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2019

When we think about wildfires and their aftermath, sometimes the discussions don’t look at what it really takes to rebuild lives and neighborhoods.  When residents tell me that they are not going to prepare because that is what insurance is for, I don’t think they realize that their lack of preparation will not only cost them the loss of their home, but other things Picture of waterfall in NFPA lobby  to illustrate the "cascading effect"as well in the, “cascading effects” of wildfire”.  

This phrase really resonated with me when I attended a recent forum in Washington D.C., where members of the insurance industry, IBHS, FEMA, NEMA and others presented about creating disaster survivability and how we can work together to look at different ways of reducing the risk of wildfire loss.  At a presentations by  Chris Rodriguez, Director of the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, he mentioned how difficult it is to look at what the real costs of disasters, including wildfire disasters, really are.  He called this the “Cascading Effects” of the event in the lives of survivors and the communities at large.

So, what do these cascading effects mean in wildfire? I can think of four immediately:

  1. Extended separation time for family members and the anxiety this might especially cause children.
  2. The irreparable loss of antiques and other sentimental items, like yearbooks, family pictures, family documents, and even pets.
  3. Additional costs to the homeowner for hazmat removal – hazardous materials are created when the home and its contents burn – that may not be covered in their insurance policy.
  4. The time spent away from home, jobs, and school.

For neighborhoods, this cascade can also include rebuilding critical infrastructure, like water supplies, power poles, and cell towers.    

So, how do we address this cascade of effects in wildfire?  We should recognize that residents, agency partners, businesses, engineers, government entities, and others all have a role to play.  When these groups come together to address both complex and simple mitigation strategies necessary to insure neighborhood and home survival, NFPA’s Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem can provide valuable framework for collective action and addressing gaps.  

The resident can directly influence this as well.  Learn more about how you can be a part of creating communities that are more resilient and recover quicker and better from the next wildfire.  

Let this be our goal as we all work together to address the cascading efforts of wildfire and help to protect lives and property.

Our third stop on our sites of excellence journey takes us to Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, AZ.   No strangers to wildfire, residents in this community have a history of being engaged in wildfire risk reduction.  We are excited that they are a part of this pilot program, demonstrating a willingness to “do more”.  Pete Kloeber, the community’s resident leader, gives us an inside view of what Forest Highlands means to its residents and the goals they have for keeping their community safe.

Can you describe your community for me and tell me why you choose to have a home there?  What do you and your neighbors love about your community?

Forest Highlands (FH) is a 1,100-acre private residential community with 814 residential lots nestled at 7,000 feet among majestic ponderosa pines and groves of oaks and aspens. FH was approved as a Firewise Community USA in November 2004 – the second such site in Arizona and the 60th in the nation.  FH has been a recognized Firewise Community for 15 consecutive years.  During these past 15 years, the number of residential structures has increased from 655 to 736 – a 12 percent increase. The majority of the residences are 2nd homes.  My wife and I are full-time residents, as are around 50 others.

My neighbors and love Forest Highlands for its tranquil beauty, and mountain/forest atmosphere. 

Tell me about your community's journey in wildfire risk reduction.  What led you to Firewise USA?  Why did you decide to participate in the pilot?

I was a member our community Board of Directors in 2004 and initiated the goal of FH becoming a Firewise Community.  two people at a Firewise day with tables covered in print materials discussing wildfire risk reduction, trailer in the background with Defensible Space and a home ignition zone graphic on the side As mentioned above, we were approved as such in November 2004 - the 2nd in the state of Arizona.  The purpose was simple: make our community safer from a wildfire concern - so we could have a better chance of sustaining our beautiful community for coming generations.  

We decided to participate in the “pilot project” for a several reasons: (1) to continue our quest to make our community safer and more sustainable; (2) to approach and stay on the leading edge of Firewise guidance, assistance, technology, and lessons learned; (3) to hopefully increase the awareness and participation of our residents; (4) to reduce the risk of injury to our residents, guests, and brave first responders; and (5) because it is very simply the “right thing to do." 

What are you goals in the pilot?

The above reasons for participating are essentially our goals in this pilot program.  But simply stated, our goal is for our community to be more Firewise at the end of the pilot program - meaning specifically three things: (1) our residents becoming more aware and supportive; (2) our assessment personnel (in house and fire district) learning even more and becoming even better at conducting assessments; and (3) the residences participating in the pilot program becoming more Firewise and setting the standard for the rest of our community.

Picture of a home highlighting wildfire mitigation work done 0-5 feet from the base of the home.  Shows rock around the base of the home with limited, maintained plants, with a gravel walkway around it.

 What are some challenges you think you might face?  How do you propose to overcome them?

Support of our residents.  Our plan is to involve them early in the process through open communication, and keep them involved during the whole process. 

A big thank you to Pete for sharing the story of his community!  Flagstaff is home to 10 active Firewise USA sites, I hope the work that FH is doing inspires others to take a deeper look at their efforts and for those who aren’t yet engaged in wildfire risk reduction, to take the first steps.  We look forward to following their progress and hearing more from them over the next year and a half.  Stay tuned next month as we travel to Colorado.

Photo credit: Top - Lee Ann Berry, Sites of Excellence training, community members, NFPA staff, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire.  Middle - Peter Kloeber, Firewise Day table and trailer display.  Bottom - Peter Kloeber, highlighting the use of rock and gravel in the Immediate Zone (0-5 feet from the base of the structure) to decrease the chance of the home igniting.

 

Is your community ready to take the next step in wildfire risk reduction?  Visit Firewise.org to learn more about how to organize your neighbors and get started.

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 for more wildfire related topics.

The work of over 1,500 communities in the United States to reduce their risk from wildfire not only encourages others to embrace their responsibility here, but globally as well.  They serve as a great example of what residents can do and we’re very excited to see that latest work in the United Kingdom advancing this mutual public safety effort further. 

 

In late June, residents, county council leaders, the local fire authority, and land management organizations launched a Firewise effort in the south of England that will help protect homes.  The event also recognized the residents from Beacon Road in Corfe Mullen, which has become the first Firewise Community in Dorset.  These residents hosted a very successful Wildfire Preparedness Day in May

 

The kickoff event, highlighted by the local Dorset Echo newspaper, heard remarks from the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service fire chief, Dorset County Council chief executive, and the program manager. 

 

Reflecting upon the event, the program manager, Lin Kettley, shared with me that, "With the launch of Firewise in Dorset, we are looking to have more groups joining us over the coming months. Our first group is already planning next years activities and will be there to offer advice and support to any new groups who may need it."  

The need for local action could not be more clear.  Lin explained that, "To date, this year in the UK we have had more wildfires than in the whole of 2018 so Firewise is the ideal opportunity for communities who live near our heaths, forests and open land, to come together and start to take the small, inexpensive steps to make their homes more resilient to the risk from wildfires and become part of the international Firewise community."

 

NFPA applauds this collaborative local work on developing a more informed public and looks forward to its continued success. 

 

Photo Credit: Lucian Deaton, February 2018.  

 

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA more international wildfire related topics.

On Tuesday July 23, 2019 FEMA is hosting an informational forum on its (BRIC) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Grant Program, to be funded through the Disaster Relief Fund as a 6% set aside from estimated disaster grant expenditures. The forum will be held at the US Chamber of Commerce Building in Washington D.C. The forum will include “FEMA Leadership, state and local emergency managers and disaster officials, and leading stakeholders from the insurance and infrastructure industries for a discussion on:                                                                    

  • Identifying and Qualifying for FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grant Program.
  • Building an Understanding of FEMA’s Mitigation Priorities.
  • Exploring Use Cases for Achieving Residential Resilience, Including Wind Retrofitting, Wildfire Resilience and More.
  • Reaching Public Infrastructure Resilience, Including Power and Water Lifelines and Beyond.
  • And More!”

There is a cost to register if you are with a private organization of $150, a non-profit $50 but government employees can register for free. If you are interested, register today. FEMA is also offering an online opportunity for you to be a part of the discussion. FEMA will also be hosting a program specifically for wildfire-related issues in Sacramento, California. Sign up to get updates on this upcoming forum.

A picture of "old Ironsides" the USS Constitution in the Boston Harbor on the 4th of July.

 

The Fourth of July is a wonderful time to get together with family and friends and enjoy plenty of good food and fun together.  It is important to take away a pocket full of great memories and keep in mind a few safety tips to insure that those good times don’t end tragically.

NFPA® has some great free downloadable safety tips to help you enjoy your Fourth of July safely.   These tips cover topics such as grilling, campfires, Motor homes and RV’s, and barbeques and so much more.   Check out these great resources and read them with your loved ones, they provide a great way to start a conversation about how to be safe while you have fun.  Local Fire departments can download them and post them in public locations or provide them to residents in their communities.  

Fireworks should always be enjoyed at a public demonstration, and never be lit off at home.  The latest Consumer Product Safety Commission Report shares staggering statistics about deaths, injuries and property losses incurred by the personal use of fireworks.  One teen who sparked a wildfire in Oregon with fireworks has been ordered by a judge to pay 36 million dollars!  In many states the use of fireworks is illegal and you could face penalties like fines or imprisonment for using them.

Another great resource to help insure that you are recreating safely is by following safety tips provided from the, “One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire” campaign by the US Forest Service.  Some tips include:

FOR VEHICLES (Always inspect them before driving)

  1. Make sure that chains including tow chains are not dragging and that there are no other dragging parts including mufflers etc.
  2. Check tire pressure and make sure tires are properly inflated.
  3. Properly maintain brakes
  4. Never park a vehicle that has been running on grass or other flammable vegetation.
  5. Check for vehicle recalls that may pose a fire risk

RECREATIONAL TIPS

  1. Never leave campfires unattended, drown them out completely when done
  2. Make sure your off road motorcycle or other vehicle is equipped with a spark arrestor
  3. Shooting can cause a wildfire, only shoot in designated target areas, do not use exploding targets

We here at the NFPA hope that you all have a safe and happy holiday with your family!

Photo credit: Faith Berry

Image of a single story home with attached patio and detached garage, with the corresponding home ignition zones outlined and labeled.

 

The Bureau of Land Management, part of the US Department of Interior, has issued notices of funding opportunities for numerous states within its jurisdiction and under the authority of Public Law 116-6, Wildland Fire Management Good Neighbor Authority. These Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Community Fire Assistance funds are available to eligible entities including state and local governments, tribal governments, institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations. The latest announcements are for entities within specific regions, including Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

According to the grant announcements, this funding opportunity is following the National Fire Plan goals to reduce hazardous fuels, increase local capability in risk assessment, planning and mitigation, educating homeowners and enhancing local and small business employment opportunities. Successful projects will address one or more of the following that will  have a benefit to the public:

1.  Accomplish Hazardous Fuels Reduction Activities  by reducing wildland fuels on the landscape or making structural and landscape modifications to create survivable space;          

2.   Develop and implement fire education, training, and/or community action plans/programs to include mitigation and prevention, planning or zoning ordinances and education around managing combustible vegetation, and prevention of structural ignition;

3. Conduct Community Wildfire Protection Assessment and planning activities or develop an maintain a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP);

 4.  Expand community capability to enhance local employment opportunities; 

5.   Develop and Implement short and long term Monitoring and Maintenance Plans for Hazardous Fuels Reduction, b)   Community Fire Education and Training, and/or  Community Action Programs.

Each region has a separate announcement and deadline:

Need ideas for projects? Be sure to visit NFPA's Wildfire Community Preparedness Day pageand details on how to prepare homes to resist ignition from wildfire.

Follow me on Twitter! @Michele_NFPA

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