Michele Steinberg

First FEMA-funded wildfire mitigation seminar a success in Sacramento

Blog Post created by Michele Steinberg Employee on Apr 4, 2016

Last spring, NFPA’s Wildland Fire Operations Division staff came up with what we thought would be a great way to use Fire Prevention & Safety Grant funding from DHS/FEMA to assist the fire service with wildland fire education. This spring, I’m happy to say that we are watching our vision take shape in the form of five classroom seminars featuring NFPA’s Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone curriculum. The first was held March 22 to 23 in Sacramento, California.

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NFPA has offered this seminar in a variety of forms over the past decade, with a major update to the curriculum last year. Although the seminar consistently received rave reviews, we were having difficulty attracting local firefighters. In rural areas and suburban regions with lots of wildfire exposure, wildland firefighting is not restricted to the federal and state agencies. Seminar content focuses on how homes ignite during wildfires and the important research that shows what can be done to minimize ignition potential. The big idea we convey in the class (spoiler alert!) is that we can avoid disastrous loss of structures in wildfires if homes don’t ignite. And to prevent home ignition, the homeowner must act. Often, homeowners don’t know there is anything they can do. And who do they trust more than anyone to advise them about fire safety? I’ll give you one guess.

So how could we get this information and knowledge to firefighters, who are the number one most trusted authority on fire safety? The FEMA grant made it possible for NFPA to fund not only the delivery of classroom sessions in 5 locations this spring, but most importantly to fund the travel and participation of local fire service members.

In Sacramento, instructor Pat Durland told us that he had a diverse, very engaged and knowledgeable group of participants. They ranged from vegetation management specialists to fire captains to battalion chiefs. Even with all their career knowledge and real-life field experience, only one quarter entered the class feeling their knowledge on the seminar topics was “very good” or “excellent.” But by the end of the seminar, 87% felt this way.

According to one captain/paramedic, “I thought I wanted to learn about structure triage. What I got was a new mindset concerning how to approach wildland fire (operational) and people (social).” Another fire captain commented, “I am better prepared to assess WUI properties and communicate hazards to community members.”

We’re all looking forward to the next four sessions coming up in Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Portland (OR) and Spokane. Learn more about the content of this powerful seminar and how to bring it to your organization at www.nfpa.org/hiz.

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