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2020

Beginning on June 3rd, the European Union funded PyroLife Research Program will host a series of insightful webinars every Wednesday through July 22nd.  Each webinar will explore themes of global challenges from wildfire, how communities are adapting, the experiences from traditionally and non-traditionally wildfire prone countries in Europe, and the impact of wildfire in its societal context. 

 

For US audiences, these webinars are in the mid-morning eastern-time, are presented in English, and are free with registration.   The individual Wednesday webinars will include two speakers presenting on different topics, with question and answer periods following each presentation.  You can sign up for the them on the PyroLife events page and please consider attending them all. 

 

The kick-off webinar in the series will be on Wednesday, June 3, at 10am ET / 4pm CET.  Learn more about the topics and speakers for this and the other webinars.

 

PyroLife is the first large scale and integrated doctoral training program focused on wildfires, globally.  NFPA is engaged in this effort, providing structural risk reduction information and knowledge and will host some of the program’s PhD’s to further their wildfire structural risk research from the American wildland urban interface context.  

 

NFPA’s Director of Applied Research, Birgitte Messerschmidt, highlighted the start of this program’s work in the March NFPA Journal Research column.  PyroLife shares that it is, “…an Innovative Training Network bringing together universities, research institutes, forest centers, laboratories, public companies, SMEs, emergency services and NGOs across the world to train researchers to doctorate level.”

 

Photo Credit: PyroLife webinar series banner image, pulled 29 May 2020

 

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.

As summer brings the threat of uncontrolled wildfire to many US states, the just released edition of NFPA Journal explores the challenge of fighting wildfires while also deterring coronavirus outbreaks in both operational camps and local evacuee shelters.

 

Dave Shew, with the NFPA Wildfire Division, co-authored the piece and shared with me that, "It's been less than two years since our experience with the mass evacuation in the Camp Fire in Butte County.  We know what happened with the norovirus outbreaks in local shelters, and we need to factor that knowledge into our preparedness for the upcoming wildfire season."

 

Learn more from the article about how wildland firefighting agencies and public health agencies at every level of government will need to work collaboratively over this summer and fall through a difficult economic environment to protect firefighters and the public from both threats. 

 

If you are looking for additional guidance on what you can do around your home now to help wildland firefighters in the event of a fire, check out the second half of this recent Fire Break blog.  

 

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.

When we look at completing fire safe actions in the home ignition zone, it can mean different things to different people.  Concerns we hear from people who are looking to get started include "I don't want a moonscape" or "I moved here for the trees" or "this is my favorite plant."  Practitioners often speak about the science verses the art of managing vegetation in the home ignition zone.  Just because you live in a wildfire area doesn't mean you can't have plants, but when they are near the home, you have to treat them the same way - make sure they are in good condition, perform annual maintenance, and give them space.

 To illustrate this, I thought I would share an example from my family's yard.  The different shrubs and trees were planted by the previous owners, but are valued for their beauty, smell (honeysuckle and lilac), and shade they help provide during the heat of the day.  Admittedly, we have not done a good job at caring for them during the almost three years we've lived here.  As you can see in the photo, they are:

  • Overgrown oak leaf and pine needle litter at the base of plant and between it and nearby honeysuckle
  • Have leaf and needle litter around the base and mixed in
  • Dead branches
  • Bark mulch underneath

 As they are in the 0-5 foot space from our deck, we really need to do a better job.  Some positive things we have going for us:

  • Not highly flammable plants
  • Water system in place to keep them green and healthy throughout our typical fire season

 With all of that I mind, I set out to work.  Armed with a pair of gloves, loppers, rake, and a bag, an hour saw things looking much better.  The most valued plant by the family is the honeysuckle.  Here I focused on removing all litter debris, pulling out the runners that were going under the deck, and giving it space from the other plants in the area.

Before and after picture of shrub and honeysuckle showing removal of vegetative debris and pruning

 The others plants were treated the same:

  • Pruned limbs that were touching or reaching under the deck
  • Removed debris from the base of the plants and all around under the deck

We made progress but there's still more.  The next steps for us are bringing in rock to replace the mulch, continue to keep up our maintenance, and screen in the deck.

 For more tips on how to improve your safety, visit our Preparing Homes for Wildfires page.  You can also learn more the importance of the 0-5 foot space around you home by checking out our fact sheet Immediate (Noncombustible) Zone.

Sign up for NFPA Networkto 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.

  

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.

 With the 2020 wildfire year well underway, it is important to remember that preparing for wildfires is a year-round endeavor. To assist with your wildfire preparedness journey, NFPA is excited to present the second part of our webinar series with experts, Wildfires and Insurance: How to Protect Your Home From Wildfire.

 

Join us Wednesday, May 20th at 11:00 am MDT (1 pm Eastern) as we speak with Bob Roper from the Western Fire Chief's Association, and Daniel Gorham and Faraz Hedayati, researchers with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).

 

Bob will help paint the picture of challenges and options for this wildfire year as we enter an era that most fire service professionals and residents have never encountered before. Reinforcing the importance of the work done by residents done to protect homes.

 

Daniel and Faraz will share how reducing your risk can be affordable and practical. Research from IBHS shows a variety of low-cost, do-it-yourself actions can reduce common structural vulnerabilities and increase the chances of a home or business surviving a wildfire.

 

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.

 

Sign up for NFPA Networkto 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.

  

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.

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hurricane andrew

 

Florida is a state with a lot to teach about how regulatory action can build resilience in the face of devastating natural disasters.

 

In her recent column in the May/June 2020 issue of NFPA Journal, Michele Steinberg, director of NFPA’s wildfire division, discusses how in the face of unprecedented losses from hurricanes, specifically Hurricane Andrew, Florida’s regulators, insurers, and policymakers came to the realization that maintaining the status quo was just another invitation for future disasters and loss. So they rolled up their sleeves and got to work, tackling weaknesses in the system, and developing  solutions like a risk-based building code, risk-sharing insurance program, a wind velocity map project, and more, all to help ensure the strongest protections from hurricanes in the most vulnerable areas across the state. Applying these lessons learned, Steinberg said, has positioned the state in a significantly better place nearly 30 years later.

 

So, what does this mean for wildfire? What Florida was able to do is a proof of concept that learning from past events can make a huge difference in the future safety of a community.  In this case, Florida’s efforts, said Steinberg, should be especially valuable to officials in California and elsewhere who are now undertaking the incredibly complex effort to blunt the surging impacts of wildfires on their communities.

 

Learn more by reading “The Andrew Effect” in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal.

With the world on high-alert due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to forget that Australia was experiencing catastrophic wildfires a few months ago, or that 88 people were killed in the devastating Camp Fire in Paradise, California. Inevitably, the challenges of present day can overtake yesterday’s events.

 

However, there is still much to learn from last year’s tragic events. For that reason, the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy InstituteYear in Review released the 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem Year in Review report. The report, which highlights a number of U.S. and international life safety incidents, looks at the circumstances that led to each tragedy and examines the current, overall health of the global fire and life safety system.

 

With each incident, we’re reminded of the current safety system that repeatedly fails to protect the public and first responders; taken together, they represent a catastrophic failure of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework NFPA developed in 2018 that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards.

 

The examples referenced in the new report point to gaps, cracks, and weaknesses in the Ecosystem that otherwise should protect communities. By examining these incidents, communities can see the breakdowns that led to each calamity and use them as learning opportunities to help address fractures in their own fire and life safety ecosystems to create safer areas to live.

 

The 2019 Year in Review report is now available for download, for free. You can find it along with additional resources and information about the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, on NFPA’s Ecosystem webpage.

 

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 webpage.

First, a big shout out to all of those who participated in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day!  We are always in awe of the number of people and organizations that use the day to take action to make a difference in their community.  Many of our friends in different states and organizations are continuing their campaigns throughout the month of May. Whether you are a resident, fire department, or other wildfire risk reduction partner, there are tools and resources to help you out.  Here are a few of the efforts, but not an exhaustive list.

 

The RSG! Program, managed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has created a series of challenges with their 'Are YOU Wildfire Ready' campaign.  RSG members and organizations are encouraged to share these challenges with their communities.  They are starting with our favorite topic - completing actions in the Immediate (0-5 foot) Zone, right around the base of your home.

 

The following are a few of the states participating in a long-standing, multi state effort of Wildfire Awareness Month.  Be sure to check out their websites and follow their social media pages for tips and resource throughout May. 

 

Remember that wildfire safety is a journey, not a destination and there is still more work to be done.  Continue to build on your efforts to improve your home and community's chances of surviving a wildfire.  Also, wildfires aren't limited to the west.   Be sure to check in with your state's wildfire agency for updates on current news, events, and tips on how you can be a part of the wildfire solution.

 

Sign up for NFPA Network 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.

  

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.

How do you solve a wicked problem? That was the question I posed to a classroom of MIT undergrads during an early-April virtual class taught by my friend Cherie Miot Abbanat, a lecturer at the university’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning. Cherie’s spring semester is focused on exploring policy and planning solutions to real-world environmental and social problems – including what I call the “wicked problem” of wildfire disasters. If I’d ever worried that I’d make people depressed talking about my favorite subject, it was nice to know that my lecture was helping them focus on something NOT virus-related.

 

Barely a month after I’d characterized the wildfire disaster problem as a wicked problem – something multi-causal, socially complex, and with impacts and solutions that don’t fit neatly into one or two disciplines – to a diverse group of experts at the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s WUI Resilience Workshop in San Francisco, I was posing this question to curious and clever college students from the comfort of my home office. Although the MIT campus is just a few miles from my Boston-area home, the students come from all over, including wildfire hotspots as far-flung as southern California and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

 

We discussed the current policy context, including policies driving federal and state land management and natural resources protection, the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, and the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. After providing some basics on how the US manages fire, we talked about the growing magnitude of wildfire disasters – incidents where wildfires move from forests and rangelands into subdivisions and towns, creating enormous property loss, and increased loss of life. We discussed what’s missing from the policy context – with one major element the lack of wildfire risk analysis in local land use plans, and the failure to address wildfire in most local and state building codes and ordinances.

 

Questions ranged from the challenges (and failures) of a response-oriented approach, to what places are doing better with building codes and land use planning, to the need for more education of planning professionals and local government officials. I was encouraged by the engagement of these young people, who will be our future policymakers, designers, architects, planners, enforcers, and leaders. As always, I am grateful to Cherie and her counterparts at other universities for giving me a chance to interact with these amazing young people. Our wicked, gnarly, nasty problem of wildfire disasters can be solved, and the beginning of that solution is grappling with the problem in a learning mindset.

 

Image credit: Fire Modeling Institute of the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station - using FAMWEB ICS 209 databases, June 2017

Resilience docTomorrow, May 2, marks the 7th annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day celebrated in the U.S. and Canada, but 2020’s observance of the day will be quite different than in years past. Due to important safety precautions to limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus, group activities are off-limits to most of us right now.

 

Happily, many staunch and dedicated wildfire safety advocates – neighborhood groups, Fire Safe Councils, state forestry agencies, state fire marshals, and more – have come up with creative ways to inform and educate residents on what they can do right now, at home, to reduce wildfire risks.

 

A quick search around the internet reveals recommendations, tools, virtual meetings, and more, all the way from Florida to the Canadian Yukon. Whether you choose to engage on May 2 or spread the Prep Day love out across the summer and fall, here are some great ideas from across North America to inspire you and to help keep wildfire safety top of mind:

 

 

Got more ideas and inspiration? Let us know in the comments below, or share on NFPA's Firewise Facebook Page or on Twitter by tagging @Firewise and using #wildfireprepday in your post.

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