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NPM_child_2016_medium.jpgAre you ready if the worst happens? Though it's hard to think about, it's really important to prepare for emergencies. As easy as it might be to think, "It'll never happen to me," just a little bit of preparation can make a big difference. Many studies show that people who prepare for disaster well in advance fare much better than those who do not.


You have a great opportunity to get ready during National Preparedness Month. The theme for September 2016 is, “Don’t Wait, Communicate.  Make your Emergency Plan Today.”  This year’s events focus on youth, older adults, and those who are challenged with access and functional needs.


Follow NFPA, FEMA, NOAA, the American Red Cross and other national partners each week to learn more about what to do. Every week focuses on a different activity to help you prepare.  Start by checking out for resources to share and get the word out about National Preparedness Month. Follow NFPA’s Fire Break and Safety Source blogs this month for all the latest and greatest ideas for emergency preparedness.


From September 4-10, the theme is “Preparing Family and Friends.” You can create a family emergency communication plan, learn more about financial preparedness, and use NFPA’s Get Ready Kit.


Honor the memory of 9/11 during the next week by getting involved in your community and planning with neighbors. NFPA’s Firewise program and wildfire preparedness web pages can help you find great community-level activities.


Individual preparedness is where it all begins. During the week of September 18-24, look for some great new tips and tools for youth, and make sure you are personally prepared. You can use FEMA’s mobile app on your phone to get alerts, tips and more.


The final week of September leads us to America’s PrepareAthon on September 30! It’s a great call to action to end the month, which will find you more ready than ever to face whatever lies ahead.

Sawtooth Firewise Community, a subdivision of Pie Town, New Mexico, is famous for more than its pies and its inclusion in a pictorial documentary by Russell Lee in the 1940s featured on the Library of Congress’ Website. This small community of 24 has contributed a whopping $7,558.80 worth of volunteer hours towards making their community safer from wildfire, according to the Firewise Data Base.  Their success can easily be emulated by other communities, as it is built upon a grass roots community effort of working together to lessen their wildfire risk.  This community is one of many who attribute their participation in the Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program as helping to grow a sense of community besides creating a more resilient neighborhood in the event of a wildfire. Read about their story and learn about how your neighborhood can become a recognized Firewise Community.


Sawtooth at Pie Town, New Mexico


Sawtooth is a rural subdivision with large lots, most of them 10 acres or larger. Only about a dozen families live in the community year-round, other landowners stay for part of the year, or the entire summer. Most of the residents are retired.


Sawtooth held 3 Firewise Events in 2014. They held one event in February, and two in September. These were “chipper days”, when Catron County provided a chipper, and the residents cleared debris from their properties to be chipped.


Sawtooth says, “The success of our Firewise program has been because of the strong sense of community, and the way we enjoy working together as neighbor helping neighbor. We also understand the value of the Firewise program to us as individual landowners. We owed a lot of our success to our County Coordinator, George Berraras, who recently passed away.”

USDAFS 29Aug16 stelprdb5122941.jpgLast Saturday’s Denver Post ran an article about the current Beaver Creek fire along the Colorado-Wyoming border and the fire management decisions being made around its progression.


While the fire has burned for 66 days and consumed over 37,000 acres, it is mainly in wilderness ravaged by beetle-kill.


Explained in the article, the fire is affording incident mangers the ability to learn about how this increasing fuel source in the western states reacts to fire. 


It is also providing training opportunities for wildland firefighters and important decision lessons on operation deployments.


I encourage you to give the article a read.


Photo Credit: United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic. , pulled 29 August 2016. 

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JackCohenHeadshot.jpgA short NPR interview aired today that included perspectives on home destruction during wildland fires. A Colorado firefighter who experienced the loss of his own home during the Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder in 2010, was a first-hand witness to the power of embers to take down a home. Dr. Jack Cohen, a preeminent fire scientist recently retired from the US Forest Service, spoke to his own years of research on the home destruction phenomenon, particularly his home destruction assessment as part of the Fourmile Canyon Fire Findings published by the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.


For nearly three decades, Cohen's research findings have belied what we see on the screen. As firefighter Rodrigo Moraga observes in the interview, "In Wildfires, Big Flames Attract Attention, But Watch Out For The Embers," the big wall of flames is what catches our attention on television, but it is not usually the culprit in home destruction. Rather, as Cohen points out, because firefighting resources are stretched thin and embers are igniting homes ahead of the flames through wind and spot fires, nobody is on the scene when the small ignitions start - and hours later, homes are destroyed.


For more about what you can do now to protect your home from flames and embers before a fire ever starts, visit To bring top wildfire experts to your region to train you to spot home ignition hazards and assist residents with sound wildfire safety advice, visit our page on NFPA Home Ignition Zone training.

la-1471554325-snap-photo, Adam Weidmann - EPA, pulled 19 Aug 16.jpgWhile 90% of wildfires are human-caused, the vast majority of these are not intentionally set.  The few percentage that are ignited by arsonists raises an interesting question for me, why?


An article in today’s Sacramento Bee explores the motivations of arsonists and in its interview with a former arson investigator, explains the differences between urban arsonists and wildfire arsonists.  It is a very interesting piece and I encourage you to give it a read.


Wildfire “arson” isn’t forgotten camp fires or sparks from target practice bullets, but the real act of lighting a cigarette taped to a book of matches and walking away on a hot afternoon.  The motivation for this, explored in the article, is not as clear-cut as you may think.


The current Clayton Fire in Lake County, California, northwest of Sacramento, is believed to be arson caused and a suspect was arraigned earlier this week.  According to CalFire reports, 300 structures have been destroyed in the fire; including 190 single-family homes, 8 commercial structures, and 102 other structures like sheds.


The accused is also believed to have been involved in 16 other fire starts since last July.


Photo Credit: la-1471554325-snap-photo, Adam Weidmann - EPA, pulled 19 Aug 16, In pretty Lake County, an arson fire lays out some ugly realities - LA Times

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A crash in the spring of last year that caused the death of a pilot of a tanker responding to a wildfire near Cold Lake in Alberta, Canada according to an investigative report released by the Transportation and Safety Board (TSB) of Canada was caused by a wildfire

phenomenon known as a fire whirl of fire tornado.  This fire phenomenon has been reported by wildland firefighters at other fires, one recently in OregonFire whirls are tornado-like weather events that can be generated by a fire. Small ones have been likened to dust devils or water whirls.  Larger wind events like this generated by a wildfire can have the power of a tornado generated by a thunderstorm.


According to the report, the tanker had picked up a load of water from Marie Lake and responded to the fire with 4 other tankers.  The formation headed to the drop site where the first two planes were able to make their drop safely and without any difficulty.  The third plane in the formation encountered severe turbulence which caused the pilot of this tanker to hit his head.


According to the report, when the fourth tanker which was involved in the collision attempted to make its drop; “T692 (the tanker that Impact site.jpgcrashed) also encountered a severe turbulence event, at 1630:54, 10 seconds after T693 (the third tanker in the formation). The aircraft DAAM system recorded a change from 4.2g to −3.2g in 1.0 second. T692 was seen to pitch to a nose-up attitude and climb to approximately 400–500 feet agl. The aircraft was then observed to roll left and enter a nose-down attitude. T692 struck the ground in a large open area (borrow pit) at 1630:59, right-wing low and close to nose-level


  The investigation concluded that neither mechanics, pilot error nor the weight of the load caused the collision but that severe changes in the atmospheric conditions were. The conclusion was that more fire weather training should be made available to pilots who support firefighting efforts to help them be safer during hazardous wildfire suppression operations.

As California faces a growing fire season with the current Blue Cut fire and others, so too does the similar climate regions of Europe.  The challenge for Europe though is that they’re all occurring in the same place.


_90733334_034520854 photo credit EPA Aug16.jpgAn article in today’s Portugal News Online reported that the 289,113 acres (117,000 hectares) lost to wildfire in Portugal this year accounts for 53.4% of all burnt area in Europe.


Portugal’s current wildfire loss is trending at four times their annual average between 2008 and 2015 due to an exceptionally dry winter and spring.


Over 176 wildfires in central and southern Portugal since early August have built up this level of loss.  Fires last week on the Portuguese island of Madeira off the northwest African coast forced the evacuation of thousands around the capital of Funchal.  That fire also claimed the lives of three elderly residents who died in their home when it caught fire.


BBC article 10Aug16_90733378_portugalmadeira464.pngA video by the BBC from last week shows the size of the fires burning on the Portuguese mainland.  The Portuguese government activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to receive support.


Fire Departments in the UK have also lent equipment and other support to their Portuguese counterparts.   90% of fire departments in Portugal are volunteer.


We often say that wildfires are not just a “western states issue” in the United States.  The recent fires in Portugal show again that with similar climate issues, drought, home development, residential preparedness efforts, and fire department response challenges, the threat of wildfire is truly a global challenge for us all to meet.


Photo Credits: Flames around Funchal,, pulled 18 August 16

Portugal Map,, pulled 18 August 16, Madeira wildfires: Three dead as flames reach Funchal - BBC News


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la-me-blue-cut-fire-photos-20160816-018 Gina Ferazzi - Los Angeles Times pulled 18Aug16.jpgThe Blue Cut fire near Los Angeles has consumed over 31,600 acres as of Thursday morning, with hot temperatures and strong winds turning the dry chaparral into flames.  Over 80,000 residents have been told to evacuate and unfortunately, many homes and entire neighborhoods have been lost.


With homes actively on fire, it is difficult sometimes to talk about insurance because valuable education can appear as “you should of…” or “you could of…” rhetoric.  The hurt that many have already felt is not lost on us, nor the concern of those who remain in harm’s way.  We also know that many more are watching this tragedy unfold as well and stand wondering what they can do, not only for those effected, but for their own families and neighbors.


An article by CBS News this morning shares important information for residents to consider about their insurance and their wildfire risk.  Carole Walker, the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA), is quoted in the article explaining that, ““Anytime that we have these headline-making catastrophic wildfires or you can smell the smoke, that’s when people are getting that teachable moment, to realize how would I be financially prepared,” she said. “It’s a wakeup call. We have seen these risks increase.””


The article details considerations on annual assessments, home contents coverage, fire risk mitigation, and rebuilding challenges.


Carole Walker will also be joining Firewise on September 15th at 2pm EDT for an already planned virtual workshop and we encourage you to attend.  Carole will share what insurance companies know about your property, how they make policy related decisions and most importantly, how to ensure your policy is all you think it is when a wildfire strikes. Carole will also discuss what your relationship can be with your insurance provider against the common threat of wildfire.


In addition, the RMIIA has valuable information and pointers on insurance and preparedness on their wildfire risk webpage.


Photo Credit: la-me-blue-cut-fire-photos-20160816-018, Gina Ferazzi - The Los Angeles Times.  Pulled 18 August 2016, Live updates: Blue Cut fire marches toward Angeles Crest Highway with dozens of homes in its path - LA Times


We want to hear from you! It's easy to comment on posts: just look for the log in link above to log in 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!

fire break.JPGThe August 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:

  • The wildfire potential forecast for the U.S. through October
  • An invitation to the next virtual workshop that will highlight wildfire and homeowners insurance
  • A look at a new research project underway that will focus on developing a process for urban evacuations during a wildfire
  • The updated Firewise Toolkit that features a new checklist for wildfire watches and warnings

...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.

Firewise a grass roots neighborhood program, engages residents in activities throughout the community to make changes Quemado Lakes Estates.pngto their homes and properties enabling them to become more resilient. Hosting a Firewise Day is part of the community recognition process.  Firewise Days that are meaningful, and have an impact on the community are those that encourage fellow residents to actively participate in communitywide projects. Some Firewise Communities host project open houses,that enable residents to better understand the progress and impact of their project work.  This also provides an opportunity for the community to share with agency partners about the project work completed and planned.  Sharing information like this in an informal setting helps to promote the work that the community is doing and enhance communication between interested parties to continue making progress.  Read about the story of one Firewise Community and learn how you can host a successful Firewise Day.


Quemado Lakes Estates, New Mexico

The Quemado Lakes Estates Firewise group held a “Tour the Canyons” event for Firewise Day. The tour showed residents the progress of the Quemado Lake Estates Forest Restoration Project, which was carried out by New Mexico Forestry Division and Catron County in and around the community, to mitigate fire danger and chimney effects of wildland fires in the nearby forest area. The project is thinning the forest by removing invasive Pinon/Juniper seedlings, saplings, and small trees.

The event was well attended by 26 community residents, plus 3 members of Catron County staff, and 3 NM Forestry Division representatives. The meeting was very informative, and residents saw a big difference between proper thinning procedures and not thinning at all, as demonstrated by two of the lots affected by the project.

Quemado Lakes Estates tells us, “Our Firewise event had a positive impact on our community by giving our residents factual information about the process of thinning, and the various techniques used by the NM Forestry to mitigate the overgrown canyon forest, reduce the amount of hazardous fuels, and reduce the impact of wildland fire destruction. These same techniques are useful to property.

                                      The before and after is of a Pondersosa Pine thinning project submitted to NFPA's Firewise Communities Program® by the community.


What is Mastication?

Posted by faithberry Employee Aug 15, 2016

When I first heard about mastication the first thing that came to mind was chewing something yummy.  In the fire prevention arena mastication is the process of “chewing up” vegetation with machinery.  This is just another means of utilizing a tool to reduce fuels in communities.  I have learned about a variety of types of equipment utilized by communities and agencies to get the job completed.  For those of you who did not get the shiny piece of equipment that you were looking for under your tree, I am including some YouTube™ examples of this type of heavy equipment hard at work.

Image 1
: A masticator hard at work. (source: Fire Science Brief, Issue 47, May 2009)

Video 1: Masticator with reticulating arm working in Virginia City Highlands outside of Reno Nevada.  This type of masticator can be manipulated easily to only chew up certain clumps of vegetation and works well in areas where communities only want to select certain clumps of bushes to be removed and others to remain.

Video 2: A masticator with rubber tracks working in Lake Tahoe California.

Key points of the masticating fuels study were:

  • Mastication combined with prescribed burning results in favorable outcomes in terms of burning goals, including fuel reduction.
  • All mastication treatments added fuel load to the forest floor, but the amounts varied by fuel size class and treatment.
  • Mastication equipment used in this study was successful at thinning non-merchantable trees and there was minimal damage to residual over story trees.
  • Burning after mastication reduced fuel across treatments. Burning after mastication also significantly decreased fuel bed, litter, and duff depth.
  • Mastication treatments lowered fire intensity potential because the likelihood of a forest crown or canopy fire is reduced.
  • Soil heating was relatively low within all mastication treatment units that were burned.
  • Fire following mastication generally supported forest management goals.
  • Average cost was comparable to other fuel treatment methods, and may be more efficient.


Image 2: Mastication: coarse fuels treatment (Left) fine fuels treatment (Right). (Source: Fire Science Brief, Issue 47, May 2009).


If your community is considering utilizing this type of heavy equipment for a fuels reduction project,  first contact your local land management agency regarding environmental compliance requirements.  Some types of heavy equipment may not be utilized close to streams and rivers or in other sensitive plant community areas.  Your state forester can also help you with information about these requirements.  For information vist the National Association of State Foresters website.  For information about Firewise Communities/USA® successes visit this weblink.

Southwest FSC.jpg

On Monday August 22nd at 12:00 pm MDT and in Arizona 11:00 am a free webinar is being offered by the Southwest Fire Science Consortium about how researchers can meet the Joint Fire Science Program Date availability requirement. The Joint Fire Science Consortium, according to their website, is “a way for managers, scientists and policy makers to interact and share science.  Our goal is to see the best science used to make management decisions and scientists working on the questions managers need answered."


The webinar offered on August 22nd,  “will review the two paths for satisfying the data requirement, discuss in detail what is needed for publishing research data through the Forest Service Research Data Archive, and provide tips for making those submissions as smooth as possible.”  The presenters are Laurie Porth and Dave Rugg, with the U.S. Forest Service Research Data Archive. If you are interested in this webinar you can register free online today.



Firewise Communities have learned that improvements need to be made to the home and the landscape immediately surrounding the home to give homes a fighting chance in the event of a wildland fire.  This one-two punch helps homes to better be able to survive, especially when fire department resources are stressed due to large fire incidents.  Read their stories and learn how you can emulate their success.  NFPA’s Firewise program offers many no cost resources that will provide you with science-based guidance to make changes to your property to become more resilient in the event of a wildland fire.


Travis Country at Austin, Texas


On Firewise Day, the Travis Country Firewise Committee held a community meeting. Representatives of the Texas Forest Service, Austin Fire Department, and the City of Austin’s Wildland Division presented information on hardening homes and defensible space and answered residents’ questions.


Travis country tells us, “Our regional firefighters and land managers shared with residents the importance of “hardening our homes” and creating shaded fuel breaks along the wildland urban interface. They addressed residents’ concerns about standing dead cedar and described how to properly reduce fuels in our greenbelt. We continue to enjoy a close partnership, and have more activities planned for the future.”


Canyon Springs at Hunt, Texas


On Firewise Day, the Canyon Springs Homeowners Association held its annual meeting, which featured a talk on the Canyon City residents chipping woody debris.pngimportance of defensible space in protecting homes from wildfire, and how to create and maintain defensible space. This was followed up with a Firewise clean-up day. Owners were asked to haul brush to the curb, and the community rented a chipper to dispose of limbs and branches.


Canyon Springs tells us, “The Firewise Communities Program and training has been a major incentive for Canyon Springs Ranch owners to remove “down and dead” fuels, standing dead trees, ladder fuels, and leaves, and create defensible space around homes. The land surrounding the homes looks much healthier and the risk of catastrophic loss of homes due to fire is diminished. We have Mountain Juniper and Scrub Oak everywhere, and they crowd out the larger trees and create a nightmare fire situation. The small dry fuels cause very rapid fire spread and impossible access. We remove downed, dead, ladder fuels, and small cedars to allow a canopy/shaded fuel break, and create large firebreaks wherever needed. Most of this is accomplished by the owners, sometimes assisted by Firewise volunteers and a rented chipper.”

                                                                                                                                       Picture of Canyon City residents chipping wood debris submitted by the community

Firewise Communities have engaged in a variety of activities to share how residents can create more resilient communities in the event of a wildland fire.


Some have created some great products on their own to improve their ability to communicate the Firewise preparedness message including e-newsletters, online surveys and in this case a beautiful video that was produced with grant funding.  We all have the opportunity to create unique products. The NFPA's Firewise website can provide you with a host of resources and materials to be successful as you develop your own unique outreach materials and educational events.


Hidden Lake at Ocate, New Mexico

On Firewise Day, Hidden Lake Firewise Committee conducted a Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone assessment for Spyglass condos and submitted a report. The group also provided Firewise brochures and information at the annual HOA meetings, and at the Angel Fire Resort HOA meeting.


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. The video makes a direct appeal to homeowners to take control of their environment and become stewards of their piece of the forest. It discusses the threat of fire, why it has become worse in the last 100 years, outlines the concepts and actions of the Ready, Set, Go! program, and makes a case for how quickly a healthy environment can come back from a fire. The video is called “Saving the Mountain, Saving Your Home” and is available on YouTube.


Hidden Lake says, "Through our educational efforts we are making our residents aware of the hazards surrounding their homes and the dangerous conditions in the dense forests, with closely spaced trees, and considerable dead and downed material.  With about 1/2 of the 99 lots on Hidden Lake still requiring considerable thinning and clean-up to reduce the wildfire hazard, it is a wildfire waiting to start.  An errant discarded cigarette or a lightning strike will be catastrophic.

000450.jpgA recent white paper by Montana-based Headwaters Economics asks whether insurance rates and policies influence new development on fire-prone lands, as well as whether they have a role in reducing risk from wildfires in existing developed areas. In examining available data, trends, media reports and interviewing industry experts, they find that insurance today has little influence on new development, but a potentially large and growing role in reducing risk to existing properties.


The conclusions on Headwaters' web page give a good overview of the issues and challenges that insurers face when coping with the risk of property loss and damage to wildfires. The paper is brief and easy to read, and loaded with references to articles, data and studies. I found those references within the PDF document easy to link out to so that I could read some more and determine whether I agreed with the researchers' conclusions. Interesting to me were industry and popular media articles that focused on whether fire departments could access homes and even drew the conclusion that new construction was less insurable than existing property because it was being built on more and more marginal fire-prone land. There were many fewer media references to the value of standards in home construction and the home ignition zone.


I found good news in the section of the white paper that addressed the question of whether and how insurers could influence risk reduction to existing properties. Insurance companies themselves as well as their industry communications arms such as the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA), the Insurance Information Institute (III), and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCIAA) are referencing sound construction, non-flammable roofs, and well-maintained defensible space via landscaping in their consumer literature and, in some cases, in their underwriting decisions. Firewise principles as well as industry-supported activity like State Farm's sponsorship of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and USAA's provision of Firewise discounts for its members in several western states are noted among the examples of this trend and the ability of insurers to influence risk reduction.


Read more about the findings, the challenges, and trends to watch on Headwaters Economics' website.


Photo credit: Cheryl Blake. Cedar Fire, San Diego County, California, 2003.


We want to hear from you! It's easy to comment on posts: just look for the log in link above to log in 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!


NFPA's annual Conference & Expo attracts some 5,000 attendees from all over the nation and the world who are looking for information, knowledge and tools they can use right away in their jobs. With great attendance in Las Vegas in June 2016, a full wildland fire education session track was successful in conveying key information about fire investigation, risk assessment, new research, insurance, community engagement techniques, youth education initiatives and more.


For 2017, we’re looking for exciting and engaging sessions on all aspects of wildland fire safety. We're particularly interested in proposals that offer:

  • Case studies that detail a specific problem you faced, how you solved it, what you learned, and what lessons can be applied to other circumstances
  • Practical sessions that address common challenges or experiences in the field, or present new solutions to existing problems
  • Interactive panel discussions that examine a single concept from multiple perspectives and encourage attendees to re-examine their own assumptions or practices
  • Explanations of new approaches to long-time problems

For ideas, you can take a look at previous presentations and/or listen to several recorded sessions online.

Applications must be received by Monday, September 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm ET. Selection will be based on quality, relevance, focus, practical application, and on the presenter’s experience and credentials. NFPA's 2017 Conference & Expo will be held in Boston, Massachusetts, June 4-7, 2017.

For assistance regarding the content of your session, please contact Stacey Moriarty at For other questions regarding the process, please contact Andrea White at

The recent emergency evacuation of approximately 100,000 citizens of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada has emphasized the need to build more resilient communities when threatened by a large wildfire. To effectively plan for scenarios requiring large-scale urban evacuation, like during the 2016 Fort McMurray Fire, several factors need to be considered including fire and smoke movement, vehicle transport, and crowd evacuation.


A new project funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will look at currently-available models for these different conditions and how they work together including the sharing and transfer of information. This project, e-Murrary, seeks to build a novel computational simulation toolkit that will aid in the planning, preparation, and training of a community near wildland. It will combine fire spread, traffic flows, and pedestrian movement all at the urban scale that will pave the way to better planning of safe and quick urban evacuations caused by wildfire disasters.


You can learn more about this project on the Research Foundation website.

The National Interagency Fire Center, (NIFC), has released its latest Predictive Services product giving us an idea on what the seasonal outlook is for wildfire potential. Covering August through November, the report’s findings are somewhat expected until we get into October/November for the Southeastern U.S.

extended_outlook (1).png

August is pretty much as expected with above normal potential for most of California, southern Idaho, Montana, western Wyoming and the Great Basin.  As we move into September, those northern areas will transition back towards normal potential while southern California will remain high and central southern Texas will climb towards above normal.


However, October and November will see almost the entire southeast and much of the eastern seaboard all the way to New Jersey climb to above normal due to increased drought conditions.  Southern California will remain high with
expected Santa Ana wind conditions.  For the full report see here.


Much of this change will be driven by a waning El Nino as we transition towards La Nina conditions into next year.  Gary Wood, Southeast Regional Coordinator for the National Cohesive Wildland Strategy says that drier conditions in fall are not unusual for the Southeast, but are increased as La Nina conditions develop.

For specific predictive information on the southeast, see here.


Most of central and southern Florida will be at normal potential during this time, however, some reports of central Florida having twice the number of brush fires this July and August may counter what the prediction is currently calling for.
(see article here).


So, while most areas of the nation will start to see fire potential decrease, the Southeast may be in for an interesting fall season.

A large wildfire in the Big Sur, California area called the Soberanes Fire which was reportedly started by an illegal campfire CAL FIRE.jpghas caused one death, the loss of over 50 homes and thousands of evacuations.    The last CAL FIRE update August 5th indicated that 53,690 acres burned and the fire is only 35% contained.  CAL FIRE has indicated on their update page that the total number personnel on the fire line to date is 5,533.


According to the article, CAL FIRE is looking for information about who started and then abandoned a campfire in Garrapata State Park on July 22nd.  The persons or person who started the fire may face criminal charges and have to pay fines because of the cost of the fire and the loss of life and property. CAL FIRE has even set up a designated tip phone line (800) 468-4408.


This fire has caused the closure of many parks in this region at the height of tourist season which is also causing a loss in ecotourism purchases for the surrounding communities’ businesses.   The parks closed according to CAL FIRE’s update include;  Point Sur State Historic Park (Lighthouse), Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground and Day Use.  A forest closure order has also been implemented to close the trails and roads within the Los Padres National Forest Monterey Ranger District pursuant to USC551 and 36 CFR 261.50 (a).  The order prohibits going into or being upon National Forest System lands within the Soberanes Fire area.


Campfires are a fun part of a summer adventure if proper precautions are taken.  Did you know that the NFPA has a free downloadable tip sheet with information about campfire safety?


A few of the safety tips include:

  • If campfires are permitted, they need to be at least 25 feet away from any structure and anything that can burn.
  • Clear away dry leaves and sticks, overhanging low branches and shrubs.
  • Avoid burning on windy days. It is easier for open burning to spread out of control when it is windy and dry.
  • Attend to the campfire at all times.  A campfire left alone for only a few minutes can grow into a damaging fire.


Have fun this summer but take precautions to make sure that the results of your time in the outdoors are only good memories, and not loss caused by a wildfire.


                                                                                              Picture of the Soberanes Fire from the CAL FIRE Twitter feed

Firewise Communities across the nation have learned to work collaboratively with many different stakeholders including Lakeway Firewise Committee 4th of July Parade.jpginsurance professionals, realtors, educators, researchers, youth and their local fire departments.  Many communities have unique success stories to share about innovative approaches they have taken to engage their neighbors in wildfire preparedness activities. You have the opportunity to learn from and emulate their successes by reading their stories.


Lakeway, Texas

Lakeway held several Firewise events in 2014. On Firewise Day, they held greenbelt clean-up day. Volunteers from Keller Williams Realty worked on fuels reduction for their annual day of service. Working with Lake Travis Fire Rescue, 75 volunteers pulled 20 tons of brush from behind homes and out of the greenbelt. The brush was chipped and put in dumpsters. The City of Lakeway provided the chipping and traffic control. The City of Lakeway and Lakeway Firewise Committee gave Keller Williams Lake Travis a Platinum Certificate of Appreciation for their outstanding contribution to public welfare.


Lakeway also held a educational/fun event with displays on home hardening, defensible space, and Firewise landscaping, an opportunity to take pictures with Smokey Bear, lessons on how to shoot a fire hose, and more. This event was coordinated with The Steiner Ranch Firewise Committee and Lake Travis Fire Rescue. Other activities included carrying the local Firewise banner and handing out information at the annual 4th of July parade, and a Home Ignition Zone training class with classroom instruction and outdoor practice assessments.

Lakeway tells us, “Our Firewise Committee has a great mix of volunteers with different talents and skills from communications, to event planning, to master gardening. The wildfire prevention specialist from our local fire department, who serves on our committee, deserves a lot of credit for keeping us on track and moving forward.”

Leon Valley at San Antonio, Texas

On Firewise Day, Leon Valley Fire Department toured the shaded fuelbreak with students and discussed how the fuelbreak protects homes from wildfire, and how it was completed with the assistance of different stakeholders.

Other actions during the year included:

  • Bi-annual trimming and clearing of the shaded fuel break in the park;
  • An all day class with many speakers on topics relating to Wildland Urban Interface vegetation management and wildfire response. Leon Valley Fire Chief Valdez was part of an expert panel on wildland fire.
  • Sustainable living event, an all day sharing of environmentally sound community practices. Fire department personnel manned a booth educating participants on Firewise practices.

Leon Valley shared with us, “One of the most important things we do as firefighters is,spend time twice a year and cut and maintain a shaded fuel break in an urban-wildland interface area of the city. When citizens see firefighters doing this work, it becomes more than maintenance, it becomes prevention through purpose and hard work. Besides the nice break on insurance cost that some of our citizens receive from USAA, the fact that our community works together to keep everyone safe is payment.“


                                                                                                               Picture of the Lakeway Firewise Committee at the local 4th of July parade.

DotEarth.JPGUnder the heading "Resilience," Dot Earth blog author Andrew Rivkin has assembled a compendium of "Burning Issues Confronting California," in his quest to cover changes in policies and strategies on how our country's most fireprone regions cope with the reality of wildfire.

According to Rivkin, a long-time Times journalist and a Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University's Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies, he is "in the middle of writing a longer piece on proposed strategies for 'living with fire' in regions like southern California - which are inherently prone to fire and face a growing hazard under trends linked to global warming."


His post weaves together informed opinion, policy debate, compelling videos, and a re-imagining of the wildfire safety icon, Smokey Bear. Among the videos is NFPA's own short piece starring recently-retired Forest Service researcher Dr. Jack Cohen, showing how you can help your home survive a wildfire.


Unlike many opinion blogs, the 50+ comments you can read there are by and large thoughtful and worth reviewing. I look forward to more from Rivkin on this important topic.

FireWise_Version1.jpgDiscover the three distinct areas surrounding residences that comprise the home ignition zone and learn the role mitigation and maintenance play in improving the chances of homes surviving a wildfire during the next Ask an Expert workshop on Tuesday, August 16. This one-hour look into the three unique zones will leave you viewing your landscape through a different set of eyes.


The Firewise Ask an Expert virtual workshop series provides conference quality, free learning opportunities for wildfire stakeholders, by connecting them with leading researchers and practitioners in a live interactive format. Each hour-long session features a 45-minute wildfire related topic and closes with 15 minutes of questions received directly from live participants.


The Get to Know the Home Ignition Zone session features Ask an Expert guest Gary Marshall, one of NFPA’s Wildfire Field Reps.


Advance registration is required.


2016 Calendar

Workshop #1 - Wednesday, July 27 at 1pm MDT:  Power of Embers with Steve Quarles, PH.D., IBHS Research Center

Workshop #2 - Tuesday, August 16 at 1pm MDT:  Home Ignition Zone

Workshop #3 - Thursday, September 16 at Noon MDT:  Understanding Insurance in the Wildland Urban Interface

Workshop #4 - Tuesday, October 11 at 11am MDT:  Community Risk Reduction Success Stories

Workshop #5 - Wednesday, November 9 at 1pm MDT:  Wildland Urban Legends

NASA utilizes satellite imagery to monitor fires and climate conditions across the globe.  Being able to predict

wildfire conditions ahead of time can help areas around the world with increased wildfire risk (due to rising temperatures and drought), develop an integrated planning approach to help prepare communities before a wildfire event.


According to a short YouTube video posted by NASA, due to the warm dry conditions created by this year’s El Nino weather system, the southern basin of the Amazon region is the driest that it has been in fourteen years.

According to a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, Forecasting dry season fire activity in the Amazon is a recent undertaking, developed in 2011 in a joint effort by University of California, Irvine, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It considers the relationship between climate and active fire detections from NASA satellites, of particular interest being the link between fire activity and sea surface temperatures.”


The article further shared that large wildfires in this area can contribute to the degradation of air quality from the smoke in areas as far away as Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.


Does your community have a plan to lessen your risk before a wildfire event? No cost resources on NFPA’s Firewise website can help.

There is a great quote by Abraham Lincoln: "Determine that the thing can and shall be done and then we shallVersante Canyon.jpg find the way."  It is always amazing to me how Firewise Communities build such a collaborative effort between neighbors and partners as they work together to become more resilient from wildfire.  The most sustainable community efforts seem to be those that begin by working hard to develop an accurate assessment of their risks by engaging their local fire departments and land managing agencies having jurisdiction.  Once they have collaboratively determined what the risks are based on sound Firewise principles, they develop plans of action that address realistic steps that can be taken to lessen the risk.  Finally, they seem to see their risk through the eyes of shared ownership and together work to create safer communities.  Read the story of these two Firewise Communities on their journey to creating safer neighborhoods with working partnerships that make a difference.


West Lake Hills at Austin, Texas

West Lake Hills held a public meeting on Firewise Day. Topics discussed included Firewise defensible space recommendations, the Ready, Set, Go! Program, and tips on what the community can do to improve their survivability in case of a wildfire. Other topics included proposed tree trimming ordinances, and a water supply improvement plan for the District. Emergency managers used the meeting as a planning session, and presented a wildfire scenario with a discussion of how to provide better community information (PIO) during a wildfire.


West Lake Hills says, “The Firewise Communities program gave our community a blueprint and process to make decisions on improving the safety of the community. Combined efforts over several years have brought awareness and preparedness to the community, should a wildfire occur.”


Versante Canyon at Austin, Texas

Versante Canyon worked with many agencies, including Austin Fire Department Wildfire Division and Texas A&M Forest Service to become a Firewise Community. For Firewise Day, they held a public education event with mitigation techniques taught by the Fire Chief and Austin Fire Department. This was followed by a community clean-up day. Austin Fire Department Engine 39 participated in the clean-up day, and the community focused on reducing fuels in the common spaces.


Versante Canyon says, “The best defense against the dangers of wildland fires is educating your friends, family, and neighbors through material that makes the threat personal and real. Including area firefighters in the educational meetings motivates and inspires them to take the necessary actions to protect their homes and neighborhood.

                                                                                                                                                                               Picture of the Versante Firewise Community and local fire department submitted by the community

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