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Classroom training on wildfire mitigation

Register now for NFPA's Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire two-day training in Charlotte, North Carolina, scheduled for November 21-22. This class will provide valuable skills and knowledge to help you in your wildfire safety mission.

Learn the science behind how homes ignite from wildfire. More importantly, find out the best ways to advise property owners about actions that will help prevent ignition and reduce the chances of home destruction during a brush or forest fire. 

Wildfires happen in the eastern United States. In November 2016, 33 wildfires burned more than 90,000 acres in Eastern Tennessee, North Georgia, and Western North Carolina, with deadly and destructive results in the Gatlinburg area. Fourteen people died and some 2,400 structures were destroyed.

Discover what others have learned. According to one captain/paramedic, “I thought I wanted to learn about structure triage. What I got was a new mindset concerning how to approach wildland fire (operational) and people (social).” Another fire captain commented, “I am better prepared to assess WUI properties and communicate hazards to community members.”

Don't delay - register today and join your colleagues and expert instructor in Charlotte! 


For many, the fall months are a time for cleaning up our yards of accumulated leaves, sticks, and other vegetative debris before the long winter.  Disposing of this dried up green waste is becoming more difficult, with many waste facilities no longer accepting such material.  Yet, allowing this material to accumulate close to the home is even worse as it can become a bed for embers and act as an ignition source to a home.  Faced with the choice, some choose to burn these materials in order to reduce this hazard.

But before you burn anything, it is important to be aware of your local codes and ordinances regarding outdoor burning.   For example, the fall in the South East is the season for above normal wildfire potential due to the accumulation of dead, dry vegetation and dryer conditions overall.  

The US Forest Service shares some great ideas to keep in mind before you burn anything;

  1. Make sure you are aware of local laws and ordinances (a permit may be required).   NEVER BURN IF THERE IS A BURN BAN.
  2. Look around and above to make sure you are not burning next to something else that could ignite.  This includes checking for overhanging branches, vehicles, out buildings and other things that could catch fire.  Fires should be at least 50 feet from any structure.
  3. Never burn plastic or any other garbage along with the vegetation.
  4. Check the weather conditions and never burn when it is windy or very hot and dry.
  5. Start with a small pile and slowly add more material.
  6. Make sure you stay with the fire at all times. (You should have a charged hose and or fire extinguisher nearby as well as a shovel and rake).
  7. Make sure your fire is completely out and check the area around the fire for the next couple of days for smoldering embers. 

For more information about how you can keep your home safer from wildfire, check out the NFPA’s Firewise USA program.   Additional information concerning local authorities having jurisdiction over regulating outdoor burning can be found in the  NFPA 1 section about open fires and outdoor burning.

Photo Credit: Steve Lawrey, Holly Knoll Homeowner's Association, Virginia, shared to NFPA 2019

Did you know that many of California’s worst wildfires have historically occurred in the fall? Recent examples from last year include the Camp Fire which caused 86 fatalities and destroyed 18,804 structures and the Woolsey Fire which destroyed 1,643 structures and caused 3 fatalities. In fact, CAL Fire’s statistics show that 15 of the top 20 deadliest fires have occurred during September, October, and November.

Have you wondered why these destructive wildfires occur in the fall? The weather conditions that occur this time of year in California contribute to this threat. The Weather Channel has created a great video that explains how the winds and low humidity can increase California communities’ risk of loss due to wildfire.NASA Satellite image of the Camp Fire 2018

Some of the factors which contribute to the increased threat include:

  1. Santa Ana winds and other strong offshore winds that are caused by high-pressure systems forcing fast-moving wind to blow from hot desert regions west over the mountains toward the ocean. These high winds can topple power lines and cause rapid spotting of a wildfire.
  2. Very low relative humidity (moisture in the air) due to hot dry conditions.
  3. Low moisture levels in the vegetation which can cause the vegetation to catch fire more quickly.

Homeowners can reduce their risk of loss to wildfire this time of year by making simple and low-cost improvements to their home and landscape. Some of these activities are typical fall home maintenance projects, such as:

  1. Removing dead branches from trees and shrubbery (fall is a great time of year to prune bushes and trees, reducing the ability for fire to move up from shrubs into trees);
  2. Removing leaves from gutters and roofs;
  3. Removing weeds (that are drying out) from around the home especially within the first 5 feet of the home; and
  4. Making sure vents are screened and cleared of debris

For more information about steps that you can take to reduce your risk of loss to wildfire, check out NFPA’s Firewise USA website for free resources to help you decide on some fall home wildfire safety improvement projects.

Fire Prevention Week is here!  This year’s theme, "Not everyone wears a cape. Plan and Practice your Escape" emphasizes the importance of fire escape planning, whether from a home fire or evacuating during a wildfire.  NFPA and its partners have some excellent resources to help you reach hero status.


Keep in mind, a hero isn't just someone who is courageous and performs good deeds, but also takes small actions that help keep themselves and those around them safe from fire. 


Plan it

The first step is working with your household to develop a plan for home. IAFC’s Ready, Set, Go! Program’s "Your Personal Wildland Fire Action Guide" provides handy checklists that will walk you through creating a family disaster plan, building emergency kits, identifying where to get wildfire updates from, and knowing when to evacuate. 


Does your household include young children, seniors, or individuals with disabilities?  These populations may need special consideration when preparing for an event such as a wildfire.  The following can help in the planning process:


After building a plan for the human members of your household, it's time to look at the rest of the family. Check out NFPA's TakeAction campaign for the following resources:


Practice it

Once your plan is complete it is time to practice it.   Go over different scenarios such as when people are at work and others are at home, set up drills for day and night time.  Make sure everyone knows where to meet and have a communication plan in place.


For more resources on steps you can take around your home, visit the Fire Prevention Week website for more information.


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 more wildfire related topics.

With 1/3 of all US homes located in areas considered wildland urban interface (WUI) and more than 35,000 homes lost in the US to wildfire over the past 10-years, it is more important than ever that home design and construction ensure that they are safer from wildfire.  While some people have been concerned that building stronger using wildfire resistant materials might cost more, a new study released by Headwaters Economics, Building a Wildfire-Resistant Home: Codes and Costs, dispels this myth.  

The study shows that building homes using wildfire resistant materials and design features really does not cost much more.  In some cases, new home construction following these guidelines according to the study can even cost less to build.

It further stresses the importance of using national building codes and standards to design and construct new homes.  These are based on decades of good research about what types of roofs, eaves, windows, exterior walls and more will provide better protection to the home when a wildfire event occurs.  The study references NFPA Standard 1144 for Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildfire as one local communities can utilize to insure new homes and communities are safer from wildfire.

This study was completed in partnership with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and was prepared at the request of Park County, Montana, as part of the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) program.  To learn more from the study, the full report, an executive summary, and a detailed appendix (Excel) are available.

Photo Credit: IBHS

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