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2016

Before wildfire season begins, many Firewise communities start preparing to lessen their risk of loss by raising residents’ awareness through a variety of events and educational activities.  Some communities included local land management agencies as part of the team to provide a complete picture of their risk by examining elements within and surrounding the community, including wildfire risk, the overall condition of their home and the vegetation surrounding the homes.  Do you know what your community’s risk is?

Check out resources available at no cost to you on the NFPA’s Firewise website to see what you can to do to create a safer home and community.

 

 

Stoney River Estates at Isabella, Minnesota

 

Stoney River held a community meeting on Firewise Day. Matt Tyler, Lake County Firewise Coordinator, showed a Firewise Wildfire awareness sign.jpgvideo and a slideshow of fire history in the area to approximately 10 residents. Then the group walked the community and discussed fire mitigation concerns.

 

  Stoney River says, “The Firewise program has been a vital part of our community, protecting our homes and surrounding property. In 2013, our community qualified for a grant that was instrumental in clearing 15 acres of brush and balsam fir trees that are highly flammable fire fuel. We also invested in a fire danger sign that is posted on the highway at the entrance to our community and is updated daily by our members.”

 

Cooked/Wilson Lake at Lakeland, Minnesota

 

Cooked/Wilson Lake held a community Firewise meeting on Firewise Day. Bre Schueller, East Zone Fire Management Specialist for the Superior National Forest presented a talk on the role of the Forest Service in the management of forests. She also presented the proposed Firewise projects in the community and how residents can have input and get more information. Bre discussed the various fuel mitigation efforts underway in the area. Mary Kingston welcomed new residents and gave an overview of the Firewise program and the group’s activities.

 

  Cooked/ Wilson Lake tells us that they are creating a “little manual” of tips/things they wish they had known and/or done in becoming a Firewise community. “This manual is just information on things we learned in the process, which may be used as a resource by communities becoming Firewise. The Firewise Program is great and we are ever grateful to have this program and information to assist us.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                                                                                                                              The wildfire awareness sign is from the Stoney River Estates Firewise Community

I recently visited the PineRidge Firewise Community located in the Castle
Pines area south of Denver as they celebrated a creative method of hazardous
fuels reduction. South Metro Fire Rescue Authority Community Risk
Reduction Specialist Einar Jensen and Firewise community point of contact Barb Saenger
held a community get together where the stars of the program were, well, uh,
goats.

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That's right, goats.  After mechanically thinning a common area in a
small canyon below the subdivision about 3 years ago, the community worked with
a rancher from Cheyenne, Wyoming to bring his goats in to deal with re-growth
and noxious weeds.  The goats were all about getting at new Gambel oak and
Canada Thistle growth and seemed quite content with the task.  Goats are especially

effective on noxious weeds that other grazers won't touch while at the same time

aerating the soil with their hooves, and of course, fertilizing as they graze.

 

PineRidge has been a Firewise Community since 2008 and was a 2016 NFPA
Wildfire Community Preparedness Day campaign awardee and also received a
cash award from South Metro Fire Rescue Authority.  The PineRidge
Homeowners Association
paid for the goats which runs about $1000.00 a day for
300 goats. See the local 9News story here.

 

So, with the sun shining, children laughing, Fire engines gleaming and goats
munching, another community works towards reducing its wildfire risk.

 

(photo credit: Thomas Welle NFPA)

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Oregon now joins Arizona, California, Colorado and Texas in being one of five states where USAA policyholders living in a recognized Firewise Communities/USA site, are eligible to receive a discount on their homeowners insurance premium.

 

There are currently 102 communities actively participating in the Firewise Communities/USA recognition program throughout Oregon; with more than 26,000 people living in those sites. Over the past year, those communities have invested close to $1,706,000 in wildfire risk reduction activities.

 

USAA has been working with NFPA for several years to develop an incentive for residents living in wildfire-prone areas. Their discount is applicable to new homeowners and rental property policies issued or renewed in the state.

 

The Firewise discount is an incentive for individuals to proactively implement scientifically proven concepts that will increase their homes survivability in a wildfire.

HIZ Class NFPA.jpgIn the last few years you've seen us post information about our popular two-day Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) course, aimed at professionals in emergency response, insurance, community planning and development, and urban and wildland conservation who can benefit from an in-depth understanding of the theory of wildfire losses and mitigation concepts. This year, thanks to Fire Prevention & Safety Grant funding from DHS/FEMA, we were able to extend this course to additional U.S. locations (Phoenix, Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Portland OR, and Spokane) and fund the travel and participation of local fire service members. (Learn what participants had to say about the course and their experience.)

 

This week the course comes to NFPA Headquarters in Quincy, MA. Led by veteran instructor, Gary Marshall, the two-day event welcomes 25 firefighters from states such as Virginia, Montana, Oregon, Washington and right here in Massachusetts to participate in discussions and training around today's wildfire hazards. During the course, the participants are getting a chance to go off-site to learn the nuts and bolts of a home assessment and they're also discussing and sharing the challenges they and other local fire departments face with wildland/urban interface fire threats and residents who need to know how to protect their homes.

 

NFPA is happy to have been able to make this course a reality for these firefighters and we're honored to have them here on our own campus. Welcome!

 

If you'd like more information about hosting an HIZ course in your area, please visit www.nfpa.org/HIZ today and we'll be happy to help!

Many Firewise communities realize the value of reaching out to children and youth to raise their awareness of wildfire hazards and share with them how they can be a part of the solution.  Some communities have engaged children with fire station open houses, games, contests and more.  Read about how this community developed a simple tool that helped children and their parents recognize their risk and learn what they could do together to reduce their risks during a wildfire event.

 

Turtle Cove at Monticello, Georgia

 

Turtle Cove received a GFC Firewise Mitigation Grant and used that money to conduct some community clean-up days during 2014.  They also do assessments of properties, and make recommendations for reducing wildfire risk. Younger people help the elderly to created defensible space around their homes. Turtle Cove believes that raising awareness of fire danger and the steps toward wildfire mitigation are very important. They focus on creating awareness among both adults and children. They give coloring books to children to educate them on wildfire. The coloring books ask kids to think about what they need to do in case of a fire; and who they need to go to. The coloring books raise awareness for both the children and their parents.

 

Turtle Cove says, “Firewise days are helpful, first of all for awareness, and secondly for the clean-up. We make coloring books so helpful children will do this with their parents. Our mitigation grant was used for awareness; that is the key. We do a lot of education for a varied group of people. Awareness and education is just as important as the hard things that we do.”

I was honored to share information at a session at NFPA’s C&E this year about how to effectively speak to communities about wildfire preparedness and mitigation measures they can take to reduce the risk of home destruction.  Wildfire loss is I can't hear you.pngincreasing.  Just recently The Sherpa Fire in Santa Barbara, California has consumed over 6,000 acres with temperatures of over 2,000 degrees and fire tornadoes.

Wildfire events are one natural disaster where changes made by neighborhoods and residents can contribute to lessening their risk of loss. There is an abundance of research about what types of changes made to homes and the landscape surrounding the homes can make a difference to reduce catastrophic loss, including resources available at no cost through NFPA’s Firewise Program.

So why have communities and residents not engaged in programs like Firewise? Perhaps it is due in part to the fact that important safety information needs to be presented in a way that makes it relevant, understandable, and achievable.    How do you make the message about wildfire mitigation palatable so that residents and communities embrace change that creates resiliency? As Jack Cohen a US Forest Service research scientist has shared about reducing wildfire risk, “It is not rocket science -- it is social science.”

By synthesizing the best practices I have learned through my own positive and negative experiences presenting to communities, along with experiences shared with me by fellow community assessors, leaders and fire fighters, and the research findings of social scientists, I put together a presentation that defines some tangible steps you can use to make your message relevant. When residents can hear and understand your message, this can help them to take effective risk reduction action.

A tip sheet with highlights shared during my presentation was provided to attendees.   Some tips include:

  • Do your homework first! Define the actual risk. Be truthful, not scary.
  • Get to know who your audience is and what they need.
  • Be honest with yourself about what can you do for your audience.  Identify other key partners.
  • Find common ground.
  • Deal with an unpleasant audience by going back to square one. Find out what they need and what their past experience has been.  Ask questions and show interest in their concerns.
  • If you don’t have what your audience needs, help them find additional resources.
  • Keep your cool even if the audience is unpleasant.  Approach wildfire risk as OUR obstacle. Ask, “How can we fix this together?”

Have you successfully engaged your audience using unique presentation methods that have helped your community work together to make change that makes a difference?

firewise map.JPG

Since the initial launch of the national Firewise Communities/USA program more than fifteen years ago, the number of recognized sites has grown from 12 pilot locations in 7 states, to now more than 1,300 active communities throughout 40 states. The program’s participants actively reduce their wildfire risks by completing annual requirements needed to maintain their national recognition status.

 

Achieving the 1,300 participating communities milestone is an accomplishment that could not have happened without the partner efforts of each Firewise state forestry liaison and their work to tirelessly grow the program with their district forestry staffs and local fire departments. The continuous outreach efforts to homeowners has resulted in major benefits to both residents and firefighters when wildfires happen.

 

The 1,300 participating communities represent more than 1.5 million residents with more than $35 million dollars invested during the past twelve months in risk reduction activities. Each participating community must complete a set of criteria to become a recognized site, and annually they must perform a subset of those to retain their active status. Learn how you and your neighbors can become a Firewise Community and start making where you live a safer place.

Many times it is the simple tasks accomplished by a community working together that can make a difference.  It does not cost a lot of money to make Firewise improvements to your home and property that can make a difference, and give your property a fighting chance against wildfire loss.  So let’s learn how we can roll up our sleeves and follow the lead of these two hardworking communities and reduce our risk of loss during a wildfire.

 

Trahlyta Estates at Dahlonega, Georgia

On Firewise Day the residents of Trahlyta Estates held a community cleanup workday. They cleared roads and right of ways of fuels, such as leaves, sticks, and logs. They reduced fuels around houses, and they cleaned off roofs and gutters to keep them debris free.

Trahlyta Estates says, “Our whole community pitches in. Firewise helps to create a sense of community.”

 

Spring Cove at Blairsville, Georgia

On Firewise Day, Spring Cove conducted a controlled burn to reduce fuels around the community. The community also sponsors a “chipper day” every year to assist the homeowners in reducing fuels around their homes.

Spring Cove tells us, “Firewise Day is a lot of work, but it is worth it.”

With the growing concern for diseases that can be spread by insects such as the Zika and West Nile virus by mosquitos as well as Lymes disease by ticks, insect bites have become a growing safety concern for wildland firefighters, especially as we enter the warm summer months and growing populations of these insects Bug.pngdoes occur.  A new twist in this safety issue is the safety of the wildland firefighter once insecticide is applied to their turn-outs/gear.  A technical tip sheet provided by the US Forest Service provides some research information from the Missoula Technology and Development Center about the use of insecticides by wildland firefighters.

 

HIZ Class.jpgFrom my online research, I discovered that some insecticides are highly flammable and can actually lower the flame retardant factor in wildland firefighter’s clothing.  According to an article that I read flash fires have been reported from the use of flammable insecticides applied.  This can compromise firefighter safety.  There are alternative types of insecticides that can be used.  Firefighters need to take additional precautions when choosing insecticides that may not be applied directly to the skin.

 

According to the article, “It is important to check how your FR (Fire Rated) products have been made, what materials are used and to follow the proper procedures regarding appropriate maintenance to make sure they keep working effectively. This will ultimately work to keep your FR clothing in top shape so you can stay protected and safe.”

 

The NFPA is in the process of developing an initial draft document 1877 Standard for the Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Wildland Fire Fighting Clothing and Equipment.  If you are interested in serving on the technical committee or would like to submit Public Inputs go to www.nfpa.org/1877 or please connect with the NFPA on the NFPA Exchange.

Photo from NFPA's Firewise Day submittals.  Picture created by Faith Berry

june fb.JPGThe June 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 recap of the wildly successful grant-funded HIZ seminars
  • An article that highlights just how bad the wildfire problem could be in New Jersey
  • An invitation to join the wildfire team for their five new interactive virtual workshops this year
  • An announcement from U.S. Secretary Sally Jewell who announced $10 million in funding to help with mitigating the impacts of wildfires

...and much more! We want to continue to share all of this great information with you, so don't miss an issue and subscribe today. It's free! Just add your email address to our newsletter list.

The prediction for extremely high temperatures this week will contribute to the wildfire intensity and make it more difficult for firefighters to battle blazes. If you reside in the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada the temperatures are predicted to Deadly Heat Wave.jpgsoar to 120 degrees!  The states where these extreme temperatures are predicted to occur already have wildfires burning.  According to a report, the number of people under an extreme heat warning is a mind-boggling 66 million. According to meteorological reports, a high-pressure cell from the Midwest is contributing to these extreme conditions.

 

The temperatures which are predicted to be at least 20 degrees over normal will make it difficult for firefighters battling blazes in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Two fires in New Mexico where thousands of acres have burned, and have caused evacuations.  In Show Low, Arizona, a large blaze fueled by high winds is threatening numerous communitiesThe Sherpa fire in California is threatening homes and has burned over 7,000 acres in an area where there is older vegetative fuels. The Santa Barbara County website has information for residents regarding the status of the wildfire on their website, including evacuation information.

 

Simple steps taken to protect homes and communities before a wildfire can make a difference in the outcome. Visit the Firewise website to learn what you can do that can make a difference!

                                                                                                                                                           Map from the National Weather Service Twitter Account

Gollner.jpg

As part of the Wildland Fire education session track at the NFPA Conference, a research team from the fire protection engineering department at the University of Maryland along with the Fire Protection Resource Foundation's Dan Gorham is presenting on their research and how it ties in with codes, standards, real-world design and firefighter safety.

 

The team's research exploring "Building Pathways for Fire Spread at the Wildland-Urban Interface," won a Fire Protection Research Foundation medal this week. Their presentation along with alum Dan Gorham was comprehensive and thought-provoking. Learn more on NFPA's web pages about the conference and our research interests.

 

Photo: Dr. Michael Gollner, University of Maryland, with graduate student collaborators Raquel Hakes and Sarah Caton and alumni/Fire Protection Research Foundation staffer Dan Gorham.

Each year, the Fire Protection Research Foundation recognizes a project that best expresses the safety mission, commitment to overcome technical challenges and collaborative execution approach that is the hallmark of Foundation projects with the Fire Protection Research Foundation Medal.

 

NFPA is proud to announce the project, "Pathways for Building Fire Spread at the Wildland-Urban Interface" has been awarded the 2016 Fire Protection Research Foundation Medal! Project recipients include the technical panel, project sponsors and the project authors, Raquel Hakes, Sara Canton and Kyle Kohler, led by Dr. Michael Gollner and his research team from the University of Maryland.

 

Image in WUI Report.JPGFires in WUI communities are a rapidly growing problem in the U.S. The last 15 years saw six of this century's top 10 most damaging U.S. single fire events, all of which occurred in WUI communities. More than 46 million homes in 70,000 communities are at risk for wildfire. Since 2000, more than 38,000 homes have been lost to WUI fires across the country.

 

There are many potential  pathways for wildland fires to ignite buildings within the WUI. These pathways depend on the characteristics of the wildland, the characteristics of the community, and the characteristics of the interface. NFPA 1144, Standard for Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fire and NFPA 1141, Standard for Fire Protection Infrastructure for Land Development in Wildland, Rural and Suburban Areas, address hazards to structures in the WUI as well as appropriate mitigation measures. The goal of the project was to identify pathways for fire spread in the WUI and identify the gaps in information to better inform prevention and protection strategies. .

 

The results of the project were presented at NFPA's 2015 Conference & Expo and at a research planning workshop for the NFPA Technical Committee responsible for NFPA 1141, NFPA 1142 and NFPA 1144. Listen to a recording of the webinar on the project now available online (scroll to the bottom of the page to find the webinar).

 

For more information and to read the award-winning report, please visit the "wildfire reports, guides and case studies" page on NFPA's website. And congratulations again to the team for their winning project!

CALFIREPresentation06.13.16.jpg

This morning at NFPA’s 120th Conference and Expo, participants heard from staff of CAL FIRE, the forestry and fire agency of the state of California, about their wildfire damage inspection program.  David Shew, a staff chief who oversees CAL FIRE’s Planning and Risk Analysis Division, explained the history and rationale of such a process. At its simplest, it is a way to tell FEMA and other agencies how many structures were damaged or destroyed. But there are many other stakeholders who want and need to know the extent and magnitude of damage following wildfire, including non-governmental relief organizations such as the American Red Cross, state and local fire agencies, and of course, residents and business owners in the affected community.

 

CAL FIRE had the opportunity to put this program to the test following two major wildfires that occurred in September 2015. These were the Valley Fire in Lake County, which grew to 50,000 acres in just 24 hours, killed four people and destroyed 1,900 structures, and the Butte fire that destroyed 545 residences and 356 outbuildings and took two lives. While the fires in these areas were not completely surprising - CAL FIRE calls Lake County's terrain and conditions some of the worst for fire risk in the state - the conditions on these fires were described as extreme, with highly experienced veteran fire fighters claiming these were conditions they had never witnessed before.

 

Battalion Chief Johnathan Cox, who is assigned to fire prevention and fire hazard planning throughout Northern California, explained the working of the damage inspection program and what was found in the Butte and Valley Fires process. During the incident, one of the program objectives is a daily update of structure damage and destruction. CAL FIRE relies heavily on its sophisticated GIS mapping system, but also ties in early in the incident with the community's local planning and building departments to understand where parcels and properties are located. CAL FIRE also uses a simple "windshield survey" and drive-through inspections to get a rough, on-the-ground look at the early stages of damage. Inspectors also use a phone application using ESRI software to collect the data per parcel. It's rapid, consistent, connects photos to data and saves to the cloud. CAL FIRE values the app's ability to get real-time information and a log that can be tracked. According to Andrew Henning of CAL FIRE, this platform can also be used to collect data from other incidents such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or flooding.

 

Chief Shew reinforced that the state's strong pre-fire inspection and enforcement program will be linked to the post-fire damage inspection data to help inform the process and understand the ways structures are being destroyed.

Key findings following these two disastrous wildfires included some insight into potential for future land use planning, better construction and more deliberate design and siting that could minimize structure-to-structure ignition.

  RealtorPPTFirstSlide.JPGLast month, I was invited to speak to the Land Use, Property Rights and Environment Committee of the National Association of REALTORS® at their annual legislative event in Washington, DC. The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) is America's largest trade association, representing over 1.1 million members, including NAR's institutes, societies, and councils, involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Its membership includes brokers, salespeople, property managers, appraisers, counselors, and others engaged in the real estate industry. They have an important role in helping prospective property owners understand natural hazard and safety issues and the relative risk on a particular parcel.

 

More than 200 participants learned the basics of how homes ignite and what we’ve learned from research including that produced by the US Forest Service Fire Research Lab and the IBHS Research Center on how to mitigate for wildfire risks. In spite of the trend of more fire and larger fires in areas where homes are at risk, the good news is that Firewise principles can be applied anywhere and that the national Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program is available for free to residents who voluntarily seek to reduce the ignition potential of their homes and neighborhoods.

 

NAR members learned that nearly 1,300 communities throughout the U.S. have taken important steps toward improving their safety through participation in Firewise Communities/USA®, and that the private sector is taking notice of this trend. For example, major insurer USAA is providing homeowner premium discounts for its members living in Firewise Communities in California, Colorado, Texas and Arizona. In California, a company called DisclosureSave produces a natural hazard disclosure report for individual properties that realtors there can use to comply with California disclosure laws. DisclosureSave’s product now includes information about whether a property is within or outside a recognized Firewise community. It’s estimated that 150,000 people annually will see this information as a result of the information in the natural hazard disclosure report.

 

While I always enjoy providing information about wildfire safety to any audience, I was gratified by the response by several participants, who got up to the microphone to comment on how Firewise had had such a positive influence in the places they lived and conducted business. From California to Colorado to Nevada to Washington state, people in the real estate industry are recognizing the value and positive impact of voluntary citizen action to become safer using Firewise principles.

 

To learn more about what REALTORS know, check out www.firewise.org/usa.

 

Click on the image above to view the presentation in Slide Share. And please comment below!

We are happy to announce that the Firewise Program will present another series of online virtual workshops in 2016.

 

Firewise Branded Logo.jpgFirewise Program Manager, Cathy Prudhomme, shared that, “returning in July for a third season, NFPA’s popular Virtual Workshop series will bring wildfire stakeholders together to learn about multiple wildfire topics from leading experts. The 2016 five-part series begins in July and will feature a sixty-minute interactive format with the opportunity to ask live questions to the session’s presenter.

 

The 2016 series will open in late July with a focus on wildfire research topics that impact your home, like mulch and structural risks.  In mid- August, Firewise will explore the home ignition zone concepts that help you assess your wildfire risk on your property – and when you should talk with your neighbor!  In late September, we’ll discuss insurance and how you can be best prepared for a wildfire.  Come October, Firewise will highlight community mitigation success stories from recognized communities, large and small.  The 2016 series will conclude in early November when Firewise examines more Wildland "Urban Legends".


Look for upcoming virtual workshop registration announcements here on Fire Break, in the monthly Fire Break newsletter, and in your email.  You can also view 2014 and 2015 virtual workshop series on various topics from the workshop archives.

We want to hear from you! It's easy to comment on posts: just look for the login link above to login or register for your free account on Xchange. Xchange is more than a blog; it's an online community that connects you with peers worldwide and directly with NFPA staff. Get involved today!

We asked and you answered.  In May, we asked the readers of NFPA’s monthly Fire Break newsletter to share their thoughts and use of Fire Break with us in a survey.  We want to thank all those who took the time to help us make Fire Break an even better source for wildfire news, research, and community success.

 

The survey also had a $25 gift card sweepstakes and we’re happy to announce that the winner was Paulette Church, of Durango, Colorado.  I spoke with Paulette – who is also the contact for the Falls Creek Ranch Firewise Community – and she shared with me what the gift certificate will go towards.

 

FallsCreekRanch.org comm photo pulled 8June16 IMG_5640-300x224.jpgPaulette said, “We have our Stihl chain saws sharpened at ACE and buy bar oil, new chains and bars as needed at Kroger’s ACE Hardware.  This card will help pay for some sharpening or replacement parts for our volunteer Chain Saw Gang that takes down our beetle trees and other unhealthy trees on our ranch of 940 acres with 840 acres of common property."

 

She went on to explain that, “This is a great way to thank our volunteers and help them keep their chain saws in top working order."

 

Congratulations to Paulette for the sweepstakes win and all those Chain Saw Gang volunteers in the Falls Creek Ranch Firewise Community who are making a real mitigation difference in their community.

 

Photo Credit: Fallscreekranch.org, pulled 8 June 16, Falls Creek Ranch Homeowners Association | A Working Ranch Community ….

 

We want to hear from you! It's easy to comment on posts: just look for the login link above to login or register for your free account on Xchange. Xchange is more than a blog; it's an online community that connects you with peers worldwide and directly with NFPA staff. Get involved today!

From the Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) Learning Network and author Lee Ann Beery comes this great story out of Flagstaff, Arizona, Contributing to a Fire Adapted Future in Flagstaff; Firewise Landscaping Contest Awards.

 

Landscaping Contest.JPGSponsored by the Greater Flagstaff Forest Partnership (GFFP), the Firewise Landscaping Contest started several years ago and encourages the public to participate in wildfire risk reduction actions in a fun and creative way. The contest also reinforces for homeowners the fact that fire adapted landscapes can be both practical and beautiful when you follow Firewise steps. These actions include the pruning of trees, removing ladder fuels, screening vents in homes, moving flammable materials away from structures, and much more. A total of $1,000 in prize money was awarded to this year's top contestants.

 

The Landscaping Contest was promoted in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations and the GFFP Harvesting Methods and Firewise Preparedness Open House events. Judging took place the week following Wildfire Community Preparedness Day (May 7) with an awards luncheon and ceremony on May 18.

 

Read the post to learn about the contest, the participants and the winners. Kudos to the residents of Flagstaff who arranged this wonderful event and who are working together to increase community wildfire resilience and firefighter safety in their area!

Firewise communities have shared how they are the heroes of their own story. Many Firewise Communities have shared with us that becoming a Firewise Community has helped them grow a sense of working together for a common cause.  This collaborative effort has enabled some of these communities overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, create a sense of community where neighbors help neighbors, and create safer neighborhoods. Henry Ford the automobile industry genius, said it well, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success!”  Read how these two Firewise Communities have successfully worked together.

 

Screamer Mountain in Clayton, Georgia

Screamer Mountain held a meeting on Firewise Day with a presentation on the Firewise Communities efforts, and a presentation by the US Forest Service on the “Ready, Set, Go!” program. Another Firewise Day was held in connection with the “Clayton Days Festival” on April 24th. A table was set up and residents worked Clayton, Georgia.pngalongside the Georgia Forestry Commission educating the public about wildfire risk and mitigation, and passing out literature. Numerous new contacts were made at this event.

Screamer Mountain tells us, “Firewise Days are very helpful. Firewise Days help to bring our community together as a whole because we are a second home community, and for the most part, this is not our primary residence. We have laminated maps for all residents so they know ways out of the community.”

 

Leisure Woods in Hiawassee, Georgia

Leisure Woods holds two Firewise Days each year: a Spring clean-up day in April, and a Fall clean-up day in October. On each clean-up day, fuel accumulations are reduced, as neighbors work together to reduce the risk of a damaging wildfire. Firewise literature and information from the Red Cross and FEMA are passed out to residents on those days.

Leisure Woods says, “Firewise is so important. We are a cohesive community, so the neighbors help out those residents who cannot do the clean-up on their own. Education is also important. At our last event, we had the same amount of new residents present as we had hosts/hostesses (those who participate in Firewise already). We use all the information we can get from Firewise, along with Red Cross information and anything from FEMA, etc.”

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Location of Clayton, Georgia from Wikipedia

As an African proverb has it, "Those who learn, teach; those who teach, learn." I was reminded of this adage as NFPA wraps up a grant-funded seminar series that has reached 150 fire service personnel and wildfire mitigation specialists this spring. Both the instructors and staff who witnessed the enthusiasm and excitement of participants at our Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone classes not only observed learning in action, but indeed themselves learned a lot about the challenges aced by local fire departments coping with wildland/urban interface fire threats and residents who need to know how to protect their homes.photo 5.JPG

 

A generous award from the DHS/FEMA Fire Prevention & Safety Grant allowed NFPA to provide the seminars in five locations at no cost to participants - except, of course, for their time. Many participants from small rural fire departments thanked us and FEMA profusely, saying that they never would have been able to attend a two-day classroom session on their own due to cost of registration, travel and lodging. We learned, though, there are still challenges for fire department staff to attend. Volunteer fire departments make up a huge proportion of the local fire service, so people have to take time away from other work in order to participate. And the nature of their work also meant we had a few folks who had to drop out or leave midway through class to attend to a fire call.

 

NFPA staff were on hand at each of the seminars to ensure that all went smoothly and to support the instructor. Staffers reported to me after each seminar how amazed they were at the camaraderie among firefighters and wildfire mitigation specialists, even those who'd never met each other before and who were from different states. The networking aspect of the classroom and site visit was a valued benefit which many participants enjoyed.

 

Our seminars involve a walk-around in the field so that participants can test their classroom knowledge from the first day of instruction at an actual home site. While we have a fall-back with a virtual walk-around that can be used in the classroom in case of severe weather or transportation failure, we learned from participants who said this hands-on activity was the best part of the class. Many commented how valuable it was to actually interact with the homeowner who was allowing them on the property, and said they wanted to put this new skill into practice immediately. It turns out many fire service folks aren't taught how to interact with residents in a pre-fire situation, and they loved learning ways to engage with their constituents.

 

NFPA staff and our seminar instructors had the opportunity to provide information and knowledge to the participants, to explain many other resources that NFPA has to offer, and provide a conducive learning environment to one of our most important stakeholders - the first responder. The resulting feedback from this audience has helped us learn what we can do better to support them in reducing future wildfire losses and communicating risks to residents. You can learn more about this powerful seminar and how to bring it to your area at www.nfpa.org/hiz.

 

Photo by Faith Berry, NFPA: Instructor Gary Marshall points out features on a home during a wildfire hazard assessment walk-around.

 

We want to hear from you! It's easy to comment on posts: just look for the login link above to login or register for your free account on Xchange. Xchange is more than a blog; it's an online community that connects you with peers worldwide and directly with NFPA staff. Get involved today!

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