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2018

Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist logo

 

Although there are many practitioners working in the field with titles such as Wildland/Urban Interface Specialist, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, Wildfire Prevention officer, etc., there is no certification that standardizes some body of knowledge, gives professional credibility and validates the specialized talent in this area...until now.

 

The National Fire Protection Association, (NFPA), has launched a new certification that is the first of its kind nationally.  The Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, (CWMS), launched Feb. 1, 2018 to help give those working in wildfire risk reduction and preparedness national recognition and an initial standard for certification.

 

This program provides a three year certification utilizing an applicant's background, experience and study in areas such as:

  • wildfire behavior science
  • home ignition science
  • public education practices
  • land use planning
  • hazard mitigation and preparedness 

 

Once certified, continuing education is required over the three years to maintain certification.  Related training, professional practices such as community/home wildfire risk assessments, teaching pertinent courses or training and writing articles within the scope of the field and more, all count towards re-certification.

 

Professionals from around the country were given the opportunity to voluntarily serve on the Certification Advisory Group, (CAG), to provide their input to the body of knowledge, overall scope and blueprint of the certification and to write the exam questions.

 

The certification also has application for professionals working in urban forestry, landscaping and the insurance industry who work in and around Wildland/Urban fire risk areas.

 

So if you are interested in building your professional resume or promoting your knowledge around wildfire mitigation and preparedness, then check out the CWMS certification.  All the information you will need can be found here.

Picture of demonstration garden planted by the Cragsmoor, New York Firewise USA™ site with their $500 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day award.  Photo shared with NFPA by Heidi Wagner

 

If you are thinking about applying for a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day award but think that because you live in the Midwest or North East that you might not receive funding, please reconsider.  In light of some recent wildfire events especially the devastating wildfire in Gatlinberg, Tennessee, we know that devastating wildfires can occur anywhere and at any time.  Your community can apply today for a $500 award sponsored by a generous donation from State Farm no later than this Friday March 2 at midnight Eastern Standard Time.

 

An article posted in the NE Region Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy newsletter talks about how Craigsmoore a Firewise USA Site, used a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day grant as part a systematic approach to grow their wildfire safety program.

 

As Heidi Wagner, their community leader shared, “Cragsmoor, is a small hamlet in Wawarsing, NY, is situated atop the Shawangunk Ridge at the edge of a highly flammable natural area known as the Sam’s Point Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has identified the Shawangunk Ridge as one of the highest priority wildland-urban-interface areas in the State and Cragsmoor as one of the State’s primary communities at risk for wildfire.” Although the community is in a State not known for extensive wildfire activity, it has recently experienced large wildfires, including the Shawangunk Ridge Fire in 2015 (2,759 acres) and the Sam’s Point Fire in 2016 (2,028 acres).

 

Her community used their Wildfire Community Preparedness Day award to plant a garden sharing with residents how to landscape well around a home for wildfire safety.  For more information about the success of this community check out the article; One New York Firewise USA® Site Blazes a Trail for Wildfire Safety in the State.

Did you know that there is a category of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day funding awards that you can apply for to complete a wildfire preparedness project for an individual property owner?  Wildfire Community Preparedness Day funding awards can be used by a neighborhood, fire department, youth group, civic group or other entity to help complete a wildfire safety project on one property in the community with the greatest need of assistance and is willing to have you assist them.

 

If there is a residence in your community where the property owner is unable to complete wildfire safety maintenance projects for any reason, their property is at greater risk to ignition during a wildfire, especially from embers generated by the fire.  In communities where houses are located close to each other, their increased risk can become increased shared risk of the whole neighborhood from potential home to home ignitions.

 

Neighbors can apply for and use the $500 award provided with generous support from State Farm,  to help someone in need who is willing to receive the help.   This kind of project can be a nice community get together where neighbors get to know each other and work together for the common cause of reducing their risk of loss during wildfire season. Learn more about the kind of projects others have completed and apply today to help not only someone else but also make a significant difference for you, your family and your whole neighborhood.

NPFA and FEMA have opportunities for youth to learn about and get involved in preparedness activities.

 

FEMA announced that it is seeking applicants for the Youth Preparedness Council, which brings together teens from across the country who are interested and engaged in community preparedness. Council members are selected based on their dedication to public service, their efforts in making a difference in their communities, and their potential to expand their impact as national leaders for preparedness. Students in 8th through 11th grade are eligible to apply.

 

Youth interested in applying to the Council must submit a completed application form, provide two letters of recommendation, and academic records. All applications and supporting materials must be received no later than March 18, 2018, 11:59 p.m. PT in order to be eligible. New council members will be announced in May 2018.

To access the application materials, read about the current Council members, and for more general information about the Youth Preparedness Council visit www.ready.gov/youth-preparedness-council

 

NFPA has opportunities for youth to participate in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  Youth groups can apply for $500 awards to help complete wildfire preparedness activities such as helping with community clean-up projects.  They can also use the mapping link to put their project on the map and share with others that they are working on a project on May 5th.

 

Youth can also learn more about wildfire preparedness on NFPA’s TakeAction page.  Resources include, virtual field trips with accompanying lesson plans, a handout about how to create a go kit, and information about how to safely evacuate pets.  Young people have an important role to play in helping to create communities that are more resilient in the face of natural disasters such as wildfire.

 

Photo shared with NFPA's Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Campaign and calendar image shared with NFPA by FEMA contact Sara Varela.

You can write your own wildfire safety success story by participating in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. Go to the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day site and read about other community stories of success that we hope will encourage and inspire you to create your own successful project. One such story highlights the great work that was done in Lacey Township, New Jersey. Andrew Casteneli, Fire Prevention Officer, Forked River Fire Company shared their story with us; “A big thank you on behalf of the Forked River Fire Company, the Pheasant Run Fire wise committee and the residents of Lacey Township, New Jersey. This year's Wildfire Community Preparedness Day was a big success due in part to the grant given to us by the NFPA and State Farm.  We had over 60 residents participate in hazard mitigation, education, and clean-up activities over the weekend.  Many of the residents were new to the program and were extremely enthusiastic about participating.”  

 You can make your plan today to participate in this larger story of wildfire risk reduction nationwide and internationally.  Here’s how you can get started;

  1. Go to the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day site and read about other community stories of success.
  2. Take a look at your areas of greatest risk. Include local fire districts or land management agencies. What can you do in one day to get started reducing your risk of loss?
  3. Write a plan and apply for your share of $500. This is where you decide what you need to do to create your own success story.
  4. Invite others to participate. Use the free online mapping application or downloadable, fillable flyer to promote what you are doing and invite neighbors to work together.
  5. Participate on the day!
  6. Share your success on the Firewise Facebook page or with your local media using the press template on the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page.

It really is simple, easy and can be fun to get started. Don’t worry this next wildfire season.  Get prepared now to create a safer home and neighborhood. You can be a part of something bigger by writing your very own story of success!

Midland Hills Country Club has transformed their community in just their first year of participating in the Firewise USA™ Program. I interviewed residents Margaret Anderson and Jesse Riechman as we featured their Firewise USA™ site in the January 2018 newsletter for the Northeast Region Cohesive Strategy Committee (NE RSC).

Midland Hills Community members came together to celebrate their recognition as a Firewise USA site. Photo Courtesy: Margaret Anderson

I choose the community because they are the first in the state of Illinois and they have done a lot of work to reduce their wildfire risk. Speaking with these residents I was even more energized to write about their Firewise USA™ site because of the pride they have for their community and the work they’ve done.

 

Margaret Anderson told me she loves living in the community because they value their privacy and it’s a great place to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking. It’s this pride for her community that made her want to work with her neighbors to become a recognized Firewise USA™ site.

 

One of the challenges that some Firewise USA™ sites can sometimes struggle with is keeping participation high. Midland Hills Country Club is a unique community where the land is co-owned by the Homeowners Association.

 

Because of this, it was very important that residents agreed on the work they did on their land to reduce their wildfire risk.

 

Read how their community came together and their advice for others who want to participate in the Firewise USA™ Program in this month’s issue of the NE RSC’s newsletter.

Midland Hills receiving their Firewise USA plaque for the work they have done to reduce their wildfire risk. Photo Courtesy: Margaret Anderson

 

The Northeast Regional Strategy Committee works to support the mission of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy which includes restoring and maintaining resilient landscapes, creating Fire-Adapted Communities and effectively responding to wildfire.

 

 

Witch Creek Fire, San Diego, October 21, 2007 - courtesy State Farm via Wikipedia Commons

 

Getting called, "an unsung bureaucratic hero of fire protection," doesn't happen every day, so when I listened to bits of my interview with Tufts undergraduate Jesse Greenfield recently, I felt proud in my own geeky way. Jesse is a biopsychology major at Tufts University and had a Science and Civic Action class with Professor Jonathan Garlick in the fall 2017 semester. She was assigned a project to produce a short podcast episode relevant to civic science, and she chose wildfire as her topic. I was honored to have my say about the state of wildfire safety and education, but I was much more moved by her personal perspective on wildfire as a San Diego native, and the snippets revealed by another student who lived through the 2007 Witch Creek Fire and 2003 Cedar Fire. 

 

Jesse and her fellow student Vince described what it was like to survive wildfires in which friends lost homes, people in the area lost their lives, and they were forced to evacuate to safety with their families. Listen to the podcast (mp3 file) for Vince's comments about the 2007 Witch Creek fire and his childhood memories of having to evacuate. In conversation with Jesse, they start with a joking tone: "I grabbed my critical clothing..like my raincoat, my Pokemon shoes (ha ha ha)...it was third grade. Finding out what truly is of value to you...yeah, LEGO® (bricks), obviously."

 

The tone turns wistful when Jesse says, "But feeling like you have to do that is so surreal." Vince agrees. "It's a very odd feeling. I was pretty young, but the most poignant memories are definitely figuring out what you need...the anxiety...the smell, was so...just the smell, just a whiff of it. Even if there's like a barbecue and something's burning, I'll think of the fires." He feels today that his neighbors aren't paying much attention to the fire threat, and thinks that families being able to meet firefighters or to participate in brush-clearing projects could help. 

 

Give Jesse's podcast a listen, and learn what you might do differently to change wildfire outcomes in the future.

 

Image: The Witch Creek Fire burning in San Diego County, on the night of Sunday, October 21, 2007. Image courtesy State Farm via Creative Commons license.

Public Domain Photo shared by Navy SEALS on their website

 

I have been attending a conference in Maine; “Igniting Exchange: Bridging the Gap Between Science and Management”.  One of the keynote speakers was a retired Navy SEAL, David Cooper, who spoke about behavior driven leadership. What I wondered, did Navy SEAL ethics have to do with wildfire safety efforts?

 

David spoke about his career and training to be a part of the SEAL Team 2 in 1988. They had to learn a complex set of behaviors and skills. They learned everything from driving race cars, martial arts of course (from one of Bruce Lee’s students), and even how to steal a car.  What in the world does this have to do with wildfire preparedness? He shared, that in dynamically changing situations the SEALS had to learn to be adaptable, to draw parallels from what they learned to what they experienced to reduce their risk and eliminate threats.  They had an obligation to pass on what they experienced and learned to SEAL newbies.  Wow, that is exactly what I see members of Firewise USA™ sites do, mentor new communities just learning how to make their homes safer from wildfire.  Although Firewise USA™ sites don’t have to know how to steal a car, they do have to know how homes burn in a dynamically changing environment and how to make oftentimes simple changes to keep their neighborhoods safer from this threat.

 

Another thing he shared is that SEALs have the courage to say things that people sometimes do not want to hear.  Again, I started to think about how many wonderful fire service personnel, forestry folks and residents I have met who have had the courage to tell people what their wildfire risk is and how they can reduce their risk of loss even if it was what they thought people did not want to hear.

 

Finally, he spoke about the discipline that SEALS must have not just in the line of duty, but also in mundane things like making sure their uniform and personal appearance is perfect.  "It is knowing the right thing to do and doing it", David shared.  Many folks know what they have to do to reduce their risk of loss due to wildfire but it is only those communities who take action that exhibit the discipline needed to actually improve their overall safety.

 

SEALS, according to Dave have a mindset that allows them to complete their operations without thinking about failure, so though they do at times suffer loss, it does not deter them from taking action. We can all take steps today, and have this mindset of success, bringing people of all backgrounds together in a functionally diverse group, growing wildfire safety success.  We can all translate Navy SEAL ethics into our successful wildfire safety efforts today by participating in Firewise USA™sites, Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and taking action using resources out there to help us like Ready Set Go, Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network and more take real steps to protect our homes and those we love!

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