Skip navigation
All Places > Fire Break > Blog > 2016 > November
2016

My colleague, Fred Durso, the communications manager for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, recently shared a moving story about holiday fire safety, and in turn, I want to share it with all of you.

 

Sher Grogg lost her brother, sister-in-law and their four grandchildren in a devastating Christmas tree fire 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland, and she is urging the public to take simple yet proactive steps that could save lives this holiday season. Ms. Grogg is one of the newest voices for the group, Common Voices, an advocates' coalition determined to create a fire-safe America. She is also the face behind the coalition's #DoItForDon campaign.

 

Read Fred's blog to get Sher's story, watch her video and take a special pledge to keep home fire safety top of mind this holiday season. You can also read more about the coalition on the Common Voices website.

 

Find additional information about home fire sprinklers at www.firesprinklerinitiative.org. Tips, videos, checklists and more about Christmas tree and holiday fire safety are available on NFPA's Project Holiday webpage.

Lucian Deaton

Arson, often thought of as an urban issue, is also prevalent in wildland/urban interface and can be much more destructive. According to Cal Fire, from 2010 to 2014, arsonists set approximately 910 wildfires in California alone, about 6 percent of the state’s total. Those fires consumed more than 121,000 acres. While the U.S. Forest Service says that 90 percent of wildfires across the nation are human caused, the vast majority of those are the result of negligence, not intent—forgotten campfires or sparks from target-practice bullets don’t count as wildfire arson. Arson is a purposeful act.

 

NFPA's Lucian Deaton takes the time in his NFPA Journal column this month to look at the problem of arson in the wildland and suggest work that can be done to reduce, and hopefully eventually, eliminate this source of wildfire. 

 

Read "Watching the World Burn" from the latest issue of NFPA Journal.

Drought, record-breaking heat, and other weather conditions including high winds have all contributed to the region’s intense wildfires.  Some of the wildfires have been caused by arson.  Perhaps you are thinking that this is referring to the wildfire season that typically occurs around this time of year out West, however, the recent news reports refer to wildfires raging in the South East.

 

Extended drought and record-setting heat waves contributed to high-intensity wildfires that have caused fatalities and scorched over 80,000 acres, sent at least 200 people to hospitals and to date the US Department of Agriculture listed 15 large uncontained fires and over 50 new fires.  According to one news report, “Droughts are to blame for many of the blazes, the Associated Press reported. ‘There are places getting ready to set records for most number of days in a row without rain,’ Alabama climatologist John Christy told the wire service before the fires began. ‘It’s a once-in-100-year kind of thing for this time of year.’”  Theme parks and resorts have been threatened including Dollywood the theme park founded by American country music legend Dolly Parton. 

 

Other news reports describe how hundreds have been evacuated from the wildfires in Tennessee.  Homes have burned and highways have been closed.  Fires in Tennessee has resulted in firefighter and civilian injuries.  This “perfect wildfire storm” in the South East fought by many firefighters through the Thanksgiving holiday, has exemplified that any area in the United States can be impacted by grass, forest and brush wildfires given the right conditions.  Communities can take action today by following Firewise Principles to protect their homes and communities.  Simple steps taken today can make a difference in the survivability of your home and those you care about. Simple actions such as:

  • Cleaning out gutters
  • Raking and removing flammable materials such as pine straw from next to your home
  • Removing dead vegetation
  • Make sure vents and other openings are screened or otherwise protected from wildfire.
  • Make sure that your lawn is well maintained and mowed
  • Throw away or properly store building materials in sheds away from the home
  • Move wood piles at least 30 feet away from your home

Learn how you and your community can be better prepared before the next wildfire and take steps together today that can ultimately help you, your family, wildland firefighters, and your property survive the next wildfire season.

 

Image of wildfires from NASA

Tennessee native and country music star, Dolly Parton, with help from her friend Smokey Bear, are teaming up to help in the fight against forest fires in the Smoky Mountain region.


A new video PSA created by the National Park Service spotlights Smokey and Ms. Parton, who urges Tennessee residents to take action to help prevent forest fires by following a few simple but key steps, including observing all burn bans and tying up trailer chains to keep them from sparking and igniting a fire.

 

Watch the video below:


 

To date, according to the state Division of Forestry, there are close to 65 active wildfires in Tennessee burning more than 15,000 acres. Thankfully, most are nearly contained. But with the warmer temperatures and severe drought conditions affecting most of the state and across the south, there is still an increased risk for more fires to ignite.

 

Learn more about what you can do before a wildfire threatens your area. Find tip sheets, toolkits, project ideas and more at www.firewise.org and at www.nfpa.org/wildfire.

.

I had previously blogged on the National Predictive Services fire behavior outlook for the Southeastern U.S. and that they could expect higher than normal fire activity due to long term drought and a shift from La Nina to El Nino this year.  You have also heard us say that fire seasons are lasting longer and large fires are not just in the West.  Well, all of those things have come true this fall and according to a Fox News source, an estimated 41.6 million people in parts of 15 Southern states are living within this zone.

The Southeast has experienced record numbers of fires with large acreage totals. The Chimney Tops 2 fire in Tennessee burned more than 17,000 acres, lost over 2,000 structures and cost 14 lives, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, (NIFC).  Most of these fires are human caused with some being determined to be caused by arson.  

NIFC large fire map

In a reverse of the usual fire season mobilization, crews, engines and aircraft from the West have been heading to the Southeast to assist.  While nationally, we are at Preparedness Level 1 (lowest), the Southern Area Coordination Center is at Preparedness level 5 (highest), meaning resources are being deployed nationally to assist and NIFC is managing the region as a national priority.

The majority of the fires are clumped in the Appalachian corridor affecting Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia. Other fires are burning in Virginia, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas and South Carolina. 

NFPA’s Firewise Communities/USA program has been fulfilling requests from the states affected to provide Firewise materials to assist regional prevention teams in their efforts to help residents reduce their risk from these wildfires.

Currently, Predictive Services does not show a significant improvement in the fire behavior outlook for the Southeast Region until January.

(photo credit: National Interagency Fire Center)

faithberry

Wildfires seen from space

Posted by faithberry Employee Nov 26, 2016

Have you ever wondered what wildfires burning across the globe must look like from outer space? The effects of wildfires across the globe can now be observed and researched by orbiting satellites in space.  The NASA Earth Observatory page has an interesting animated data set about wildfires that have occurred over the past year that you can view.  Some of the fires are caused by burning rangeland, some have been caused by lightning strikes or for other reasons.  One very interesting observation that I was able to make by comparing the fire map with the map that shares where elevated carbon dioxide levels are located across the world, is that some areas very closely align.  However according to the website this is not always the case.

 

According to the website, “The fire maps show the locations of actively burning fires around the world on a monthly basis, based on observations from the MODIS sensors on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites.”

 

Perhaps data gathered from these satellite images will help scientists better understand the kinds of gasses that are produced by different wildfires including carbon dioxide and how weather patterns can affect the intensity and spread of wildfires in the future.

 

 

Global image of fire on the upper left corner, and global image of carbon dioxide on the lower right corner from the NASA website.

 

We want to remind all interested participants to save the date!   Thanks to our partnership with State Farm; May 6th, 2017 will be the fourth annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  Starting January 9th, the grant application period will begin, so stay tuned to the Wildfire Preparedness Day webpage for more information.

 

Communities have come together and accomplished incredible things with their awards over the last several years.   Some communities have used the prep day activity to meet the requirements of their Firewise Day.  Check out success stories today to learn how you and your community can plan a wildfire mitigation project that will help your community be safer in the event of a wildfire and then share your story with us in 2017!


NFPA’s Firewise© Recognition Program can help residents in communities be safer from wildfire no matter where the community is located.  Communities from across the United States have shared their stories of success with us as they prioritize their risk and create innovative solutions to take effective actions that can significantly reduce their risk of loss from a wildfire.  Sisters, Oregon shares a great story with us about how they worked with local ranchers and their local fire department to develop solutions to their wildfire risk.  What is your community’s success story?

 

Cascade Meadows Ranch at Sisters, Oregon

Cascade Meadow Ranch (CMR) held a community meeting for Firewise Day. Bill Stayer, the CMR Fire Committee Chairman, summarized the community’s wildfire preparedness. He reviewed the actions by the ranch manager and the HOA board to reduce fuels and provide adequate water availability for firefighting. He also highlighted a recent visit by the Sisters Fire Safety Manager, Gary Marshall. Gary toured the community and praised their fire readiness.

 

CMR is a 360-acre development, mostly surrounded by the Deschutes National Forest, with 300 acres of common land, and a ranch manager for maintenance. CMR shared with us, “The CMR HOA board made the decision to commit to Firewise, and the ranch manager and ranch hand have done a lot of the work through the years to improve the CMR firewise situation. For water, CMR has a lake, a pond, five pump driven fire hydrants and two dry fire hydrants. Sisters Fire Department has done periodic hydrant testing and made suggestions for practical improvements. Some CMR homes are adjacent to mowed, irrigated horse pastures.” 

The North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange is offering the opportunity for individuals to participate in a free field trip offered in partnership with the Massachusetts Coastal Pine Barrens Association, “History of Fire Management at Camp Edwards” on January 19th, 2017 from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm.  Camp Edwards is a 15,000 acre National Guard base located in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  It has the largest pitch pine barren forest in the contiguous United States outside of New Jersey.

 

The field trip will examine a variety of successional habitats within the ecosystem that support a variety of species including endangered species and the effects on the habitat from the twenty-five plus years of fire history on the base.  For security reasons, you must register to attend this field trip no later than December 28th, 2016.  Register today, for this unique opportunity to learn about the successes of prescribed fire management at Camp Edwards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                    Photo from the North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange 


Last Thursday’s final virtual workshop
for 2016 was a success, with over 180 people joining Firewise on the Webinars On Air site and YouTube to hear 15 wildland urban legends put to the test.

 

Wildfire expert Pat Durland drew upon his long career as a smoke jumper, wildland firefighter, policy maker, insurance consultant, and wildland fire educator to explain myth, truth, and a few, “it depends”.

 

Along with the myth testing, Pat explained why certain myths persist and how to balance prescriptive vs. performance standards when talking with residents at risk to wildfire.

 

The virtual workshop is now available online and we encourage you to share it with neighbors and colleagues alike.

 

Also, keep an eye on FireBreak in the coming months as 2017’s Firewise educational outreach is shared.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) facility in Richburg, SC to witness several fire experiments. This work is part of a Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) project investigating fire ember production from wildland and structural (construction material) fuels in the wildland and Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). You can learn more about it at the project page: Fire Ember Production from Wildland and Structural Fuels.

 

It was a great opportunity to get back in the lab and participate with researchers as they work on an exciting project with excellent collaborators. Plus, it was a lot of fun (look at those smiles).

 

Steve Quarles (IBHS) and crew during final day of testing on fire ember production from wildland and structural fuels.

Corner-assembly burning during fire ember production experiments at IBHS.

Photos courtesy of IBHS Twitter: @disastersafety

 

Some Firewise® Communities are located in high fire hazard severity zones.  Some like River Bluff Ranch in Spokane, Washington have had to evacuate or have been put on notice about the possibility of evacuation.  When I lived in Southern California, I had to evacuate from my home and the knowledge that I had done everything possible to help my home be safer before I left gave me that sense that I had given my home a fighting chance to survive and it did.  Becoming Firewise, helps communities to work together for a common cause of keeping their community safer from wildfire.  Learn from River Bluff’s story and NFPA’s Firewise website about how your community can make changes that can make a difference.

 

River Bluff Ranch at Spokane, Washington

River Bluff Ranch worked on neighborhood clean-up for Firewise Day. The neighborhood HOA received a $5,400 matching grant from the Washington Department of Natural Resources. And, the HOA spent an additional $10,000 to hire a contractor to thin over 200 trees, prune branches, and remove slash piles. Members of the HOA participated in the clean-up and assisted in removing and disposing of some of the smaller slash piles.

 

River Bluff Ranch tells us, “A fire occurred this summer, just 5-7 miles south of our development. We were put on a Level 2 evacuation notice (get ready to leave) for 5 days. This is the reason our HOA is actively involved in the Firewise program. Being involved in Firewise is a cheap insurance that will provide big dividends when faced with the potential threat from a wildland fire. It was reassuring to residents to know we had been proactive to do everything possible to mitigate the threat.”

According to the US Department of Interior, National Park Service, ”The mission of the Wildfire Lessons Learned Center is to promote learning in the wildland fire service by providing useful and relevant products and services that help to reveal the complexity and risk in the wildland fire environment.”  The name of the site including the words (lessons learned) references the idea that if lessons are shared and learned from, they can change behaviors that enhance wildland firefighter safety. 

I have signed up to receive weekly briefs from the center to enhance my awareness and understanding of wildfire-related accidents, injuries, and deaths.  The latest update that I received contains a video published November 10, 2016, about the harrowing story of Chrissy Boone, firefighter with the Zuni Hotshot Crew.  The story is told by Chrissy herself and honestly details what went wrong and how her training with shelter deployment helped her survive.  Firefighter Boone was part of a crew that was in an area on the Nevada/Oregon border fighting fire in mainly grass and sagebrush.

 

Did you know that the NFPA has developed standards that establish requirements for protective clothing used by wildland firefighters? NFPA 1977 discusses the certification of, product labeling of, performance criteria and more.  This standard has free online access to answer your questions and you can connect directly with Tom McGowan at tmcgowan@nfpa.org .

Tomorrow, Firewise’s wildland “urban legends” will be put to the test. This virtual workshop will be on Thursday, November 17, at 3 pm EST (1 pm MST).

 

There is still time to register for this exciting, “ask an expert” event.

 

Do curtains ignite due to radiant heat before the glass breaks? Are composite materials noncombustible? Can I protect my home with swimming pool water? Firefighters will pass by your home if you haven’t created defensible space.

 

 

Wildfire expert Pat Durland will determine truth or myth 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.

 

We have received some great myths from registered attendees. Join us tomorrow, November 17, at 3 pm EST (1 pm MST) as they are put to the test.

(Photo Credits: Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, IBHS)

The November 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:

  • Information about the prevalence of arson in the wildland-urban interface and how states are dealing with the challenge
  • An invitation to the November 17 virtual workshop that debunks the myths about wildfire safety and preparedness, and gets to the truth of what communities can and should do to help reduce risk
  • The definition of “dead fall” and its contribution to wildfire, and how neighborhoods are working together to clean up their area

...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.

With the same excitement and enthusiasm of a school principal eager to announce the names of students that have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments, NFPA’s Wildfire Division is thrilled to announce that nine of the inaugural twelve communities; the first to participate in the national Firewise Communities/USA program in 2002, have completed their fifteenth year of participation.

 

These communities were true pioneers, they recognized the importance of neighbors working together to reduce their wildfire risks and they paved the path for today’s more than 1,383 participating communities throughout the U.S. Over the past 15-years, the nine communities have collectively contributed more than $5.9 million in risk reduction activities; with more than 15,000 full and part residents living within their boundaries. Each works closely with their state forestry agency and local fire department to maximize efforts that increase their homes chances of surviving a wildfire. 

 

We extend a rousing round of applause to each community in reaching this major milestone – our kudos to each for their achievements.

 

The communities include:

Timber Ridge, Prescott, AZ

Perry Park, Larkspur, CO

Genesee Foundation, Golden, CO

Wedgefield, Orlando, FL

Wilderness Ranch, Boise, ID

Greater Eastern Jemez WUI Corridor, Jemez Springs, NM

Emigration Canyon, Salt Lake City, UT

Sundance, Provo Canyon, UT

River Bluff Ranch, Spokane, WA

 

Visit the Firewise website for more information on the Firewise Communities/USA recognition program and to view a complete list of participating sites.

I watched an interesting demonstration of drones used to spot fires and assist during search and rescue operations during a wildfire.  A variety of unmanned aircraft that could be used in a variety of ways were demonstrated on November 8th and 9th at Griffiss International Airpost in Oneida County city of Rome, New York.  This airstrip is a designated FAA test airport for unmanned aircraft.

 

According to the article, Syracuse to host drone industry convention,The use of drones is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years because of their many potential uses, including search and rescue, disaster relief, media, inspection of rail and power lines, mail and freight transport, and crop surveillance. 


However, a major challenge to the industry is the development of systems to safely integrate drones into the nation's airspace. Unlike manned aircraft, drones do not have a pilot to watch out for other aircraft.
  Specialized radar systems must be used to track many types of unmanned aircraft.

The Unmanned Traffic Management (UMT) Convention provided training and workshops such as; Control, Payload, Collision Avoidance, and Low-Altitude Traffic Management: Spectrum Considerations, The Future of Industry Innovation to Enable UTM and more.

 

There were demonstrations of a variety of drones that could be utilized by Fire Departments to assist with difficult and dangerous operations now being carried out by manned aircraft including; spotting fires, dropping retardants and water on fires as well as assisting in search and rescues during wildfire events.  The future of drone applications for wildfire use may help wildland firefighters be safer in the future.

How do you get in the habit year after year of continuing to work on creating Firewise© homes and communities?  We have seen that one key to growing successful participation in wildfire mitigation activities is by having fun working together.  Communities have shared with us that Firewise activities provide the impetus for the community to continue to work together for a common cause of making their homes safer from wildfire.  As Flowery Trail Community Association shares below, “Firewise has become a habit.”

 

Flowery Trail Community Association at Spokane, Washington

Flowery Trail organized a three-day fuel reduction event in their community for Firewise Day. From June 20-22, 110 neighbors worked together for three full days of yard and neighborhood clean-up, disposing of slash through chipping and burning. Trees, brush, and other vegetative fuels were removed from the community, reducing the wildfire risk to homes and people.

 

Flowery Trail says, “To Flowery Trail Community Association, Firewise is much more than getting prepared to increase the chances of surviving a wildfire. Firewise is also bringing the community together to work toward the same goal, getting everyone prepared for the wildfire that will someday pay us a visit. Firewise is also building lifelong friendships, working as a team on fuel reduction projects, taking the time to have a community potluck lunch, and to sit around after a work day, and enjoy a beverage with all of your friends.  Firewise has become a habit, something you do year after year, after year.”

Picture submitted by the Flowery Trails Community

According to a news report, Forest fire contained in Unicoi Co., 3 other reports of forest fires, there are many wildfires right now in Tennessee and North Carolina.  One fire a 47-acre blaze was spotted close to the Cherokee National Forest in Unicoi County, Tennessee.  Other fires were located in Walnut Mountain, off of Denton Valley Road off of US Highway 421 and according to another news article in Flipper Bend, Tennessee. A wildfire is also burning in Georgia close to the Tennessee state line.

 

One wildfire in Church Hill, Tennessee trapped firefighters and a civilian.  The fire located between Mountain View Road and Laurel Run Park Road trapped firefighters from Goshen Valley and Carters Valley Fire Department who were able to locate the missing person but themselves became trapped by the fire.  One civilian and one firefighter were injured.

 

The article indicated that because of weather conditions there have been fire restrictions that limit the use of outdoor fires in the Cherokee National Forest since October 29th. According to the article, “Effective October 29, 2016, the following fire restrictions are in place for the entire Cherokee National Forest (approximately 655,000 acres) until terminated by the U.S. Forest Service:

  • Building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or charcoal fire outside of developed recreation areas. The use of portable lanterns, stoves or heating equipment that utilize gas or pressurized liquid fuel is allowed.
  • Fires at developed recreation areas must be confined to receptacles designed for fire. Metal fire rings and grills are provided in Cherokee National Forest developed recreation areas. Campfires should always be put out and cold to the touch before left for any period of time.”

The NFPA provides a great resource tip sheet for campfire safety  as well as resources and educational opportunities that you can use to make your home and community safer from wildfire.

 

NASA image of the wildfires in Tennessee and Georgia

                                                                                        

The stories that these two Firewise© Communities shared with us share how communities can select the best time of year to promote and encourage their residents to participate in wildfire mitigation activities.  There is a broad range of variables that can determine when the best time of year is for your community to schedule wildfire prevention and education activities including:

  • Working on projects when more residents tend to be in the community especially if the community has residents that are only there seasonally, such as for summer activities.
  • Working on projects when the weather is favorable to outdoor activities.
  • Working on projects considering the fire risks and times of year when the fire risk in your community is highest.
  • Working on projects so that you do not interfere with nesting or denning habits of wildlife in the area.

Whenever you find the time(s) of year most favorable for your Firewise activity make sure to check out the NFPA Firewise Website for some additional project ideas.

 

Awbrey Glen at Bend, Oregon

 

Awbrey Glen conducts a roadside slash pick-up project every Spring and Fall for its Firewise project.  Residents are reminded through their newsletter, their website, neighborhood meetings and with postcards of the dates when roadside pick-up of debris will be available. It is a two-week period during which residents clean their yards and stack bags of slash on the side of their road. Then, a contractor comes through daily, picking up the bags and bringing them to a recycling center. In addition, once every other year, in the Fall, the community hires a contractor with a chipper to travel through the community to chip tree limbs and other large items that cannot be bagged.

 

Awbrey Glen says, “Last month we completed our Fall “Drive through the Glen and Pick-up Program”. There are a bit more than five miles of roads in the Glen and our contractor drives through many times during this two week program picking up large trash bags full of combustible yard material. All of that material is then delivered to the Deschutes County recycling center. This Fall’s program used 30 yard dumpsters to deliver the material to the recycle center, and none of it to a landfill. The program in It took several years to build up the program to the high degree of success we have in Awbrey Glen. Getting a program like this together does take some time and effort. First, would be the selection of a skilled and licensed contractor who has access to a vehicle large enough to make this kind of program run both smoothly and economically. Followed by very clear and continuous communication, which must reach absolutely each and every property owner in the community. No matter how great your program may be, you simply can’t expect a percentage of your community to participate without an endless reminder.  It may seem like a waste of time and money, but without endless reminders, your community can fall behind on the ability to reduce the possibility of losing even one home.”

 

Ridgewood Estates at Covallis, Oregon

 

Ridgewood Estates has held an annual yard slash Chipping Day during the first week in June for the past 30 years! This annual yard clean-up event is the community’s event for Firewise Day. The neighborhood of 52 homes begins cleaning their yards about one month in advance of the Chipper Days. The neighbors stack the slash in large piles by the road. Then the Ridgewood Road District President and volunteers tow a 12” chipper through the neighborhood and dispose of the debris. The wood chips are dispersed back to the homeowners for use in gardens and on nature paths. In 2014, residents put in 78 man-hours disposing of the slash piles over three days. This does not count the additional hours put in by homeowners cleaning their yards and creating the slash piles. The cost of chipper rental for three days was $900.

 

Ridgewood Road says, “The volunteer homeowners direct traffic for safety and load the material through the chipper, disbursing the woodchips back onto the property. With an 86 acre wildfire that occurred last September a few miles away, we anticipate an even larger effort this Spring, since a large number of Ridgewood residents are actively working one-on-one with our Community Wildfire Forester, using his suggestions to mitigate risk from wildfires.”

                                                                                               Picture submitted by Awbrey Glen Firewise Community

IBHS Research Center

An opportunity to get a rare look at wildfire ember testing tools used at the IBHS Research Center in South Carolina is happening this Wednesday, November 9 at 10:30 am EST during a live Facebook event.

 

During the upcoming live event, Dr. Steve Quarles with IBHS will show the tools used in tests studying the characteristics of embers from different wildland fire fuel sources along with the implications regarding their ability to ignite homes, structures and other combustible materials.

 

NFPA aims to help residents in high risk areas learn what they can do to make their homes and communities safer from wildfire. One important group that can help educate property owners are REALTORS®. Professionals who belong to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) live up to a high standard of education and want to help their clients understand what is involved in living with nature. Many NAR members tuned in recently for a webinar that outlined the science of fire and how to keep homes from igniting during brush or forest fires. You can listen to and watch the recording of the webinar on WebEx.

 

During the presentation, I talked about the magnitude and scope of the wildfire disaster problem in the United States, and the science behind how homes burn. I laid out the basics of Firewise principles -- simple steps that can greatly reduce the chances that a home will ignite during a wildfire. These principles can help address what I refer to as the "98% problem"* and make communities a safer place to live, work and play.

 

You can learn more about the criteria of the Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program as well as benefits to residents that include information in disclosure documents and insurance discounts. You can also find out about free and low-cost materials, training and other resources that NFPA has to offer. 

 

*(Don't know what the 98% problem is? Check out the webinar to find out!)

Prescribed fire is a tool used by foresters in many areas around the country to promote creating healthy forests and reduce the risk of wildfire damage to watersheds and homes.  According to a US Fish and Wildlife Service Web Page, “Use of prescribed fire is widely accepted as a primary tool for land and resource managers. Carefully planned prescribed fire gives refuge managers the flexibility and increased control to burn under the right conditions, more effectively managing fire effects and smoke to benefit natural resources while keeping firefighters and the public safe. These actions help reduce the risk of devastating wildfires that can threaten people, fish, wildlife, and plants.” 

 

Prescribed fire should be completed by trained professionals, who know how to be aware of many factors that could cause a prescribed fire for good results to become a wildfire.  Prescribed fires completed safely must take into consideration many factors including, the condition of the vegetation (the type of vegetation, the amount, the amount of dead and deadfall, the amount of moisture in the vegetation, the wind and other weather conditions (from a variety of sources including current real time information) such as relative humidity, terrain and other environmental conditions in complex ecosystems.  Pre-planning for prescribed fires also includes a biological survey, consideration for watersheds and other sensitive ecosystems as well as a review of airborne particulate matter that could be emitted often in conjunction with the EPA or other regulatory entities to prevent harm to individuals with asthma or other medical conditions.  Preplanning also includes a contingency plan such as how to deal with potential spot fires and how fire resources should be utilized if the fire goes outside of the parameters of the prescribed fire including spotters, hot shot crews, water tenders, and planes the day of the event.  Financial resources to fund all of the prefire and fire activities also need to be allocated and planned for well in advance of the event. Notifications about the fire are made to homeowners and property owners in the area and their input responded to and considered.  The day of the event all fire service resources are staged and traffic hazard condition are constantly monitored. 

 

If you are interested in learning more about prescribed fire, The Southern Fire Exchange is offering a free webinar: Fire Adapted Cities Prescribed Fire Use in Urban and Community Forest Management on November 10th 2016 from 1-2 pm ET  which is approved for 1.0 hour Cat. 1 SAF CFE Credit.  Justice Jones, Wildfire Mitigation Division Program Manager, Austin Fire Department, Austin, Texas will be presenting.

 

Prescribed fires even in controlled settings can become wildfires and should never be used by homeowners to reduce vegetation around their properties without proper permits from all authorities having jurisdiction, environmental entities, state foresters and federal land managing agencies if they are even allowed.   Be aware that if you start a fire that becomes a wildfire you may be responsible not only financially for thousands of dollars of suppression costs but you could also face criminal charges.  Make sure that your wildfire mitigation efforts are Firewise.  The Firewise website lists many easy to implement projects and community activity ideas that can help your community be safer in the event of a wildfire.

 Picture of a controlled burn outside of Fallon, Nevada by on the US Fish and Wildlife website by Firefighter John Wood

 

A recent NFPA training in Maine helped fire service and forestry professionals from New England and Canada learn the science behind how homes ignite from wildfire. More importantly, students learned what they can do to advise property owners about actions that will help prevent ignition and reduce the chances of home destruction during a brush or forest fire.

 

Sponsored by the Maine Forest Service, a full classroom of participants engaged in the Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone two-day training. This interactive training covers characteristics of wildfire and wildland-urban fire, providing the scientific background on home ignition developed through years of experimental research and post-disaster findings. Once students were immersed in fire physics and home vulnerabilities in the classroom, instructor Pat Durland took them to several sites selected by Maine forestry staff to take a look at real homes on real landscapes to assess their ignition potential. 

 

According to training host and Maine forester Kent Nelson, Pat Durland's instruction "provided a lot of easy fixes from roof to foundation to make homes safer from embers and radiant heat." Most importantly, the training provides participants with the confidence and knowledge to make sound recommendations to property owners about how to protect their most important asset - their home.

 

To bring this training to your area, contact NFPA Training today.

 

Photo credits: Northeast Wildfire (www.northeastwildfire.org and Kent Nelson, Maine Forest Service)

In just 2 weeks, Firewise’s wildland “urban legends” will be put to the test on Thursday, November 17, at 3 pm EST (1 pm MST).

 

Register today to participate in this exciting, “ask an expert” virtual workshop.

 

Will mulch spontaneously combust in the heat? Clear cutting trees on my property will protect my home, right? Are tile roofs safe from embers? Do curtains ignite due to radiant heat before the glass breaks? Wood piles are safe, if they’re 30ft from my home. Can I protect my home with swimming pool water?

 

Join us on November 17th when 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.

 

We have received some great myths from registered attendees and they will be put to the test. If you have a wildland “urban legend” you have heard or wondered about, please share it with us at LDeaton@nfpa.org and we’ll as the expert on November 17.

 

Photo Credit: Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

 

We at NFPA are so pleased to hear stories from Firewise© Communities about their successes.  Recently, Sky Valley Association, Inc. a Home Owner’s Association (HOA) located on Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland which has been a Firewise Community for almost 12 years shared their success story with us. They are a development of 136 homes located within mature pine and hardwood forest.   This community keeps busy all year hosting clean up days in early spring and late fall where 50 to 60 community volunteers show up at each event to remove dead branches and brush and haul this material to a community burn pile.

 

Twenty to forty dump truck loads of material are removed and burnt each year as a result of these ongoing fire prevention efforts.  The volunteers work from 9 AM to 1 PM ending the work day with a community lunch, that everyone in the community is invited to attend.

 

According to Bob Sutton, the president of the Sky Association Board of Directors, “This effort has resulted in improved fire awareness and improved fire safety for our owners. It also has turned into a fun community event and a chance to meet neighbors and socialize together for a common cause. Kids also participate which gives them a sense of volunteerism and community service.  … As a result of this program, our community property is enhanced and is a safer place to live. The Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources has also complemented us for excellent forest management on the lakeshore and common areas.”  What firewise story does your community have to share?

 

As we approach the traditional winter season in the northern latitudes, it can be easy to forget that it's wildfire season somewhere in the United States on any given day. Recent news stories from Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky are a clear reminder that "wildfire season" varies widely around the country based on general climate and vegetation conditions as well as short-term weather impacts. Even when wildfires are not predicted or necessarily expected, they can occur and cause significant damage, as evidenced by the recent Junkins Fire outside of Pueblo, Colorado, where one news source reports nine homes burned.

 

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) Predictive Services issues a monthly and seasonal set of predictions to give a national picture of the outlook for significant wildfire activity. For November and into the beginning of 2017, Southern California and much of the southeast region of the country are predicted to have "above normal" potential for significant wildfire activity. The report issued today providing the outlook for November through January comments that fire seasons are "normal", except in Southern California due to the continued presence of long-term drought, and in the southeastern United States. (The report helpfully notes that "normal" does not mean no fires will occur). The southeastern area is also suffering from long-term drought, but as the report notes, the wildfire potential "is going to be exacerbated by dry leaf litter falling on top of already dry fuels and also occasional dry and windy periods." An abundant grass crop will also provide fuel for fires during dry and windy periods in the southern Plains.

 

Residents and travelers can find out more about current conditions by staying aware of local weather reports and checking at National Weather Service and NOAA websites for fire weather forecasts. Maintaining Firewise homes and landscapes can help cut the risk of home ignition during a wildfire during high fire danger periods

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: