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

7-R Ranch community and staff

Located in north Texas hill country, 7-R Ranch is an ideal getaway for its residents, most of whom are retired professionals seeking an escape from urban/suburban life. About 1.5 hours from the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area and 45 minutes from a grocery store, the community is set in an area of mesas and canyons, with oak, ash, cedar and juniper, and tall grasses. Residents enjoy birds and other wildlife and can raise horses. It's quiet out there, with truly beautiful sunsets.  

While it sounds idyllic, it also presents concerns for residents and the local fire department in regards to wildfire. I spoke with Rick Best, the community's resident leader, to learn more about their efforts to address their wildfire risk and why they are participating in the Sites of Excellence Pilot Program.   

How did 7-R Ranch get started with its wildfire risk reduction efforts?

Part of the motivation for our community to take action was a wildfire experienced by a nearby, similar community. Seeing what they went through and an evacuation alert for 7-R really got our attention.  Our community has 400 lots that range from 1-10 acres, with approximately 130 houses built. We had concerns from the hilly terrain and local vegetation, some of the homes within the ranch are built at the top of wooded canyons, and there are lots with absentee landowners. With the encouragement of our fire chief, 7-R Ranch joined the Firewise USA® program in late 2017 and we have had lots of support from our community members and our developer. We've taken a lot of the obvious risk reductions steps in the home ignition zone and feel like we're in pretty good shape.  

Why did you decide to participate in the pilot and what are your goals?

Our state forestry representative approached us about the pilot and we said, "why not?" While we've made a lot of progress in 7-R Ranch, the pilot provides us with the opportunity to evaluate our community as a whole to identify our weak areas and where we need to focus our efforts. We're partnering with our local fire department and Texas A&M Forest Service to do individual home assessments. We want to better understand the threats from thTX forest service and homeowners outside doing wildfire risk assessmente canyons - look at the homes and their setbacks from the edge, and what work has been done in the home ignition zone. The Sites of Excellence program gives us an opportunity to systematically assess each home and communicate the results to each homeowner. I believe it will help us get to the next level of participation in our community. 

With this opportunity, we are also in a unique situation to have an impact on a neighboring community that participates in Firewise USA®. We share a committee and are working with our Texas Forest Service partners on a similar pilot with them to increase their engagement in risk reduction actions.

What are some of the challenges in your community?

Some of the challenges we face here are related to the terrain and vegetation - navigating steep slopes, disposing of debris. We also have absentee landowners, who may not be aware of the risk from wildfires or don't have the time or resources to put towards mitigation at this time. Through a targeted approach we hope to make an impact on some of these. As lots are converted to homes, there will be opportunities to engage those new residents and we should see the threat from unmanaged lots go down.

 

I want to thank Rick for sharing the story of his community and look forward to seeing how they progress over the next year and a half. This is the first in a series of blogs introducing our Sites of Excellence Pilot Sites. Stay tuned for our next blog featuring Virginia.

 

What will it take for you and your neighbors to take action?  Visit Firewise.org more to learn more about how to organize your community and steps towards increasing your chances of withstanding a wildfire.

 

Images courtesy 7-R Ranch and Texas A&M Forest Service

Two forestry service personnel with two NFPA Employees sharing how to create safer landscaping in the home ignition zone

Incredible stories are pouring in about projects accomplished across the country and the globe on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  Here at NFPA®’s main office, we hosted a training session provided by two Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) employees about how to make changes to the landscape around the home and the home itself for wildfire safety, also shared were pruning tips to assist with liming up trees.

 

From Washington State, Nancy Miller shared, “We had a great event and removed more than 15 yards of chipped Picture of a community with prep day banner and dumpster full of chipped materialdebris!  I don't know what that represents in volume before it was chipped, but it was a very large amount.”  

 

Nancy went on to say, “We appreciated so very much your award of $500 dollars and with community member donations we were able to hire a professional to bring his large chipper and remove the tree limbs and brush that would contribute fuel for a wildfire.” 

 

Back again on the East Coast in Maine, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, completed a community clean up and educational event that was featured on local television.

 

And in Yarnell, Arizona, Denise Roggio shared, “We wanted to share our successful event with you and your organization. We went to the Model Creek School as an activity outreach with students, grades 1 - 8.  The students learned about fire resistant plants and planted terrariums.  Then, on Saturday, May 4th, we hosted a Firewise Plants/Defensible Space workshop.” 

 

This is a picture of residents participating in a landscaping workshop in Yarnell, AZ for wildfire safetyExplaining more about the workshop, Denise said, “The $500 in funding purchased beautiful flowering plants, and 1 plant was given to each household represented.  38 people attended the workshop.  Two firefighters spoke regarding creating defensible space, and a gardening expert taught us how to properly care for and plant fire resistant native plants.  This event was wonderful!  People have requested that we do many more of these community engagement events. Thank you so very much for the Grant award! We are very grateful.”

 

We are also hearing from people who participated with Wildfire Community Preparedness Day in Canada, Mexico, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, and other countries.  It is great to see that more and more people are participating globally in this incredible effort. 

 

Each and every participant is a wildfire safety hero! We are looking forward to hearing more about events and projects completed not only on this day but every day.  Working together, we all can make a difference with every project and activity we complete to create safer homes and neighborhoods.  Tell us your story!

 

 

Photo credits: Top photo - courtesy Tracy Gaudette, two DCR employees sharing landscaping techniques with NFPA employees. Middle photo - courtesy Nancy Miller, community chipping event.  Bottom photo - Denise Roggio, Yarnell Landscaping event.

chipper dayIn light of recent horrific losses to life and property from wildfires, we wonder who is responsible to create homes and neighborhoods that are safer?

I think we can all have a part to play, both individually and collectively.

Residents in wildfire-prone areas should prepare for wildfire by focusing on the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ).  The Home Ignition Zone includes the home itself and the landscaping (especially the first 5 feet) around the home.  Most homes burn during wildfire events from embers (bits of burning matter) that are lofted in the air from the wildfire and can land in this critical area.  Debris such as leaves, pine needles, or branches on or around the home can act as kindling that the embers ignite and ultimately cause homes to burn.   

Once this debris is removed from the home ignition zone, residents may struggle with finding a way to easily dispose of this material. Individually, it can become cost-prohibitive to hire a contractor to remove it. This cost is an obstacle to risk reduction, and worse yet, can lead people to resort to illegal dumping.

This is where participation together on a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project can come to the rescue! Collectively working together on a neighborhood project can lower costs, lighten the workload, and make wildfire risk reduction fun! Working together with sponsors and partners can be even better. 

Here are some ideas to overcome obstacles to debris removal:

  1. Providing green waste to a biofuel company if there is one within a reasonable distance.
  2. Apply for and share funding for a removal project, like the $500 awards provided with generous support from State Farm.
  3. Get a dumpster donated for a day and work hard to fill it up.
  4. Together hire a chipping contractor and donate chipped material to a park or garden area.
  5. Together rent a truck to take the material to a green waste recycling site.
  6. Hire goats!
  7. Connect with state, federal or other agencies to help burn material following all local and state regulations and prescribed safety precautions.

Together we all can make a difference, and being safer during a wildfire is possible! Loss from a local wildfire is not inevitable. If you've taken safety steps, please tell us about it on NFPA's Wildfire and Firewise USA Program Facebook Page or on Twitter by using the hashtag #WildfirePrepDay.

Photo credit: Taylor Hunsaker. 2018 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day chipping event in Kimberly, Idaho.

As part of a panel talking about wildfires and public health, I had a great opportunity to talk to health and safety professionals on behalf of NFPA about wildfire and how we can use techniques that have emerged from public health and related social science research to help change behaviors and outcomes. 

My co-presenters, Ken Pimlott, retired chief of CAL FIRE, and Dr. Michael Gollner, a fire protection engineering professor at the University of Maryland, provided their expertise to describe the compelling situation of wildfire risk in California and around the country. CSPAN recorded our presentations and the lively discussion which followed. Key takeaways:

  • We are seeing more extreme wildfires
  • Thousands of homes already built are at high risk to wildfire
  • Planning, codes, and regulations are still very much needed for new development and rebuilding
  • There are things people at risk today can do to reduce their vulnerability

I was happy to share how NFPA has been using social science findings to inform our programs and outreach. Successful techniques have included education and messages that help move people from awareness to action, prompts and signage that help spread behavior change throughout neighborhoods, marketing social behavior change by removing barriers to action, and helping people find what's going right and doing more of it. Programs like Firewise USA and campaigns like Wildfire Community Preparedness Day have been adopted and used by thousands of people across the US as well as in other countries to empower residents to take effective risk reduction action.

Check out the CSPAN video to learn more about how to tackle the thorny health and safety issues presented by wildfire.

Video still shot links to a 2-minute clip of NFPA's Michele Steinberg speaking about the "98% problem" of already-existing homes at risk to wildfire on CSPAN2.

Asset(s)

According to an NFPA® report on youth and wildfire preparedness, only 21% of students interviewed in wildfire prone regions have a family preparedness plan for when they are home alone.  Even more amazing is that only 10% had evacuation bags prepared for themselves at home.   However 65% of these young people were aware that a fire could happen at any time and anywhere.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is this Saturday, May 4th, and an excellent time to start the family conversation around what to do before and when a wildfire happens.   Take a moment to discuss what the plan is when your young family members are home alone or if they are home, caring for younger children.  Some ideas for developing your family plan include:

  • Connecting with a trusted neighbor close by who your children know who can evacuate them.
  • Or, setting up a schedule with other working parents in the neighborhood, so that one is always at home and can make sure the children are safe.
  • Packing a Go Bag with treasured items, water, food, prescriptions, etc.  That they can grab and leave quickly with.
  • Practice together with their pets if time allows to be able to crate them and go.
  • Have a designated contact, such as an out of town family member’s number programmed into their cell phone so that you can find each other quickly.

The most important thing that you can do as a family is to make sure your home and the landscape immediately surrounding your home is well maintained for wildfire safety.  You want to make sure that those you care about are safe and secure.  For more information about wildfire safety tips check out NFPA’s Firewise USA® webpage.

 

Photo shared with permission from Jason King

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: