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2020

COVID-19 has made in-person meetings difficult, but that doesn’t have to stop your educational outreach with fellow residents.  Move those gatherings with your neighbors online with these three “immediate zone” resources from Firewise USA to spark the conversation about how they can reduce the risk of wildfire around their homes.

 

For an introduction, share your screen and talk through the, “How to Prepare your Home for Wildfires” 1-pager (available in English and Spanish) that will help your fellow residents better understand the wildfire home risk.  The document reviews vegetation management needs.  It gives guidance on reducing the risks from embers on roofing, vents, decks, porches, sidings, and windows.  It also addresses emergency responder access, their safety, and tips for your wildfire emergency action plan.

 

Next, dive deeper into the “immediate zone” of 0-5 feet around structures with the most recent wildfire research fact sheet from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and Firewise USA, which focuses on the “Immediate (Noncombustible) Zone”.  The document provides key observations and actionable recommendations from the latest wildfire science research on how to create and maintain 5 feet of noncombustible space around the exterior of a building.

Finally, call on your neighbors to put this knowledge into action by agreeing to do simple activities around their homes on their own that can reduce wildfire risks.  These include:

1) Raking and removing pine needles and dry leaves within a minimum of 3 to 5 feet of a home’s foundation. And if you have the time, continue raking up to a 30-foot distance around the home. Dispose of collected debris in appropriate trash receptacles.

2) Cleaning pine needles from your roof and gutters and paying attention to maintaining the home ignition zone.

3) Getting out your measuring tape and seeing how close wood piles are located to the home. If they are closer than 30 feet, relocate them to at least 30 feet away from structures.

4) Sweeping porches and decks, clearing them of leaves and pine needles. Raking under decks, porches, sheds, and play structures.

5) Mowing grasses to a height of 4 inches or less.

6) Removing items stored under decks and porches and relocating them to a storage shed, garage, or basement. Gasoline cans and portable propane tanks should never be stored indoors and should be located away from the home.

As an additional resource, IBHS has a series of “Weekend Wildfire Preparedness” projects that highlight what residents can do to create defensible space, maintain their roofs & gutters, seal garage doors to protect against ember intrusion, maintain decks, assess their overall wildfire risks, and most importantly, promote the value of talking with neighbors. Their corresponding image cards can become slides that continue the conversation amongst your fellow residents on your video call. 

Now, go host an online meeting with your neighbors on one of the many video-conferences platforms and show these 3 (plus one more) “immediate zone” resources during your educational outreach event. 

Additionally, you can also link to these resources from your community website or social media page to spread the educational outreach message with neighbors and collectively reduce your risk from wildfire. 

 

Want even more? Check out our recent blog that shares 3 videos for your community’s next online gathering.

 

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.

In the July/August NFPA Journal, a feature section shares the completed 2019 NFPA Firefighter Fatalities in the United States report. While the report highlights the lowering trend of line-of-duty-deaths in the United States, those occurring on wildland fires continue.  The report’s selected on-duty firefighter fatality case studies provides insight on these loss-events and affords all of us a moment of reflection on how these tragedies could be avoided in the future. 

 

As the Journal article shares, “An important milestone was achieved in the United States in 2019: For the first time, fewer than 50 deaths of firefighters occurred while they were on the job. The article continues that, “Other important achievements included the lowest number of deaths of volunteer firefighters, the fewest deaths in road vehicle crashes, and the lowest number of cardiac deaths. There were no multiple-fatality incidents in 2019, the only time that has been the case since NFPA began conducting this study in 1977.”

 

While these trends are lower, 48 firefighters in 2019 gave the ultimate sacrifice while on duty related to injuries and illnesses.  Of that count, six died while engaged or responding to a wildfire or prescribed burn and one in wildland firefighter training.  Two were firefighters who had heart attacks while responding; one from fatal burns when their vehicle was overrun by flames; one in a water tanker trash responding to a wildfire; one from heat exposure during a training exercise; and two while engaged in prescribed burns.   You can read about some of these and others in the report’s selected on-duty firefighter fatality case studies

 

Rita Fahy, NFPA Applied Research Manager and lead author of the 2019 report, shared some historic context with me on wildfire firefighter losses over the past 10 years.  She explained that, “Of the 670 U.S. firefighters killed on-duty over the past 10 years (2010-2019), 90 were killed on wildland fires or during prescribed burns, and at least 20 others were killed while responding to or returning from such fires. These included volunteer and career firefighters as well as employees and contractors with federal and state wildland management agencies, inmate firefighters and supervisors, and military firefighters.  In addition to those fatalities directly related to fires, another 21 wildland firefighters were killed while on-duty.”

 

In addition to the NFPA Journal article summary, you can read the entire 2019 NFPA Firefighter Fatalities in the United States report.  As always, our thoughts are with the families of the fallen and we are again reminded of the sacrifices firefighters give to ensure the safety of others. 

 

Photo Credit: Firefighter Fatalities report NFPA Journal article screen shot pulled 30July2020. 

 

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.

USAA members who carry homeowners insurance policies in Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming join their counterparts in seven other states where living in a recognized Firewise USA site makes them eligible for an insurance premium discount.

 

**UPDATE July 28, 2020**  According to USAA, there has been an unforeseen delay in the effective date for policies in Washington state. We'll update when this has been resolved.

 

NFPA and USAA announced the addition of the discount in these states in a press release on July 27. USAA, which provides a full range of financial products and services to the military community and their families, began exploring incentives to create safer communities from wildfire with NFPA nearly a decade ago and first initiated the discount for members in Firewise USA sites in 2014. The discounts become effective on different dates per state through August and are applied automatically to eligible members when their insurance policy renews.

 

The 11 states where USAA makes the discount available (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) represent two-thirds of participation in the Firewise USA recognition program nationally. More than 800,000 people live in Firewise USA sites in these states, where they collaborate on a volunteer basis to reduce the wildfire risk to more than 380,000 homes.


Visit www.firewise.org to learn more about the recognition program benefits, including this incentive for members of USAA.

Canadians are resilient – we’ve got wild weather and mosquitoes as big as helicopters.

 

So when 161 groups that received $500 awards from FireSmart Canada had to postpone Wildfire Community Preparedness Day activities, or come up with creative ways to distance during COVID-19 restrictions, they didn’t miss a beat.

 

In the Copper Ridge neighbourhood near the capital city of Whitehorse, in the northern territory of Yukon, residents worked two metres (six feet) apart while cleaning up seven wooded areas over several days, and completed the project with a chipper on June 1.

 

Copper Ridge organizer Jeff Nordlund posted photos and video on Facebook. “Yes!!!” Nordlund said. “Hamilton Boulevard brushed in 2.5 hours. Way to go team!!”

 

 

To accommodate physical distancing and restrictions on large gatherings, the Southview Co-op neighbourhood group in Jasper, Alberta, completed several clean-ups over a couple of months rather than one larger event, said organizer Garth Lemke.

 

“The Southview Co-op has done five small-group, four-to-six people work bees since May to make sure we are FireSmart ready,” Lemke said in an email to FireSmart Canada on July 1.

 

 

The Polar Peak Lodges community at the Fernie Alpine Resort in British Columbia completed its work bee on June 20. Resident Barb Smeed said in an email to FireSmart on July 9 that the work bee events are tremendous community builders.

 

“It is really rewarding to see the volunteers working with such enthusiasm,” Smeed said, “and to hear all their positive comments about the FireSmart initiative.”

 

So far, dozens of fire departments, neighbourhood groups, and Indigenous communities have rescheduled prep day activities for July, August, September or October. Some award recipients managed to complete events in May and June, and a handful have postponed until 2021 simply because of personnel commitments during lockdown.

 

Since 2014, FireSmart Canada has collaborated with NFPA, the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and The Co-operators to drive wildfire resiliency efforts and help homeowners keep their properties safe.

 

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 Fire Break blog and you can follow me on twitter @LauraKingNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

COVID-19 has made in-person meetings difficult, but that doesn’t have to stop your educational outreach with fellow residents.  Move those gatherings with your neighbors online with these three quick videos from Firewise USA on YouTube to spark the conversation about how they can reduce the risk of wildfire around their homes.

 

For an introduction, the 2-minute video, “If Your Home Doesn't Ignite it Can't Burn”, introduces viewers to the ember risk and explains that there is something they can do to protect their home from wildfire.  The video helps to focus the resident on the “immediate zone” of 0-5 feet around their property where debris clearing can make a big difference.  The video can lead to a discussion about the effects of recent wildfires and what their property conditions are right now.  

 

Next, dive into the “immediate zone” of 0-5 feet around structures with the 2-minute video, “5 Key Areas Around the Home you Must Examine when Assessing Wildfire Risk.”  The video reminds us that where the wind piles up leaves and seasonal debris is also where the embers from a wildfire will pile up too.  The video’s walking assessment quickly addresses areas next to the home, gutters, roofs, vents & screen meshing, and any vegetation near the structure.  Residents sharing examples of the work they do around their own homes can strengthen this video’s message well.     

 

Finally, step out to the “intermediate zone” of 5-30 feet around structures with the 4-minute video, “Your Home and Wildfire, Choices that can Make a Difference.”  Learn from a homeowner’s testimonial about the value of mitigation work around the property and the discuss their message that this work does not mean clear-cutting, but is about making wise choices about grasses and ladder fuels.

 

Host an online meeting with your neighbors on one of the many video-conferences platforms and play these 3 videos during the educational outreach event. 

Additionally, you can also link to these videos from your community website or social media page to spread the educational outreach message with neighbors and collectively reduce your risk 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.

As we get deeper in to the summer, it's time to start thinking about the annual commitment that participating Firewise USA sites make.  In light of COVID-19, many have asked if Firewise USA(r) be rolling back any of its renewal requirements and specifically, the role of an educational outreach event? The short answer is no.  This is because the alternatives to in-person large events are not only achievable, but we've learned of great solutions from communities who have already done them this summer.    

Each year, communities agree to host some sort of educational outreach event and invest in on the ground actions that reduce the chance of ignition from a wildfire within a community.  These communities share their stories on all that they achieved.  These are always amazing  and inspiring, submitted via the renewal application on the online management portal.  This year, renewal applications are due by November 20th.  

It is human nature to find something that works, and then stick with it.  Many of our participants are used to having an annual meeting, maybe some food, do a presentation and handout some flyers.  In this time of social distancing, that can be difficult and may go against local safety regulations.

We are encouraging sites to get creative, try new and different ways of engaging your neighbors in the importance of everyone doing their part to protect the community. 

This list is not exhaustive, but they all meet the intent and renewal requirement of educational outreach in Firewise, so don't be limited by what you've done in the past.  

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 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.

A wide brush of red across the American West stands out in the July, 2020, Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook from the National Interagency Fire Center.  It marks a greater than usual likelihood that significant wildfires will occur and is a reminder of how drought increases the risks on our landscapes.  Two recent articles that explore the issues of persistent drought and recurring heatwaves provide good context for what is happening and what we can expect in wildfire-prone areas for years to come. 

This past winter brought heavy snowfall to the Rocky Mountains and was expected bring a needed reprieve from a long-term drought that has impacted down-stream river flow in the American West.  Instead, current dry conditions are being blamed on a warmer and dryer than usual April and May, which caused winter snowpack to melt too quickly.  The article, “In Parched Southwest, Warm Spring Renews Threat of ‘Megadrought’”, explores how snowpack is measured and how the region is being effected by shifting spring weather. 

The second article showcases recent research out of Australia that made the first worldwide assessment of heatwaves at the regional scale.  Reviewing data trends since 1950, their findings illustrate that its not only hotter, but that the increased number of heatwaves seen and how much extra heat a heatwave can contribute on the landscape is stressing already high-wildfire risk areas.   

Severe fire conditions can fuel wildfire spread.  Yet, the risk to homes remains the embers from a fire and there are steps you can take to reduce its potential impacts, especially during persistent drought. 

Photo Credit, Predictive Services, National Interagency Fire Center


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 July edition of NFPA Journal is out and in its Wildfire column, Michele Steinberg reflects on how NFPA had to pivot its wildfire preparedness messages as people coped with how to stay safe from other immediate health risks at the same time. 

 

As states enforced COVID-19-related lockdows in May, advocates working on Wildfire Awareness Month campaigns, the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, and even local "Firewise Days" had to think of new ways to engage with residents. 

 

Michele explores how they maintained relevancy, even during a pandemic.  

 

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.

A late June wildfire in Utah that burned 467 acres and forced the evacuation of over 100 residents from 42 homes has been linked to teens playing with a Roman candle firework that ignited a hillside before spreading in high winds.  As the July 4th Independence Day Weekend approaches, we are all reminded that mishandled fireworks pose a great threat to landscapes and communities at risk to wildfire, especially in summer-time dry conditions. 

 

Michele Steinberg, NFPA’s Wildfire Division Director shares that amateurs who set off fireworks caused an estimated 19,500 fires and generated around 9,000 emergency room visits over the entire year in the U.S. in 2018.  NFPA’s Brush, Grass and Forest Fires 2018 report also highlights that the Fourth of July was the peak day for wildfires started by fireworks, followed by July 5th. Annually, local fire departments responded to an average of 4,430 brush, grass, and forest fires on July 4th, more than five times the daily average of 840. An average of 2,550 fires on July 5th was three times the daily average.

 

With public fireworks events around the country being canceled this year due to COVID-19 related restrictions on large gatherings, NFPA is vigorously discouraging individuals’ use of consumer fireworks for both personal safety and fire service response considerations.

 

Amplifying this message, a joint safety call-to-action released by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, the Insurance Information Institute, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, and NFPA stresses that fireworks pose wildfire risks when they are in the wrong hands. 

 

While the Utah, Traverse Fire, was brought under control early this past week without structural loss, 7,500 homes and businesses lost electricity during the height of the event.  Firework use is banned in the area around where the fire ignited due to wildfire landscape risks and Utah restricts the use of legal fireworks in the days around the July 4th holiday and the state’s Pioneer Day at the end of July.  Six other wildfires forced evacuations in Utah in late June and the status of those fires are available here

 

Learn more about firework safety from these tip sheets, videos, social media cards, and infographic resources.  Have a safe July 4th holiday with family and friends and share the safety message with them that mishandled fireworks can become the ember that threatens your home and community. 


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.

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