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2018

Within the suburbs and foothills west of Denver, CO, West Metro Fire Rescue has been engaged in wildfire education and outreach since 2007; their efforts have produced two Firewise USA™ sites, but like the majority of fire departments, fuels reduction projects are often limited by capacity and funding.

Knowing collaboration and creativity are essential to addressing those challenges, wildfire mitigation specialist/firefighter Steve Orr connected with Team Rubicon following a series of unexplained fires in an area called Green Mountain to initiate a conversation about the possibility of working on a project to remove dense brush adjacent to property lines of the homes in that area. Most of the residences in that area were built during the 1960s and 70s with wood fences/decks and vulnerable home ignition zones, which increased their risk.

Orr was successful in getting Team Rubicon volunteers involved and ultimately the project grew to also include the City of Lakewood, and the Green Mountain Civic Association. Prior to the project West Metro Fire Rescue went door-to-door notify residents and to provide them with information about steps they could take to reduce their wildfire risks.

Working with Team Rubicon, who handled the majority of the logistical and operational functions using sixty enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers, vegetation was removed that yielded around 50 cubic yards of wood chips. With more work to be done, plans have been made with Team Rubicon to return to do additional work, with hopes that they can also assist with future projects. By seeking out untraditional resources, Firefighter Orr was able to deliver much needed resources to the West Metro Fire Rescue community!

Team Rubicon’s primary mission is providing disaster relief to those affected by natural disasters, be they domestic or international. By pairing the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders, medical professionals, and technology solutions, Team Rubicon aims to provide the greatest service and impact possible. Through continued service, Team Rubicon seeks to provide veterans with three things they lose after leaving the military: a purpose gained through disaster relief; community, built by serving with others; and identity, from recognizing the impact one individual can make. Coupled with leadership development and other opportunities, Team Rubicon looks to help veterans transition from military to civilian life.

Firefighters can help promote wildfire resilience in their communities by applying for funding and completing wildfire hazard mitigation project work.  Projects to help with after fire recovery needs can also be applied for.  The application period for $500 (provided with generous support from State Farm) now open, through March 2nd.

 

Fire districts and communities can now apply for one of one hundred and fifty, $500 awards at www.wildfireprepday.org.  If your district is awarded $500 it can be used to rent chippers, buy tools, rent dumpsters or whatever you need to help you implement an effective wildfire prevention activity.  By working with communities to design and implement project work in communities, fire districts have been able to take fire prevention efforts from information to action. 

 

 

Fire departments that have worked together on a wildfire safety project for the first time with local residents have found that it helps create a sense of community, which has helped strengthen relationships communities have with their local fire departments.

 

NFPA has created resources to help you and your communities with the application process as well as promote local events you may be hosting with; fillable poster templates, a sample press release, a project safety tip sheet and more, which can be found on the Prep Day web page.

 

For more information about how you and your district can participate, please feel free to connect directly with the NFPA.

This map was shared with permission from Phillip Truitt, Communications Specialist with the Texas A&M Forest Service Directors Office

Northern parts of Texas, experienced heavy rain and hail on Sunday, but are also listed on the Texas A&M Forest Service, Observed Fire Danger Map as having a high wildfire risk. The Texas wildfire danger mapping project looks at real time data including, fuels, weather, topography and risk combined to determine the daily fire potential rating in areas of Texas to create maps that show forecasted wildfire risk.

Wind gusts in Northern Texas are predicted to be between 20-30 mph. Because the vegetation in Texas is still dormant for the winter, it is very dry.  The fire danger ratings for Monday in Northern Texas are listed as high and very high. It is suggested that residents living in this area avoid outdoor burning.

Some steps you can take in around your home before a wildfire threatens your area include;

  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
  • Remove dead vegetation and other items from under your deck or porch, and within 10 feet of the house. Learn more about the basics of the home ignition zone on the Firewise website.
  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
  • Wildfire can spread to tree tops. Prune trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to reduce fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
  • Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
  • Inspect shingles or roof tiles. Replace or repair those that are loose or missing to prevent ember penetration.
  • Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent sparks from entering the home.
  • Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh to prevent ember entry.
  • Learn more about how to protect your home and property at www.firewise.org.Wildfires can occur anywhere when the conditions are right. You can take some simple steps today to keep your home and those you care about, safer from wildfire. Learn more about how you can reduce your risk of loss from NFPA.

            U.S. Army Photo - Tanja Linton

More than two years ago, while working on his Fire Officer Certification, Fort Huachuca firefighter Juan Zamora began exploring the army post’s potential participation in the Firewise USA™ program; and after successfully pitching the wildfire risk reduction concept to the base’s garrison commander Col. James Wright, efforts to meet the program’s criteria began.

 

Zamora was joined in the effort by Keith Read, a post fire inspector and through consultation with Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management fire prevention officer Mayra Moreno, the push to become a nationally recognized Firewise USA™ site moved forward quickly.

 

The army post now includes briefings for new post residents to share information on what they can do to reduce the impact of wildfires. Join NFPA in saluting Fort Huachuca for their accomplishments, as we welcome them to the national program's close to 1,500 participating sites!

Need a little help? If you are not sure about how to fill out a grant application for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day cash to help with your community wildfire safety project, simply sign up for the free webinar, on January 18,th from 2:30-3:30 pm EST, to help your application stand out.  This free webinar will help you craft a better story about the project that you want to complete with the $500 cash award.  The webinar will also help you understand how to organize your information and describe how you want to make your community safer by completing project work.

 

Learn how easy it is to apply as well as tips to completing a successful award application.  Learn how you and your neighborhood can make a difference in the condition of your homes and landscapes to be better prepared. By participating you can help make your community a safer place to live and be a part of something bigger by participating in this year’s national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event May 5.  Be a wildfire preparedness hero!

In the January edition of NFPA Journal, Associate Editor Jesse Roman explores why, if experts say we could create wildfire-resistant communities today, is it so hard to get it done?

 

Reflecting on the article, Jesse shared with me that, “The deeper you dive into the nuances of the nation’s wildfire problem and the web of issues that surround it, the more you start to realize how long and difficult the road to fixing it will be. Politics, economics, sympathy, fear, and lingering misconceptions are a few of the multitude of legitimate hurdles that have kept us frozen in the status quo, unable to address a crisis that has grown steadily more destructive as the decades have passed.”

 

Pulling from recent fires in California and our nation’s history of trying to manage fire ecology, the article wrestles with how difficult even defining change can be.

 

“With wildfire, even seemingly the most simple ideas are fraught with nuance,” Jesse remarked. 

 

The article, “Build. Burn. Repeat?” is in the January edition.

 

Photo Credit: National Interagency Fire Center Public Photo Archive, pulled 12 January 2018.

In the January/February NFPA Journal Wildfire column, I ask that before we rush to find answers about the recent fires in California, we pause to consider whether we’re even asking the right questions.

 

We want to be whole again after such a devastating event, but in the days and weeks that followed the September-October wildfires, media outlets and policy wonks were pitching blame and churning out neat solutions to our wildfire problem.

 

The media response got me thinking if we are asking the right questions about the fire or just rehashing old assumptions for the current news cycle. In the face of these fires, we need to challenge presumed orthodoxies about wildfire. I hope you enjoy the column.

 

I should add that when the column was written, the fires were still raging and subsequently, the loss figures mentioned unfortunately grew.  This tragedy has assumed a new form over the past two days as heavy rains have caused mudslides across the exposed landscape.  With 17 deaths and over a dozen unaccounted for, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those lost and missing.  

Wildfire risk reduction requires committed and dedicated residents striving to reduce their wildfire risks; and in 2017, a total of 170 new participating sites completed the criteria to become nationally recognized through the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise™ USA program.

 

The newest participants join sites throughout 42 states that annually complete a required set of criteria to remain in a good standing status. Since 2002, the program has provided a framework and guidelines for residents to implement important actions that better prepare their homes for wildfires. There’s currently 1,479 active Firewise sites located in areas with a wildfire potential.

 

States adding the most new Firewise USA sites during the recent calendar year include: Washington: 20; Colorado: 20; Oregon: 19; California: 17 and Arkansas: 14.

 

Learn more about how residents can proactively impact their home’s potential survivability during a wildfire and start coordinating your neighbors into becoming a participant during 2018.

The question, “why is community wildfire risk reduction important”, took on a global prospective when NFPA gathered its wildfire partners from Canada, Chile, The United Kingdom, Spain, Lebanon, South Africa, and Australia last summer.

 

The proceedings document from that workshop was released by the NFPA Research Foundation in December and is now available. It reflects the dynamic discussion that occurred around community risk reduction and the continued networking needed to advance long-term sustainability of efforts.

 

It was great to bring our partners together, see the knowledge exchange that occurred, and learn from them about the common risk of wildfire. Many have adapted the Firewise program to complement their implementation plans for community engagement and others brought their current knowledge and research to the discussions. 

 

By sharing their experiences in community risk reduction, the group identified six fundamental issues that impact these advocacy efforts across the globe. These issues helped to frame the current state and challenges to outreach and how to best package messaging to at-risk communities anywhere. The group developed these discussions into identified next steps to advance local implementation strategies and necessary wildfire research.

 

We thank the Research Foundation for facilitating the workshop and our partners for their involvement.  In 2018, we look forward to advancing the identified research opportunities outlined in the document and continuing the great efforts with our global partners in collectively reducing wildfire risks.

 

Could you and your community use a little help, say $500 to jump-start your wildfire safety program where you live? There are many simple low-cost projects that you and your neighbors can work on together with this funding provided by State Farm, which can make a huge difference in the safety of your community in the event of a wildfire.

 

The $500 may be just what you need to rent a chipping service or a dumpster for a community clean-up day, buy garden tools that you share, pay for gloves, goggles or food for volunteers, hire private contractors or service groups  to help clean up yards of residents who need the help, or help with marketing your event community-wide to engage volunteers.

 

Research has proven that steps taken by homeowners to improve the condition of their homes and landscapes can really make a difference.  It is simple and very easy to complete the online application.

 

Need help applying? NFPA is even offering a free webinar on January 18, and free online resources to help you apply for funding and carry out successful project work. You can also download the contest rules and information about how to apply below.

 

So instead of thinking about it, take your first step, and apply today for your share of funding to help make your community a safer place to live today! 

Nighttime picture of the LaTuna Fire with the city of LA in the background shared by LA City Fire in 2017

 

On Tuesday, January 2, President Donald Trump approved a California Disaster Declaration according to a White House Briefing.  Areas of Southern California that suffered extreme loss during the recent fires including the Thomas fire which according to a CAL FIRE update destroyed 1,630 structures and burned over 281,000 acres (the largest fire in California’s history) will be eligible to receive federal assistance.

 

According to the brief, “Federal funding is available to the State and to eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in the counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura.” What is unique about this declaration is that has also stated that funding will also be available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation projects statewide.  William Roach has been named by Brock Long, FEMA Administrator, as the coordinating officer for Federal Recovery efforts in California.

 

Additional areas and counties may be included in this declaration as ongoing damage assessments are completed.

 

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day what is it?  According to fire science research, individual efforts do make a difference even in the face of a wildfire.  Wildfire Community Preparedness Day May 5, 2018, is a national day set aside for residents across the United States to have the opportunity to all take action to complete project work to create communities that are safer from wildfire.  It has increased awareness about the importance of wildfire safety and risk reduction projects and motivated participation by residents of all ages, firefighters, and forestry agencies in activities that increase their safety in the event of a wildfire. The purpose of the day is not only to educate and make people aware of their risk of loss to wildfire but also to get them to actively work on a project to reduce their risk of loss. 

 

 

 

Participation in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day results in many positive outcomes and will help build additional non-funded community efforts.  The national day generates growing engagement in wildfire preparedness activities by communities that participate in ongoing efforts that help make these positive outcomes become sustainable, repeatable, activities. Other positive outcomes include;

 

  1.        Increased collaborative efforts with fire departments, communities, and local representatives to identify, accept and take action to reduce their risk of loss due to wildfire.
  2.        Engaging youth in community-wide wildfire positive preparedness projects, they can learn from.
  3.        Assistance provided to seniors and other residents unable to complete preparedness projects.
  4.        Increased awareness of wildfire risk not only to residents but fire departments, realtors, landscapers and other industry leaders.  Helps create a positive press event!
  5.        Communities that have participated are now mentoring new community participation.
  6.        Engagement in project activity on the day is helping build healthy communities where residents care about each other.
  7.        Increased personal safety for citizens and firefighters.
  8.        Less damage and property loss due to the implementation of preparedness activities.
  9.        Homes better prepared and therefore able to survive a wildfire.
  10.        Less negative environmental impacts due to wildfire
  11.        Infrastructure such as cell towers, water systems etc. better protected from wildfire.
  12.        The reduced economic loss to business and as a result residents in the community.

 

 

Engagement on this day is growing.  Past participants have enjoyed being able to feel like they are making a difference as a part of something bigger.  This New Year don’t just think about making changes in your community, get involved and work together to make a real difference in your safety and the safety of the things and people you care about.  How will you participate?

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