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2017

Our thoughts and concerns are with the people of Southeastern Texas today and everyone affected by the flooding and impact of Tropical Storm Harvey. It is hard to remove our minds from the devastating images of the destruction that has been done across the state of Texas.

 

We have more than 85 sites recognized in the Firewise USA™ program in Texas, several of them in regions affected by Harvey. The NFPA’s Wildfire Division has been committed to helping these communities reduce their wildfire risk and we truly know how recovering from any natural disaster can be a long and difficult process.

 

We are also thinking about the safety of the residents affected and the rescue workers. According to our state partners in Texas, more than 170 staff members from the Texas A&M Forest Service have been deployed to help with relief efforts. This is a reminder for us of the great partners we have in Texas and their ability to lend assistance during this time of need.

The Firewise USA™ map has been updated to include the latest layer of Firewise sites in good standing as well as a host of other new features.

 

You've always been able to search the map by your address or physical location. However, now you can search for any Firewise USA site by the site name as well. We have also added the US Forest Service’s ‘Wildfire Hazard Potential’ (WHP) layer to the map. This layer can help inform assessments of wildfire risk and depicts the relative potential for wildfire that would be difficult to suppress. To activate this layer, simply select the 'layers' button in the navigation menu and check the 'Wildfire Hazard Potential' box.

 

Lastly, thanks to our new Firewise Portal, the informational pop-up about each Firewise USA site has been updated to include how much each site has invested over their life in the program. Try searching for 'Sun City Texas Community Association' to see just how incredible their investment in lowering their wildfire risk has been over the last nine years!

 

Please contact Aron Anderson if you have any questions or concerns about the location of a specific Firewise USA site displayed in this interactive map.


Wildfire image submitted by Sammy Moore III New Jersey

 

What is funded: FEMA is providing grant funding to assist communities with pre disaster mitigation projects, to help communities better prepare themselves.  For communities working towards making themselves safer from wildfire, this is an opportunity to check into, if there are people who are willing to dedicate time and offer their expertise to manage the grant.  A resource guide is provided by FEMA that highlights suggestions for disaster preparedness activities to help communities better plan for disasters.  In the resource guide, in section WF-6 the booklet describes suggestions for retrofitting at risk structures including updating roofs and home siding.  The booklet also describes in section WF-7 suggestions for making improvements in the vegetation immediately surrounding structures.

 

Who can apply:  According to the FEMA website, states, US territories, local governments, and federally recognized tribes can apply for the funding. According to their web page, "Local governments are eligible sub applicants and can sponsor applications on behalf of homeowners to submit”.

 

When is the application period: For 2017, the application period is August 14 through November 14. 

 

How to apply: The Notice of Funding opportunity (NOFO) is posted on the federal grant website. The 2017 PDM Fact sheet provides an overview of the agencies priorities for this year.  

For more information about this funding opportunity check out the FEMA website.  For additional information about how you can help better prepare your home and neighborhood check out the Firewise Website.

 

The August edition of the five-part Wildfire Research Fact Sheet series produced by the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Firewise USA program and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), details how an attached burning deck can ignite siding or break glass, allowing fire to gain entry into the house during a wildfire.

 

Whether building a new deck or taking steps to reduce an existing deck’s vulnerability, this month’s research fact sheet provides recommendations on building materials and design features, along with steps to create a noncombustible zone under the entire footprint of the deck.

 

Each fact sheet provides residents living in areas prone to wildfires with important research findings that can be implemented at the individual parcel level. They also provide forestry agencies and fire departments with a tool that can be utilized in their educational outreach efforts with homeowners; by providing a customizable option that personalizes the fact sheets with an agency/department logo.

 

Look for these upcoming topics in the September and October editions of the research fact sheets:  Fencing and Coatings.

Photo and information shared by Dave Celino Photo of Northeast 

 

 

A wildfire crew comprised of 16 state firefighters from Massachusetts DCR and 4 State Firefighters from New Hampshire Dept of Lands have been assisting firefighting efforts on the Elephant Hill fire in British Columbia, Canada.  The 20 person hand crew have been assisting along with crews from across the globe to battle the over 420,000-acre fire just outside of Clinton, BC.  The international crews they worked with came from Australia and New Zealand to assist their Canadian partners.

 

One of the main focuses of their firefighting efforts this week has been to keep wildfire away from the village of Clinton.  This crew was mobilized on August 3, in the Hopkinton State Park in Massachusetts and was initially transported to Quebec and from there to British Columbia.  The mobilization is facilitated through the Northeast Forest Fire Compact, which dates back to 1949 and establishes a formal forest fire mutual aid system between all New England States, New York, and the provinces of eastern Canada.  “We are very proud of our wildland firefighters and the opportunity to lend much-needed assistance to our friends and neighbors to the north.  Our staff is well trained, and by all accounts, their skills and professionalism have been welcomed by fire managers on the Elephant Hill Fire”, said Dave Celino, Chief Fire Warden for the Massachusetts Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.   The crew will be headed home with new found partners and skills.

 

 

Dave Celino, Massachusetts Forest Fire Warden shared these photos

The campaign message for NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week October 8-14, 2017 is, “Every Second Counts Plan Two Ways Out!”.  This year’s Fire Prevention Week theme stresses the importance of everyone having an escape plan.  Having a good plan in place can make all the difference in your survival from fire. 

 

Because every year, wildfires burn across the U.S., and more people are living where wildfires are a real risk, NFPA’s Wildfire Division has developed a tear sheet, “Seconds count: plan two ways out”.  This new product is a pad with 100 tear sheets that features a fun maze activity that can be used with children.  Children love mazes which makes this new product a great conversation starter for families on planning to evacuate before a wildfire occurs. Be sure to check out NFPA’s FPW products. Order early to receive your materials in time for Fire Prevention Week.

 

NFPA also has free downloadable products for Fire Prevention Week and for wildfire preparedness.  Make sure that kids and parents in your community understand the need to plan for fires wherever they are, indoors or out. 

NASA image of wildfires in Canada

Wildfire activity has been reported this year in areas across the globe by NASA satellites. These satellites are able to detect large amounts of smoke on the ground and pinpoint the fire activity.  An August 4 Modis Satellite report shared for instance where wildfire activity was occurring on the Island of Greenland which is mainly covered in ice.  The western side of the island is the area where most of the activity is occurring.

 

In Portugal, firefighters are battling at least 60 wildfires according to satellite images.  According to the NASA report low air humidity’s, high winds, and high temperatures are contributing to the severity of the wildfires there.  Seventy-nine percent of the Portuguese mainland has been affected by drought this year as well.

NASA images of wildfires in Russia

The Western area of Canada according to the satellite images is also being impacted by multiple wildfires.  According to the report, the province of British Columbia has the highest fire activity and highest National Preparedness level at a 5 out of 5.  About 1,245,000 acres have been affected this year alone in British Columbia.

 

Other areas across the globe noted by satellites that are impacted by wildfire include Central Africa, Brazil, and  Siberia in Russia.   You can check out the latest NASA YouTube videos of fire and smoke on the NASA website.


After a wildfire has made the headlines, the often unreported risks of soil erosion and flooding remains.  The difficult work of landscape restoration begins.

 

In early June, wildfires burned over 39 square miles along the “Garden Route” region of coastal South Africa, east of Cape Town. The wildfires forced the evacuation of at least 10,000 residents in the hardest-hit town of Knysna and its surrounding suburbs, with thousands more fleeing elsewhere as various fires spread.

 

In its aftermath, the Garden Route Rebuild Initiative was developed to assess the loss and guide redevelopment efforts across the region. They released a progress report in early August focusing on necessary landscape restoration efforts from the June and previous wildfires.

 

Their current work includes:

 

• Over 50 erosion control projects along exposed slopes by moving dead brush into stack lines; installing “bio-sausages”; and utilizing “bio-blankets” to retain top-soil, especially in catchment areas.  

 

• Monitoring large-scale invasive alien plant re-growth, while completing plans to employ a hydro-seeder for native plant development.

 

• Hiring and training efforts to spread the erosion control projects.

 

Val Charlton, Managing Director of the South Africa "Land Works Non-Profit Company" and its FireWiseSA Program, that serves on the initiative, shared with me her reflections on the current work.

 

“The Knysna and Plettenberg Bay fires were some of the most devastating ever experienced in South Africa. Declared as a Provincial Disaster, it has been really heartening to see how people and organizations pull together - or "inspan" as we say in South Africa - to address the many post -fire challenges.”

 

Val explained that, “the Garden Route Rebuild Initiative has been formed as a multi-disciplinary, intergovernmental and civil society platform to do just that - rebuild, be innovative in approach and build back better. It will be a long haul, but folks are committed.”

 

Noting some of the challenges faced by the initiative, Val shared that, “in addition to more than 1000 homes damaged or destroyed, this area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site - outstanding natural areas and rare biodiversity.”

 

The landscape restoration focus is of great importance right now to the initiative. Val explained that, “as winter rains [southern hemisphere in August] are expected, addressing mudslides, slippage and erosion control on the steep slopes have been some of the first actions. Stabilization of the burn scar will remain a priority in the near future in order to keep roads open and avoid risk to homeowners adjoining and on the slopes.”

 

You can follow their post-fire landscape restoration and community rebuilding efforts on The Garden Route Rebuild Facebook page.

 

Photo Credits: Garden Route Rebuild 3Aug17 Progress Report, pulled 14Aug17 

Photo submitted by Jennifer Berry of Gary and Mugsy Berry 

September is FEMA's National Preparedness Month and is a good time to revisit your family’s evacuation plan in the event of a wildfire.  Being prepared before a wildfire disaster can help keep everyone in your family safer.  One family member often overlooked is the family pet. 

Taking simple steps to prepare pets for an evacuation can make it easier for everyone else.   Some steps that you can take to make the process easier for your pet are:

  •      Have a crate ready for your pet that is the right size for your pet. Practice with your pet getting into the crate so that it is easy and familiar for your pet.  It will make it easier for you both.
  •      Make sure that you have organized important documentation for your pet including, Special needs documentation (a list of the pet’s current physical disabilities or illnesses, emotional or behavioral problems and how to deal with them, special feeding schedule requirements, dietary restrictions, allergies), copies of ownership records (adoption records, registration paperwork, pet health insurance policies, municipal or county license tags and paperwork), Microchip paperwork.
  •      Create a kit for your pet in a plastic tub and use a sharpie to update the contents inside. (some items to include are a 3-7 day supply of pet food, a can opener and spoon if your pet is eating canned food, water and food dishes, clean water for 3-7days, collar or harness, leash, cat litter tray and scoop, bedding, toys, dog waste bags, first aid kit, and cleaning supplies including spray disinfectant and paper towel).  Keep the kit where it will not get too hot or too cold.
  •      List of important pet related phone numbers because internet access may difficult. Include veterinarian, local animal control agency, animal shelter/boarding facility, list of nearby pet friendly hotels, and even friends that may be willing to temporarily take your pet while you are away from home (this may be neighbors who are part of a buddy system network where neighbors help evacuate each other’s pets).

 

Focusing on your pet can help remind you what your two-legged family members will need as well, and can help make emergency planning engaging for children.  Don’t forget to check out NFPA’s TakeAction website for some great resources available to help you prepare your pet in the event of an evacuation for a wildfire, including a downloadable pet evacuation checklist. 

Photo by Faith Berry at NFPA's Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire in Santa Fe

The National Volunteer Fire Council referred to the NFPA’s Fourth Needs Assessment Survey, about the need identified in NFPA’s survey for fire departments lacking the necessary training to identify the importance of grant funding to meet this need.  To help fire departments be able to pay for the training they should have, they have worked together with Josh Cellars a wine distributor from California to offer ten $5,000 grant awards to volunteer departments who members of the council or have a firefighter that is part of their department and is a member who applies.

 

According to their website funding can be used to train department personnel, both online and in person, purchase training aids, student materials, or props needed to support training.  One area identified where this training funding can be used is for wildfire.  The grant period is open from August 1 to September 30.

 

To learn more about this grant funded opportunity apply on the National Volunteer Fire Council website.  Volunteer fire departments and others needing wildfire risk reduction training should take a look at NFPA's Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire classroom training. 

Two opportunities were recently shared by wildfire prevention partners in the Southwest.  The first is for grant opportunities (Rural Fire Defense 80/20) for rural fire departments in Oklahoma and Community Wildfire Protection grants.  According to an Oklahoma Forestry news release, “The grants are authorized by Governor Mary Fallin, funded by Oklahoma Legislature and administered by the Oklahoma Forestry Services, a division of Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.  Oklahoma’s Rural Fire Coordinators grade the applications and select recipients.” The Rural Fire Defense 80/20 grant will provide funding for equipment and construction costs for rural fire departments that serve communities with populations less than 10,000. The Community Wildfire Protection grants are available to city, towns and local fire departments with a completed Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). For more information about these opportunities visit the Oklahoma Forestry Services website or call 405 522-6158.

 

A second opportunity available is to participate in a free webinar presented by the Southwest Fire Science Consortium on August 31 at 11 AM.   Webinar presenter, Sasha Stortz from Northern Arizona University will be speaking about the East Jemez Landscape Futures (EJLF) project.  This collaborative project has engaged twenty different stakeholders to work together to manage areas of the eastern Jemez Mountains.  Because of the positive collaborative working group, they were able to develop a holistic approach to land management.  For more information about this webinar opportunity, visit the Southwest Fire Science Consortium website.


Like any ignition, fire needs an outside heat source applied to the trifecta of available fuel, heat, and oxygen to burn. As the BBC News reported on Monday, the outside source of ignition for various wildfires in southern Sicily between 2013 to 2015 were a band of 15 volunteer firefighters.

 

They are accused of fraud in inflating received payments by both reporting fake fires and setting deliberate fires. They would receive about 10 Euros ($11.75 USD) an hour while on response.

 

Not surprisingly, they garnered initial suspicion because they received more dispatches than any other team and a review of the 115 emergency calls over that period often showed the same phone number reporting wildfire starts under different names.

 

Of all the variables that influence wildfire behavior – fuel, topography, and weather (wind and humidity), I think the motivation of the ignition source is the most difficult to define. While lightning is a natural source of fire, “human-caused ignitions” comprise the vast majority of wildfire starts. Agricultural burns can be understood. The spark from a target practice bullet or the blade of a lawn mower hitting a rock can fall under negligence. The abandoned campfire that continues to smolder can lead to criminality. Yet. It’s the motivation of an arsonist that remains not as clear cut as you may think.

 

2016’s Clayton Fire in Lake County, California, was lit by an arsonist suspected in a dozen other fires in the area dating back to the summer of 2015. The November 2016 NFPA Journal Wildfire Column explored that fire, what motivates people to set fires, and how to counter the anti-social behaviors of those who want to watch the world burn.

 

While greed and false-heroism may have motivated these fire setters in Sicily, it is the selfless acts of countless firefighters currently responding to wildfires from the Mediterranean coasts to Montana, and elsewhere, that truly define what emergency services are all about.

 

Photo Credit: NIFC Public Photo Library Wildfires Album, pulled 8 August 2017.  


On Monday August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross the United States, working its way from Oregon to South Carolina. This amazing experience is the event of the summer, with millions of observers expected to flock to the states in the total viewing path.

 

While an awesome event to behold, there are those who wish the timing was different. August is peak fire season for much of the country and 2017 has already been a busy year.

 

With the eclipse expecting to bring a large influx of visitors driving and camping into these areas, state and federal wildfire response agencies are gearing up for the worst. They are laying contingency plans for wildfire response and evacuations. Resources are being prepositioned and agencies are taking an “all hands on deck approach”. Some are even cancelling days off for fire staff.

 

Visitors have an important role to play in preventing human caused wildfires during the eclipse.

 

• If towing a trailer, make sure your chains are secure and not dragging.
• Visit the website of your eclipse viewing destination to find out the burning rules and restrictions, permissions vary across public lands.
• Don’t assume you will be able to have a campfire.
• The USFS has some excellent tips are preparedness regarding personal safety and wildfire.

 

For those living in the path of the eclipse, we encourage you to prepare as well. Firewise USA® has easy tools to help you reduce your risk from wildfire, checkout the Firewise Tips Checklist for Homeowners.

 

Most of all, enjoy a safe eclipse experience!

 

Photo credit: NASA Downloadables | Total Solar Eclipse 2017 

In collaboration with the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, NFPA is proud to launch our new Firewise USA™ online application and renewal system we've dubbed the Firewise Portal. This new portal brings the Firewise USA program™ fully online with a new and intuitive system that allows a collaborative place for potential Firewise sites to document and track their progress while they work towards becoming a nationally recognized Firewise program participant.

 

Firewise Portal DashboardIn addition, we've designed the new portal to guide participating residential sites in documenting their annual renewal information  in a more intuitive and user friendly way. The new renewal process seamlessly guides users through the process of documenting the Firewise events and the mitigation activities that were completed throughout the year.

 

It also provides the program's Firewise State Liaisons a more active role in managing their state's program. The end result is a new system that is able to assist sites in continuing their ever important efforts to make where they live safer and more resilient to wildfires.

 

The Firewise USA program is co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.  This portal was equal funding partnership between the USDA Forest Service and NFPA.

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