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450 Posts authored by: faithberry Employee

Do you need a little help developing and implementing wildfire safety project work?  NFPA has updated its Wildfire Community Preparedness Day toolkit to help  your efforts to improve the survivability of your home and neighborhood, and keep residents and firefighters safe!

The NFPA toolkit shares resources you need to help create your personal or your community's own unique wildfire safety plan and step by step implementation of project work.  Some helpful pieces contained in it are safety tips, who in your neighborhood to include on a planning committee, and a link for your opportunity to apply for $500 to help you be successful.

Also included in the toolkit are recommendations, based upon scientific research, of simple and sometimes very low-cost actionable steps you can take to improve your wildfire safety.    You can also learn about which areas around the home and property might be the most vulnerable to ignite from embers generated by a wildfire.   Learn how easy it really is to get involved and be your own wildfire safety hero!

This year, let's do more than resolve or talk about trying to create communities that are safer in the event of a wildfire. Let’s take steps to make a difference. My daughter shared with me a beautiful saying by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt:  “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

We can not only dream bigger about wildfire safety this year - we can act. Research has proven that simple, low-cost steps can improve the survivability of neighborhoods and homes, and help protect those we love.  So, let’s get started making that dream of communities that can survive wildfire come true! Be a part of the movement to create cities, neighborhoods, people, and pets that are safer from wildfires. Here’s how anyone in any neighborhood can get started to be a part of the solution:

  1. Participate in a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project individually or as a group.
  2. Apply for $500 for a wildfire safety project starting on Tuesday, January 7th. The application opens at 8 am ET - it's easy!
  3. Check out past success stories for project ideas to help you plan your own project.
  4. Check out information about home improvement project guidelines that can work on any residence.
  5. Check out a survivor’s story to learn that wildfire safety preparations can help you survive a wildfire.

You can be a part of changing your world today. Use NFPA’s free resources and the opportunity to apply for funding for a wildfire safety project with generous support from State Farm. In 2020, may our dreams of wildfire safety become a reality!

Power line

Recent research on electrical power line problems may help prevent wildfire ignitions. B. Don Russell, Ph.D.,  an electrical engineering professor at Texas A&M, and his research team have created a tool that helps keep linemen safe and also ensures that power outages do not occur. According to Digital Journal, this newly developed diagnostic tool, called Distribution Fault Anticipation, was designed to detect power line problems to help prevent electrocutions as a result of these power line failures.  The tool has been designed to check power lines for potential issues that could result in power line degradation and the loss of power to consumers as well.

With the recent devastating wildfires in California and elsewhere that have been attributed to power line problems, this tool has been thought to potentially help with wildfire-related ignitions. If power line problems can be detected by this new tool before they occur, the possibility, therefore, should exist that you can reduce the ignition of wildfires related to power line equipment failures.

Yet another use for this tool is to identify at-risk sections of the power grid in real-time and focus efforts to repair those problem areas quickly instead of waiting for the power line to fail and then repairing it.  This may help prevent massive electrical power shutdowns during red flag weather warnings to prevent wildfire ignitions that have also caused suffering to many residents.  Referred to in some instances as public safety power shutdowns, these actions create additional challenges for first responders as well as essential facilities like hospitals to continue to provide a high level of service.  This new diagnostic tool could have a twofold purpose: first, to help power companies improve the overall safety and reliability of their power systems and second, to minimize wildfire ignitions and public safety power shutdowns during red flag warnings.

Over the last couple of months I was able to attend two conferences held in the US and Canada that strengthened and developed new working relationships between fire fighters, foresters, researchers, insurance industry leaders, elected officials, educators, and first nations groups. These relationships foster the exchange of information about new technologies as well as revisiting old ways, including the use of prescribed fire by indigenous people to improve forest health and share resources that create communities that are safer from wildfire.  


The theme of the 2019 Wildland Fire Canada Conference held in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in mid-November was, “New Paths, New Partnerships.”   Conference attendees had a friendly, open demeanor and were eager to help other organizations be successful in improving their program or research.  Presentations covered research topics including studies about “stay and defend” concepts in the event of evacuations, new fire modeling technologies, and developing collaborative relationships.  


As part of the collaborative relationships topics presented, I presented for NFPA about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day in the US along with Laura Stewart, who coordinated the 2019 Canada's FireSmart Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  The conference also stressed the Canadian national wildfire management strategy.  Its purpose is to develop good strategies to assess risk and create communities that are safer from wildfire.


Similarly, at the third annual conference presented by the International Association of Wildfire in October in Plymouth, Massachusetts, explored the U.S. National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.  The theme was,  “Defining Our Future With Wildland Fire – A New  Paradigm.”  Conference attendees came together eager to learn about developing research, community activities, risk assessments, as well as how they could share information and resources about wildfire and wildfire safety .  


Tom Welle, from the NFPA, shared how public-private sector partnerships help change WUI resident behavior.  Michele Steinberg, also with the NFPA, presented with Tracy Katelman, Executive Director of the California Fire Safe Council, about lessons learned in wildfire safety in a session titled: "Impacts of our Experience: Learning from California, the US and the World”.  Also at the conference, over 125 participants attended an incredible field tour about the community and landscape work accomplished by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in partnership with the local fire department and first nations groups.  It gave participants a good working understanding about how the national strategy was put into action.


These conferences stressed the important role each of us plays in creating communities that are safer from wildfire and how important new partnerships are in addressing the "new normal" of wildfire.  A key component of both national strategies is to create neighborhoods and larger communities that are safer in the event of a wildfire.  Check out NFPA’s Firewise USA site to learn how you and your neighborhood can take steps to reduce your risk of loss as part of developing fire adapted communities.


Photo Credit: Peace Tower, Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, Ontario.  Faith Berry Nov. 2019 

Wildfires not only impact the environment and human infrastructure, but can also create long term health issues for first responders, residents, and workers due to smoke emitted during the fire. The residues from burned material can also affect people involved in post-fire clean-up efforts. Tips to stay healthier during and after a wildfire event can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage. Information on the page is available in English and Spanish.

The page talks about health concerns for those at highest risk of harm from wildfire smoke during a wildfire. People with COPD, asthma, heart disease, or those who are pregnant, need to be aware of their increased risk and take extra precautions and should seek medical assistance if needed.

After the fire has passed and residents return, the CDC recommends that residents, first responders, and clean-up workers take extra safety precautions to protect themselves from harmful chemical residues and other unsafe conditions that may be present. The site even shares some guidance for first responders who are managing the site. That information covers topics such as electrocution hazards, personal protective equipment needed for cleaning up, structure hazards that might be present, and more.

Being better prepared before, during, and after a fire can help create better outcomes for residents, first responders, and clean up crews after a wildfire event has occurred.

Image credit: Faith Berry, NFPA

Picture of the community of Paradise, CA 6 months after a wildfire.  The picture is taken from above and shows a number of burned out foundations.


The Camp Fire, the most devastating California wildfire to date, which caused 5 injuries, 86 fatalities, the loss of 18,804 structures and 153,300 acres burned.  These losses, along with contamination of the water supply, damage to the watershed, and huge hazmat cleanup costs, devastated the local communities of Paradise and Yankee Concow. The story about the Camp Fire does not end with the fire and losses but is now a story of residents rebuilding lives and neighborhoods. Courageous residents have been working hard to clean up in advance of the one-year anniversary of the fire on November 8th. They have even set up  GoFundMe accounts to help those who are still rebuilding homes and lives.


As the anniversary approaches, a number of media outlets have created films to  tell the stories of survivors, first responders, community leaders and more. Each film gives a slightly different viewpoint, but all contain graphic footage and heart wrenching stories. The PBS Frontline film, Fire in Paradise, looks at the dramatic evacuations and explores the causes. Another film produced by Netflix, airing November 1, recounts harrowing stories from people about how they survived. Yet another film, The Camp Fire Documentary by Golden Eagle Films, tries to take a sensitive look at first person accounts from residents and first responders about what it was like.


I think the most compelling takeaway to me is the courage of the people who lived through the incident, and their care and support for each other. This is something I noticed when I visited the area years ago. The fact that so many survived the fast-moving fire is a testament to the preparedness of the residents and the first responders. I have a hard time reliving the tragedy in film, but there are stories to be told that we can learn from: stories of courage, caring, survival and rebuilding. I think if we can take their stories to heart and look at where we all are on our individual journeys of wildfire preparedness, a part of what they have to share with us is that we each can make a difference in helping others be safer -- that we all have a role to play in creating safer communities. What have their stories told you, on the anniversary of this fire?


Picture credit: Matt Dutcher

For many, the fall months are a time for cleaning up our yards of accumulated leaves, sticks, and other vegetative debris before the long winter.  Disposing of this dried up green waste is becoming more difficult, with many waste facilities no longer accepting such material.  Yet, allowing this material to accumulate close to the home is even worse as it can become a bed for embers and act as an ignition source to a home.  Faced with the choice, some choose to burn these materials in order to reduce this hazard.

But before you burn anything, it is important to be aware of your local codes and ordinances regarding outdoor burning.   For example, the fall in the South East is the season for above normal wildfire potential due to the accumulation of dead, dry vegetation and dryer conditions overall.  

The US Forest Service shares some great ideas to keep in mind before you burn anything;

  1. Make sure you are aware of local laws and ordinances (a permit may be required).   NEVER BURN IF THERE IS A BURN BAN.
  2. Look around and above to make sure you are not burning next to something else that could ignite.  This includes checking for overhanging branches, vehicles, out buildings and other things that could catch fire.  Fires should be at least 50 feet from any structure.
  3. Never burn plastic or any other garbage along with the vegetation.
  4. Check the weather conditions and never burn when it is windy or very hot and dry.
  5. Start with a small pile and slowly add more material.
  6. Make sure you stay with the fire at all times. (You should have a charged hose and or fire extinguisher nearby as well as a shovel and rake).
  7. Make sure your fire is completely out and check the area around the fire for the next couple of days for smoldering embers. 

For more information about how you can keep your home safer from wildfire, check out the NFPA’s Firewise USA program.   Additional information concerning local authorities having jurisdiction over regulating outdoor burning can be found in the  NFPA 1 section about open fires and outdoor burning.

Photo Credit: Steve Lawrey, Holly Knoll Homeowner's Association, Virginia, shared to NFPA 2019

Did you know that many of California’s worst wildfires have historically occurred in the fall? Recent examples from last year include the Camp Fire which caused 86 fatalities and destroyed 18,804 structures and the Woolsey Fire which destroyed 1,643 structures and caused 3 fatalities. In fact, CAL Fire’s statistics show that 15 of the top 20 deadliest fires have occurred during September, October, and November.

Have you wondered why these destructive wildfires occur in the fall? The weather conditions that occur this time of year in California contribute to this threat. The Weather Channel has created a great video that explains how the winds and low humidity can increase California communities’ risk of loss due to wildfire.NASA Satellite image of the Camp Fire 2018

Some of the factors which contribute to the increased threat include:

  1. Santa Ana winds and other strong offshore winds that are caused by high-pressure systems forcing fast-moving wind to blow from hot desert regions west over the mountains toward the ocean. These high winds can topple power lines and cause rapid spotting of a wildfire.
  2. Very low relative humidity (moisture in the air) due to hot dry conditions.
  3. Low moisture levels in the vegetation which can cause the vegetation to catch fire more quickly.

Homeowners can reduce their risk of loss to wildfire this time of year by making simple and low-cost improvements to their home and landscape. Some of these activities are typical fall home maintenance projects, such as:

  1. Removing dead branches from trees and shrubbery (fall is a great time of year to prune bushes and trees, reducing the ability for fire to move up from shrubs into trees);
  2. Removing leaves from gutters and roofs;
  3. Removing weeds (that are drying out) from around the home especially within the first 5 feet of the home; and
  4. Making sure vents are screened and cleared of debris

For more information about steps that you can take to reduce your risk of loss to wildfire, check out NFPA’s Firewise USA website for free resources to help you decide on some fall home wildfire safety improvement projects.

With 1/3 of all US homes located in areas considered wildland urban interface (WUI) and more than 35,000 homes lost in the US to wildfire over the past 10-years, it is more important than ever that home design and construction ensure that they are safer from wildfire.  While some people have been concerned that building stronger using wildfire resistant materials might cost more, a new study released by Headwaters Economics, Building a Wildfire-Resistant Home: Codes and Costs, dispels this myth.  

The study shows that building homes using wildfire resistant materials and design features really does not cost much more.  In some cases, new home construction following these guidelines according to the study can even cost less to build.

It further stresses the importance of using national building codes and standards to design and construct new homes.  These are based on decades of good research about what types of roofs, eaves, windows, exterior walls and more will provide better protection to the home when a wildfire event occurs.  The study references NFPA Standard 1144 for Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildfire as one local communities can utilize to insure new homes and communities are safer from wildfire.

This study was completed in partnership with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and was prepared at the request of Park County, Montana, as part of the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) program.  To learn more from the study, the full report, an executive summary, and a detailed appendix (Excel) are available.

Photo Credit: IBHS

Young, male child with backpack

Wildfires can not only force residents to evacuate their homes, but also depending upon the time of day that they occur, force students to be evacuated from schools.   This is something parents and caregivers can prepare for, as they help children get ready to go back to school, during September, National Preparedness Month.  

 Wildfires can displace many children attending school at once, which shows the necessity of creating a plan.  For example during Northern California’s Camp Fire, 3,300 students were  evacuated from 11 schools in school buses and faculty cars.  In one instance students were sent home and the administration was concerned that the homes they were sent to may not have been safe.

In response to their own recent wildfire evacuation of schools, San Diego County, a wildfire prone community has recently adopted a plan that recognizes this risk and has outlined a way to make sure children are safer during a wildfire event when they are at school and need to be evacuated.   The county wide school evacuation plan was developed by the San Diego County office of Emergency Service (OES) based upon the county wide Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) in collaboration with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, CAL Fire, California State Parks, and others.    

According to an article about the plan, There are some questions parents can ask school officials before an emergency occurs, that would make it easier for everyone if an evacuation order is given;

  1. How will transportation be secured if my children need to leave?
  2. What is the designated relocation site?
  3. What happens/how will I be notified if students have to be taken to an alternative site?
  4. How will I be contacted and how can I contact school officials during an emergency?
  5. Have the school and school grounds been maintained looking at the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) so that if students are unable to leave it will be safer?

As you fill their backpacks with school supplies this year, you can also help prepare children to be safer in the event that a wildfire occurs when they are away from you at school.   Learn more about how you and your family can be prepared for wildfire at NFPA’s Firewise USA site.

Photo: shared by Jason King 

Recent hurricanes and other wildfire disasters serve as a reminder that being able to evacuate quickly can mean the difference in whether or not you are able to survive.  When creating evacuation routes, it is important to use sound data to make sure traffic does not get congested at choke points, putting people at risk.  

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) recently posted research from StreetLight Data that can help emergency managers and government agencies with evacuation planning.  They looked at 30,000 communities across the United States with populations 40,000 or less, evaluating their evacuation routes.

According to the infogram, “Researchers developed an index based on the total number of routes out of town, the percentage of people who take certain routes on a typical day, and the total population. The data from this study can help towns consider the reality of evacuation plans in terms of road maintenance and availability when combined with human behavior.”

According to an Emergency Management article about this data, the states with the most evacuation-challenged communities some of which are also located in wildfire prone areas were:

  • Florida (20 communities)
  • California (14 communities)
  • Arizona (8 communities)
  • Texas (6 communities)

StreetLight Data has also made a list of the top 100 communities in the United States with limited evacuation routes available.

Before you need to evacuate make sure that your community has a good plan in place based upon reliable data.  For more information about preparing to evacuate, check out NFPA’s free resources available on the TakeAction  and Public Education pages.

Photo credit: NFPA

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues.

Looking for ways to engage people in wildfire risk discussions and projects? Learn about five unique solutions developed by communities around the country to help get public participation in wildfire risk reduction activities.   

1. TOWN HALL MEETING: Sun City, Texas, an active Firewise USA site, hosts an annual “Town Hall Meeting” to help residents learn what their risks are, ask professionals questions about wildfire preparedness as well as plan next steps.  The meetings encourage participation by many residents to make improvements within their Home Ignition Zones, both to their homes and the landscape surrounding the homes.

Fourmile Watershed youth project

2. MULTIPLE AGENCY CHANNELS: In the Fourmile Watershed community in Colorado, a partnership with the Colorado State Forest Service, Aloterra Restoration Services and One Tree Planted helped get many students involved in a wildfire restoration project. (Some of the participating students and families pictured above).

3. ELECTRONIC ROAD SIGN MESSAGES AND INSERTS IN WATER BILLS:  In Utah, residents of Stockton and South Rim were informed about how they could participate in wildfire preparedness activities through social media, electronic road signs and flyers sent out in their water bills.  According to the UFRA Straight Tip newsletter attached below,  250 people attended and logged 172 hours to complete defensible space projects for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.

Dublin Fire Department wildfire safety workshop4. WORKSHOPS: In Virginia, a collaborative effort by the Virginia Department of Forestry, Pulaski County Emergency Management, Virginia Tech Fire Ecology Department, New River Valley/ Highlands RC&D, and the Dublin Fire Department, enabled information to be shared with 10 different communities at area workshops (pictured, left). The workshops resulted in fuels reduction projects being accomplished around neighborhood homes.

5. BUSINESS PANEL DISCUSSION: In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project included a Business Panel Discussion at the Santa Fe Business Incubator. They had a small but diverse audience of first responders, arborists, economic development and nonprofit analysts discussing the potential for a wildfire to cause devastating financial impact, and how business owners could be a part of the solution.  

Read more details below about these innovative and effective approaches that you can consider for reaching local audiences to engage in wildfire safety projects.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first step on the moon, let’s look at some technological advancements made by NASA that benefit wildland fire suppression and prevention efforts.

NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) Map shows real time wildfire activity being mapped by satellites across the globe.  The map even offers a free tutorial to help you access the information you need.

Another contribution to wildfire research from NASA is the Global Fire Weather Database (GFWED).   This model predicts the formation and spread of fires, and can be used  to alert people to weather conditions that can contribute to large wildfires. 

NASA’s also has FIREX-AQ, a study program that provides observations of wildfire smoke and looks at its impact on weather and agriculture.  According to the NASA web-page, “To understand the impact of smoke on the local and regional level, scientists must have accurate estimates of what’s burning, the quantity of emissions produced, the composition of those emissions and how those chemical compounds evolve in the atmosphere as they react with sunlight and other atmospheric constituents, including pollution sources. Scientific knowledge in each of these areas will need to advance in order to provide a detailed understanding of how smoke impacts air quality and climate, and to improve the efficacy of satellites in capturing data relevant to these goals.”

Who benefits from FIREX-AQ? 

  1. Residents living downwind from wildfire.  
  2. Public health managers and health care administers who respond to health-related smoke impacts.   
  3. Land Managers who are making decisions about using prescribed fire to reduce fuel loads.

 forays into space can help research scientists better understand wildfires, including weather that can contribute to wildfire intensity and the effects of air quality in the aftermath of a wildfire.

Photo Credit: NASA public domain photo, pulled 6 August 2019

When we think about wildfires and their aftermath, sometimes the discussions don’t look at what it really takes to rebuild lives and neighborhoods.  When residents tell me that they are not going to prepare because that is what insurance is for, I don’t think they realize that their lack of preparation will not only cost them the loss of their home, but other things Picture of waterfall in NFPA lobby  to illustrate the "cascading effect"as well in the, “cascading effects” of wildfire”.  

This phrase really resonated with me when I attended a recent forum in Washington D.C., where members of the insurance industry, IBHS, FEMA, NEMA and others presented about creating disaster survivability and how we can work together to look at different ways of reducing the risk of wildfire loss.  At a presentations by  Chris Rodriguez, Director of the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, he mentioned how difficult it is to look at what the real costs of disasters, including wildfire disasters, really are.  He called this the “Cascading Effects” of the event in the lives of survivors and the communities at large.

So, what do these cascading effects mean in wildfire? I can think of four immediately:

  1. Extended separation time for family members and the anxiety this might especially cause children.
  2. The irreparable loss of antiques and other sentimental items, like yearbooks, family pictures, family documents, and even pets.
  3. Additional costs to the homeowner for hazmat removal – hazardous materials are created when the home and its contents burn – that may not be covered in their insurance policy.
  4. The time spent away from home, jobs, and school.

For neighborhoods, this cascade can also include rebuilding critical infrastructure, like water supplies, power poles, and cell towers.    

So, how do we address this cascade of effects in wildfire?  We should recognize that residents, agency partners, businesses, engineers, government entities, and others all have a role to play.  When these groups come together to address both complex and simple mitigation strategies necessary to insure neighborhood and home survival, NFPA’s Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem can provide valuable framework for collective action and addressing gaps.  

The resident can directly influence this as well.  Learn more about how you can be a part of creating communities that are more resilient and recover quicker and better from the next wildfire.  

Let this be our goal as we all work together to address the cascading efforts of wildfire and help to protect lives and property.

On Tuesday July 23, 2019 FEMA is hosting an informational forum on its (BRIC) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities Grant Program, to be funded through the Disaster Relief Fund as a 6% set aside from estimated disaster grant expenditures. The forum will be held at the US Chamber of Commerce Building in Washington D.C. The forum will include “FEMA Leadership, state and local emergency managers and disaster officials, and leading stakeholders from the insurance and infrastructure industries for a discussion on:                                                                    

  • Identifying and Qualifying for FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Grant Program.
  • Building an Understanding of FEMA’s Mitigation Priorities.
  • Exploring Use Cases for Achieving Residential Resilience, Including Wind Retrofitting, Wildfire Resilience and More.
  • Reaching Public Infrastructure Resilience, Including Power and Water Lifelines and Beyond.
  • And More!”

There is a cost to register if you are with a private organization of $150, a non-profit $50 but government employees can register for free. If you are interested, register today. FEMA is also offering an online opportunity for you to be a part of the discussion. FEMA will also be hosting a program specifically for wildfire-related issues in Sacramento, California. Sign up to get updates on this upcoming forum.

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