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2016

logtown.jpgFirewise Communities seem to grow their project activities over time.  As the community achieves success in small events they continue to expand their activities which over time helps create a safer community.  Read about how Logtown in El Dorado County, California grew an event that encouraged residents to take action and clean up their properties.   The communities of Pine Mountain and Ridgewood Subdivision at Willits, California grew community education and outreach events that helped residents gain a better understanding of their risk and how they can adopt effective solutions to that risk from wildfire that they face from experts.  The success shared by these communities can help other communities understand that by tailoring your program to the needs and wants of your community your prevention and mitigation programs can grow the Firewise© way.

 

Logtown at El Dorado County, CA

The Logtown Fire Safe Council kicked-off its annual Spring Clean-up with a Firewise Day in the parking lot of a local merchant. Thirty-yard capacity green waste dumpsters were placed in two locations in the community, and remained in place for at least two weeks collecting yard waste. In addition, El Dorado Disposal provided two trash disposal dumpsters for unrecyclable material, and Snowline Hospice was on site collecting “gently used” clothing and furniture, in addition to other recyclable materials. Members of the Logtown Fire Safe Council set up a table and handed out Fire Safe Council and Firewise information. The time and money spent by residents in their efforts to remove debris from the community is an investment to maintain and improve the fire safety of the community. In 2014, the group put in 195 man-hours and paid $620 for services.

 

Logtown shared with us, “The Logtown fire Safe Council was formed in 2006, after a fire destroyed two houses and threatened many more in the community. We started the Spring Clean-up in 2010, the year after we became a Firewise community, with just the Green Waste dumpsters. Since then, we have added trash disposal, recycling, and the Firesafe/Firewise booth. It just gets better every year!”

 

Pine Mountain Estates and Ridgewood Subdivision at Willits, CA

Pine Mountain estates and Ridgewood Subdivision held an outdoors education event for Firewise Day. They had speakers from the Little Lake Fire Protection District, CAL FIRE, and the Fire Safe Council talking about defensible space and the Ready, Set, Go! program.

 

Pine Mountain Firewise tells us, “The Firewise event allows residents (who all wear name tags) to meet and talk over wildfire preparedness as an individual and community imperative. And to listen to experts advise on the particulars of defensibility, the go-or-stay decision, and other matters. By repeating and deepening the message, through such community events, and other means of outreach, wildfire preparedness gradually enters and becomes fixed in the community’s mainstream consciousness.”

                                                                          The community picture was submitted by Logtown Firewise Community

With the increase in size and frequency of devastating wildfires, volunteer departments’ budgets can be stretched thin.   Applying for grant funding to replace aging equipment can be time-consuming and difficult to achieve. Some volunteer fire departments are having a hard time balancing budgets and fighting wildfires.

 

The increased use of vehicles in rough terrain can take a toll on fire apparatus. In order to keep money from running out and shutting down stations, some fire departments have gotten very creative raising funds needed to make ends meet.  Many fire departments host pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, rummage sales and more. One very creative Idea that was shared with me was a fire department in central Alabama that hosted a “Haunted Chicken House” for Halloween.  I have to admit, I would be scared if I was a chicken.

 

According to the article, “The volunteers have come up with their own unique fundraiser in recent years, a haunted chicken house attraction on Hopkins’ property. Through the years, it’s helped the department cut out more traditional, less profitable methods of raising money. However, Hopkins says volunteer departments across the state are hurting.”

Promoting a successful Firewise event sometimes happens because communities and agencies can cross promote, sharing each other’s contact information.  Collaborative community efforts can provide a solid starting point for the successful implementation of projects that all residents and agency partners have had the opportunity to cooperatively develop.  Events and projects designed and implemented by allowing everyone to share their insights at the project’s inception can generate more buy-in and overall success.  Read about this Firewise© Community’s success.

 

Pinetop at Lakeside, Arizona

 

Pinetop held its Firewise Day in conjunction with the local fundraising event for the White Mountain Nature Center “Walk in the Woods”. The Firewise group paid to have a booth at the event where they handed out printed brochures, and spoke to residents about the importance of defensible space and preparation for a wildfire event. Carrie Dennett, Arizona State Forestry Division Prevention and Fire Information Office made a presentation to the group. Her presentation was followed by a question and answer session.

 

Pinetop says, “We co-sponsored our event with the local fire district. Advertising for the event was posted in Pinetop and emailed to the White Mountain Nature Center (WMNC) email list and to Pinetop Community Association (PCA) residents. Event information was also posted on both the WMNC and the PCA websites. Firewise Day is helpful to the community.”

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Some Firewise communities are getting quite tech savvy when it comes to promoting the great work that they accomplish together in their neighborhood.  Creating a nice promotional video about the work that you are working on together is not only a great way of celebrating your accomplishments, but also a wonderful way of building upon your successes.  Watch this great YouTube video about how Wilson Ranch used a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day(r) Activity to complete their Firewise(c) Day requirement for 2016.

 

 

Wilson Ranch Property Owners Association at Mazama, Washington

 

Wilson Ranch POA held a Firewise workshop on Firewise Day. The workshop was led by the Okanogan Conservation District, in collaboration with the Methow Conservancy. Information about the workshop was posted on the neighborhood website, and was also posted in the Methow Valley News. The workshop focused on the home ignition zone, how homes ignite in a wildfire, and techniques for protecting homes from wildfire. The Methow Conservancy offers several videos on wildfire and the natural environment of the Methow Valley. The Okanogan Conservation District Firewise Workshop presented in Mazama in August, 2014 is available online  .

 

Wilson Ranch POA says, “Firewise is now a term of everyday language by owners in our community. The Firewise event, which we will have annually, has been an effective tool to bring focus to addressing wildfire in the forested setting of our community.

Wildfire leaders, innovators and pioneers – this is your opportunity to be recognized for your outstanding mitigation achievements! Nominations for the 2017 Wildfire Mitigation Awards accepted through Sunday, October 30, 2016.

 

Sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the USDA Forest Service, the Wildfire Mitigation Awards are the highest honor one can receive for outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation.

 

Award categories include:

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

 

These awards are designed to recognize outstanding service in wildfire preparedness and safety across a broad spectrum of activities and among a variety of individuals and organizations!

 

Learn more about the award criteria and submit a nomination by October 30. The awards will be presented in Reno, NV, at the Wildland-Urban-Interface Conference in March 2017.

 

For more information contact Meghan Rhodes at MRhodes@iafc.og or 703-896-4839.

Awards.JPGKnow an organization or individual who has made great strides in wildfire preparedness and safety? Then why don't you nominate him/her (or them!) for the Wildfire Mitigation Awards!

 

The awards are sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), NFPA and the USDA Forest Service. The awards are a great way to say "thank you" to those who are making a difference in our communities. And if you didn't know, by honoring the outstanding achievements of these people, we are also helping to increase awareness of the value, benefits and importance of wildfire mitigation.

 

There are three categories that you can nominate people for:

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

 

Read the guidelines and criteria to learn more. Applications are being accepted through October 30, 2016.

 

So what are you waiting for? Take the time to fill out the application and nominate the person or organization you think deserves recognition for all of the great work they are doing around wildfire mitigation. You'll be glad you did!

I recently read an interesting research paper, Positive effects of fire on birds may appear only under narrow combinations of fire severity and time-since-fire. It was the result of a study about observations made in the field about the effects of fire in 10 of the 11 years after a fire in a mixed-conifer forest in Western Montana on populations of 50 different species of birds. 

 

The paper, written by Richard L. Hutto with the Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana and David A. Patterson from the Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Montana examined detection rates for different species of birds inside 15 combinations of fire severity and time-since –fire against a control area of unburnt but similar stand of forest outside of the burn perimeter area.

 

The study found that a majority of the species (60%) were found inside the burned area rather than outside of the burned area.  What the scientists discovered is that 15 of the species do especially well in the burnt areas as opposed to any other habitat. Those species include the Mountain Bluebird, Tree Swallow, and the Three-Toed Woodpecker.  This paper examined the differences in fire severity and time-since-fire to better examine the nuanced effects of wildfire on bird species.  The study area was outside of Missoula, Montana in areas where the 2003 Black Mountain fire burned.  A total of 279 bird survey points were established and bird observations were completed during the breeding season each year (from the last week of May to the first week of July).

 

Some of the lessons learned are: “…we cannot rely on traditional ‘burned vs. unburned’ comparisons presented in most published reports on fire effects to assess whether species respond positively or negatively to fire.  Fire severity, time-since-fire, and other forest conditions matter to organisms that respond positively to disturbance, therefore we will have to consider the kind of forest, tree sizes and densities, fire severity and time-since-fire if we want to investigate fire effects in a biologically meaningful way.”

 

The paper concluded with thoughts about the importance of allowing mosaic patterns of fire to occur to maintain healthy biodiversity while at the same time ensuring that human communities are designed and maintained in a way that makes them more resistant to naturally occurring fires by following Firewise principles.

 

                                                                                                                     Video shared with permission from Richard L. Hutto

Firewise community success begins with people taking Firewise © actions to reduce their risk of loss due to a wildfire.  Some communities that have been active in NFPA’s Firewise Program have over time by working together, significantly reduced their risk of loss.  These communities often times are participating in a variety of activities and projects that keep residents engaged and interested in continuing to maintain their homes and neighborhoods in a Firewise manner.  Read the stories of these two communities to learn about some projects that your community can do.

 

Pine Loch Sun at Maple Valley, Washington

Pine Loch Sun built up to Firewise Day with preparatory activities over a period of several weeks. Residents were asked to clean their properties and pile slash and branches at the street between April 25th to May 9th.  Then chipper days were held, when a chipper traveled through the community disposing of the slash. On May 3rd, there was a Firewise community siren test, when the siren was tested and evacuation plans were distributed. A community information meeting was held on May 24th, when an actual evacuation drill was held with siren and text message emergency information. Afterward, the community relaxed with a picnic. 

 

Pine Loch Sun says, “Firewise Day helped make our community safer. Our siren test pointed out the need for improved communications, our evacuation plan was tested. Our community practiced what to do in an emergency, and gathered afterwards for social time. Our Firewise participation increased, and we able with the Kittitas County Firewise Liaison, Suzanne Wade, to get grant money for removing some of the excess fuel in our development.”

 

Orcas Highlands at Eastsound, Washington

Firewise Day is an annual event in Orcas Highlands. Each year for the past nine years, Orcas Highlands Association (OHA) homeowners have gathered to clean and groom their 40-acre common area, and burn green waste from the individual and community lots. Several residents always volunteer the use of their pick-up trucks to transport the green waste from the homes to the community-managed burn area. Others tend the fire there. Still others mow and prune the entrance and mailbox areas. At the end of the day, the community gets together for a potluck dinner.

 

Orcas Highlands shared with us, “The Firewise Communities/USA program has brought our community together. Neighbors look forward to the day in early summer when they can work together toward the common goal of wildfire mitigation. Over the years, our accrued mitigation efforts have dramatically improved the survival potential of OHA’s 105 homes.” 

 

 

The pictures were submitted by the Orcas Highlands Firewise Community

Register today to see Firewise's wildland "Urban Legends" put to the test on Thursday, November 17, at 3 pm EST (1 pm MST).

 

Radiant-Heat-Test_IBHS-2.jpgWill mulch spontaneously combust in the heat?  Are Firewise principles less effective in high wind areas?   Are tile roofs safe from embers?  Do curtains ignite due to radiant heat before the glass breaks? 

 

Join us on November 17th as these and other wildfire and home safety myths and beliefs are again put to the test.

 

Wildfire expert Pat Durland will determine truth or falsehood to questions we all have, drawing upon current research and his long career as a smoke jumper, wildland firefighter, policy maker, insurance consultant, and wildfire educator. 

 

The virtual workshop will help you take lessons and answers back to those questions and myths raised by residents and practitioners alike.  The workshop will also help your own wildfire outreach planning and mitigation knowledge.  

 

Do you have a wildland “urban legend” you have heard or wonder about? Please share it with us at LDeaton@nfpa.org and we’ll put it to the test in November's virtual workshop. 

 

Photo Credit: Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

Have you wondered why foresters seem concerned in the aftermath of a storm about dead fall?  Have you wondered whatDead Fall.jpg they mean by the use of the term, dead fall?  Dead fall according to Webster’s Dictionary is; “a tangled mass of fallen trees and branches.”  Large amounts of dead fall accumulates after large storms including tornadoes and hurricanes.  One recent example of a brush fire occurring in the aftermath of a storm can be seen in recent reports of a brush fire after Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina.

 

Dead fall can contribute to the amount of fuel in the understory of forested areas and around homes in wildland-urban interface areas.  Neighbors working together to clean up debris such as branches and leaves from around their homes after a storm as soon as it is deemed safe to do so, can help their communities also fare better in the event of a wildfire.

 

From the Ogden City Fire Department Facebook page, on May 4th, 2016, the fire department described how they worked together with others to clean up dead fall from their community.   “Ogden City would like to thank the community for their dedication in helping with the cleanup of debris from last week’s wind event. City crews are working diligently to clean up debris on public property and restore the city to its pre-wind event state.”

Many communities hesitate to participate in the Firewise Communities© Program because they are concerned that their community-wide event may have to cost a lot of money.  Many very successful Firewise community efforts have been completed with little or no monetary investment just sweat equity.  There are a lot of simple projects that you can complete around your home and neighborhood that will have a great impact in making you, your pets and property as well as residents in your community safer in the event of a wildfire.  Read about how these two communities invested themselves into creating safer neighborhoods and learn how you can too.

 

highlandpines1.jpgHighland Pines at Prescott, Arizona

 

Highland Pines combined their Firewise Day activities with their annual meeting and ice cream social. The event took place in a shelter on a cul de sac in the community. The Firewise speaker was Jeff Polachek of the Central Yavapai/Chino Valley Fire Department. He spoke on several fire-related topics, including defensible space, forest health, evacuation procedures, and the new red alert system, which allows mass contact by phone.

 

Highland Pines says, “Every year, our Firewise event, along with our ongoing hazardous fuels mitigation efforts, gets the message out to more people. It has become a neighbor encouraging neighbor effort as people see how Firewise landscaping and clearing make a more attractive neighborhood, as well as a safer one.“

 

Spalding at Lassen National Forest, Susanville, CaliforniaLassen.jpg

 

Spalding held a 4 day “Green Waste Disposal” event for Firewise Day. The event allows home and property owners to dispose of their accumulated pine needles, tree and brush debris at a very reduced cost. The event is accomplished through a partnership between C&S Waste, Lassen Regional Solid Waste Management Authority, Fire Safe Council, CAL FIRE, and Spalding Community Services District. The community orders six thirty-yard bins, and charges participants only $1 per cubic yard for waste disposal. At the completion of the four day event, a total of 327 cubic yards of green waste had been removed from the community. The event is done annually, and it gets good participation from the residents.

 

Spalding shared with us, “The residents of Spalding are able to make their properties safe during the dangerous summer fire season by eliminating pine needles and other flammable materials around their residences during this low-cost event. We hope to have a second event at the end of the summer.”

                                                                                          Highland Pines Community from the Firewise website and Lassen National Forest Picture from the Wikipedia

october fb.JPGThe October 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:

  • The promotion of our newest virtual fieldtrips video series and accompanying lesson plans for teachers, fire and life safety educators and others to use in outreach and as group activities for/with youth in grades 6 – 12
  • An invitation to our next wildfire online workshop that will address the myth that “there’s nothing we can do” to make our communities safer from wildfire
  • A link to a blog that describes how to be financially prepared in the face of a natural disaster

...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.

Climate Change.JPGSince 1979, climate change is responsible for more than half of the dryness of Western forests and the increased length of the fire season, according to an article, “Climate Change Blamed for Half of Increased Forest Fire Danger,” in the New York Times.

 

This statistic comes from a new study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It explains that “the combination of a long period of drought in the West and hot temperatures have caused trees and undergrowth to become particularly tinderlike. Warmer air can draw more moisture, in general, from trees and plants, turning them into kindling.” Cyclical climate variations, which are also affected by patterns in the Pacific Ocean, and human-caused climate change together have caused the drying process to double.

 

“People tell me that they’ve never seen fires as active as what they’re battling right now,” Dr. A. Park Williams, one of the study’s authors, said, “What we’re seeing in (the) fire world is much different than what we saw in the 1980s, and in the 2030s, fires will be unrecognizable to what we’re seeing now.”

 

While humans can’t completely control climate change and its consequences, there are steps we can take to help us better prepare for the threat of wildfire. NFPA’s latest Firewise toolkit offers a homeowner’s checklist, steps to take during Red Flag Days, and so much more.

 

Additional resources like videos, tip sheets and project ideas for everyone of all ages can be found on the Firewise website. Materials are free and most are available to download and share with family, friends and neighbors.

Picture1.jpgWith the enormous rise in costs of damage caused by wildfires and wildfire suppression costs, more studies are being conducted about the value of fuels treatments in some of our nation’s forested areas.  Some recent staggering statistics that were cited in the Economic Benefits of Fuel Reduction Treatments included: “Wildfire suppression expenditures sharply increased from $528.5 million in 1985 (in 2015 dollars) to $2.1 billion in 2015 while the size of area burned has more than tripled (from 2.8 to 10.1 million acres) during the same time period (National Interagency Fire Center [NIFC] 2015, USDA Forest Service 2015).”  Other interesting data in the paper stated that; “The proportion of the Forest Service’s annual budget allocated to wildfire suppression has increased from 16% in 1995 to 52% in 2015 and is projected to increase to 67% of the budget by 2025 (USDA Forest Service 2015).” 

 

While the costs of wildfire are ever increasing, the amount of money allocated to pre-wildfire mitigation activities and watershed protection activities have exponentially decreased from approximately 240 million in 2001 to 180 million in 2015.  In light of these statistics, it is important to examine the economic value of fuel reduction treatments.

 

The paper examined the value of fuel reduction treatments from an economist’s point of view.  How these treatments can and do generate monetary gains from sources like timber resources sold but also add income value from avoided monetary expenditures, like greater suppression costs, damage to watersheds, rehabilitation costs, and losses to local business.

 

Two projects examined and evaluated inn this paper were the White Mountain Stewardship Project (WMSP) and the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI).  Both of these projects are being implemented in Arizona.  One unique component of the White Mountain Stewardship Project (WMSP) which is being implemented in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest is that this project shows according to the article how federal agencies are, “paying a subsidy to a private entity for a large-scale restoration and fuel reduction project. Community capacity, utilization capacity and agency capacity have been credited as the major factors contributing to the success of this community stewardship project (Abrams and Burns 2007).”  The success of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) hinges on the collaborative support for the project from a variety of agency and nonprofit partners to restore forest health and resiliency through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.

 

  The paper concludes with references that land managers will have to be creative in their approaches “thinking outside of the box” to develop solutions collaboratively to the growing wildfire problem.  Perhaps by examining successful program implementation including NFPA’s Firewise Communities© in the future and working collaboratively towards lasting solutions to mitigating loss from wildfire and investing more resources in wildfire hazard mitigation efforts, we will begin to see less loss including loss of property and lives in the future.

Smokey Bear with some of his friends in Anthem, Arizona.jpg

Firewise Communities© love the Firewise program and the Firewise Day that they participate in because it gives them the opportunity to partner together with other groups and their local fire departments.  The Firewise program can be the impetus to come together for a common cause; wildfire preparedness and prevention.   Each partner can assist the other with shared resources, talents and finances to create a better prevention program.  Many of these communities mentioned to us how much they appreciated the materials provided by NFPA’s Firewise program that supplemented their education and outreach efforts.  Read about how these two Firewise communities.

 

Timber Ridge at Prescott, Arizona

Timber Ridge held a community meeting, “Firewise and Ice Cream Day” for Firewise Day. Bob Celaya and Chris Erickson from Arizona State Forestry Division were the guest speakers. Chris gave a presentation on local forest health and insect activity. Bob spoke about what was going on in the northern Arizona forests, and his observations from a drive around Timber Ridge.

 

Timber Ridge says, “Being a Firewise Community offers peace of mind knowing your entire neighborhood has all pulled together to make living in the urban interface a safer place. Thank you Firewise USA for bringing fire departments and communities together!”

 

Anthem at Phoenix, Arizona

Anthem held a two-day event for Firewise Day in conjunction with the annual Autumn Festival. The BLM Firewise Trailer was on site both days, allowing guests to gather informational materials, ask questions, view the video, and collect promotional materials. Smokey the Bear also made an appearance, wandering the crowd and welcoming guests that visited the trailer. The temperatures were extremely warm that weekend, and though the children loved him, this had to be a short visit. Community volunteers with a history and background on the Firewise initiative hosted the trailer, answered questions, and collected contact information for those interested in receiving e-news updates. The Daisy Mountain Fire Department assisted, and served as an excellent support system to the Firewise activities and efforts.

 

 

Anthem says, “The impressive aspect to Anthem’s Firewise community is that it was initiated by Anthem residents, and they continue to spearhead efforts to keep our community safe. Firewise Days, held in conjunction with Autumnfest, is volunteer driven by individuals and local partners who are committed and dedicated to preserving our community. Through their efforts, we are able to keep the message fresh, reach new audiences, broaden our e-news subscriber base, and share valuable reminders about fire safety. We're very appreciative of the support we receive to bring in the Firewise Trailer, and the bonus promotional trinkets to give away, in addition to those we purchase.”

                                                                       Smokey Bear with children in Anthem, Arizona submitted by the community

NIFC Perdictive Services Outlook October.pngThe, “wildfire is not just a western states issue” reminder received additional focus yesterday as Alabama’s Forestry Commission banned all outside burning in 46 of the state’s 67 counties.  WBMA, Birmingham’s ABC affiliate, reported on Monday that drought fueled fires have burned over 3,300 acres in the past week, with 70 blazes alone recorded on Sunday.

 

The article quotes Alabama’s Firewise Coordinator, Coleen Vansant, who relayed that the burn ban will remain in effect until appropriate rains reduce the wildfire threat. 

 

NIFC Perdictive Services Outlook November.pngThe article goes on to share statistics from the National Drought Mitigation Center that place 86% of the state in drought conditions, with more than 10 of its counties at extreme levels.  Birmingham’s water source, Lake Purdy, is at 35% capacity. 

 

While October is historically the state’s driest month, drought statistics for 2016 have surpassed 2015 levels. 


The NIFC Predictive Services Outlook for the unfolding two months illustrates the increasing wildfire risk in the Southeast this fall. 

 

Photo Credits: NIFC Predictive Services Outlooks

Swauk.jpg

Firewise© Community work can become the positive force behind helping to create a neighborhood where neighbors work together and help each other achieve wildfire safety through taking action together based upon sound Firewise principles.  Clean up days, chipping days and just plain old fashioned fun events like potlucks and bar-b-ques can help build good community relations.  Read the stories of these two Firewise Communities to see how they have worked together to not only promote wildfire safety but also create a wonderful sense of community.

 

Swauk Pines at Seattle, Washington

Swauk Pines had a neighborhood clean-up day for Firewise Day. This was an all-day event. A fire chipping crew came into the Swauk Pines neighborhood and chipped the dead and downed forest fuels from several community lots. The crew also did some tree limbing and then chipped up the limbs.

 

Swauk Pines tells us, “This Firewise event, as well as others, has had the following positive impacts on our community: bringing together our landowners and neighbors through meetings and communication, and thus building our sense of community and creating a neighborhood that is more wildfire resistant, safer, and more aesthetically attractive.”

 

Wagon Wheel at Mill Creek, Washington

Wagon Wheel organized a work party that cleaned debris out of the stream beds, skirted up new growth on trees, and piled limbs and slash for chipping. Once all the debris was collected and piled, a chipping crew was brought in for disposal. For three days in September, a chipping crew drove around the community and chipped the piles of slash placed along the sides of the road.

 

Wagon Wheel shared with us, “Firewising our community gave us a common goal to coalesce around. Neighbors met each other and worked together. Now we have Firewise potlucks at the end of the workday. We have really developed a sense of community.”

                                                                                      The photograph is submitted by the Swauk Firewise Community

Holbrook Rd - Holden_formatted.jpg

 

Maine State Forest Ranger Specialist Kent Nelson, a longtime Firewise advocate, invites wildfire specialists, fire fighters, planners, and anyone with interest and commitment to take advantage of an open seat at no charge at an upcoming classroom training in Bangor, Maine. Contact Kent at kent.nelson@maine.gov before close of business on Friday, October 14 to secure your seat at the Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone training on October 18-19, 2016.

 

According to Kent, "the participants so far consist of Maine Forest Rangers, local firefighters and one community planner. We have also extended an invitation to local insurance company professionals." The course is aimed at wildfire mitigation specialists, fire service professionals and others who want to work with communities to reduce brush, grass and forest fire risks to homes and neighborhoods. Experienced wildland firefighter and longtime instructor Pat Durland will be teaching this hands-on seminar that includes classroom and field exercises.

 

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has had positive experiences with the seminar in the past. According to Kent, the department helped sponsor a seminar in Scarborough, back in 2009, a region which has become very engaged in Firewise activities, boasting eight Firewise Communities, one of which received a “1000 safer places award” in 2014. The Department's sponsorship is enabling free classroom registration and lunches, although students are responsible for their own lodging and other meals. The training facility is owned by the Maine Army National Guard and was built recently and has state-of-the-art computers and projectors.

 

Kent says that the location of the field portion of the course is a small community around Holbrook Lake in nearby Holden, Maine. Most of the houses were built 40 to 50 years ago and located on a narrow, gravel road (photo above). The surrounding forest is primarily softwood and there was a timber harvest within a year or so that has left a lot of slash along the ½ mile long,  narrow road in.  Possible ignition sources nearby include an elementary school and railroad tracks.

 

See the attached flyer for more details, and be sure to contact Kent Nelson by October 14 if you want to take advantage of this valuable training opportunity. To bring the seminar to your area, contact NFPA's Rob Machado at rmachado@nfpa.org or 617-984-7540.

Fighting wildland fires is a very hazardous job.  Firefighters who have worked these fires since the early 1900s have created innovative solutions to working these fires in difficult weather conditions and terrain, starting with the invention of the Pulaski (a firefighting tool). Crew leader Ed Pulaski created it after his harrowing experience in the “Big Burn,” a wildfire that burned almost three million acres in the Northwest in which he lost five of his forty-man crew. Other innovations include development of the types of engines used to work large wildfires that provide the stability and maneuverability necessary when fighting fires in hazardous terrain. 

 

New data-driven tools are currently being developed to help wildland firefighters not only ensure their own safety but also be able to

manage wildfires more efficiently by directing resources where they are most needed, better understand the direction of fire spread as well as what areas of a community are at the highest risk of loss.   Barona Reservation’s Fire Department uses data to help them work together with mutual aid fire companies by incorporating information from their pre-fire plans, road conditions, water supplies, structure locations and weather conditions.

 

Another data driven technology that wildland firefighters are beginning to use is a way of managing social media for incident commanders during a large wildfire event. Historically, the emergency response community has leveraged multiple data sources, including land mobile radios, maps, computer-aided dispatch, crisis management systems, traffic cameras, geographic information systems, and windshield assessments to collect information. Now, responders can leverage social media as well, both to communicate and to gather and share real-time, dynamic information to enhance situational awareness and assist in decision making.  Imagine an incident commander having real-time information collected for him about the location of people trapped in their homes, livestock in need of evacuation and other information such as videos of changing directions of smoke columns that have been compiled and vetted for his use in real time?

 

Social media use for emergency management is in its infancy and is regarded by FEMA and other emergency management organizations as being a critical new component of situational awareness in the event of an emergency event.   Volunteers have been trained in some areas such as with VOST and CERTS to manage social media for emergency responders and provide information they request as well as disseminate accurate information from emergency responders to the public such as accurate information about evacuation routes.  FEMA has also developed a community platform organized already for SMEM users that vets the users in the event of an incident and has developed training for emergency managers to do so.

 

With the increasing frequency and size of wildfires, new data-driven tools to manage these incidents will become an integral part of wildfire management.  NFPA’s Wildfire Division has developed some new tools that can be shared by fire prevention officers with their communities to assist with their pre-fire planning, including a Firewise Toolkit, Backpack Go kit for youth from grades 6-12, and virtual field trips about wildfire with accompanying lesson plans.

In early July of 2016, the Cold Springs Fire ignited from careless camping and led to eight homes destroyed and the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people near Boulder, Colorado.  Ending at about 528 acres and with two men being charged with fourth-degree arson, the fire tested the good work being done by the Boulder Wildfire Partners.

 

After the fire, Boulder Wildfire Partners Program Coordinator Jim Webster invited me to take a look at 4 properties that the fire had visited and yet survived.  Three of these sites were particularly interesting and their stories compelling.

 

My wife Jill, a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist from nearby Douglas County, drove me to Boulder as I was recovering from knee surgery and was barely able to walk much less drive.  She also had an interest in seeing how this fire had impacted residences and what the surviving homes looked like.  We met up with Jim, Kyle McCatty and Chris Rea, all  Boulder County staff, and headed up Boulder Canyon to the fire area.

 

As we drove through parts of the fire zone, the effect of topography and wind on this fire was obvious.  It hopscotched around, burning intensely in some areas, and not so much in others.  Parts of the landscape showed sticks of severely burned Pine and even Quaking Aspens.  In other areas, Aspens and even some surface vegetation remained.  You could also see areas where the wind had been blocked by the significant topography and how the fire intensity was less.  And then we came to the first house.

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I have often said, it is easier to determine why a home burned down in a wildfire than to figure out why it didn't.  There are just so many variables, but these homeowners had done a bunch of things right.  They had a very good non-combustible zone within 5 feet of the structure, they had thinned trees will out beyond 60 feet, which was good, because the intense fire burned within yards of the home.  The had a good roof and fire resistant building materials.  They had some melting and scorching on the most exposed side of the house and some of their double-paned windows cracked, but the fire never entered the interior and the home survived.

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Another home we visited belonged to a gentleman named Lester.  Lester had done a tremendous amount of work on the approximately 30 acres he owns.  He had been thinning for years and it paid off.  While he lost a lot of trees, even in the areas he thinned, his home remained, but his neighbor's home was lost, clearly to embers and low intensity surface fire.  "Your view doesn't have to be right in your back yard", Lester said.  "If you live up here, you have to understand what fire can do and take the steps necessary to protect your home".

 

The last home we visited was Bob's.   He did significant mitigation over ten years on his 30 acres as a way to de-stress from being a lawyer.  The thinning he did all over his property allowed the Aspen groves he had immediately adjacent to most of his home to act as a barrier to fire reaching the structure.  Bob was one of the first people to reach the origin of the fire and helped firefighters find it.  However, the fire escaped control, Bob had to evacuate and unfortunately, at least two of his neighbors lost their homes.

 

Both Lester and Bob were extremely knowledgeable about wildfire and fire behavior.  Both had predicted how fire would probably approach their properties and planned their mitigation accordingly.  And they both were right, that day.

 

These are just examples of folks who took what they learned from being in the Boulder Wildfire Partners program and put it into action to decrease their risk from wildfire.  They worked hard, used some creative thinking around fire resistant trees and did the work where it mattered most.  And most importantly, they and their homes survived.

 

Jim Webster will be talking more about the Boulder Wildfire Partners on the Firewise Ask an Expert Virtual Workshop scheduled to air on Oct. 11, 2016 at 1:p.m. EDT/11:00 a.m. MDT.

Sometimes it is the “human treasures” or project leftovers stored around the home that can create a hazard in the event of29. Trash in front yard Ramona, CA.jpg a wildfire.  What do you do with all of those things that you just cannot get rid of because you just might use them some day?  You do not want to store them against the home because they can become ember catchers during a wildfire event and act as kindling that helps to ignite your home.  The best thing to do is store them inside of a building like a shed, barn or garage or like the community below sell them at a community-driven fundraiser that not only cleans up your yard but can be used to fund community-driven project work or support your local fire department.  Read about Chiliwist in Washington state and see how this community has worked together to complete a project like this.

 

Washington.jpgChiliwist at Malott, Washington

Chiliwist held a yard sale fundraiser combined with four hours of educational talks on fire prevention, preparation, and protecting one’s home through defensible space on Firewise Day. Agency partners, including Washington Department of Natural Resources, Okanogan Conservation District, US Department of Fish & Wildlife, the local fire chief, and firefighters talked about practical ways to use tools and be prepared for wildfire. The yard sale raised $650 with all proceeds going to the local fire department.

 

Chiliwist says, “The event was the key to getting people who were true skeptics involved by answering questions, addressing concerns, and educating them on wildfires and protecting their homes. And by protecting their homes, they were protecting their neighbors and the rest of the community. Just over 2 months later, the Chiliwist was hit by the worst fire in Washington state history. Over 30 homes plus outbuildings were lost, even some which were “firewise”. But many of the homes that survived were able to be protected because of Firewise principles.”

                       Image of a yard with lots of human treasures by Faith Berry         The second image of Chiliwist community event submitted by the community

This summer, wildfires tested the benefits of mitigation projects throughout the U.S. and from those fires came some important success stories about risk reduction work that was done before the fire - and credited with having a major role in homes surviving. These successes have significant value and are a must share with stakeholders and residents living in wildfire prone areas.

 

Details from three of those successes found in Colorado, Idaho and Washington will be featured in the October 11 (1pm EDT), live Firewise Ask an Expert virtual workshop . Each one will provide inspiration and motivation, as the guest presenters share details from their communities about the work they're doing with residents and how that's delivering results. 

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Guest presenters include:

Patrick Haggerty, Cascadia, WA Conservation District

Jerry McAdams, Boise Fire Department, ID

Jim Webster, Boulder County, CO

 

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

 

Advance registration is required.

 

Upcoming Sessions:

Thursday, November 17 at 1pm MDT:  Wildland Urban Legends

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