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2020

 

During May of this year NFPA partnered with insurance industry experts to share tips and resources on how to financially and physically prepare for wildfires. Recordings of the webinars are now available and easily accessed - all you need is a free NFPA Xchange account.

 

If you already have an account, skip down for direct links to the webinars. If you need to set one up, follow these easy steps:

  1. Go to https://www.nfpa.org/Login
  2. Click "Create a Profile" - highlighted in yellow below
  3. Fill out the information and click "Register"

 

Once your profile is established you can access the webinars!

 

Wildfire and Insurance: Learn How to Prepare Financially. Listen as Janet Ruiz from the Insurance Information Institute and Nicole Mahrt-Ganley from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, 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. https://community.nfpa.org/community/xchange-exclusives/blog/2020/05/14/full-webinar-wildfires-and-insurance-learn-how-to-prepare-financially


Wildfires and Insurance: How to Protect Your Property From Wildfire. Bob Roper from the Western Fire Chief's Association paints the picture of challenges and options for fire suppression this year and highlights the importance of work done by residents. Daniel Gorham and Faraz Hedayati with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) share how reducing your risk from wildfire can be affordable and practical. https://community.nfpa.org/community/xchange-exclusives/blog/2020/06/15/full-webinar-how-to-protect-your-property-from-wildfire


Each webinar is about 60 minutes long - a perfect reason to stay inside during a hot afternoon or for settling down in the evening. Share the webinars with your friends and neighbors and take the opportunity to apply what you learn.

In response to recent wildfires that have devastated California communities, Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West hosted the 2020 Big Earth Hackathon that brought university students together from multiple disciplines to tackle wildfire’s challenges of equity and fairness, prediction and analysis, and mitigation.  Students worked in teams to develop actionable solutions and compete for over $10,000 in continuing research grants. 

Dave Shew, NFPA’s Wildfire Field Representative, provided an online presentation to the students focused on the history of wildfire evolution and suppression management practices in California.  Dave relayed that these factors – along with climate change – have led to the current state of catastrophic wildfires, massive structure losses, and unfortunately many fatalities as a result. 

After speaking to several of the teams individually to provide additional information, Dave was asked to help score the submitted projects from the student teams.  These projects included new ideas for evacuation apps, early wildfire detection, defensible space inspections, damage assessment, community recovery, carbon output, and even a new methodology to assess potential success of ballot measures to improve funding for wildfire mitigation. 

You can review the various submitted projects and see how they tackled wildfire challenges on the hackathon web page. 

Dave shared with me his appreciation of the student work, saying, "To say these projects were visionary and pushed the boundaries of our “normal” way of doing business is an understatement!"

Dave further explained that, "These insightful students – none of whom had any connection to the fire service – clearly listened to the problems as presented, and tackled them without the restrictions of the status quo or the more commonly heard reprise of, "That’s not the way we do things around here".  The innovation was astounding, insightful, and filled with the promise that new ideas from outside the fire service may be one of the best ways to solve some of its’ biggest problems.  The future looks bright and promising indeed!"  

Learn more about the hackathon and the student submissions for a future better prepared for wildfire

Photo credit: Stanford Big Earth Hackathon Wildland fire Challenge web screenshot, pulled 26 June 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.

Landscaping photo - bark mulch up again rocks that are used to create a barrier between the mulch and other ground surfacesA handful of mulch fires in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island,  has led the Office of the Fire Marshal to educate residents about where to place mulch, how to maintain it, and how to keep it from igniting in dry weather. The heightened fire-safety awareness comes after mulch-ignited fires separately destroyed an apartment building and a hotel in the province last summer.  

Laura King, NFPA’s public-education representative in Canada shared with me that "Canadians have been at home and doing lots of gardening as COVID-19 restricts movement. So much so that many retailers have sold out of mulch or are low on stock.” Laura further explained “While mulch makes our gardens look lovely, homeowners should avoid putting it immediately adjacent to structures – homes, sheds or even wooden fences – and keep it free of debris. More importantly, smoking material should never be discarded in mulch, which can be highly combustible.”

While mulch has many positive attributes - it reduces the water requirements of plants, cools the soil temperature, controls weeds and soil erosion, and visually enhances the landscape - a major drawback is that many types of mulch can be combustible, which presents a huge problem in fire prone areas. Embers from an approaching wildfire can ignite areas where mulch is used. If these areas are adjacent to the home, it could be wind up to be a disastrous mix. Previous research on mulch combustibility provides guidance on placement and proper maintenance to reduce fire risk. 

As many localities across the US and Canada have learned, a smoldering wildfire ember bringing flame and heat to a combustible material can also be as simple as a carelessly discarded cigarette under the right weather conditions. The town of Harrisonburg, VA,in 2015 banned combustible landscape materials from within 18 inches of apartment blocks, businesses, and industrial buildings that have combustible siding.  

To advance your own fire safety messaging around mulch risks this summer, NFPA has 
valuable messaging focused on risks from cigarettes and their proper disposal in and around buildings.  The NFPA Educational Messages Desk Reference also shares vetted and concise social behavioral change language you can use in your outreach.  This includes language highlighting:

  • The proper disposal of cigarettes around landscaping (Chapter 11, page 23); and
  • The ignition risk to mulch and appropriate distancing of combustible materials form the edges of structures (Chapter 17, page 28)

While mulch can be used around your property, consider using gravel, stones, low-flammability and well-maintained plants, or other non-combustible decorative accents for your ground cover in that 0-5 foot zone (1-2 meters) around structures so possible flames do not touch. Moreover, make sure to keep this area clean of seasonal debris.  

Visit NFPA’s 
Preparing Homes for Wildfire resources page to learn more about this “immediate zone” around structures and how you can keep them safe from any materials that can spread a flame.

Photo Credit: Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan, NFPA

 

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.

Wildfire Red Flag Warning

With recent dry weather bringing Red Flag Warnings to communities across the Southwest and Western United States, it’s important to understand what triggers a “Red Flag Warning, what those conditions mean, and what you can do when one is announced in your area to make your home and community safer from wildfire. 

You will see in weather reports on the news that Red Flag Warnings begin as a Fire Weather Watch.  A Fire Weather Watch means that weather conditions are predicted to occur that can support rapid wildfire growth and rates of spread 24-72 hours from when the watch is issued. 

When those conditions are predicted to occur within 24 hours, or are already happening, a Red Flag Warning is then issued.  

So, what are the conditions that combine to create such risk?  In the broad sense, they are:

  • High temperatures,
  • High surface winds,
  • Low relative humidity, and
  • Persistence of dry air and low fuel moisture that creates dry vegetation. 

 

Red Flag Warning criteria varies state to state, mainly concerning relative humidity and fuel moisture.   For example, relative humidity of less than 30% in the humid Southeastern U.S. can trigger a Red Flag Warning, while this would not be a threshold in the arid Western U.S. where critical relative humidity is often in the single digits.  The same goes for fuel moisture values. 

 

It’s important to remember that the combination of conditions cause Red Flag Warnings to be issued and they are locally specific.  Your local fire authority will have more information on how these are issued and guidance for local action on what activities are restricted during such periods. 

When a Red Flag Warning is announced, there are steps you can take.  Check out this brief video sharing 2 steps for immediate action to make your home and community safer from wildfire.

Photo Credit: NIFC Photo Library

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.

scrabble tiles spelling out "keywords"

The Firewise USA program greatly values its participants and partners, and looks for opportunities to share and learn from them.  Through the Sites of Excellence Pilot program, we've been using a more focused approach to learn about why sites are successful and what steps they can take to be even more engaged.

 

We know that engaging neighbors in conversations can be difficult, and sometimes one wrong word will put someone on edge.  How do we overcome these hurdles?  Bill Santner of Crystal Lake Club (Sites of Excellence participant) shares how changing one phrase broke down a wall and got folks to open up and work together.

 

Crystal Lake Club

National Sites Of Excellence

Wautoma, Wisconsin

 

Words Do Matter

 

In August of 2019, our Firewise committee along with our Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator and County Forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the manager of the Denver field office at National Fire Protection Association met to go over the results of our initial efforts to have every household have a Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) Assessment completed. At that point approximately 45% of the properties agreed to have an assessment.

 

Our task at this meeting was to analyze the feedback we received during the assessment timeframe and then go back to the remaining membership to promote having an assessment done during the remainder of 2019. The main discovery during our discussion was that many members had a feeling that “assessment” meant judgement, punishment and accountability. They were cautious to have a government official come on their property and tell them what they had to do to make their properties safer from wildfires. Some even reported that neighbors were telling them that their homeowners’ insurance companies would be given the results and they could lose their insurance coverage if they did not follow the assessment report findings.

 

During our meeting one of the Crystal Lake Club Firewise committee members offered the idea that we should change the name of the assessments from HIZ to “Fire Safety Check-Up.” Everyone agreed that this title was more descriptive for the public and was non-threatening to the homeowner. We put out a revised invitation with that message and promoted the Check-Ups at our next Club meeting. The results proved effective. We ended the year with 65% of our member households having a Fire Safety Check-Up by the end of 2019.

We believe this proves that Words Do Matter.

 

Thank you so much Bill for sharing this lesson learned!  To read more about what words can make difference, check out our Community Conversations blog from a couple of years ago or download our findings.

 

Is your community ready to take the next step on its wildfire journey?  Visit Firewise.org to learn how you can get organized and become a Firewise USA site.

 

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.

Wildfire research and technology has advanced significantly over the last few years. Several new tools have been released to help communities and neighborhoods understand, explore, and reduce their wildfire risk; and several of these tools are now live on the interactive Firewise USA map.

 

Wildfire Risk to Communities – Wildfirerisk.org

 

 

Launched in April by the USDA Forest Service and the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, Wildfire Risk to Communities is the first tool ever to map wildfire risk nationwide. It's designed for wildfire professionals and communities alike and will help you understand your community’s risk.  It also allows you to compare the risk of communities around you. In addition to its interactive maps and charts, it offers great solutions-oriented resources to start reducing your community's risk.

 

Two New Updated Layers on the Firewise USA Map - Firewise.org

USA Current Wildfires
On the Firewise map, the point and perimeter data set for active wildfires has been updated because of the shutdown of the Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination's data feeds. The new data sources come directly from Integrated Reporting of Wildland-Fire Information (IRWIN) and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). This new layer should perform better than the previous version and is updated every 15 minutes.

You can view this layer on the Firewise USA map the same way you viewed the old USA Current Wildfires layer.  Simply zoom the map to the extent of a State, or closer.

 

New Thermal Hotspot and Wildfire Detection from VIIRS
Previously, NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) could detect and monitor active fire and burned areas, but its successor, the Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), is here and is now live on the Firewise map. VIIRS has several advantages over MODIS when it comes to wildfire detection. It has a higher degree of spatial resolution (375m vs 1km per pixel), greater sensitivity, and updates more frequently.

You can now view the VIIRS Thermal Hotspot and Fire Activity by zooming into the city or county level of an active wildfire on the Firewise USA map.

These new digital resources will help wildfire professionals and communities alike understand their risk and its context. Learn more from these and, of course, review Firewise's home ignition zone resources to put your stronger understanding into local action.

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 . 

 

Wind-blown embers igniting dry vegetation and threatening homes sounds like a wildfire. Yet, this summer that source of embers may well be your own patio fire pit or backyard campfire.  Recently, Summit County, Colorado, amended their fire code to require permits for these types of backyard fires out of an abundance of caution to reduce wildfire threats and educate residents on safe fire management practices. 

 

These free permits are good for a year and involve a brief visit by a local department fire inspector – practicing appropriate social distancing, of course – to review and explain the minimum requirements.  These steps are positive fire safety behavior and can be successfully employed by others, wherever they may live.

 

According to the article in the Summit Daily newspaper, “backyard recreational fires must be:

  • Kept under three feet in diameter and two feet high, and
  • Confined to a permanent outdoor fire ring, a portable outdoor fireplace, or a commercially-designed chiminea.
  • Residents are also required to install a screen to prevent embers from escaping, and
  • have a garden hose, fire extinguisher, or five-gallon bucket of water nearby.

The fire pit’s location is important, with a part of the fire inspection visit suggesting other locations if the fire pit is under low hanging branches or the overhanging eaves of a house, or too near other structures. 

 

Fires are prohibited during times of high fire danger ratings and on “red flag” days that bring high winds to dry landscapes.  

 

It is important to remember that embers blowing from a backyard fire pose the same threat to your home as if they are from a wildfire.  Start with these simple steps to reduce the ignition risk, like:

  • Cleaning out gutters of seasonal debris,
  • Clearing away leaves and needles in the 0-5 foot “immediate zone” around the house,
  • Moving any flammable material away from wall exteriors, like mulch, flammable plants, firewood piles, and
  • Removing anything flammable stored underneath decks or porches. 

Most of all, safely enjoy your patio fire pit or backyard campfire and keep blowing embers that come from any source from threatening your home this summer.  Make sure to check in with your local fire authority to see if backyard fires are allowed and if burn bans are in place due to weather. 

 

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 the COVID-19 pandemic reached all parts of the globe earlier this year, necessitating strict social distancing and hygiene requirements, first responders were some of the first groups to have to rethink how to safely serve the public and achieve their missions. Among these groups are wildland firefighters, land managers, and others who work in wildfire around the world. As potential impacts became clear to the wildland fire management community, a team of researchers jumped into action to compile all the different types of strategies and advice in this arena, by reviewing existing materials and conducting a worldwide survey.

 

A collaborative effort spearheaded by Dr. Cathelijne Stoof of Wageningen University in the Netherlands along with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the American Wildfire Experience, and the International Association of Wildland Fire published the first in an expected series of briefs based on their review of materials and the global survey. Findings range from firefighter health and safety concerns to the issue of safely evacuating and temporarily housing residential populations, to the need to reduce wildfire starts through prevention activities.

 

Nearly 350 people filled out the survey in just over two weeks, with the majority (45%) from the United States but also representing 25 other nations. They represented a variety of jurisdictional levels and functions, though most worked at national or state/provincial agencies. Lessons learned already appear in the materials and survey, as wildfires have already necessitated management and response in Western Europe and North America.

 

The easy-to-read brief is free to access at Wageningen University’s website as a PDF document. The continuing study will issue more briefs over the coming weeks.

With more and more amazing wildfire risk reduction and preparedness happening across the country, it’s only fitting that the partners establishing the Wildfire Mitigation Awards are opening the nominations process early! Starting today, June 1, you can nominate an outstanding individual, group, or organization that continuously demonstrates exceptional wildfire risk reduction achievements to receive this honor in 2021.


Established in 2014, in response to an overwhelming number of great wildfire mitigation program efforts across the nation, the national Wildfire Mitigation Awards program recognizes outstanding work and significaWFMA logont program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation.

 

The Wildfire Mitigation Awards are jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the USDA Forest Service.

 

These awards are designed to recognize effective community wildfire adaptation and risk reduction efforts by individuals and organizations. A wide range of efforts are recognized, such as the creation of local mitigation coalitions, community wildfire protection plans, community-wide risk assessments, reducing home ignition risks, hazardous fuel treatments, fire department engagement in wildfire risk reduction, and use of codes and ordinances. The award sponsors seek to increase public recognition and awareness of the value of wildfire mitigation efforts.

 4Logos

Submit a nomination and view the nomination guidelines and selection criteria here on NASF’s website. The criteria are also attached to this blog post.

 

 

Have questions? Please contact Meghan Marklewitz at meghan@iafc.org or (703) 896-4839.

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