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2020

Spring is usually when local fire departments are training for wildfire response and making public appeals for preparedness work around homes.  Yet, in response to the coronavirus, both have become very difficult tasks while wildfire season still approaches.   There has never been a more important time for residents to play their part in wildfire risk reduction.  Two recent articles highlight this message and some key tips from Firewise USA can provide you with guidance for action around your property.

 

In an article and video from California’s KTVU, Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal explains that, “We're both in the same boat. The focus is on the pandemic, but not ignoring the fact June is around the corner…we need to make sure the community understands that even though they may have to shelter in place or are under quarantine, there are things they can be doing pro-actively around their home."  The article also speaks to the challenges the department is seeing in training firefighters in large groups because of physical distancing requirements. 

 

This challenge of training for, deploying to, and fighting large wildfires is also highlighted in a recent article from Alaska.  Their state division of forestry shares that, “We face a tremendous additional challenge this year in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. As our number-one priority is the safety of the public and firefighters, we plan to follow as closely as possible the Centers for Disease Control anti-virus protocols and best practices on hygiene standards, social distancing, and non-essential travel.”

 

To meet this challenge, they note various operational efforts being employed and make a special appeal to residents, stating, “Be a leader in your community by helping us spread the fire safety message. Use the unexpected opportunity from self-quarantine to use the Firewise program to make your property and your neighbors’ as fire-resistant and resilient as possible.”

 

So, what can you do to play your part and make both your home and responding firefighters safer from wildfire?  Start with these simple steps on the house itself like cleaning out gutters of seasonal debris and then move to cleaning in the 0-5 foot “immediate zone” around the house. 

 

In addition, this 2-minute video helps you identify 5 key areas around the home you must examine when assessing wildfire risk and easy ways to reduce that risk.  A great step you can also take is to share the video link with your neighbors and play your part in building your community’s wildfire education. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) continues its promotion in April of “Wildland Urban Interface Awareness Month” to, “Raise awareness about what wildland urban interface (WUI) fires are and how fire departments can help communities become safer."  Resources from their campaign website and from Firewise USA can help you protect your own home and your community.

 

The theme for this final week, April 27- May 1, is, “Fire-adapted communities make the difference.”   USFA highlights individual projects residents can do around their homes to make themselves, their community, and responding fire departments safer in a wildfire. 

 

With the upcoming Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May, 2, kicking off a summer of risk reduction work, learn about other project ideas you can do around your home and see where  communities have planned 2020 events across the country for when it’s safe to come together again.  You can also learn project ideas from success stories shared from previous years and use those as examples in your local educational outreach.

 

Learn more about USFA’s Wildland Urban Interface Awareness Month and play your part in making your community safer from wildfire. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

Hands holding house

With wildfire season already starting in some regions of the United States and around the corner in others, now is the time to start thinking about your physical and financial preparedness.  To help you be better informed, NFPA is hosting two free 60-minute webinars, the first being Wildfires and Insurance: Learn How to Prepare Financially.

Join us Wednesday, May 6th at 11:00 am MDT (1:00 pm Eastern)  as we speak with insurance experts Janet Ruiz from the Insurance Information Institute and Nicole Mahrt-Ganley from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.  They will address questions about protecting yourself and your property, including important home insurance tips such as how to do an insurance check-up to prevent underinsurance and the right way to make a home inventory.

Register today and get this date added to your calendar to ensure you are a part of this informative webinar (advance registration is required). NFPA recommends registering even if you cannot participate in person, so you will receive notice when the recorded webinar is available. 

As a follow up, NFPA will be hosting a second webinar on Wednesday, May 20, 11:00 am MDT (1:00 pm Easter) with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) on what actions residents can take to prepare their home and immediate (noncombustible) zone.  Sign up for Wildfire and Insurance: How to Protect Your Property from Wildfire as well and take control of your wildfire risk!

At this time, the world continues to be significantly impacted by COVID-19 and we no longer believe it is possible to host and conduct the NFPA Conference and Expo in June. NFPA is a safety organization and we would not hold an event where the well-being of staff, attendees, and business partners could be compromised in any way.

 


(See Jim Pauley’s full statement on the cancellation of the 2020 NFPA Conference & Expo in the video above.)

 

There are some activities that occur at the event, in particular the Association’s Annual Meeting and the election of directors to the Board, as well as the codes and standards technical meeting that NFPA will handle in a remote manner. More information on these activities will be forthcoming and will be posted on the website.

 

You can find additional information about the cancellation, by visiting our conference website.

 

Our annual conference is a very important event for us, as it is important for all of you who participate. While we are disappointed we will not be meeting in person this year, we do look forward to celebrating the 125th anniversary of NFPA as an association with you at the 2021 NFPA Conference & Expo, which will be held the week of June 21, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

Stay safe during this unprecedented time. Thank you for the work you all do.

 

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our website.

 

 

The “WUI disaster problem is truly a "wicked problem", with impacts and solutions that do not fit neatly into one or two disciplines”, said Michele Steinberg, Director of NFPA’s Wildfire Division, about an early March workshop in San Francisco, CA.  The 2-Day workshop brought together a very diverse group of land use planners, scientists & researchers, policy makers, technology developers, engineers, utilities, and educators for the first time to collaboratively advance wildland-urban-interface (WUI) resilience.  The workshop was hosted by the NFPA Research Foundation and the NFPA Wildfire Division, along with the University of California, BerkeleyArup, and Reax Engineering to identify actions to resolve gaps in research and the marketplace and outline the steps to execute sustainable solutions.

 

Michael J. Gollner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Deb Faculty Fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, chaired the workshop and shared with me his thoughts on the uniqueness of the event.  He said, “So often, we discuss WUI challenges within our own community.  This was a rare chance to bring together so many diverse communities and collectively develop solutions that are actionable.  Beyond the connections between wildfire and resilience we’ve made, I think that some of these ideas deliberated in the workshop will have real traction in the near future.”  He went onto say that, “These plans may also be useful in setting an agenda for future work and development.”

 

Michele Steinberg also saw value in this diverse exchange.  Speaking about the various disciplines present, she shared that, “There is no single - nor simple - solution that brings us to a future where wildfires occur, but disasters do not.  Because the problem is complex and multi-varied, the set of topics we wrangled with over two days were broad ranging.”

 

In her remarks to the workshop, Steinberg spoke about the power of community engagement and individual action to make a difference in home and community ignition potential. She said:

 

“Long-term solutions must include acknowledgment of what I've come to call "the 98% problem." That is, we cannot hope to end WUI disasters without addressing the enormous risk to structures already built into our fire-prone landscapes. Since, on average, only 2% of building stock is created in the US each year, we are dealing with the 98% of already sited, designed and built homes, businesses and infrastructure that are vulnerable to ignition from wildfire. This huge inventory of property at risk is almost all privately owned, yet it exists in a cultural context where protection of structures is seen not as the job of the private property owner, but as the job of government - namely, firefighters. Yet, we know from experience that attempting to prevent WUI disasters by waiting for the fire to start and grow, and then responding with fire suppression while it is igniting dozens or hundreds of homes simultaneously, is not the solution. By the time a fire starts, it's too late to prevent disaster using traditional response, without any prior risk reduction by property owners.

Community engagement works to teach people about wildfire, about how homes ignite, and about the things they can do to reduce the risk of home ignition and community-wide disaster. It begins to change the cultural context to one where people realize that if they own the home, they also own the home protection. Individuals must reduce risk at their own property, but also engage with neighbors to do likewise. Just as we're learning in the age of COVID-19, our individual behavior will greatly affect others - and neighbors' behavior will affect our own risk.”

The NFPA Research Foundation released a project summary of the workshop and plans to share the full workshop proceedings later this summer (2020).

 

Photo Credit: Lucian Deaton


As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

One of the benefits of the Firewise USA program is that it brings residents together to have structure and a voice. We've all heard that wildfires don't recognize boundaries and how it is important for landowners (individuals, private companies, government, etc.) to work together. Being organized can make it easier to partner with neighboring landowners on wildfire risk reduction projects. Brad Wright with the Virginia Department of Forestry shares with us the power of relationships and what they can lead to.

 Brush Mountain West Fuels Break Cross Boundaries Accomplishment

On January 22, 2020 the Eastern Divide Ranger District of the GW & Jefferson National Forest conducted an 18 acre controlled burn along the top of Brush Mountain outside of the Town of Blacksburg VA. The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) assisted with the burn to address a shared goal with USDA Forest Service-George Washington/Jefferson National Forest (USFS-GW/JEFF), to reduce the threat to the Wildland Urban Interface. Map of the area burned to create a fuels break for the Laurel Ridge Community

Plans for the controlled burn started 3 years earlier as part of mitigation efforts for the adjoining Wildland Urban Interface community of Laurel Ridge as a Cross Boundaries project.

The Cross Boundaries Program allowed for both agencies to effectively achieve a common goal by:

  • Strategically focusing on high risk areas
  • No boundaries allow for work on abutting properties
  • Collaborative planning, implementing, sharing success and lessons learned
  • Allow limited funding and resources to go further
  • Providing the same message

 Even before planning for the controlled burn started the VDOF had been working with the Laurel Ridge Community since 2008 to mitigate its risk of wildfire through the Firewise USA Program. One of the original mitigation objectives in the Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Laurel Ridge was for a fuels break to be established and maintained along the adjoining USFS-GW/JEFF boundary. USFS and DOF resources working together to burn and hold the unit

Although this project was small in acreage it was big in impact and helped set the stage for another Cross Boundaries project along the same mountain range to protect another Wildland Urban Interface Community.

 Last fall I had the opportunity to visit Laurel Ridge and see the preparation being done ahead of this project.  Residents adjacent to the proposed fuel break had taken steps to improve the ignition resistance of their homes and home ignition zone.  They understood that in order for the controlled burn to happen, they had to do their part to help create the best possible outcome.

 A big thank you to Brad, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest, and Laurel Ridge for sharing your story!  Has your community found success through its participation in Firewise USA in engaging partners in landscape level projects? Share your story with us by emailing firewise@nfpa.org.

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.

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need tminimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.  

 

Photo credit: courtesy of Brad Wright, Map of the area burned to create a fuels break for the Laurel Ridge Community and USFS and DOF resources working together to burn and hold the unit.

All throughout April, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) is promoting “Wildland Urban Interface Awareness Month” to, “Raise awareness about what wildland urban interface (WUI) fires are and how fire departments can help communities become safer."  Resources from their campaign website and from Firewise USA can help you protect your own home and your community. 

 

The theme for this week, April 6-12, is, “What do communities need to know before a wildland fire?”  USFA highlights defensible space to protect homes and encourages creating family evacuation plans if you need to leave. There are downloadable tip sheets and images on their campaign site for you to learn from and share with others.

 

Firewise USA has additional guidance on what you can do around the “immediate zone” of your home to ensure it is safer from embers cast from wildfires. This immediate zone includes the home and the area 0-5 feet from the furthest attached exterior point of the home and is defined as a non-combustible area. 

 

Science tells us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers.  This is because an ember landing there can spread fire to the structure if fuels like dry seasonal debris or flammable plants continue the flame.  Likewise, aspects of the home, like decks, eves, and other vulnerable points to embers can be improved for protection. 

 

NFPA’s Take Action campaign also provides resources and projects that benefit young adults in creating their own evacuation and communication plans for their families and pets. Find evacuation checklists, go-kit lists, and community service project ideas to build wildfire understanding in your community. 

 

Learn more about USFA’s Wildland Urban Interface Awareness Month and play your part in making your community safer from wildfire. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

Jim Pauley, President and CEO of NFPA, has a great blog about the new NFPA Network e-newsletter that our previous subscribers to the monthly FireBreak now receive.  Jim explains that the new, “NFPA Network aims to deliver the content you want and need, while at the same time providing additional insight into the broader fire and life safety issues that directly impact the work we all do every day.”

 

NFPA Network places wildfire within the broader context of knowledge and information about risk reduction and available resources for you.  The new platform also lets you set your own preferences and we encourage you to explore additional topics, like public education, research, emergency response, or others to strengthen your valuable local efforts.  Learn more about how to update your preferences and subscribe if you do not already receive NFPA's e-newsletter.  


Of course, continue to find the latest wildfire resources and information right here on the FireBreak blog, and across our social media platforms (Twitter and Facebook) as well. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

Within just the last few weeks, our world has changed dramatically. New federal guidelines have appeared to combat COVID-19, the deadly and contagious coronavirus. Governors of many states have banned large gatherings, advising weeks or months of shelter-in-place, and mandating the closure of all but essential businesses. All Americans have had to rethink how we behave, plan and adjust to this new reality.

 

If you've been planning to participate in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 2, or to conduct your local Firewise meetings or implement group risk reduction projects, you may be wondering how to make wildfire safety mesh with virus safety. Fortunately, there are many things people can do as individuals or family units immediately around their properties that make a real difference in wildfire risk reduction. We've developed a new "project ideas" page to give you examples.

While sheltering in our homes, there's also a lot we can do to educate ourselves and share educational resources with others. Back on March 20, NFPA and State Farm shared our message to stay safe and simply do wildfire preparedness events in groups only when it's safe to do so - even if that's months from now. A great thing you can do - and many have already done - is to share this key information by email, social media or in virtual meetings you hold with your neighbors and friends. Organizations like the Texas A&M Forest Service, and the Lake Plymouth Firewise Community in New Jersey have shared these key messages on Facebook. The Lakeland District for the Florida Forest Service is sharing helpful Twitter posts with the hashtag #WPFromHome to encourage risk reduction in Home Ignition Zones. We've got some creative social media post suggestions for you with key links and images right on our web pages.

 

Be safe, be well, and be creative - and feel free to share your solutions to achieving wildfire risk reduction in the midst of an unprecedented global event!

 

Follow me for more Firewise and wildfire preparedness information on Twitter @Michele_NFPA

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