family and social networks too. Take pictures or make a short video and post them on Facebook and Instagram and tell the world what your awesome kid achieved. You don’t have to tell anyone that they waited until the last minute to get it done.

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Social media can be a great way to communicate to a large audience, effectively marketing your message. There are platforms that you can easily use to market your message including Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Facebook and more.  Did you know that Firewise has its own Facebook page, Firebreak blog site, and Twitter feed?  Check them out, they can help you more easily be informed about the latest research and events pertaining to wildfire preparedness.   By participating in the Firewise social media platforms, you can emulate these methods of implementing your own social media outreach. 

According to Lauren Backstrom, Social Media Manager at the NFPA, “Since social media has proven to be a tremendous communications tool, it only makes sense that Firewise communities can see success using it as well. Facebook and Twitter can be used to send out announcements to neighbors about upcoming events, information on approaching wildfires and evacuation updates, as well as to share Firewise tips and ideas that community members can use at their own homes. Communities who may already be low on time or resources can use these free resources to amplify their reach to everyone they need to, with one single message, all in an instant.” 

I have been able to observe some incredible successes of many Firewise Communities. These communities have worked collaboratively with agency partners to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They have not only embraced their success but many have also been willing to go “the extra mile”, to help neighboring communities also become recognized Firewise Communities.

The key to real success is the ability of the community to promote this success. By successfully promoting your success stories, you can create a “snowball effect”, gathering more support and proponents of Firewise principles. People want to be a part of a winning team and they will engage with communities that are. You need to share your success to additionally promote your activities for future grants, support, and endorsements.  It is also important to shine in order to share how other communities can emulate your success.

While putting together information shared by Firewise communities about successful Firewise Days, many communities shared their newsletters and websites.  These are some examples of communities who have successfully used both traditional and social media:

Diamond Peaks in Oregon, Story in Wyoming, and Ramsey Canyon in Arizona are all Firewise Communities that host their own Facebook pages.

Leon Valley in Texas was recognized for their efforts on a local newscast website.

Laurel Woods, in the State of Virginia, was also recognized on a newscast for their Firewise efforts in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

The Sun City,Texas Firewise Subcommittee has their own website.

The Colfax County Coalition of Firewise Communities (CCCFC) received a grant from the New Mexico Association of Counties (NMAC) to develop a 5 – 7 minute video of Firewise actions and identifying hazards in the Home Ignition Zone that they posted on Youtube.

Finally, Log Hill Firewise Community, in Ridgeway, Colorado also has a website with a front page that provides guidance to other neighboring communities that want to become Firewise.

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Have you ever struggled to communicate about wildfire preparedness so that residents in your community not only understand their risks but actively participate in lessening their exposure to wildfire hazards?  Speaking well to create participation at a community level is an art.  Learn from the stories of two New Jersey Firewise Communities as they shared how their communication plans helped homeowners learn what role they had to play, and then how to effectively participate in activities that created resilient communities.

Horizon Woods Landing

The Horizon Woods Landing Firewise Day was a great success thanks to the collaborative efforts

Horizon Woods Landing
Smokey Bear with residents at Horizon Woods Landing, New Jersey. This photo was shared by the community.

of state and local organizations to educate the public on reducing the risk of wildfire losses. Members of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS), the Hamilton Township Emergency Services Organization (Fire, Police, EMS) and Mayor Roger Silva all participated. Each organization, plus the Horizon Woods Landing Firewise Committee, set up table display displays and provided souvenirs and handouts to residents and their families. Following the day, an article with photos from the event was published in the December issue of the Horizon Woods Landing Newsletter, which is distributed quarterly to every homeowner in the community. The Firewise Committee also writes update articles about Firewise efforts in each edition of the newsletter. And Firewise updates are part of the monthly Association meetings, which are very well attended.

Horizon Woods Landing shared with us, “The Firewise Committee, along with our partners from the NJ Forest Fire Service and Hamilton Township Emergency Services organizations, met with our residents to show them the results of our proactive efforts to reduce the threat of a wildfire in our community, and to let them know we will continue to communicate with them about our ongoing efforts to keep our community safe.”

Little Egg Harbor Township, NJ 

Little Egg Harbor Firewise Committee had good attendance at their Firewise Day presentation. State and local officials talked to the residents about the importance of preparing their homes for wildfire. Then they distributed Firewise materials, and the residents worked on Firewise presentations. The community plans spring and Fall cleanups to reduce fuels around houses, and recommends cleaning roofs and gutters twice a year. The community shared with us, “We had a really nice time and people discussed safe plantings and more aggressive fuel mitigation.”


map4.gifAs 2016 begins, so does wildfire season. The latest current large incidents map for wildfires in the US from the National Interagency Fire Center looks identical to the predictions by NOAA for areas that have weather potential for extreme wildfire conditions. Utilizing these predictive tools can prepare fire departments both nationally and map5.png regionally to be able to coordinate their wildfire response. A friend and former coworker from the Florida Forestry Department called and let us know that he is assisting in Oklahoma with the wildfire response. Part of his assistance involves helping provide residents and fire departments with information about how they can organize Firewise communities in their state. Tools provided by the NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division can enable residents and communities to learn about their risk and develop effective plans to be much safer in the event of a wildfire.

Does adopting Firewise principles and creating Firewise Communities really make a difference?  We have heard about documented "saves" of properties where homeowners adopted Firewise principles in the maintenance plans for their homes and landscape immediately surrounding the homes.  One recent example of a home that survived wildfire event that was from the island of Maui in Hawaii.  According to Denise Laitinen, the picture that she shared from a Facebook page was that of "a structure that survived a 5,300-acre fire on Maui last week. This is in the vicinity of Kahikinui on Maui (the back side of the island where it is very dry and desolate.) This area has extremely rugged terrain on the backside of the Haleakala volcano. In fact, it's so rugged, when I did a hazard assessment with the fire department years ago we couldn't get a rig up there - we had to leave the fire truck on the side of the highway and use a firefighter's four-wheel drive truck. This area is Hawaiian Home Lands." 

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Facebook tweet from local Hawaiian media that depicts a home that survived a wildfire on Maui.

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This week, a review panel cloistered themselves for an entire day in NFPA's Wildland Fire Division's Denver field office where they ranked close to 300 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project funding award applications from 40 states. The panel was tasked with selecting 125 projects that would receive a $500 funding award to implement activities on Saturday, May 7, for national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. The group agreed the task was daunting since each application provided value and benefits to individuals and communities.The monetary awards were sponsored by State Farm, a co-sponsor of the third annual campaign.

Project submissions covered a broad range of activities and the review panel had difficulty narrowing it down to only 125 recipients. Applicants provided a brief description of their proposed project and how the funding would be used to reduce the risk of a wildfire, the impact(s) of a recent wildfire, or advance preparedness for wildfires.

The funding awards are one component of the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day which was developed to raise awareness, promote collaboration and bring residents together to implement projects that can help protect homes, neighborhoods and entire communities from future wildfire risks and post-fire impacts; while increasing safety for both residents and firefighters.

Funding recipients are from AL; AK; AZ; AR; CA; CO; CT; FL; GA; HI; ID; IL; KS, ME; MA; MI; MN; MT; NV; NH; NJ; NM; NC; OH; OK; OR; PA; RI; SC; SD; TN; TX; UT; VA; WA and WY.

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