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2018
NFPA’s wildfire division manager, Michele Steinberg, is slated to present wildfire safety information and tips during an upcoming webinar for mortgage field service industry professionals. Steinberg and members of her team at NFPA are frequently sought out by insurance and realty professionals to provide updates and education on the latest in effective wildfire risk reduction tools and techniques. 
During the webinar at 1:30 pm Eastern Time on September 13, Steinberg along with Safeguard Properties and other industry professionals, will address key wildfire risk reduction principles to protect homes and neighborhoods. The industry is engaged in inspecting and preserving vacant and foreclosed properties, ensuring the safety and security of structures for their clients, the lenders and mortgage companies. 
While industry professionals regularly learn about hurricane and flood preparedness, Steinberg noted that wildfires are a growing concern. In the past two years, NFPA staff have presented to members of the National Association of REALTORS®, several insurance companies, the Casualty Actuarial Society, and have bylined or contributed to articles for such publications as Green Builder magazine and California Buildings News. 
Steinberg notes, “The actions that mortgage field service personnel can take to secure properties against wildfire damage are the very same ones that NFPA advises homeowners to do on a regular basis. Inspecting roofs, gutters and vents for vulnerabilities, clearing away flammables near the home, and reducing ignition potential in the home landscape are all proven ways to reduce the risk of a structure ignition during a wildfire.” 
The webinar will cover tips for individual property protection as well as the value of community-wide risk reduction efforts including the Firewise USA® recognition program. To participate, register here.
Safeguard Properties is the mortgage field services industry leader, inspecting and preserving vacant and foreclosed properties across the U.S. With a focus and investment in innovative technologies, Safeguard provides the highest quality service to our clients by proactively developing industry best practices and quality control procedures. We pride ourselves in our dedication to working with community leaders and officials to eliminate blight and stabilize neighborhoods across the country. Learn more at www.safeguardproperties.com.

Photo credit: NFPA

For many years, NFPA has convened an Educational Messages Advisory Committee to develop consistent fire and life safety messages for the general public on a wide variety of topics. The newly revised 2018 edition of the Educational Messages Desk Reference now includes wildfire topics for the first time.

 

The Committee’s goals include maintaining NFPA’s philosophy of clear, simple, accurate, technically sound and – whenever possible – positive messaging about fire and burn safety. The rules governing the Committee ensure that there is diverse representation among members as well as the ability for public input and comments. In my first term as a Committee member, I was happy to contribute a set of wildfire messages for review, and gratified to learn that several public commenters have been asking the Committee to include such messages in the new edition.

 

The Desk Reference is available for free download on NFPA.org. The wildfire messages are in Chapter 17 and include information about Wildfire Prevention, Protecting Homes from Wildfires, and Community-wide Wildfire Safety. The guide also contains some great tips about how to tailor messages to target audiences. Fire and life safety educators in fire departments and schools throughout North America use this guide – my hope is that the new messages will assist them in communicating best practices to cope with the growing threat of wildfire.

 

Get your free electronic copy and learn more about the public comment process by visiting NFPA’s Public Education web pages.

Photo Credit: Faith Berry, NFPA

Perhaps you live in a large metropolitan area and are thinking, “I don’t have to worry about wildfire risk.”  Many people think incorrectly that because they live in a big city away from forests and parks that there is no need for them to maintain their home and property for a wildfire threat.

So how can homes located within city limits be impacted by a local wildfire? The most common way is by embers lofted by burning materials in a wildfire. One example of this occurred in Wenatchee, Washington where businesses located 1.2 miles away from the fire burned.

 

Another way wildfires can impact city dwellers is by fires ignited in brush along highways. Poorly maintained vehicles can catch brush on fire and even pulling over on dry grass next to the highway can cause a fire to burn from overheated parts. This year’s Carr Fire for example was caused by a flat tire.

 

Another way homes can burn in big cities during a wildfire is from canyons or common park areas located inside the city burning. In 2014, Carlsbad - a Southern California community located on the ocean - was impacted by a devastating canyon fire that destroyed at least 18 condominiums and 4 single family homes.

 

No matter where we live, whether we live in rural enclaves or big cities, we can be impacted by wildfires.  Wildfires are one event that can be planned for.  We all can do a lot to reduce our risk of loss by taking steps today to make our homes and neighborhoods safer.  Learn more about simple and inexpensive actions you can take by visiting the Firewise USA® Program website

Photo Credit: Los Angeles City Fire Department

Photo by Faith Berry

 

Land use planning can reduce the risk of loss due to wildfire.  Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) program is a partnership between Headwaters Economics and Wildfire Planning International and provides according to their webpage, “grant funded professional guidance about integrating wildfire mitigation into the development planning processes of communities.”  It is funded by the US Forest Service, the LOR Foundation and other private foundations.

 

Communities now have the opportunity to apply for no cost assistance to look at integrating wildfire safety measures into current and future development and learning how to leverage local assets and resources.  According to the webpage all recommendations they share are voluntarily adopted.

 

CPAW is accepting applications now through October 5 for planning assistance.  To apply for this opportunity to receive no cost wildfire risk reduction assistance, check out the CPAW website.

Photo by Faith Berry

 

Many of us are making last minute vacation plans, before the kids go back to college or school, and cooler weather sets in.  To make good memories there are some safety tips to keep in mind.

 

Before heading down the road, make sure that you left things in order at home, in case a wildfire occurs while you are away. Some tips to follow before you leave:

  1.       Make sure that all doors and windows are shut. If there is a wildfire embers will find a way into your home.
  2.       Remove flammable items from your patio, such as chair cushions, coco mats, planters, trash cans, brooms etc. Either put them in a shed, inside the house or far away from your home.
  3.       Make sure pine needles and other debris is cleaned up, and follow Firewise USA ® tip sheets for maintaining landscaping around your home.

 

Before you leave make sure you check the National Interagency Fire Center Report, to make sure that your pre-planned vacation site is not being impacted by wildfire.  This is important especially if you are traveling in high wildfire prone regions.

 

Check out your recreational vehicles and make sure that they are well maintained.  Following some simple safety tips will make sure that you don’t spark a wildfire as you head down the road.  Some tips to keep in mind include:

  1.      Off road motorcycles or other off road vehicles should have properly maintained spark arrestors.
  2.       Never park a vehicle that has been running on dry grass. Hot parts from underneath your vehicle can spark a fire.
  3.       Tow equipment is should be properly maintained.  Dragging chains can cause sparks that can ignite wildfires.
  4.       Check for proper tire pressure, this can not only save you gas as you travel, but also prevent exposed wheel rims from under inflated tires igniting a wildfire.
  5.       Complete proper vehicle maintenance and carry a fire extinguisher that you know how to use.

 

When you arrive at your destination, be aware of local fire conditions and follow all campground rules.

  1.       Check first to see if you are allowed to have open fires. If campfires are allowed, make sure that you keep them in a designated fire rings.  Never build a fire too large, and be aware of overhanging limbs.
  2.       Don’t engage in recreational activities at your campsite that can ignite wildfire like fireworks.
  3.       Tiki torches may not be allowed in your campground, check with your local park ranger/manager, or better yet bring and use portable solar lights.
  4.       If you are using citronella candles in the evening to keep bugs away, make sure that you keep them on a non-flammable surface and put them out before going to bed.

 

By proactively taking simple steps before and during your vacation, you can make sure that your vacation if fun and leaves you and your family with lasting good memories.  Check out the Firewise USA® website for more information about wildfire safety.

UPDATE: Registration is now open.  Click here to learn more and sign up.  

As part of the upcoming 2018 Fire Prevention Week, NFPA will host a webinar on Wednesday, October 10, at 3:00pm eastern time helping residents in the wildland-urban interface learn what they need to know about insurance before, during and after a wildfire.

 

Presenters will include Carole Walker from the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, Kenton Brine with the Northwest Insurance Council, and Janet Ruiz with the Insurance Information Institute.

 

Tom Welle, with the NFPA Wildfire Division, shared with me that, “Being prepared for Wildfire is not just about preparing your home and having an evacuation plan, it also means you need to be financially prepared. Being well informed about your insurance coverage and having regular update meetings with your agent are crucial to your financial preparedness for wildfires.” The webinar will share insight from insurance experts so you can be a part of a more informed public.

 

Registration guidance for the webinar will be shared this September and we look forward to your participation.

 

The 2018 Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere,” works to educate people about three basic but essential steps to take to reduce the likelihood of having a fire – and how to escape safely in the event of one. Learn more about Fire Prevention Week and its educational resources.

While wildfires across the American West threaten communities, a summer of excessive heat and drought has also torched parts of Europe. Over June and July, wildfire in the forests of Sweden, to moorlands of the United Kingdom, and even the Netherlands, surpassed records and showed that wildfire is no longer just a “Southern European issue”. The countries of Northern Europe are not accustomed to wildfire and the factors causing this expansion are not going away. Recent articles by the BBC and reflections from our wildfire partner in the UK provide great perspective on this emerging challenge.

 

July was a massive month for wildfire in Europe and followed a heightened trend for 2018 over the previous 10-year average. This is highlighted in an article by the BBC that explored, “why wildfires are breaking out in the ‘wrong’ countries”. The cause is a prolonged heat-wave drying out abundant fuel loads and it is continuing into August. Ignitions are primarily human-caused in Europe.

 

The article explains that by July 24, over 34,000 acres burned in the UK, which is four times the previous 10-year average. Approximately 46,000 acres in Sweden was 41 times the previous 10-year average. Aside from the recent tragic fire losses in Greece, Mediterranean Europe has seen less fires through a cool and wet spring and early summer.

 

In the UK, the current heat wave is the worst since 1976. Shaun Walton, Group Manager for the Pennine Area with the Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service, shared his prospective with me on the conditions and their wildfire response.

 

“Historically the UK has experienced periodic severe wildfire seasons, however more recently the number and severity of wildfires have increased. Many influencing factors have contributed to this including hotter and dryer seasonal weather. Traditional wildfire seasons have changed, with the UK experiencing wildfires starting earlier and finishing later in the year. UK seasonal weather has not been consistent over the years in comparison to previous seasons, this has allowed fuel/vegetation to have the right conditions to grow and remain in-situ for long periods of time, allowing the fuel to build with dead vegetation providing more surface fuels to burn across the moors.”

 

Explaining more about the fuel-loading, Shaun shared that, “the UK, like other countries, face challenges [fighting] the various types of vegetation of wildfires in forests, upland and lowland heaths and moors, that can involve surface fuel fires and ground fuels involving peat that are carbon rich and burn requiring little oxygen underground for several weeks.”

 

Wildfire operations and public outreach are changing with the growing threat as well. In Shaun’s role with the UK’s National Fire Chiefs Council and its Wildfire Group, he explained to me that, “the NFCC supports the UK Fire & Rescue Services to manage this risk by providing safety advice to the public to help prevent wildfire occurring and advising the public on what action to take when they do occur. The NFCC Wildfire Tactical Advisers also provide on request specialist advice to Incident commanders in relation to managing wildfires. The NFCC also support the development of UK National Operational Guidance to provide operational advice to Incident Commanders and improve Firefighter Safety.

 

Shaun noted that, “various UK fire rescue services are working together to develop specialist teams to fight wildfires by lighting deliberate ‘good fires’ to suppress wildfires and reduce fuels in the wildfires burn path, thereby protecting homes, infrastructure and reducing the impact to the environment.”

 

As the threat of wildfire continues this summer, Shaun stressed to me, “how important it is that organizations with a vested interest in wildfire, such as NFCC and NFPA, share best practice and learning to support prevention and operational response for what many consider to be the new norm.” NFPA looks forward to this work as well and wishes all those fighting wildfires in Europe safety and success.

 

Photo Credits: 
BBC News, Sweden battles wildfires from Arctic Circle to Baltic Sea, 18 July 2018, pulled 2 Aug 2018
BBC News, Drone footage captures Dorset heath fire damage, 27 July 18, pulled 2 Aug 18

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