Skip navigation
All Places > Fire Break > Blog > 2019 > February

Research around home destruction vs. home survival during wildfires points to embers and small flames as the main way the majority of homes ignite. Evaluating your home's risk to embers and flames can help you determine the areas around your home that are most vulnerable.

In the video, Dr. Jack Cohen, Fire Science Researcher with the USDA Forest Service (retired), takes us on a tour of a local home and shows us five key areas we may not have realized contribute to home ignitions. 

As Wildfire Community Preparedness Day draws near, use this opportunity to jump start your work with your state forestry agency or fire department who can help conduct risk evaluations of homes in your neighborhood. These professionals not only can help you identify areas around your home that need attention, but they can also provide guidance on the activities you can help make a difference.

Find additional information about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day and related project ideas on

Could you use a little financial help for a  Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project?  Don't delay, apply today!  The application period for $500 project awards closes on Friday, March 1.

What can you do with $500? Use it to do a project or put on an event where residents can work together on wildfire safety. Participation helps create a sense of community, where neighbors begin to look out for each other.  Wildfire Community Preparedness Day projects can also help strengthen relationships between residents and the local fire department, land management agencies, community leaders and elected officials.

NFPA has provided many resources to help you get started and be successful.  Not sure how to apply?  Check out a great YouTube video that helps walk you through the application process step by step.  The video tells you why it is important to participate, how to fill out your online form and shares tips about creating a successful narrative. 

Also check out a brand new resource, the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit!  Download our new toolkit to help you get started.  From picking a project to tracking progress and promoting the event, the toolkit provides a number of great resources to guide you through the process and your journey to wildfire preparedness.  Follow along on Twitter for more wildfire updates @FaithBerry_NFPA.


Teens with aunt on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day 2018 in Aroostook County, MaineHelp youth in your community be empowered to make a difference.  Young people have told NFPA® that they want to be involved in making a difference in the wildfire safety of the neighborhoods where they live. Wildfire Community Preparedness Day provides great opportunities and resources for mentors to help coach these young members of society to make effective changes that can help make a difference in the survivability of their community.  Participation in project work can also help them learn about science-based changes that can be made to the home and the landscape surrounding the home to help improve a home and neighborhood’s ignition resistance.

Individual teens, as well as members of youth groups like Boys & Girls Clubs, Scout Troops, faith-based groups, 4-H Clubs, and after-school groups, can apply to receive funding to be used for a project on the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page.  There are one hundred fifty opportunities for young people to apply for and possibly receive a $500 dollar award provided with generous support from State Farm® through NFPA®.  A how-to video on YouTube provides step by step help for them to complete the project application before March 1, 2019.

NFPA also provides a free downloadable “Tool Kit” resource with everything they need to plan and execute project work on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  There is information in the toolkit about project safety, how to pick a project, how to work with the media to promote their efforts and even a customizable flyer to encourage other young people to participate. 

It has been my experience that this wonderful young generation really has the heart to make the world a better place. Help them get started by learning how they can participate in wildfire safety project work on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day today!

Photo by Faith Berry: teens and aunt at Prep Day event 2018 in Aroostook County, Maine

There’s a movement happening in Marin County, California. Residents living in the county of more than 260,000 people are taking a more active approach in preparing their homes and communities for wildfire. 

Last year brought an explosion of growth in the number of Firewise USA® sites in the county, making it the fastest growing county of the year. Prior to 2018, the county had nine participating sites, the first site getting its start in 2009. Marin County has now grown to 30 recognized sites and has the fourth highest participation in site numbers by county in the country. 

Todd Lando of FIRESafe Marin said after the 2017 fires in the North Bay, local fire departments were overwhelmed with questions from residents. They used the Firewise USA® program to start to teach homeowners what they can do to reduce their wildfire risk. 

The program allowed local experts to handle the overwhelming interest because neighbors were working together and helping each other learn about the things they could do to make their home more ignition resistant.  

Lando says the communities are seeing the added benefit of getting to know each other and bond with each other by working towards the same goal. 

It can sometimes be a challenge to talk to your neighbors about wildfire risk reduction. One tip Lando gives to homeowners is to start with working on your own home. Once you start taking action around your property, it can be easier to talk to neighbors about why you are doing the work and what they can do as well. 

The success in Marin County was recently highlighted in the Marin Independent Journal. Program participants explained to the paper why they’ve decided to participate in Firewise USA®. The spread in the number of sites was described as contagious. Mill Valley fire Battalion Chief Scott Barnes told the Journal, “Someone hears about a neighborhood forming a Firewise community, and then they say, maybe we should think about the same.”

Lando doesn’t expect the interest in Marin to slow down anytime soon. He is already working with several more communities that plan to apply for recognition in 2019. 

Photo Courtesy Todd Lando. Marin County residents meet to learn about reducing their wildfire risk. 

Follow  Marie Snow on twitter @MarieSnowNFPA.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit Image

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is only a few months away. And while many communities, organizations, groups, and individuals are thinking about what project to undertake on May 4, they may not know how to take the needed steps to organize an event.


To help, NFPA has created a new Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit just for this purpose. From picking a project to tracking progress and promoting the event, the toolkit provides a number of great resources that are easy to download and can help get you started on your project and your journey to wildfire preparedness! Take advantage of this free resource and download the toolkit today!

The International Association of Fire Chief's annual Wildland Urban Interface Conference is quickly approaching and we hope to see you there!   Held March 26-28 in Reno, Nevada, the WUI Conference is a great way to connect with other wildland fire professionals and get the latest information on advancements in the field.

NFPA will once again have a strong representation, eager to meet and speak with you. On Tuesday, 3/26, you can connect with staff in a couple of ways: 

We'll be around through the rest of the conference, available at the booth and attending education sessions. 

Don't miss out on this opportunity!  Check out the conference web page for more details and to register for the pre-conference and main sessions.

Can't attend but want to stay on top of what is going on?   You can follow the Firewise USA® Follow our staff as they share their WUI Reno experience: Michele Steinberg is @Michele_NFPA, Lucian Deaton is @Lucian_NFPA, and Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan is @meganfitz34

In July 2018, a heatwave across the United Kingdom lead to record breaking wildfires.  They burned across heathlands in the south and moors packed with deep peat in the midlands.  Two podcasts by BBC Radio 4’s Open Country explore the impacts of these fires immediately following, and again 6 months later.  They are both 25-minute podcasts but well worth a listen.  

The July episode, recorded just after wildfires burned north of Manchester near Saddleworth and at Winter Hill
, asked, “what impact the huge moorland fires near have had on the landscape and the wildlife of the area.”  The episode interviews folks on the ground about how long will it take the ecosystem to recover and what this means for future fire risk. 



Six months later, an episode returned to Winter Hill to explore how the fragile ecosystem and wildlife are starting to recover.  This also includes reflections from people who utilize the lands for grazing and who live around them. 

During those fires, Shaun Walton, Group Manager for the Pennine Area with the Lancashire Fire & Rescue Service, shared with me that, “fires on forested lands, upland and lowland heaths and moors involving peat that are carbon rich, burn requiring little oxygen underground for several weeks.”


This is a growing wildfire challenge in the UK.  NFPA is pleased to be working with valued groups on advancing resident education around these risks and structural protection.  


Photo Credit: BBC News, Drone footage captures Dorset heath fire damage, 27 July 18, pulled 2 Aug 18

This image shows a group of people having a discussion in an outdoor wooded area. At the recent Northeast Fire Compact Annual Meeting in Maine, Katie Lighthall, coordinator for the Western Region of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy effort, shared a concept that is showing success across the West in stimulating increased action within communities at risk of wildfire.  What she shared at a team meeting brings the model east and with the hope that it is more widely adopted.  Katie explained that, “most people do not think of the Northeast or the Midwest as the proverbial hot bed of fire activity, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Katie shared that
the Learning Lab is a shared learning event tailored to a specific community that brings together all levels of stakeholders in the setting of a previous fire incident.  There, they collaboratively learn about the Cohesive Strategy vision of living with wildland fire and what it means to work better together for better fire outcomes.

Katie said that participants are local stakeholders including representatives from US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management offices, state fire and land management agencies, Tribal entities, elected officials, planners, non-governmental organizations and other community leaders and members. Typically, these events are an all-day affair in which stakeholders hear candidly about successes and challenges in how the previous fire was managed or suppressed, vegetation treatments, challenges with evacuation, post-fire impacts, and other hard truths about living with wildland fire.  This conversation is achieved in a facilitated, non-judgmental atmosphere. Short presentations are sometimes followed by a field tour during which additional information is shared. Questions and interaction are strongly encouraged.

Katie went onto explain that facilitators ask members of the audience what they’ve learned from the day’s agenda in the context of the goals and vision of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy. She noted that there are many “aha” moments that surface during this part of the event. They provide a perfect lead in to the Learning Lab finale of audience-suggested and ranked recommendations with commitments to move forward by implementing actions that will help improve fire outcomes in that community.

Importantly, she noted that this type of face-to-face engagement at the community and local agency level has proved successful in helping stakeholders understand more about the Cohesive Strategy and what it means to live with wildland fire.

The Northeast Region of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy convened this week in Portland, Maine alongside the Northeast Fire Compact’s Annual Meeting. NFPA representatives routinely participate in these meetings as partners and stakeholders in the overall objectives.


Image: Learning lab in McCall, ID, part of Living with Fire in Valley County, courtesy of Katie Lighthall.

2019 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day banner

You can apply for a great opportunity to get $500 dollars to use on the project of your choice so that you, those you love, and the things you care about are safer from wildfire. With generous support from State Farm®, the National Fire Protection Association is again offering the opportunity to apply for one of 150 awards of $500 to complete a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project on May 4, 2019.

It is so easy to apply using our simple online form. Did you know that almost anyone living in the U.S. and the U.S. Territories can apply? You don’t need to have non-profit status. Young people between the ages of 13 and 18 can apply with a guardian’s permission. So who else can apply? 

State Farm employees at Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event1. Individuals who need help with wildfire risk reduction projects

2. Members of Firewise USA® sites, Fire Adapted Communities networks or Fire Safe Councils 

3. Young people completing community service projects, Eagle Scout requirements or 4-H projects

4. Seniors who need help with wildfire safety clean-up work around their homes and in their yards

5. Fire departments supporting neighborhood wildfire safety efforts

6. Faith-based groups 

7. Tribal organizations

8. Volunteer groups

9. Any group of neighbors who want to make their community safer from wildfire

Don’t wait! The application period closes on March 1st, and you want to give yourself plenty of time to craft a winning application. You don’t have to win a funding award to participate on the day! Be a part of creating homes, neighborhoods, towns, and cities that are safer from wildfire this year! Make sure to check out the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page for resources that can help you, including a how-to video on YouTube, project ideas and more.


Photo of State Farm representatives assisting at Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event taken by Faith Berry, NFPA.

Research related to how homes ignite and post-wildfire assessments tell us that the majority of home ignitions during a wildfire are from embers and small surface fires. Since 2002, the Firewise USA® program has encouraged residents across the county to take action at the home and surrounding area to reduce the chances of their home igniting.  Residents have invested millions of dollars in volunteer hours and cash investment in this work and have made significant accomplishments.

Over the last decade, while progress has been made, extreme fire conditions have shown us that we all need to do more.  In 2019, Firewise USA® is challenging seven active sites across the country to just that.  Sites of Excellence is a 24-month pilot program designed to increase resident participation in active wildfire risk reduction through a focused approach.  Based on the science we have and the fires we have experienced, we must have more residents engaged and doing more of the right work in the right places.  We must increase the ignition resistance of our homes and our communities if we want to change the results of these wildland urban disasters.

 Our challenge to these participants is:

  • To have 100% participation of homes within the designated pilot boundary (sites were able to self-identify up to 100 co-located homes in each pilot site).
  • To complete identified mitigation tasks within 30 feet of every home, based on recommendations from individual assessments.

We recognize that these are lofty goals, however, in order to effectively move needle on wildfire preparedness and increase the ignition resistance of individual homes and communities, this is the type of effort that needs to occur.   Over the next several months we will feature each site, telling their story of what wildfire preparedness means to them, why they volunteered for the pilot, what they hope to accomplish.   We look forward to sharing in their journey and hope you do to.


Pilot Participants:

7-R Ranch, TX

Coal Bank Ridge , VA

Crystal Lake Club, WI

Flowery Trail, WA

Forest Highlands, AZ

Red Rock Ranch, CO

Summit Park, UT


Photo Credit: Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management

Want to learn more about the Sites of Excellence, Firewise USA® , and other wildfire preparedness efforts? Follow me on Twitter @meganfitz34

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: