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2020

To meet the needs of homeowners and business owners at risk from wildfire, and the fire departments that serve them, NFPA will develop a digital wildfire safety hub containing online learning modules, 3D simulations, educational videos, and other essential resources, all thanks to a generous FEMA grant. The Fire Prevention & Safety Grant was awarded to NFPA for a two-year project to transform its classroom-based wildfire risk reduction training into a comprehensive digital learning experience that reaches millions of Americans living and working in the wildland/urban interface (WUI).

 

While the past few years of devastating wildfires in California have captured national attention, it’s not only California communities that are vulnerable. The recently released Wildfire Risk to Communities data shows that 24 states, nearly half outside the Western U.S., have a significant risk to homes. With nearly 44 million properties identified as vulnerable to the impacts of wildfires nationwide, the potential for future structure damage and loss is enormous. NFPA chose a digital experiential approach to ensure the widest possible dissemination and implementation of critical wildfire mitigation measures to these high-risk areas.

 

The project will be conducted in partnership with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization, and overseen by a technical advisory panel of experts. NFPA will develop three curricula: one each for homeowners, business owners/property managers, and fire service and public safety personnel. Each will provide the appropriate knowledge for each audience regarding WUI fire mitigation practices, using interactive web-based training and engaging simulations in a 3D virtual environment. The experiential training modules and additional tools will be readily available, along with NFPA’s rich wildfire safety content, on the planned website hub.

 

NFPA believes the courses and tools we will build with the support of this grant will help spur much needed risk-reduction measures at the property and neighborhood levels, buoying the voluntary efforts of residents and firefighters who engage in fire adaptation including NFPA’s Firewise USA Recognition Program and its annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day campaign.

 

Image: An in-person classroom training, Assessing Structure Ignition Potential from Wildfire. The new training and resources will use the information and knowledge this class is based on to expand NFPA's wildfire safety education to millions of Americans through digital delivery.

graphic showing the home ignition zone, highlighting the immediate 0-5 foot space and the intermediate 5-30 foot space.  Both are important for protecting homes from wildfire.

The home ignition zone (HIZ) is the foundation NFPA has built its wildfire preparedness programs and resources on.  A concept coined by retired USFS researcher Dr. Jack Cohen, the basic premise of the HIZ is that the condition of the home (what it is made of and its state of repair) and the vegetation surrounding it, out to 100 feet, have the biggest influence on whether or not a home will ignite from a wildfire.  It is broken down into three areas of concern, the immediate, intermediate, and extended.  Previously we learned about the immediate 0-5 feet, today we'll cover the 5-30 foot zone.

 

The Intermediate Zone is 5-30 feet from the furthest exterior point of the home.  While the 0-5 foot focuses on eliminating combustible material, this area is all about spacing and maintenance, making sure there isn't continuous vegetation all around the home.  It uses landscaping and breaks (areas of non-combustible materials such as dirt, cement, or rock) to help influence and decrease fire behavior. 

 

When looking at a home or group of homes, here are items to consider:      

  • Are there fuel breaks such as driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks?
  • Are lawns and native grasses maintained? General recommendation is a height of 4 inches.
  • Is vegetation in this area spread out? It is recommended that trees and shrubs should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up continuity; trees should be spaced to a minimum of 18 feet between crowns.
  • Have ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) been removed so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns?  Have trees been pruned? General recommendations are up to 6 to 10 feet from the ground; for shorter trees, do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.
  • Are plants, trees, and lawns watered to keep them from becoming dry?

There is potential for a lot of work needed in this area, but don't get overwhelmed.  Take stock of what you have, prioritize tasks - maybe put some easy wins first, and keep chipping away.  Our preparing homes for wildfire page has excellent tips to help you on your way.

 

This intermediate zone presents an opportunity for overlap with adjacent properties.  As you work on projects, consider reaching out to your neighbors to collaborate and leverage resources. 

 

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.

 

Even as wildfire weather conditions continue to plague parts of California, October has seen wildfire activity erupt across Colorado. In recent days, fires that have been burning in more remote areas of northwest and central parts of the state for more than two months have been joined by fires closer to populated areas including the city and county of Boulder and the celebrated resort town of Estes Park. At the time of writing this blog, the National Weather Service is predicting cold and snow moving in – but the cold front is bringing strong winds first, that will make controlling the spread and movement of these fires all but impossible.

 

It’s hard to get a handle on all that’s happening, but reports include thousands of people evacuated from developed areas all around the Front Range region. In our current pandemic situation, sheltering thousands of people together presents real concerns about virus transmission. The East Troublesome wildfire has grown in just a couple of days to the second-largest wildfire in the state’s history (the Cameron Peak fire north of it near Fort Collins, still burning after starting in mid-August, is the largest at more than 200,000 acres). There are real concerns that these fires will spread and join. It’s mind-boggling to watch as week by week and day by day, “largest fire” records are shattered. NFPA’s Firewise map includes the data on fire perimeters and hotspots for you to track the location and growth of these fires.

 

There have been homes destroyed, but while the fires are still burning, firefighters and county sheriffs are focused on fire response, not yet on damage assessment. Many community safety leaders are sharing information about safe evacuation, safe return, and disaster recovery.

 

As my NFPA colleague Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan posted back in September, it’s time to be prepared, especially to evacuate, if you’re in an area with a fire weather watch or warning happening. See her post for the tips we provide to keep you and your family safe. If you are in an area under these warnings, keep aware of the news and check your local sheriff’s or emergency management agency’s website or social media pages. As the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association advises, be sure to take steps to protect your finances by knowing your insurance policy, keeping your receipts, and contacting your agent whether you’ve been evacuated, are under a pre-evacuation alert, or if you’ve suffered a loss due to wildfire.

A Firewise site in California used the five-year anniversary of a tragic wildfire and the rebuilding of a damaged local bridge to host an innovative community event that drew residents and numerous local agencies.  The event illustrates how a Firewise site can sustain local risk knowledge, while also bringing neighbors together in a challenging time to gain wildfire education and guidance on what they can accomplish around their own homes individually. 

 

A local newspaper article highlighted that the Cobb Firewise Group 2 in Lake County, California, hosted a, “ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the newly restored bridge and a drive-thru contest where participating residents decorated their own vehicles or golf carts and drove them across the bridge.”  This, among other events held this year, helped Cobb Firewise Group 2 renew and continue their active status in the Firewise USA Program

 

I caught up with the site’s organizer, Cindy Leonard, who shared with me that they, “have been hard at work on fire preparedness and emergency preparedness, while we are also still in the midst of disaster recovery from the Valley Fire National Disaster in 2015.”

 

Adapting to the realities of 2020, Cindy explained that, “The Emergency Preparedness Committee of the Cobb Area Council started doing two annual preparedness events a few years back.  When it came time to do our Spring event we needed to pivot to the drive-through model due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  We are used to pivoting around here, due to PSPS [public safety power shut off] events, evacuations, smoke days, it seems like every year something new gets added to the list!”

 

To help host the event, Cindy noted that they, “received some funding through the EPIC/Listos program that North Coast Opportunities is administrating, as well as funds from the Rebuild North Bay foundation to do the spring drive-through event.”

 

We applaud Cobb Firewise Group 2’s commitment to the Firewise USA program through their innovative community outreach and to building resident empowerment around wildfire risks in Lake County, California.  Learn more about what you can do around your home by taking a drive over to Firewise.org.  

Photo Credit: Cindy Leonard, 21 October 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.

When reading about the wildfires ravaging the western United States, it is easy to get bogged down with a sense of sadness as scenes from the frontlines are more and more heartbreaking. However, one thing is certain. People are pooling brainpower and mobilizing efforts to control what can be controlled. Out of the ashes rise stories about neighbors helping neighbors implement successful mitigation efforts in Firewise USA sites, researchers using data to identify pockets of high-risk residents who may need unique support during evacuation, and local agencies re-designing Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) on the fly to consider added complications of living in wildfire risk zones amidst a global pandemic.   

 

Community is at the heart of the issue.  We only need to look as far as the wildland urban interface to find this intersection of data-informed decision-making, energetic community partners, and residents who portray an ever-valuable sense of responsibility for safety. In fact, Firewise USA can serve as the perfect micro-model of Community Risk Reduction (CRR). Leaders in local initiatives collect information about the people, geography, weather, and hazards such as building materials and local vegetation to assess wildfire risk. They take stock of available services and resources. Then they pull local partners together to develop plans and take measurable action to mitigate risk.

 

Most importantly, these initiatives truly reflect the “C” in CRR with a never-wavering connection to the people who live in the community. As we hear more and more about the silver linings that peek through the ash, I suspect we will find creative ways to leverage the passion and energy found in Firewise sites to reduce risks even beyond wildfire.

 

Community Risk Reduction (CRR) is a process to identify and prioritize local risks of all kinds, followed by the integrated and strategic investment of resources to reduce their occurrence and impact. It requires a deep look at local data and consideration all of the puzzle pieces - geography, systems, and resources – to get a clear view of how hazards might impact resident safety. This Community Risk Assessment (CRA) is the critical first step in the CRR process. Once that information is gathered, a local team determines the priority issues and then develops plans to address those risks. The process, while it can be challenging, is hugely beneficial to those who are laser-focused in allocating resources in impactful ways.

 

Stop by NFPA's CRR page for updates about Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction and access to NFPA 1300 Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development. You can also follow me on twitter @KBerardReed for updates about these important topics.

 

Photo Credit: Firewise 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.

In recognition of the value of wildfire risk reduction, including participation in NFPA’s Firewise USA Recognition Program, Mercury Insurance is the second major insurance company in recent years to offer discounts to its California customers who have taken steps to protect their homes.

 

Wildfire season in California has gotten progressively worse in recent years, lasting longer and growing in severity. It’s increasingly important for homeowners to actively reduce their wildfire risk to better protect their homes, families, and property.  

 

Mercury Insurance now offers wildfire mitigation discounts to California homeowners living in wildfire-prone regions. Homeowners who take one or more steps to harden their homes against wildfires or live in a community recognized by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) as a Firewise USA site will be eligible to receive discounts of up to 18%.  

 

“We’re in this together, which is why Mercury is engineering solutions to encourage proactive actions that better protect homeowners from wildfires,” said Jane Li, Mercury Insurance’s director of product management. “It’s important for homeowners in these areas to take proactive steps to help shield their property from fire, and it’s just as important for everyone in the community to work together to reduce their shared ignition risks, which could save them money and improve their insurance eligibility.”

 

Mercury joins auto and home insurer USAA in rewarding homeowners for their active participation in wildfire risk reduction via the Firewise USA Recognition Program. USAA began offering a homeowners insurance discount to its members in Firewise USA sites in California in 2014 and has expanded this program to 10 additional states over the years.

 

Mercury’s community-level discount is for homes that are located in an NFPA Firewise USA Recognition Program site, shelter-in-place community, or are part of a community with an active annual fuel mitigation program in place. To learn more about eligibility, get an online quote or speak to a Mercury agent

 

To learn more about Firewise USA and whether your community participates, please visit www.firewise.org.

A recent op-ed picked up by many small-town papers reminds us that amidst the all too frequent scenes of burned out homes following a wildfire are neighboring green trees. The op-ed challenges our perception of wildfire impacts and its authors, Professor Stephen Pyne and Forest Service Fire Scientist Dr. Jack Cohen, have a lot of experience to share on the topic.

In the piece, they explore why the “tsunami of flame” narrative is so appealing but also why it is not reflective at all of how wildfire spreads in a community, nor of the urban conflagration that unfortunately follows. In reading it myself, I find Pyne and Cohen bring a wealth of historical context to the current wildfire risk discussion. As we develop again in rural areas with new “wildland urban interface”, it’s a lesson worth hearing again too.

The op-ed is part of the “Writers on the Range” initiative that helps support local and rural newspapers in western states with journalism pieces that discuss the region’s natural resource diversity. I encourage you to read some of the other pieces on their site and, of course, in local papers across the west.

 

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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