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2016

PCI Property Casualty Insurers Association of the United States hosted a congressional hearing on Thursday the 29th of Congress.jpgSeptember.  The purpose of the hearing, “Natural Disasters, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery”  on Capitol Hill was to provide Congressional aids with resources to help their constituents take effective action to mitigate before a wildfire event.

 

According to their press release, “The event was the second installment in PCI’s 2016 Capital Engagement Series. Tom Glassic, PCI’s vice president, policy and government relations opened the event. Jenn Fogel-Bublick, SmarterSafer Coalition moderated the panel of experts including Debra Ballen, general counsel and senior vice president of public policy at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS); Faith Berry, associate project manager, wildfire division at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA); Carl Hedde, senior vice president, head of risk accumulation at PCI member Munich Re; Doug Hilderbrand, lead of NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation; and Bryan Rice, director of the Office of Wildland Fire (OWF) at the Department of the Interior.”

 

NFPA’s presentation at the event focused on wildfire-related events and described current research NFPA is directly sponsoring and conducting and also what resources NFPA offers to help with wildfire mitigation.

 

The presentation and handout resources that NFPA provided were well received by the audience.    It was a lot of fun to Go Kit.jpgparticipate because the audience (mainly congressional aids, future legislative leaders) were so interested in the topic and it was interesting to hear what fellow panel members shared about some Faith.jpgcutting edge technological advancements.

 

Questions were raised about how legislators can help become a part of the solution, because they were concerned about the magnitude of wildfire-related losses and how this cost is exponentially growing.  There was interest in the NFPA’s Wildland and Rural Fire Protection Standards including NFPA 1141 and 1144.  They were interested in exploring how NFPA’s standards could be adopted in whole or in part by states and communities in order to create more resilient communities.

 

Two of NFPA’s handouts at the presentation the Firewise Toolkit and Take Action’s new Backpack Emergency Go Kit were a big hit.  These resources are currently available in a downloadable PDF format on NFPA’s website. It was so encouraging to see Congressional member interest in becoming an integral part of the solution to preventing loss from wildfires.

Many Firewise communities are actively working towards creating safer neighborhoods in multiple ways on multiple days throughout the year.  Their Firewise Day transcends into days of education, fun and work projects throughout the year.  NFPA’s Firewise© program can provide guidance and support to these communities as they reach towards creating safer communities to live, work and play in. Read the story of these two Firewise Communities to learn how you can become the spark for lasting change in yours.

 

Chaparral Pines at Payson, Arizona

Chaparral Pines held three Firewise events in 2014. There were two “dumpster days”, one in the Spring, and one in the Fall. In advance of these days, residents were encouraged to do mitigation work on their properties, reducing woody debris and potential fuels, and the HOA picked up all the slash free of charge, and recycled it into useable mulch for maintaining the hiking rails and landscaped areas. The effort produced over 150 tons of removed ladder fuels. In November, the community held an Emergency Evacuation Meeting with the Payson Police Chief, the Fire Chief, the Sheriff’s Department, and the neighborhood’s security team. They also showed the film, “1/3 Mile From Safety, A Family’s Story.

Chaparral Pines shared this with us, “We will be following last year’s successful agenda with the biannual “dumpster days” where we encourage our community residents to firewise their property with a free pick up of their trimming to recycle them into useable mulch. A Living with Wildfires and Homeowners Firewise Guide for Arizona presentation is scheduled of October, along with our Community Evacuation Plan. A Firewise educational trailer will be prominently displayed at the meeting entrance, which contains a variety of free brochures for visitors to take home for reference.”

Banning Creek Canyon at Bisbee, Arizona

Banning Creek Canyon held several Firewise events during 2014. On Firewise Day, members of the Banning Creek Firewise group manned a Firewise Education Booth at the Bisbee Farmers’ Market. They passed out literature and talked to neighbors about how to reduce fuels around their homes. The group also held four educational meetings and several community clean-up days scattered throughout the year, including fuels reduction work performed by the Douglas Department of Corrections Wildfire Crew. The Banning Creek Canyon Firewise group volunteers to clean up a mile of highway in the canyon.

Banning Creek Canyon shared with us, “The Firewise program has not only educated me in the safety of my home and property, but has put me in contact with the Arizona State Lands Department, which has assessed properties and helped to clear fuels for ten years. The program has also brought together neighbors who live miles from each other, giving us common goals, and a willingness to help one another in keeping our properties defensible.”

Homeowners in rural communities - what do you know about your water supply?

 

Water is an important part of life, according the United States Geological Survey about 71% of the earth's surface is covered in it [1] and an adult male's body is made up of about 60% of it [2]. We use in so many parts of our lives: cleaning and cleaning, cooling, transportation, farming, manufacturing, and recreation to name a few.

 

Water is also one of the most common agent used for fire protection. It has chemical and physical properties that make it an effective suppressant and as mentioned previously there is a lot of it. We have also developed effective methods for transporting water from one location to another, usually through pipes, and then storing it. In most urban and suburban areas there is a municipal water supply system that can provide the flows and pressures required for domestic, industrial, and fire protection.

 

In rural areas buildings are often spread out over a large area and it becomes less efficient to install and maintain a municipal water supply system. Underground wells can provide water to domestic uses but may not be sufficient for fire protection.

 

Fire departments operating in rural areas will develop pre-plans for water supply operations for fires. This may include identifying sources of water, such as rivers or other bodies of water that can be drafted from, as well as the method for delivering it to the scene of the fire, either through long hose lays or possibly water tender relays.

 

If you live in a rural area without municipal water it is important you be aware of the fire departments needs to establish water supply in the case of a fire. Boulder County Colorado has developed a document that provides information on emergency water supply for firefighting.

 

I would like to start a discussion about rural water supply and what the needs and expectations are for the different parties involved including community planners and emergency responders. Future blog posts will address current design requirements for rural firefighting water supply, both for structural and wildland & wildland-urban interface fires.

 

Participate in the discussion by adding a comment about what your role is and what you know about rural water supply. Scroll to the top of the page to login or signup if you do not already have an account - you do not need to be an NFPA member to participate in the Xchange.

 

References

[1] How much water is there on Earth, from the USGS Water Science School

[2] Water properties: The water in you (Water Science School)

Firewise communities can grow into a generational activity, where family members mentor each other and pass down a Picture.jpgsense of respect for their homes and environment.  They teach the younger generation the importance of taking actions based upon sound Firewise principles to make themselves and their property safer in the event of a wildfire.  Read how one Firewise Community has embraced this key to success.

 

Lake Shore Park Homes – Bass Lake at Bass Lake, California

 

The residents at Lake Shore Park Homes held a community clean-up and work day for Firewise Day. The neighbors got together and worked on clearing woody debris around homes, pruning and limbing up trees, raking leaves, and burning slash.

 

Lake Shore Park says, “I guess a prime ingredient in our success is continuous learning of techniques to make things better, understanding the fuel ladder, and networking with various fire protection agencies. It’s science, common sense, trial and error all combined. It is enthusiasm and hard work! Traditions and pride play a big role. Many of our member families have passed down their homes for three generations. We love our homes; we love our lake. The youngest children learn about the importance of caring and being fire safe from their parents and grandparents.

                                                 Picture of residents from Lake Shore Park Homes - Bass Lake, California working together on a Firewise project.

Are you covered in case of disaster? Having a homeowner’s insurance policy won’t prevent a wildfire, earthquake or hurricane from damaging or destroying your property, but it can be the key to long-term recovery from a major loss. Having insurance is important, but, as I’ve written for Fire Break before, you’ve also got to have enough insurance, and you’ve got to know what’s covered.

 

As September and Preparedness Month enter their final week, this is a great time for everyone to make that all-important call to their insurance agent and review what’s covered in their homeowner’s or renter’s policy. The majority of Americans with insurance simply do not have adequate insurance to help them recover from a significant loss. In a recent Firewise Virtual Workshop featuring consumer advocate Carole Walker of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA), she emphasizes that an annual insurance checkup can help you ensure you have the coverage you need, within the limits you can afford.

 

Should the worst happen, it also pays to “know your stuff.” The Insurance Information Institute has a great Know Your Stuff home inventory app that makes it easy for you to catalog the value of your belongings. Author, researcher, and wildfire survivor Linda Masterson is one of the most prepared people I have met, but even she says she wishes she had known more and done more about a home inventory before she lost her home and most of her possessions to a wildfire.

 

Learn more about what you can do to be financially prepared by watching our virtual workshops featuring Carole Walker and Linda Masterson, checking out www.knowyourstuff.org, and reviewing great materials from FEMA and Ready.gov.

Training up the next generation of homeowners is an important part of growing the Firewise®  program. Many communitiesEureka County, NV The Ember House.jpg employ different types of activities to engage children and youth in educational activities about wildfire, including carnivals, coloring contests, school activities, community service work projects and more.  These events can generate positive action that makes a difference in the safety of the community.  Read the uplifting story of Crescent Valley and Beowawe in Eureka, Nevada to see how they developed an educational opportunity that makes a difference in their neighborhoods.

 

Crescent Valley and Beowawe at Eureka, Nevada

Crescent Valley and Beowawe Community Firewise Committee sponsored a high-flying, educational, fun for the whole family day on Firewise Day. The highlight of the event was free Smokey Bear hot air balloon rides.  Approximately 175 people attended the event coordinated by Eureka County Firewise Communities and Battle Mountain District of BLM. The residents listened to talks about protecting their homes from wildfire and how to prepare for an emergency. Children played games, such as a game of skill that demonstrates how embers can enter a home, met Smokey Bear, and explored fire trucks. Volunteers and vendors sponsored booths, including Diamond Mountain, FFA, Barrick-Cortez Mine, NV Department of Forestry, Eureka County, Eureka County Emergency Medical Services, Eureka County Search & Rescue, BLM-Battle Mountain District, Golden Oldies, Crescent Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Eureka County Department of Natural Resources, Living with Fire, and Firewise Communities/USA. Food was served.

 

Crescent Valley/Beowawe tells us, “This year’s event was a success. The Eureka County Firewise events have not only educated residents, but also impacted many of them. Residents have made their homes more defensible and firewise due to our events and outreach efforts.”

                                                                                       Children learn while they play at the "Ember House" in Eureka County, Nevada

FirewiseWildfire_snap.JPGLast week, an op-ed in California’s Sacramento-Bee and an editorial by the Bend Bulletin in Oregon each wrestled with the issue of housing and commercial development in the wildland-urban interface (and beyond) as the expanding wildfire threat engulfs both states.

 

Both pieces explain the rural county development challenge from two different prospectives, and echo the supporters on each side of this argument as well.

 

Combating rural sprawl to permit the natural course of fire ecology in a new normal of climate change meets the need for affordable housing in places that are green-belt confined to strike a balance with nature.

 

I encourage you to read both the op-ed and the editorial pieces and, as we always appeal for on NFPA’s Xchange, share your thoughts in the comments below.  It's easy to comment on posts and engages you in the larger Xchange community.

 

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!

 

Photo Credit: The Firewise Photo Library

YMI.png

With more than 8 million students in grades 6-12 living in at-risk communities National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Young Minds Inspired (YMI) have teamed up to provide 3 no cost virtual field trip videos and accompanying lesson plans for teachers to help students better understand wildfires as well as empower them with the knowledge that they need to lessen that risk.  These videos and downloadable lesson plans meet Common Core requirements for English Language Arts, and can be used by educators (teachers and fire and life safety educators in fire departments) to help students learn more about wildfire and wildfire-related risks.

 

The video series examines the aftermath of three major wildfires in the United States and short and long term impacts.  The purpose of the series is to help students understand why homes burn and learn what they can do to do to lessen their family’s risk of loss due to a wildfire event.

 

The first video from homeowners Peggy and Noble Kelly’s perspective talks about what their experience was one year after the Okanogan County, Washington Fire and how they protected their home.  The next video features Wildland Urban Interface Specialist with Texas A&M, Kari Hines five years after the wildfire in Bastrop, Texas.  She informs students about

how low-intensity wildfires are a part of the natural process, and steps people can take to mitigate or lessen their risk of loss to a wildfire.  The third features Kendall Bortisser, fire captain with CAL FIRE, ten years after the Cedar Fire in San Diego, California and Glenn Barley a Region Resource Manager for CAL FIRE in San Bernardino County. This story focusses on lessons learned after the Cedar Wildfire Event included the importance of homeowners maintaining the home ignition zone and damage a high-intensity wildfire event can cause to a watershed. The final video defines steps teens can take to reduce their family’s risk of loss due to a wildfire event as well as the no-cost guide about potential community service projects available to youth as part of NFPA’s TakeAction Initiative.

 

Help students better understand wildfires and how wildfire events are a natural part of our ecosystem and empower them with knowledge to help their families become better prepared before an event occurs.  This science-based knowledge will help them understand how they can be a part of making their homes and communities safer during a wildfire event.

Sunset Vista Estates.jpg

Peace of mind is something that can be obtained by community members as they engage in Firewise project work over time, by improving the overall safety of their neighborhood.  Communities that work together and with agency partners like Sunset Vista Estates can create a better assessment of their risks which in turn helps them plan and implement more effective project work.  Your community can create a healthier and safer place to work and live by becoming Firewise ®.

 

Sunset Vista Estates at Flagstaff, Arizona

 

Sunset Vista Estates held their Firewise Day outdoors in a cul de sac within the community. The Summit Fire District Battalion Chief talked to the group about fire prevention and wildfire mitigation procedures to be used in the community. The Firewise board handed out printed information on reducing fuels and hardening homes to resist wildfire.  Neighbors had the opportunity to ask questions of the Battalion Chief and the Firewise board, and to share useful tips.

 

  Sunset Vista Estates tell us, “”Sunset Vista Estates enjoys the safety and peace of mind of having identified and mitigated our specific wildfire concerns with the help of Firewise and our local fighters. The Firewise events we hold strengthen our neighborhood bond, and help make our community a healthier place to live, work, play, and enjoy Northern Arizona.”

                                                                                                                    Photo submitted by Sunset Vista Estates Firewise Community

september.JPGThe September issue of Fire Break, NFPA Wildfire Division's newsletter, is now available for viewing. Here's what you'll find in this month's issue:

  • Newly updated Home Ignition Zone training
  • Firewise Program 2016 renewal video educates participants on the process
  • Upcoming virtual workshop on wildfire community risk reduction projects
  • Insight from NFPA Research Foundation on the terms "wildfire" and "wildland fire"

...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.

Mitigation Awards Graphic - 9.19.16.jpg

Leaders, innovators and pioneers - stand up and be recognized for your wildfire mitigation achievements! Nominations for the annual 2017 national Wildfire Mitigation Awards is now open and will be accepted through October 30, 2016. The national awards recognize outstanding wildfire mitigation efforts that increase community wildfire risk reduction activities.

 

The awards are sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the USDA Forest Service. In honoring outstanding achievements, the awards create awareness of the value, benefits and importance of wildfire mitigation.

 

Award Designations:

  • National Wildfire Mitigation Award
  • National Mitigation Hero Award
  • National Special Recognition Mitigation Award

 

Nominate an individual, agency (federal, state or local) or organization that has made an outstanding contribution(s) resulting in significant impacts in wildfire mitigation. Read the full criteria outline and guidelines to learn more.

 

The awards will be presented at the annual Wildland-Urban Interface Conference on March 22, 2017, in Reno, Nevada.

 

Take this opportunity to promote and get recognition for successful mitigation projects. Learn more about the award and last year's recipients.

This month is recognized as National Preparedness Month (NPM). Participating in this national event can help you and your family better prepare yourselves before a wildfire event. Are you still wondering what you can do to participate?  NFPA’s TakeAction Initiative has the solution.  The TakeAction initiative provides a free downloadable PDF Wildfire Risk Community Service Project Ideas, that lists 2 dozen project ideas including:

 

  • Dispose of collected debris in appropriate trash receptacles.
  • Get out your measuring tape and see how close wood piles are located to the home. If closer than 30 feet, they need to be relocated and moved at least 30’ away from structures.
  • Sweep porches and decks clearing them of leaves and pine needles.
  • Rake under decks, porches, sheds and play structures and dispose of debris.
  • Mow grasses to a height of four inches or less.
  • Collect downed tree limbs and broken branches in your community and take them to a disposal site.

Before you get started, if the property does not belong to your family it is important to get permission from the property owner before you begin your work.  And make sure that you are safe while you are completing your project by wearing proper safety gear such as long sleeves, gloves, eye protection, boots, long pants etc.  Check out our list of safety protocols before you start as well.

 

By taking steps to prepare yourself, your family, and community today you can be empowered to make better decisions during the event and be better prepared.  Don’t wait, take action today.

Firewise Communities/USA® get busy when it comes to making changes in their neighborhoods.  The Firewise Day for many Spanish Peaks.pngcommunities becomes a work day.  This is an opportunity for the whole neighborhood to get together for a common cause, rolling up their sleeves and making changes to their landscapes or homes that will increase the wildfire safety of their homes and neighborhoods. Many communities create a “Chipper Day” or “Clean Up Day” event that is open to all in the neighborhood.  These types of Firewise Days help communities engage in peer to peer mentoring so that they do not only work together but also share best practices about what types of activities will help make the biggest difference.  Many of these work events end with a community meal or carnival, a reward for their labors.  However, the biggest reward is the satisfaction of knowing that they are working towards keeping their communities safer,  keeping them Firewise.

 

Spanish Peaks at La Veta, Colorado

Spanish Peaks held a “Chipper Day” in July for Firewise Day. The residents were asked to clean up their properties, and stack brush and branches along the road in advance of the rental of the chipper. Residents were asked to stack the limbs and brush with the butt ends all facing in the same direction either toward or parallel to the road, which helps to feed the chipper faster.

On July 12, at 9 AM, 13 volunteers of all ages assembled at the park and started chipping stacks of limbs, brush, and trees. At noon, they stopped for a hot lunch prepared by 4 women in the community. After lunch, they began towing the chipper around the community, chipping the stacks along the road. They put a lot of the chips in trailers to take to the Spanish Peaks Scout Ranch, to help control erosion in the area that burned the year before. They finished chipping at about 4 PM. They noted that the group was able to work faster than the year before.

Spanish Peaks tells us, “The first year we worked for 2 ½ days before completing all the piles. We timed the amount of time required for each stop, so we know approximately the time a pile would take to chip, and determined that $2.00 a minute would pay for the chipper rental and fuel. Stacking the limbs and brush with the butt ends all facing the same direction helped to chip them faster. We were through shortly after 4 PM. We are getting smarter!”

Highlands Park Property Owners Association at Breckenridge, Colorado

The Town of Breckenridge sponsored two 4 day Firewise clean-up events. During August 25-29 and September 15-19, residents were encouraged to clean up their lots, and remove dead trees and slash. Approximately 50 Highland Park Association members participated to clean the lots and areas around structures.

Highland Park Property Owners Association tells us, “The Town of Breckenridge sponsored a community-wide clean-up/removal of dead trees and slash this summer. The project raised awareness of the importance of keeping the area as clean as possible of combustible materials, and helps our residential area to be more fire prevention aware.”

                                                                                                              Spanish Peaks Chipper Day submitted by the community

After reading an article about 4,000 California firefighters battling blazes in that state this month, my mind raced to the Fire in New Jersey Pine Barrens from New Jersey State Forestry Service.pngstaggering costs created by wildfires.  I began to peruse some statistics and discovered the costs were greater that I had imagined.

 

I started with a review of statistics from the National Weather Service.  According to the National Weather Service, “From 2005 to 2014, wildfires resulted in 5.08B USD in total damages. Of that figure, 74.1M dollars came from damage to crops, and 5B dollars from property damage. That total damage cost makes wildfires the ninth most costly natural hazard in the National Weather Service's reports.”

 

However, I realized that these costs were only for property damage and did not include suppression costs.  I pulled some data from the National Interagency Fire Center about the additional costs to taxpayers for suppressing wildfires during the same period from 2005-2014 and realized that this cost added a whopping 14 B to the costs caused by wildfires. The total costs for property damage and suppression for these years was over 19 B. These costs do not take into consideration injuries and deaths of both civilians and firefighters caused by these disasters.

 

Data extracted from the National Interagency FireCenter

YEAR

FIRES

ACRES

FOREST SERVICE

DOI AGENCIES

TOTAL

2005

66,753

8,689,389

$524,900,000

$294,054,000

$818,954,000

2006

96,385

9,873,745

$1,280,419,000

$424,058,000

$1,704,477,000

2007

85,705

9,328,045

$1,149,654,000

$470,491,000

$1,620,145,000

2008

78,979

5,292,468

$1,193,073,000

$392,783,000

$1,585,856,000

2009

78,792

5,921,786

$702,111,000

$218,418,000

$920,529,000

2010

71,971

3,422,724

$578,285,000

$231,214,000

$809,499,000

2011

74,126

8,711,367

$1,055,736,000

$318,789,000

$1,374,525,000

2012

67,774

9,326,238

$1,436,614,000

$465,832,000

$1,902,446,000

2013

47,579

4,319,546

$1,341,735,000

$399,199,000

$1,740,934,000

2014

63,212

3,595,613

$1,195,955,000

$326,194,000

$1,522,149,000

Department of Interior agencies (DOI) are: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management; National Park Service; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

According to other research the economic impacts are much more far reaching and should include:

 

  • Replacement of lost facilities and associated infra-structure (cell phone towers, damaged water service, damaged phone and electrical infrastructure etc.)
  • Watershed and water quality mitigation
  • The long term effects of smoke on health/medical costs
  • Disaster relief costs
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Sensitive species and habitat restoration.
  • Lost business revenue
  • Lost tourism dollars

 

The real costs can be staggering. Thinking about these figures paints a bleak picture.  So what can we do today to lessen these costs? More in-depth studies of the economic effects in the aftermath of wildfires would better equip policy makers to have a better understanding of the true costs of these disasters and the value of implementing mitigation measures before an event.   However, this is just one part of the picture, perhaps additional studies could be conducted about how properly implemented mitigation measures can lessen these costs and damage. Some studies have shown that making Firewise® changes to the home itself and the landscape surrounding the home can make a difference in the survivability of the home.  

 

The investment in time and money to take care of the little things around the home like cleaning debris out of the gutters and off the roof, removing wood mulch and wood piles away from the 5-10 foot zone around the home replacing vents, windows etc. and cleaning up trash (those treasures we just can’t do without) from immediately around the home can make a difference in the outcome during a wildfire disaster.  This is money and time well invested implementing NFPA’s Firewise principles. You can also help your neighborhood work together as a Firewise Community continuing to make change year by year to your community.  These changes over time can increase your neighborhood’s survivability.   We can learn from the past and we can each implement solutions today that can make a difference.

                                                                                                         Wildfire image from New Jersey State Forest Service

The September/October NFPA Journal is out and in its WildfireWatch Column, I reflect on a wildfire fatality of an elderly couple in California last June.  The tragic story of the couple succumbing to the smoke and dying, embraced in each other’s arms at the corner of their property, brought the complexities of evacuation into focus for me.

 

Wildfire cover photo NFPA Journal Sept16 WildfireWatch Column wildfire0916.jpgIn our day-to-day lives, we all often give evacuation little thought other than get-out, but the difficulty and confusion of evacuating during a wildfire can be compounded for the elderly and for those with disabilities.

 

The true scope of the elderly, youth, and those with disabilities in the United States is explained in the column, along with the work of NFPA’s Disability Access Review and Advisory Committee to raise awareness of their needs during an emergency.

 

In writing this column, I was reminded that there is a good chance all of us will either be elderly or manage a disability at some point in our lives.  While we should plan for ourselves, we must also help our more vulnerable populations with education and planning to ensure the elimination of death in wildfire.

 

I hope you enjoy the column.

 

 

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!

Individual homeowners learn about and implement Firewise improvements to their home and landscape differently.  The facilitators of the Woodmoor Firewise Community at Monument, Colorado have recognized and embraced their differences.  By learning to accept and work with homeowners where they are, they are able to help them take little steps that over time can create resiliency. Recognizing that everyone learns and takes action diversly has helped this community learn how to encourage their neighbors to make Firewise changes to their properties that collectively will make a difference.  This concept identified in a scientific theory by distinguished communications professor, Everett M. Rogers Phd Diffusion of Innovations explains similarly how people adopt new ideas. Read about how they learned about each other, accepted each other and have taken action to reduce their risk to wildfire.

 

Woodmoor at Monument, Colorado

Woodmoor is a large community with about 2,500 owners of single dwelling homes on ½ acre lots. Two-thirds of the lots are Black Forest Fire.jpgin ponderosa pine forest. Others have mixed brush and grasses. The recent Waldo Canyon and Black Forest wildfires, which destroyed over 1,000 homes were a big motivator for Woodmoor homeowners to reduce fuels on their properties. Part of Woodmoor was on pre-evacuation alert during the Black Forest Fire in 2013.

 

Woodmoor held an outdoor fair with booths on Firewise Day. Experts manned booths and talked to homeowners about Firewise landscaping and mitigation based on defensible space guidelines, hardening homes against burning embers, and emergency preparedness. Homeowners took the information and plan to work on mitigating their properties over the next few years.

 

Also in 2014, the community held two classes on “Do it Yourself Mitigation”, with 80 homeowners in attendance. The Woodmoor Firewise group did property evaluations for 89 homeowners, and sponsored 6 reduced-fee disposal Saturdays during the summer months, when residents in neighboring communities could drop off their slash for only $5 per load.

 

Woodmoor says “As you and other leaders of Firewise communities know, education of homeowners must be continuous and “using all means”. I would guess that at least 40% of our owners have done some mitigation, and 40% have done none. The other 20% group are cautious deciders, and often need personal home and lot mitigation evaluations, “how to” mitigation classes, and other ways to be motivated. So our Firewise activities are focused on education and motivating the “open but undecided” owners, and owners who have done some mitigations, but need to do more. One of my personal surprises is how many residents have done “baby steps” of mitigation over the last 10 years. Maybe the first step was removal of flammable trees and shrubs within 15 feet of their homes. Next, they thinned their pine trees growing within 30 feet of their houses. A few thinned their pines to 10 foot crown spacing out to the property lines. Consequently, the lots of owners in our 40% mitigators group exhibit various degrees of mitigation. I do not know of any homeowner who did all the recommended mitigation at one time.”

                                                                                                                                                     Image of damage from Black Forest Fire on the Inci Website

Making the Firewise Day something the whole neighborhood wants to participate in can be a challenge. Some communities Falls Creek Ranch.pnghost pot luck dinners or bar b ques.  Others participate in a community-wide clean-up day.  While some host educational opportunities for the community.  Whatever the event, it provides an opportunity for the community to get to know each other and learn how they can effectively work together to lessen their risk to wildfire.  Some communities have really gone out of their way to provide a unique experience.  Read the story about Falls Creek Ranch and perhaps your community can create its own unique Firewise Day experience.

 

Falls Creek Ranch at Durango, Colorado

 

Falls Creek Ranch hosted a big public event with lectures and a fire simulation exercise with firefighters, helicopters, and fire trucks for Firewise Day. The meeting was held at Falls Creek Ranch Fire Station #13, and included speakers from Durango Fire & Rescue, BLM, Colorado State Forest Service, Firewise of SW Colorado, and others. Then the live demonstration began with firefighters creating a fire line, actual helicopter bucket dips into the lake at Falls Creek Ranch, and a water drop over a simulated fire scene. Of course, the fire trucks were on hand to demonstrate their capabilities. Firewise Day in Falls Creek Ranch is always well attended, but this year the attendance was extraordinary. Falls Creek Ranch follows up its Firewise day with an annual work day and picnic.

 

Falls Creek Ranch shared this with us, ”Being a resident of the wildland-urban interface has its advantages and risks. Obviously, the risk of wildfire can be proactively addressed or ignored by an HOA. Falls Creek Ranch chooses to address the wildfire risk by utilizing the Firewise principles as best practices. Falls Creek Ranch has enlisted the cooperation of its residents to minimize risks through education, work days, communication, and a spirit of teamwork. We use our annual Firewise Day to reinforce the importance of reducing the risk of wildfire. “

                                                                                                                      Photo submitted by Falls Creek Ranch Firewise Community

wildfire_brochure_cover.jpgHomeowner insurance policies for residences located in wildfire prone areas are often misunderstood by the policy holder. Participate in next week's Firewise - Ask an Expert workshop and discover what insurance companies know about properties; how they make policy related decisions and most importantly learn what to do to ensure a policy is all it should be when a wildfire strikes. The free virtual workshop is being broadcast Thursday, September 15 at 12 pm (Mountain Daylight Time).

 

The Firewise virtual workshop series provides conference quality, free learning opportunities for all wildfire stakeholders by connecting them with leading researchers and practitioners in a live interactive format. Each session is 60-minutes and features a 45-minute conversation with a topic expert and closes with 15 minutes of questions directly from the session's live participants.

 

September’s Understanding Insurance in the Wildland Urban Interface will feature Ask an Expert guest Carole Walker, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

 

Advance registration is required.

 

Upcoming Sessions:

Tuesday, October 11 - 11am MDT:  Community Risk Reduction Success Stories

Wednesday, November 9 - 1pm MDT:  Wildland Urban Legends

A great story rises out of the ashes of a recent Washington State Wildfire.  A home survives a wildfire because residents investedChelan County.jpg themselves in faithfully completing Firewise maintenance projects over the years.  They worked on simple things like removing dead grass and weeds in the 100 foot zone around their home and liming up trees.  As Brian and Rochele Shugrue shared on the Chelan County Fire District 3’s Facebook page, “Preparing for wildfires takes time but as you can see below, it is well worth the effort.”

 

When the wildfire was first noticed only a half a mile from their home, they only had 30 minutes to evacuate.  That does not afford residents much time to make last minute changes to their property. In fact unless you have prepared a homeowner’s checklist of items to take with you before a wildfire, it gives little time to gather precious possessions and pets and evacuate.  Imagine watching from a distance as the wildfire rages and an ember storm rains down upon your home. They also noticed their local fire department working hard to save their home.

 

Their fire department shared with them, “We want to thank you for the hard work you have done on your property to prepare for the wildfire.  Your work allowed us to safely work.  A prepared home is not only a home that lowers our risk, it is a home that buys time.  Time for you to evacuate safely, time for firefighters to better prepare your property or even time for us to help your neighbors.  We are very grateful.”

 

What would a fire department write to you about your home if a wildfire occurred in your area?  Learn about steps that you can take today to protect your home and family in the event of a wildfire.

                                                                                                                                                   Photo from the Chelan County Fire District 3 website with their permission.

With the summer coming to an end, many Firewise Communities have completed a Firewise Day that brought neighbors together to reduce their risk to wildfire.

 

In 2015, 67% of communities had completed their day, or their first of their many local events, by September 1st.  If you’re currently planning your Firewise Day event for the fall, thank you!

 

If you’ve hosted a Firewise Day in 2016, go online and renew your active status for 2016 today.

 

To make it easier to share your 2016 accomplishments, we’ve updated the online tutorial video.  In 2 minutes, it will help explain the online steps and what information is important to share in the event narrative.

 

 

The new video also highlights that your local risk-reduction activities are vital to help reduce the destruction that wildfires cause throughout the U.S.  These efforts are really making a difference, and they deserve to be acknowledged.

2016 FWC renewal video Narrative How To.jpg

Watch the new video and go online to share your community’s 2016 accomplishments.

 

You can always return to the online portal and share additional accomplishments and volunteer-hour investment counts throughout the year.

 

Thanks for being a part of a Firewise Community.

 

 

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!

Wildfire and wildland fire are often interchangeable words heard on the news during the fire season but it can be important to differentiate in the fire research community because of their meaning. The National Wildland Coordination Group (NWCG) provides a glossary of terms for the fire community (link).

 

Wildland Fire: any non-structural fire that occurs in vegetation or natural fuels. Wildland fire includes prescribed fire and wildfire.

 

Wildland fire describes the overarching concept of fire in natural fuels. These fuels do not need be in the wildland, but can include other areas such as plains, prairies, fields and green-spaces.

 

All fuels will burn given the right conditions, and many natural habitats require fuels to burn for a healthy ecosystem. This understanding has led to the concept of natural fire, where vegetation fuels become dependent on and thrive because of fire events.

 

Wildfire: an unplanned, unwanted wildland fire including unauthorized human-caused fires, escaped prescribed fire projects, and all other wildland fires where the objective is to pull the fire out.

 

Wildfire describes a situation where the fuels are burning creating an undesirable condition. They may start as natural fires but grow to a point where they become unmanageable and threaten things we do not want to burn, referred to in the research community as highly valued resources and assets.

 

Prescribed Fire: any fire intentionally ignited by management actions in accordance with applicable laws, policies, and regulations to meet specific objectives.

 

Land managers use prescribed fire to support natural habitats that depend on fire. By introducing fire in a controlled manner the ecosystem can reap the benefits and the fuel loading reduced to prevent high-intensity fires.

 

Using the correct terminology helps to understand that not all fire is bad and that, in some cases, the lack of fire can be harmful. This is important for fire research as we explore the causes and effects of fire in natural fuels and communicate our findings to the public.

NHFFsreturn.JPG

On this rainy, misty September day in southern New England, lots of local workers, including myself, are coming back from a pleasant and relaxing long holiday weekend. WCVB-TV Channel 5 and WMUR-9, the local ABC affiliates, report on a group of fellow New Englanders who are returning to the region after quite an opposite experience.

 

Reporting from Manchester, New Hampshire, the station interviewed firefighters who were among 20 from New Hampshire sent to fight the Pioneer Fire on the Boise National Forest in Idaho. The wildfire has been burning since July 18, and although it currently does not threaten homes, poses special dangers for wildland firefighters, including steep, rough terrain and dry and windy conditions. Hear more from these firefighters in the video interview.

Did you ever wonder how your community could organize projects and other activities that would make you and your neighbors safer in the event of a wildfire?  Two communities have developed unique “clean up” projects to address their fire risk.  By accurately and collaboratively evaluating each of their respective neighborhoods’ real risk, examining the resources available to them and following ordinances in place in their communities, they developed individualized projects that worked for them. Whether you use a chipper, dumpster or other means to help your community reduce risk the important thing is to take action together to protect your community.  Over time as these communities continue to promote and engage in Firewise Activities, they will create communities that are more resilient in the event of a wildfire.

 

Woodrock at Divide, Colorado

Woodrock developed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) with the assistance of the Colorado State Forest Service and the local Fire Department before becoming a Firewise Community. Community members mitigated their Woodrock.jpgproperties on their own, or with the assistance of some grant money. The community set up “chipper days”, when the Coalition of Upper South Platte comes in with their chipper to help homeowners with slash disposal. 

 

The community says, “One of the biggest challenges has been to get the participation of out-of-state property owners. However, we have had a fair amount of luck in that area. This may be attributed to the word getting out on how mitigation has improved the appearance of properties some ten-fold; how more water and nutrients have made for a healthier forest; how sunlight now reaching the forest floor has produced an abundance of wildflowers and new aspen shoots, and, of course, the most important factor is that we have slowed the possible advance of a wildfire, should one occur.”

 

Sunlight Waters at Cle Elum, Washington

Sunlight Waters held their first “Clean-up or Burn-Up” Campaign for Firewise Day. The community event featured a workshop for residents conducted by Suzanne Wade with Kittitas County Conservation District. Useful literature on preparing for wildfire was distributed. Property owners were encouraged to reduce fuels around their homes. The Fire Chief and several firefighters brought the fire truck and showed it off to the community and the children. A community barbecue was held.

 

Sunlight Waters says, “Our first ever “Clean-up or Burn-Up” campaign was a huge success. Property owners 70+ actively took steps to Firewise their properties. SLWCC provided 3 separate 30-yard dumpsters at no cost to the property owners. Each dumpster was filled within 3 days of delivery. We’re doing it again next summer!”

                                                                                                                                         Community Chipper Day photo submitted by Woodrock Firewise Community

A new preliminary report about the wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray was just released in August of this year.  “Why Some Homes Survived: Learning From the Fort McMurray Wildfire Disaster” published by the Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction and written by principle researcher, Alan Westhaver examined in the aftermath of the wildfire that destroyed over 2,400 homes why some homes survived while so many others were lost.  With the increasing losses from wildfire and the FireSmart.pngcontinued growth of new communities in the wildland urban interface, gaining knowledge about what worked and what did not is not only helpful to communities as they rebuild but is also helpful to existing and new communities so that loss due to wildfire can be reduced through mitigation efforts.

 

The research was completed by using a methodology of completing on-site visual inspections made from the perimeter of surviving and burned homes and systematic hazard assessments were completed on 85 homes and adjacent properties using Home Ignition Zone and FireSmart® ( FireSmart® the Canadian counterpart to Firewise®) guidelines.

 

Home Ignition Zone.jpgThe study concluded that the majority of home ignitions appeared to be started by embers, which then created a sequence of home to home ignitions.

According to the report:

 

“• On average, surviving homes in urban and country residential areas rated with

‘Low’ to ‘Moderate’ hazard using FireSmart® criteria, whereas homes destroyed

rated ‘High’ to ‘Extreme’ hazard.

 

• In 89% of the side-by-side comparisons conducted (where one home survived

and the other did not), the surviving home rated with substantially lower risk.

 

• 100% of homes/home groups that survived extreme exposure without igniting

rated ‘Low’ hazard.

 

• 81% of all assessed homes that survived had a FireSmart rating of ‘Low’ –

‘Moderate’ whereas 56% of homes that were destroyed had a FireSmart rating of

‘High’ to ‘Extreme’.

 

• All of the isolated homes that survived amidst heavily damaged urban

neighborhoods rated with ‘Low’ hazard when vegetation further than 30m from

the home was discounted.

 

• All of the isolated homes that ignited amidst otherwise undamaged

neighborhoods were either rated with ‘Extreme’ hazard, or had critical

weaknesses making them immediately vulnerable”

 

We all can take action today to make changes to our homes and the landscape surrounding our homes to improve resilience in the event of a wildfire.  The Firewise website offers a free downloadable toolkit, no cost on-line learning opportunities and no cost Firewise® resources.  It is the little things that can help a home survive a wildfire.  Learn how you and your neighborhood can become more resilient today.

                                                                                                                              Picture of FireSmart Home that survived in Fort McMurray by Alan Westerhaven

Keeping people in neighborhoods engaged with the NFPA's Firewise® Program can be promoted by providing opportunities for participation.  Communities that plan and implement community-wide events that provide opportunities for each resident to participate get more buy-in from residents throughout the community as a whole.  This participation in educational and on the ground work opportunities can create a more resilient community over time.  Read the story of these two communities to see how community efforts can create a sense of ownership and involvement in Firewise activities by many residents in a neighborhood.

Baker Creek at La Veta, Colorado

Baker Creek conducted many Firewise activities throughout the year. In addition to cleaning fire hazard debris from aroundBaker Creek CO.jpg condominiums, along a community access road, and in open space near residences, the community is creating a shaded fuel break along the main access road. The community counts 110 volunteer hours, and over 50 slash piles burned.

Baker Creek tells us, “Our Baker Creek Firewise Community has been energized by the early efforts of our key leaders. We found that property owners have become much more involved with their defensible space efforts as a result of participating in our Firewise Day activities.”

Deer Creek Valley Ranchos, Colorado

Residents of Deer Creek Valley Ranchos volunteered to help the Platte Canyon Fire Protection District (PCFPD) at their slash clean-up event the last week of August and the first weekend in September of 2014. Homeowners assisted PCFPD by directing traffic and helping people unload slash from their trailers and trucks. PCFPD contracted with a landscape company to chip the slash and haul it away.

Dear Creek Ranchos says, “We hold an annual clean-up event with homeowners volunteering to clean up trash and debris along roadways in the development. We send out Firewise tips via email with our HOA group email list, reminding homeowners of things they can do to keep their properties protected. We publish a Firewise article quarterly in our HOA newsletter and will include pertinent information on the Firewise program and wildfire safety.”

 

                                                                                                                                                         Photo submitted by Baker Creek at La Veta, Colorado

This September as we celebrate National Preparedness Month, join 60 National Strategy for Youth Preparedness partner organizations (NFPA is pleased to be a partner!) and thousands of children across the U.S. in learning critical safety skills at home and at school.

 

Through a new video, “The Prep Step!” you can help teach kids the basics of emergency preparedness, and make preparation fun! The video packs a powerful punch of preparedness learning in just 90 seconds so you can fit it easily into your schedule and keeps kids grooving and moving during break time, after school or at home. The three key steps the video focuses on are:  the importance of knowing "In Case of Emergency (ICE) contacts," making a plan, and packing a go-bag.

 

 

According to statistics, less than half of American families have an emergency plan, but children can be powerful change agents in leading the movement (literally and figuratively) towards preparedness. Did you know that families of school-aged children who bring home preparedness resources are 75 percent more likely to have a family plan? It’s true.

 

So won’t you join us? Help kids in your family, school or community learn emergency preparedness basics in a fun way. Learn the Prep Step! then, register your group and tell us what you’ll be doing on September 19, the Day of Action, to engage children in preparedness through this fun song and dance!

 

For more information, visit the Save the Children organization web site.

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