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2017

 

If you've visited Firewise.org in the last couple of days, you probably noticed that it looks a little different. We are excited to share that our new and refreshed website is live and now housed under NFPA.org. Our goal with this new website is to provide visitors an easier way to learn about Firewise USA™ and quicker access to tools and resources to assist in wildfire risk reduction.

There are many reasons to update, here are a few of ours:

  • Building a cohesive and highly recognizable brand - Firewise USA is a part of NFPA, and while our audience might vary a little bit from the traditional NFPA stakeholder, we share the same values:
    • Our vision - We are the leading global advocate for the elimination of death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.
    • Our mission - To help save lives and reduce loss with information, knowledge and passion.
  • Improved content - the old website served us well for many years, but much of the content was not in step with current research and recommendations. The migration allowed us to drop old material and bring in new graphics and information based on current science and research.
  • Better user experience - with changes to navigation, an expanding sidebar and "In this section" links, finding items should be easier. We've also improved the structure of our content so you'll get more from a quick read.

 

Important things to note - www.firewise.org will still work! If you have this link bookmarked you won't need to change a thing. We are in the process of redirecting many of our other URLs, however not all will be carried over. If you have other pages saved or linked from website, I would encourage you to explore the new pages and update your URLs.

 

We hope you like the changes, and if you have any feedback, please email firewise@nfpa.org

As 2017 draws to a close, I'm proud to say that NFPA has been able to bring some 90 fire service members and wildfire specialists to our training, Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone, this year under a generous award from the DHS/FEMA Fire Prevention Safety Grant. In addition to these funded courses, where participants received a travel scholarship to attend, the class was also taught at the IAFC WUI Conference in Reno in March and at several locations where organizations contracted with NFPA to bring the class to their locations.  NFPA also provided this training to state forestry wildfire specialists from 25 states this fall in Boise.

 

At the FEMA-funded offering in Jacksonville, Florida this October, I met participants from all over the country. These individuals were highly motivated and engaged throughout the two-day classroom, and especially enthusiastic about the hands-on opportunity to visit two nearby homes to test their knowledge. NFPA is grateful to the local contacts in all of the states that have helped us get onto private property with permission from the homeowner in so many locations. This exercise truly helps participants learn how to interact with residents in a pre-fire situation.

 

One participant, after only the first day of class, commented to me that he planned to actually change the way his department addressed wildland/urban interface issues based on what he had learned. This statement from a long-term veteran of fire and emergency services was a testament to the value of the science and approach on which this course is based.

 

As NFPA prepares to launch its next round of FEMA-supported classes and scholarship competition, I hope fire departments everywhere will take a few moments to review the information at www.nfpa.org/hiz to learn about the valuable information and knowledge available to them through this training. Whether you send a lucky candidate on a scholarship, register through the IAFC WUI conference offering, or bring the training to your local facility, you'll be taking a step toward a future of safer homes and communities.

 

Photo by Michele Steinberg, NFPA: Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire training participants inspect a home in the Jacksonville, Florida, area.

 

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How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires

Updated wildfire risk reduction guidelines that contribute to making homes safer during a wildfire are now available in a tri-fold brochure printed in both English and Spanish. The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise USA program’s newest resource, How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires includes information that highlights the practices residents should implement within their individual property’s Home Ignition Zones; along with details about the importance of fire resistive construction materials.

 

From vegetation management guidance, to personal preparedness tips, the brochure is a great resource that will be of assistance to residents living in wildfire risk areas. The Home Safety Checklist included in the brochure includes simple steps from roof to foundation that contribute to making a home safer from embers and radiant heat.

 

Order the brochure for your next resident meeting, or share with stakeholders at upcoming outreach events! They're a great tool to start a conversation with neighbors about the importance of doing collaborative risk reduction activities that can impact structure-to structure ignitions during a wildfire.

 

Become a volunteer resident leader and get your neighbors involved in the national Firewise USA recognition program. 

Firewise and the simple value of recognizing local risk-reduction accomplishments were shared this past November at the UK Wildfires2017 conference (#UKWildfireConf17) in Bournemouth, England. NFPA had the great privilege to present at the conference and support the England & Wales Wildfire Forum and the Scottish Wildfire Forum in their conference planning.

 

The conference culminated in a resiliency booklet that captures, in descriptive illustrations and findings, the current wildfire challenges faced across landscapes in the United Kingdom, plus a call to action for fire service and resident preparedness.

 

Andy Elliott, with the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, served as the conference event manager and shared with me his thoughts on the great value of the new booklet.

 

“It was great to have a product from UK Wildfires Conference 2017 in the form of a small booklet." said Andy. “The delegates formed three habitat based groups and answered six questions over two workshops and the booklet is a summary of their discussion and comments.”

 

He went onto explain that, “It is certainly not an authoritative statement on Wildfire Mitigation in the UK, but it is a great starting place for a meaningful discussion. In the UK, current legislation requires the Fire Authority to agree to Wildfire Mitigation measures when a landowner wishes to claim grant aid to manage certain habitat types or when they create open habitats from forestry plantations, etc.”

 

To help that effort, Andy shared that, “It is hoped that the booklet will be used by anybody that has a need to consider wildfire resilience in these circumstances or when creating a new Firewise® Community. The illustrations by Auralab add an element of fun, but also illustrate the key points in a very memorable and visual way.”

 

At the conference, I served as the facilitator for the “Forestry” habitat workshop and found both hour-long group discussions to be fascinating. About 50 attendees a piece represented fire service, land management, forestry, planning, and policy prospectives.

The open discussions explored what resiliency means across landscapes and what is uniquely needed in each to advance wildfire risk understanding. Far from the usual topics, NFPA was happy to be a part of a conversation that identified socio-economic, forest industry, cultural prospectives, and even urban-forestry exposures.

 

The focus of the 2017 conference was to frame, “Wildfire resilience in a UK context”. Presentations by national and international speakers explored how to make UK homes, communities, and the landscape more wildfire resilient in the future. NFPA is very pleased to play a supporting role in the collective wildfire outreach implementation efforts by the National Fire Chiefs Council of the UK, the UK fire service forums, the Dorset Urban Heaths Partnership, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Serviceand others going forward.

 

Photo Credits:
Booklet images: Wildfire Resilience in a UK Context booklet.  
Booklet Illustration: Laura Sorvala, Auralab.  Twitter: @_auralab 

A great new post-holiday tradition can be, working together with fellow neighbors, and reaching out to potential agency, as well as local potential business partners to assess your area’s wildfire risks and create a project plan to increase your wildfire safety.  These projects can all be a part of your participation in the fifth annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day made possible with generous funding from State Farm.

If you are looking for successful project ideas check out NFPA’s Wildfire Prep Day page.  The page shares success stories from last year and will also provide you with resources to help with the application process, starting January 8, 2018, including contest rules, a fillable flyer you can customize to promote your project and other project resources.

We can all have an important part to play and can work together to be a part of this important campaign to raise wildfire safety awareness and increase risk reduction activity.  It is a great way for you to get to know your neighbors, (including other residents, local businesses, and local agencies).  You might even make new friends working together and develop some lasting relationships that can be mutually beneficial.  This year get outside, get involved and be a part of something big! Use the attached downloadable PDF postcard to help get the word out!

Current Santa Ana Wind conditions from a NOAA map, based upon weather models and satellite images.

 

It is December and even though snow is flying in the Midwest a large wildfire is raging in Southern California.  This high wind-driven wildfire blazing in Ventura County, California has caused serious damage burned over 45,000 acres, destroyed at least 150 structures and has left one firefighter hospitalized.  A red flag warning had been in effect before the blaze started due to the hot, dry Santa Anna wind conditions that are expected to last through Thursday.  According to recent news reports, the fire has led to the evacuation of thousands and caused the destruction of at least one apartment building, and a psychiatric hospital.

 

The fire called the Thomas Fire, started at about 7 am around California State Highway 150.  Schools have been closed in areas close to the fire including, Oxnard, Ventura, Hueneme and Santa Paula.  Another effect of the wildfire is that it has left 260,000 Ventura and Santa Barbara Customers without electricity.  Evacuation shelters have been set up for residents who have had to leave homes under a mandatory evacuation order.

 

For resources regarding wildfire safety information check out NFPA’s Firewise Website.

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