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2017

Photo shared by LA City Fire

According to their website; the InterAgency Board for Equipment Standardization (IAB) are a loosely organized voluntary collaborative panel or board comprised mainly of first responders sanctioned by the US Attorney General and founded by the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation Weapons of Mass Destruction Countermeasures in 1998 to strengthen the nation’s ability to safely respond to large disasters.   They have recently released a new paper, “Training Trigger: Wildland Fire Fighting/Urban Interface”.  This is the first paper they have released for first responders regarding wildfire response in areas known as the wildland-urban interface.

 

Photo shared by LA City Fire from the La Tuna Fire

With the growing wildfire threat, (this year’s wildfire suppression costs have already exceeded every previous year’s costs) and large wildfires occurring in areas that have not traditionally seen large wildfires like Gatlinburg, TN, it becomes increasingly important for fire departments that have traditionally focused on structure fires to be trained and equipped to respond for calls of assistance for wildland fires.

 

This paper refers to NFPA Standards 1051 Wildland Firefighting Personnel, 1142 Wildland Fire Management, 1906 Wildland Fire Apparatus, and 1977 Wildland Firefighting PPE as well as the NFPA report, “Wildland/Urban Interface: Fire Department Wildfire and Readiness Capabilities.”   It points to activities that are suggested for fire departments to engage in, to safely operate in wildland fire situations:

 

  •      Take advantage of the most current wildland fire training
  •      Preplan for where your agency can get resources to assist with wildfire response
  •      Ensure that all responding fire service personnel have met physical fitness standards established by the “pack test”
  •      Practice operating nontraditional apparatus and equipment such as type 3 engines used in wildfire response
  •      Have an adequate communications plan (ICS 205)
  •      Update emergency Operations Procedures (EOP) for wildfire response
  •      Clearly, define specific missions and operations periods for urban/suburban departments before a wildfire
  •      Quantify your resources and establish minimum resource depletion levels for wildland firefighting incidents
  •      Develop before a wildfire, state or region-wide plans for deployment during a wildfire including how resources will be requested, dispatched, compensated, and managed.

 

When new information becomes available on this topic, it will be shared on the IAB website.  You can also share comments, feedback and any questions about this paper to info@interagencyboard.us .

Picture submitted by Bob Kim of Dalton, Georgia for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

The National Preparedness Month theme for the week is, Get involved! Be a part of something larger.  This theme made me think about successful Firewise sites that I had visited across the United States.  The most successful ones were those, where each person played an integral part in helping to make their neighborhoods safer from wildfire, using their unique talents and interest. 

 

It seemed that communities that achieved success tried to get to know each other and valued one another.  They realized that in order to create a safer environment for their family and home they needed to help others be safer too.  It was difficult to do alone.  I attended meetings where residents young and old offered their skills and abilities towards building safer places together.

 

Many of these vibrant neighborhoods did not just host meetings but also worked together to host fun events, where people felt more comfortable being genuine and had time to really get to know each other.   These neighborhood barbeques, picnics, progressive dinners and carnivals really were the heart of building a good foundation from which people could share what needed to be done and learned how to step up to help make a difference.  Every community can learn from these successes and be successful themselves in working together to grow wildfire safety.  Learn more about how easy it is for you to get started creating your own unique Firewise community today.

Picture submitted by Deborah Rice of North Fork, California for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

Photo shared by Jeremy Oberstein Government Affairs Director, LAFD 

NFPA’s Fire Protection Research Foundation an independent 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to research needs both domestic and international that address industry challenges in multiple areas, (including detection and signaling, hazardous materials, electrical safety, fire suppression, among other issues) is hosting a free webinar September 27 from 12:30-2:00 pm ET; Wildfire Urban Evacuation Modeling.  The webinar will share information explored in phase 1 of a research project about how to improve outcomes during evacuation processes as the result of wildfire

This study was first proposed after the Witch and Guejito Fires in San Diego County and subsequently submitted again to The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) after the Fort McMurray Fire when it was approved for funding. Subsequent mega-fires resulting in a large loss of life during civilian evacuations in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Portugal further emphasized the need for research to see if a tool could be developed to help people make better evacuation decisions. 

Photo shared by Jeremy Oberstein Government Affairs Director, LAFD 

The desire is to develop a tool that would help three models involved in evacuating during large wildfires better talk together.  The three models identified are 1. wildfire and smoke behavior, 2. psychological modeling (looking at human behavior), and 3. vehicle traffic flow modeling.  The research is exploring the opportunity to see if a tool can be developed to help make a system where the three models talk together to better forecast the progress of the incident and the effectiveness of pedestrian and vehicle evacuation response. Panelists involved in this study come from a variety of fields, backgrounds, and levels of expertise. Dan Gorham a project manager with the Research Foundation shared, “We are looking at the strength of the whole system and not just the individual models”.   Emergency responders, educators, community planners and incident commanders are encouraged to register and participate in this interactive webinar.

Photo shared by Jeremy Oberstein Government Affairs Director, LAFD 

Nine senators reintroduced a bipartisan bill on US Senate floor; “The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2017.”  The nine bipartisan sponsors of the bill include Senators Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, Orin Hatch R-Utah, Dianne Feinstein, D-California, Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado.

 

This bill will address; providing disaster funding for extremely large fires, helping to reduce the need to borrow from the prevention and conservation funds, and is looking at preventing the erosion of agency budgets resulting from increased suppression costs.

 

Record-setting suppression costs have again seen budgets strained, especially out by wildfires out west.  According to news reports in the last couple of weeks, the US Forest Service had to transfer $300 million dollars from other budgets just to meet current fire suppression needs.  This bill is similar to the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015 which was not voted on in 2015.

 

Welcome to Week 3 of National Preparedness Month! Our friends at Ready.gov suggest that this week, it’s time to build out and practice your emergency plan. For the grown-ups,  the theme relates well to both financial preparedness (making sure you have enough insurance, knowing where all your important documents are, doing a home inventory) and practicing your home escape plan or even an evacuation plan in case of a community-wide emergency like a hurricane or a wildfire.

 

What grown-ups often forget is to include their kids in their emergency planning. Now, I don’t mean you’re so forgetful that you would drive off without them (although that would be bad!). What I mean is that children can learn what to do to be prepared as part of the family emergency plan – but many families don’t include the children in this conversation.

 

A few years ago, NFPA discovered that parents in wildfire-prone areas thought that their children knew a lot about wildfire and what to do. When we talked to the kids, they often said they had not talked to parents or they were not aware of the family’s plan in case they had to leave or had to meet up if an evacuation order was called. These are the same kids who are learning fire drills in school – it’s important that they learn at home, too.

 

A recent mock-emergency drill was recorded as part of a human-interest news story in Colorado. Watch this clip to see a family with children of different ages work to gather their belongings and get out of the house in just 15 minutes. They do pretty well, but notice at 1:55 that the reporter asks the two younger children waiting in the car with their pet, “Did mom and dad tell you to wait in the car?” Communication with children of any age about their role and the steps of a safe evacuation is key.

 

NFPA has lots of free resources to help talk to your kids about emergencies and evacuation planning without fear. Check out our TakeAction page for teens (hint: it is great for grown-ups, too!). We have non-scary videos about wildfire facts, preparing your pets for emergencies, and more. You can download a free tip sheet about what to take with you if you have to evacuate. Visit our friend Sparky the Fire Dog for free tips and a home escape plan in case of fire.

 

Photo credit: FEMA/Jana Baldwin

Members of cascadel woods fire brigade in front of chipper

 Members of Cascadel Woods Fire Brigade at April 15 work day - Carol Eggink

 

When reading through annual Firewise USA renewals, you never know what you might find.  Typically we hear about community chipper days, educational booths, outreach efforts and larger scale vegetation removal projects.  This year, Cascadel Woods shared the day their community had to evacuate due to the fast moving Mission Fire.  Joining the Firewise USA recognition program in 2010, Cascadel Woods’s residents have worked hard to reduce their risk from wildfire, and on September 3, 2017, those actions paid off:

 

"On this day we were evacuated from the subdivision due to a fast fire moving up the mountain. It was the Mission Fire. The fire crossed our only road out and about 50 residents were trapped inside the subdivision. We have and maintain a shelter in place for just this type of event. There are four Fire Boxes with equipment in the subdivision and the equipment was laid out and made ready, just in case. As it turned out, the fire stopped at the entrance of our subdivision and the fire crews were able to maintain a clean line around our subdivision due to the fire preparedness we had accomplished over the year. Three homes just outside the subdivision were totally destroyed. We had a few spots were the fire crept onto a few properties which were butted up to the National Forest, but no major structures were lost. A small out building was lost next to the forest land. Not bad for our small community." – Carol Eggink

 

View of the smoke column from the Mission Fire off a deck of a home in Cascadel Woods.

View of Mission Fire smoke column from Cascadel Woods home prior to evacuation - Carol Eggink

 

For more information about the risk reduction efforts of Cascadel Woods residents and the firefighter response, check out this article by Sierra News Online.

 

Efforts from sites like Cascadel Woods make my heart soar.  Not only are they taking action to protect themselves, but their efforts assist responding firefighters.  As a former wildland firefighter, I can’t tell you the number of times my crew and I looked at our assignment on a fire and wondered “what will we find when we get there?” When an individual homeowner or group of neighbors take the time to reduce the vegetation around their homes and properties it truly does make a difference.  Often, fire behavior is altered in a way that provides an opportunity for firefighters to engage the fire directly, in a safe manner. Cleared areas such as the meadow in the Cascadel Woods also provide a secure area for fire fighters to retreat to if needed. 

 

Cascadel Woods is one of over 1400 recognized Firewise sites across the county working hard to reduce their risk from wildfire. Are you ready to take action? Check out the Firewise USA toolkit for tips on how to prepare.

 

Have you submitted your Firewise USA 2017 renewal? Visit the new Firewise portal and let us know what you’ve been up to.

 

Here's the perfect opportunity to highlight and recognize an outstanding individual, group or organization that continuously demonstrates exceptional wildfire risk reduction achievements - the 2018 Wildfire Mitigation Awards.

 

The national awards are the highest honor for outstanding work and significant impacts in wildfire preparedness and mitigation. Established in 2014, the awards were developed in response to an overwhelming number of exceptional wildfire risk reduction efforts occurring throughout the U.S.

Nominating a deserving individual or organization is simple and easy-to-do. Read the guidelines and supporting criteria and get started by completing the online form.

Three award categories cover a broad spectrum of achievements:

  • National Wildfire Mitigation Award
  • National Mitigation Hero Award
  • Wildfire Mitigation Legacy Award

Jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS), the deadline to submit a nomination is Tuesday, October 31.

 

Awards will be presented at the Wildland Urban Interface Conference, February 28, 2018, in Reno, Nevada.

Photo shared by William Boetner Austin, Texas 2017 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

 

Just recently, I have been made aware of three opportunities for communities and community members who are involved in wildfire preparedness activities that I would like to share.  These opportunities may be helpful to residents in wildfire-prone areas.

 

 1. The application period for an award opportunity for “Youth Who Stand Strong Against Disasters” is open until Wednesday, September 20, 2017.

 

As the nation responds to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma as well as the wildfires in the Western U.S.,YSA’s Youth Stand Strong Against Disasters awards program will recognize and support youth who are responding to recent disasters.

 

They are looking for creative and innovative ideas from youth who are providing immediate relief to those affected by recent disasters, supporting long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts, and helping prepare their own communities for disasters. Awards of $250, $500, and $1,000 will be awarded in each of three categories:

  • Disaster Relief
  • Disaster Recovery & Rebuilding
  • Disaster Preparedness

Please share with your networks. All youth, ages 5-25, in the United States are eligible to apply. Nonprofits, K-12 schools, colleges/universities, faith-based organizations, and local government organizations are also eligible to apply on behalf of a youth-led project, it will recognize young people who are standing strong against disasters.  

 

Applications will be accepted until Wednesday, September 20 at 5 PM Eastern time. Apply at www.YSA.org/standstrong 

 

2. The application for a training opportunity for women interested in a career in wildland firefighting open until Monday, September 18, 2017.

 

 Los Padres National Forest in California is hosting the 2017 Women Wildfire Basic Training Camp.  The deadline to apply is Monday, September 18, 2017.  To learn more about this great opportunity, please go to the Los Padres National Forest website page

 

 If you have questions, please contact the Los Padres National Forest: (805) 605-4995 Office (805) 680-4559.  According to their notice, “Last year the Los Padres National Forest hosted its third annual Women in Wildfire Training Camp.   Twenty-three participants were selected and successfully completed the training camp. At least fourteen of the twenty-three graduates have been selected and offered firefighting positions throughout the west coast.” View this exciting video from last year’s training camp to learn more! 

 

3. The 2017-2018 Community Planning for Wildfire Assistance (CPAW) application open until September 29, 2017.

 

The 2017-2018 COMMUNITY PLANNING ASSISTANCE for WILDFIRE (CPAW) application process is open until September 29, 2017, 5 pm MT. Applications and program information is available on the CPAW website: planningforwildfire.org.

 

According to the notice, CPAW is a national program funded by the US Forest Service and private foundations that is managed by Headwaters Economics and Wildfire Planning International.  CPAW provides free consulting services to selected communities to deliver voluntary land use planning recommendations which address the wildland-urban interface.  Communities will be selected for funding to receive the service on a competitive basis.  Only applications demonstrating support from both the community’s planning and fire departments will be considered. Any town, city, or county having jurisdiction over local land use and zoning requirements can apply.

 

For the past two years, the NFPA Conference & Expo has boasted excellent sessions on a wide variety of wildfire-related topics. That's because wildfire managers and researchers, community activists and safety educators, and fire service leaders and insurance industry professionals have provided their proposals and committed their time and expertise to present timely, relevant and innovative information. 

 

NFPA's deadline for proposing session topics is coming fast - Monday, September 25 is getting closer! Click here to propose your innovative session and list your dynamic speakers for an opportunity to present at the June 2018 conference slated for Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

To get a taste of the content and scope of this past year's conference offerings, visit the Education Session page on the Conference website and choose the Wildfire track for easy viewing. 

 

We hope you'll make us a great proposal and that we'll see you up on the podium in Vegas!

Photo credit NFPA


There have been so many fires burning across the country.  Many of these fires have been contained and residents are returning to their homes.  Our hearts and thoughts are with them.  Hazards abound in areas that have recently been impacted by wildfire.  After the wildfire has been contained and emergency services personnel have lifted the evacuation order, allowing residents to return to their home, it is important to enter with caution. Follow some simple tips can keep you and your family safe, protect your property, and help begin the daunting task of rebuilding if necessary after a wildfire has passed. 

Photo credit NFPA

 1.  Listen to news updates for information about the fire. Return home only when authorities say it is safe.

  • 2. Proceed with caution to your home site.  Look for downed trees, power lines and other hazards on the road.

    3. Once you are home look for hot spots in and outside of the home.  Sometimes these can flare up after a fire has passed.

    4. Keep a close eye on children and pets if they return with you.  Hot ashes and smoldering embers can burn feet and paws. Make sure everyone on site is wearing gloves, hard soled shoes, and long sleeves and pants.

    5. Be aware of any health hazards that may be on site.  Residues from items burnt during a fire may pose a health hazard risk.

    6. Secure your property.  Remove valuables if not staying at the home. Turn off utilities if there is damage to the home. Follow NFPA’s guidelines in 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance.  Use wood and other waterproof materials to protect damaged areas from the elements

    7. Contact your insurance agent immediately to report a loss.  Work with them to understand what is covered in your policy.  Get estimates from licensed and bonded contractors for the work.  Make sure that their license is for the type of work that they are doing.  Beware there are many scam artists that prey upon disaster victims.

Photo credit NFPA

 

Also be aware that after a fire torrential rains can pose an increased flash flood risk.  Learn about the topography from local emergency managers and subsequent risk to yourself and your property.  Protect your property with sandbags and other measures. FEMA has a good tip sheet regarding flood hazards after a fire.  Sadly if you have to rebuild, NFPA’s Firewise USA ™ program has free resources to make your new home more fire resistive. 

FEMA/Jana Baldwin

 

We are right in the middle of National Preparedness Month, and if the last several weeks have provided any lessons, it’s the importance of being prepared – for wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, or whatever Mother Nature sends our way. Wildfires, particularly in Montana, Oregon, Washington and California this summer and fall, have stretched response resources, shut down highways, and destroyed homes and businesses. The world has watched as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have slammed Texas, the Caribbean, and Florida.

 

You might be (as I am) in awe of both the official emergency responders and the regular folks who have helped their own families, neighbors and even strangers to survive these extreme events. You might be wondering – what can I do?

 

Work on preparedness long before the event

When it comes to wildfire (and hurricanes and quakes, for that matter), there are lots of things you can do ahead of time that will help your neighbors and community. For the past 15 years, NFPA’s Firewise USA™ program has encouraged residents in fire-prone areas to embrace the power of community preparedness. Our information and messages talk a lot about what individuals should do to make their homes more ignition-resistant to the embers and flames of a wildfire. It’s very important – but the fire science shows us that unless your nearby neighbor also reduces ignition risks on his or her property, you will still be impacted even if your home and landscape are in very good shape. More than 1,400 sites around the nation recognized as Firewise USA know what it means to work with neighbors to figure out the safety solutions that will work across a community. So many of these places have gone beyond simply removing debris and other fuels for a fire to developing community phone trees to alert one another of pending fires, creating emergency evacuation plans, and working with their fire departments to be as prepared as they can for the possibility of wildfire entering the community. This kind of planning works great for any kind of potential emergency.

 

Secure your own mask before helping others

The images of countless Houston-area residents who used their boats to rescue neighbors is inspiring, and probably a little intimidating if you are putting yourself in their place. It’s an extreme example, but those locals demonstrated what all emergency managers try to teach: sometimes the person who has to rescue you is you, or a family member, or a neighbor close enough to reach you. In other words, in a major disaster, calling 9-1-1 is not going to help you as fast as your closest neighbor might.

 

Think small, and think personal. Can you work with your neighbor on a community effort to clean up flammable debris during a Firewise day or Wildfire Community Preparedness Day? That’s an effort that helps make both of you safer. Can you prepare a personal go-kit for your home or workplace? If you do, you might be able to share that extra bandage or water bottle or snack with someone else. Making your own individual preparedness plans and talking about preparedness with your neighbors can actually be very influential. I travel by airplane a lot, and that little speech the flight crew makes about the oxygen mask reminds me that I have to be able to function myself before I can help others. At the very least, if you are the one who has their wits about them and their go-kit ready, you’ll be able to help a neighbor in need.

 

Learn more about getting involved with Firewise at www.firewise.org. See https://www.ready.gov/september for this week’s tips on how to help your neighbors and community.

 

Photo credit: FEMA/Jana Baldwin

A recent update to the Firewise USA™ annual renewal process was developed to make submitting the required information easier, but to also help NFPA collect better data on the risk reduction activities completed across the country throughout the year. As a result, you may notice some changes when submitting this year’s information. This year resident leaders will use the new Firewise portal launched in July to complete their renewals. The portal is a more efficient system than what we’ve had in the past, and at the end of this year we believe it will allow us to tell a better

story about the accomplishments Firewise sites have made.

 

Renewal blog photoThis year, NFPA will still be collecting the investment data that sites have contributed to their risk reduction efforts, but through the new portal, both monetary efforts and time contributions are automatically calculated. The new renewal breaks down the investment into categories where you just input the dollars and hours you’ve spent. This will allow you to add and save your activities throughout the year and help you keep track of the work being done. When it comes to reporting your volunteer hours, we’re asking participants to share what type of work is being done and where. Having this information provides a clearer picture of the accomplishments each Firewise site has made and it will help you keep better historical information to look back on in future years.

 

The Vegetation Removal section is a brand new feature that was added based on feedback we’ve received during past renewal seasons. Along with their Chipper Day, many Firewise sites also give us a total amount of vegetation taken out of their community in their narrative. Now the Firewise portal provides a place to capture and store that information, so over the years it will be easier to view and track efforts.

 

There’s a lot of great work being done to reduce wildfire risk within the more than 1,400 Firewise sites across the country. Our goals this year were to create a tool to help you manage your Firewise site and to gather information that participants can be proud of!

 

With any new system, there are questions and we have a training document and a training video available to help guide you through the portal. This year’s renewal deadline is November 15, 2017. If you have any questions about how to log-in, use the portal or what information you can include in your renewal, you can reach our customer service team at firewise@nfpa.org

Wildfires have burned in areas across California. According to the CAL FIRE website, the Ponderosa Fire in Butte County California has burned 4,016 acres with 32 homes and 22 outbuildings destroyed.  This fire is 72% contained at the moment and had 113 engines and 1,551 personnel respond.  This fire has been allegedly started by a 29-year-old Oroville resident who recklessly started a campfire.  According to news reports, high winds and hot temperatures have made firefighting efforts difficult. Having visited the community affected by the fire, my heart was sick when I saw a picture of a home fully engulfed in fire in Butte County, California. 

 

In Southern California, a wildfire has been raging in Los Angeles County, the La Tuna Fire according to a news report burnt 7,000 acres.    This governor of the state of California has declared a state of emergency.  Eight people were injured in the fire including four firefighters.  A total of 206 engines, 4 dozers, 5 water tenders, 9 helicopters and a total of 1,061 firefighters have responded according to the last update on the LA Fire Department twitter page of September 4.  In a number of acres burnt, since the 1961 Bellaire Fire, this is the largest fire that has burnt in Los Angeles history.  High temperatures which caused the vegetation to dry out contributed to the intensity of this fire.  Usually “fire season” in Southern California occurs in October and November with the hot dry Santa Anna winds.  This could be an indication of a long fire season.

 

Wildfires are burning throughout California.  According to a CAL Fire website some other wildfires currently burning in California include the Caldwell Fire 878 acres Kern County, Helena Fire 10,930 acres Trinity County, Salmon-August Complex 51,008 acres Siskiyou County, Pier Fire 17,980 acres Tulare County and the Palmer Fire 3,874 acres in Riverside California. 

 

Wildfires are one natural event that residents can do a lot to prepare for.  Preparing in advance of a wildfire can significantly reduce your risk of loss.  NFPA’s Firewise website offers free tips and resources to help you get started today.

 

This month, National Preparedness Month, let’s take steps today to prepare ourselves, family and friends for wildfire.  This week's theme is, "Make a plan for yourself, family and friends."  NFPA makes it easy for you to make a plan that can help make you safer and help you better protect your home during a wildfire event.

 

Wildfires are one disaster where preparations made in advance of the event can really pay off.  You can create a wildfire preparedness plan in two steps, one for larger projects and some that are simple and easy to do and can be quickly accomplished with everyone’s help.

 

Some larger projects that you can do around your home include:

  1.       Clear.  Clear off pine needles, dead leaves and anything that can burn from your roof lines, gutters, decks, porches, patios and along fence lines.  That way falling embers will have nothing to burn.
  2.       Screen and Seal.  Wind-borne embers can get into homes easily through vents and other openings and burn the home from the inside-out.  Walk around your house to see what openings you can screen or seal up.
  3.       Trim. Trim back any shrubs or tree branches that come closer than five feet to the house and attachments and any overhanging branches.

 

Some last minute quick and easy things to do before an approaching wildfire, if you have time to safely complete, include:

  1.       Store Away.  Store away furniture cushions, rattan mats, potted plants and other decorations from decks porches and patios.  These items can catch embers and help ignite your home if you leave them outside.
  2.       Rake.  Embers landing in mulch that touches your house, deck or fence is a big fire hazard. Rake out any landscaping mulch to at least 5 feet away.
  3.       Remove.  Walk around your house and remove anything within 30 feet that could burn, such as woodpiles, spare lumber, vehicles, and boats – anything that can act as a large fuel source.
  4.       Close.  If ordered to evacuate, make sure all windows and doors are closed tightly, and seal up any pet doors.  Many homes are destroyed by embers entering these openings and burning the house from the inside-out.

Walk around your home today and think about where the weak links may be.  Better yet, bring someone with you to look for these hazards around your home.  The second set of eyes may see something that you have overlooked. 

Don’t let your home be fuel for a wildfire.  NFPA’s Firewise Program has some great tips that can make it easier for you and everyone in your family to make a plan and do something today to make your home safer.  Download NFPA’s Free PDF, 7 Ways Residents Can Reduce Their Wildfire Risk, to help get started.

 

Hundreds of wildfires throughout the West, in Montana, Idaho, California, Washington and Oregon, have been wreaking havoc in places that people live, work and recreate. On Saturday in the scenic Columbia River Gorge, where the towns of Stevenson, Washington, and Cascade Locks, Oregon, face one another across the water, a fire allegedly started by a person using fireworks grew out of control and trapped 140 hikers who were later rescued. The wildfire forced evacuations of nearby communities and at least temporarily forced the closure of Interstate 84. 

 

As in many wildfire events, conditions can change rapidly with the weather and winds. If you are visiting, living or working in an area with wildfire potential, it's a good idea to keep tuned into the latest news reports and keep aware of how the situation may be changing. Smoke from the days and weeks of wildfires burning throughout the Western U.S. is creating unhealthy conditions in many areas. There are maps available that show the level of air quality around the country, along with recommendations for what to do when air quality is unhealthy or hazardous.

 

See www.firewise.org for tips and tools on preparing for a wildfire, including 7 steps to take if a fire is imminent. Be ready to leave if fire threatens, or if local officials call for evacuation of your area. Check out NFPA's tips for high fire danger days.

Whenever someone asks what’s my favorite part of the job as the national Firewise USA Program Manager, my reply is always the same, it's the opportunity to see firsthand the results of residents committed to reducing their wildfire risks; and a recent trip to Durango, CO proved that to once again be an accurate statement.

 

In the southwest part of Colorado, residents are very familiar with wildfire and the names of many of those events easily roll off the tongues of both residents and stakeholders alike; they include The Missionary Ridge Fire in 2002; The Vallecito and Valley Fires in 2012 and this year the Lightner Creek Fire. Folks that live there can vividly recall each and they’re working hard to ensure they’re prepared for when the next one happens.

 

Our day in Durango was spent with our host, the incredible Pam Wilson, Executive Director of Firewise Southwest Colorado where she trekked us through spectacular scenery as we visited three Firewise USA sites and met with residents and stakeholders that included the Colorado State Forest Service, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, along with others to get a look at how they’re successfully tackling mitigation.

 

Through a volunteer Neighborhood Ambassador program that’s operated by Firewise of Southwest Colorado, volunteers are utilized as ambassadors who commit to mobilizing their neighborhoods as it relates to wildfire safety; and where they link their neighbors and neighborhoods to trusted wildfire education resources, promote mitigation projects and also act as a contact for local firefighting entities. Their model works well and residents have stepped up to the challenge and are making good things happen in their own backyards.

 

During our visit we made stops in both Bayfield and Durango, where we had the privilege of meeting ambassadors from these three nationally recognized Firewise USA sites: Falls Creek Ranch, Vallecito and Deerfield Estates, each with unique success stories. They truly embodied the epitome of what can be accomplished when residents are empowered to make where they live a safer place. Kudos to these and all the other hard-working sites throughout the nation that are truly making a difference through their collaborative risk reduction activities!

Photo by Faith Berry

Harvest time is right around the corner.  Some of NFPA’s Firewise communities are located in rural agricultural areas that also are close to natural grassy or forested areas.  Harvest fire safety is important to prevent igniting a wildfire in these areas.  A key component in making sure that your combine or other equipment does not spark a wildfire is to follow some of these simple tips:

  1.       Proper maintenance: Make sure that all bearings, drives and other components needing lubrication are properly lubricated. Follow your equipment guidelines regarding the frequency of lubrication necessary for the hours of operation of the equipment.  If you have chains make sure that they do not hang so low that they bang on rocks or pavement and create sparks that could cause a fire.
  2.       Walk around the vehicle and check for wear or deterioration: Make sure that you make sure that any electrical, hydraulic or other components do not show signs of wear or deterioration. Check wiring for rodent damage. Look for tears, leaks, loose, or cracked hoses, pipes or equipment.
  3.       Refuel only when the engine is cool: Do not add fuel or oil to your vehicle until the engine has cooled down.
  4.       Carry a shovel and fire extinguisher: Check with local regulations about the size and type of extinguisher recommended for the size and type of equipment that you are using.  Keep the fire extinguisher on the equipment and make sure that you know how to use it.
  5.       Check after using low clearance vehicles: Catalytic converters, mufflers, other exhaust systems can be hot enough to ignite dry stubble in a field.  Check your field after operating equipment for smoke or smoldering material.
  6.       Clean crop material off equipment: Frequently clean straw, husks, stubble and other organic crop materials from farm equipment.  Some crops are oilier than others and may require more frequent removal.
  7.       Call if you notice a fire immediately: Make sure that you know the location of the field that you are working in and have a cell phone handy to call 911 if you notice a fire in the field or if the equipment has caught fire.  Get to a safe location.

According to an AEF article about preventing combine fires, most combine fires occur at the end of the harvest season when crops are drier and farmers are exhausted and prone to human error.  Starting each day with clean equipment and following some simple safety steps, can help farmers have a safer harvest season and help prevent igniting a wildfire.  For more information about wildfire preparedness check out the NFPA Firewise USA website.

Picture of wildland firefighters submitted by a California Firewise Community to Faith Berry

 

For the holiday weekend make sure that you take home good memories and don’t leave behind a wildfire.   As you make plans to enjoy the holiday weekend with your family, make sure that you are aware of the local rules and weather restrictions in place before you light a campfire.  Unattended or illegal campfires can cause serious wildfires like the one currently burning in Oroville, California that was started by someone who built an illegal campfire.

A highlight of the warmer season is roasting marshmallows and making those old favorites s’mores around the campfire. What wonderful memories can be created with family members and friends.  It is important to keep those memories pleasant by following some safety tips:

  1.       Make sure you get a permit.  At certain times of the year such as during fire season and in certain municipalities, campfires may not be allowed.  Some places require that you use designated fire rings. Be sure to follow your local guidelines.
  2.       To build a campfire, select a level, shaded location away from heavy fuels such as logs, tents and other flammable materials like overhanging branches, brush or decaying leaves and needles. Permitted recreational fires such as campfires, need to be at least 25 feet (8 meters) away from anything that can burn.  Permitted open fires, such as bonfires or trash fires, need to be at least 50 feet (15 meters) from anything that can burn.
  3.       Some campsites may have designated fire pits these should be used.  If allowed in the area, use a shovel to clear an area at least 10 feet in diameter around the fire ring (local regulations may vary).  Scrape away grass, leaves or needles down to the mineral soil.
  4.       Scoop a depression in the center of the cleared area on which to build the fire and place a ring of rocks around it.
  5.       Cut wood in short lengths, pile within the cleared area and light the fire.  The fire should be built low, tall raging campfires can create large amounts of burning embers.  Never use an accelerant such as gasoline to start the fire. Never use large amounts of paper in your fire or to start the fire.
  6.       When burning, have a hose, a bucket of water, or shovel and dirt or sand nearby to extinguish the fire.
  7.       Fire must never be left unattended and the fire must be extinguished completely before everyone leaves camp. Children should always be supervised around a campfire. 

 

In order to properly extinguish your campfire:

  1.       Fill a bucket with water and pour it on the campfire while completely stirring and wetting all the ashes.  Turn wood and coals over and wet all sides.
  2.       Move some of the dirt immediately adjacent to the fire into the fire and mix thoroughly.
  3.       Feel with your hand all around the fire to be sure nothing is still smoldering.

Always follow safety measures so that you leave with a pocket full of good memories.  Leaving a campfire unattended is a violation of Federal Law (36 CFR 261.5) and is punishable by a fine of $225 to $5,000 and as many as six months in jail.  You could also be held liable for fire suppression costs if a campfire that you started got out of control and started a wildfire. Have fun and also be safe!  For more campfire safety information download the attached NFPA tip sheet.

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