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The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is conducting a full-scale demonstration live today, March 6.  According to a press release shared by IBHS they will cast embers at a fully built structure inside of their test laboratory in Chester County, South Carolina.  The test structure is built like a small family home.  One side of the structure resembles a home that follows wildfire resistant building and landscaping techniques, while the other side is built ignoring wildfire resistant building techniques.

Because embers or firebrands, small or larger pieces of burning materials that are spread by winds during wildfire events cause most home ignitions, this experiment will allow you to see where ember ignitions can occur in the home ignition zone during wildfire events.

The demonstration will be recorded so that you can view how homes ignite during wildfire events and learn why it is important for residents in wildfire-prone areas to make changes to the home and landscape immediately surrounding the home to reduce their risk of loss during a wildfire event.  Check out some of NFPA®’s resources to help you improve your safety before the next wildfire burns where you live.

Could you use a little financial help for a  Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project?  Don't delay, apply today!  The application period for $500 project awards closes on Friday, March 1.

What can you do with $500? Use it to do a project or put on an event where residents can work together on wildfire safety. Participation helps create a sense of community, where neighbors begin to look out for each other.  Wildfire Community Preparedness Day projects can also help strengthen relationships between residents and the local fire department, land management agencies, community leaders and elected officials.

NFPA has provided many resources to help you get started and be successful.  Not sure how to apply?  Check out a great YouTube video that helps walk you through the application process step by step.  The video tells you why it is important to participate, how to fill out your online form and shares tips about creating a successful narrative. 

Also check out a brand new resource, the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit!  Download our new toolkit to help you get started.  From picking a project to tracking progress and promoting the event, the toolkit provides a number of great resources to guide you through the process and your journey to wildfire preparedness.  Follow along on Twitter for more wildfire updates @FaithBerry_NFPA.

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Teens with aunt on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day 2018 in Aroostook County, MaineHelp youth in your community be empowered to make a difference.  Young people have told NFPA® that they want to be involved in making a difference in the wildfire safety of the neighborhoods where they live. Wildfire Community Preparedness Day provides great opportunities and resources for mentors to help coach these young members of society to make effective changes that can help make a difference in the survivability of their community.  Participation in project work can also help them learn about science-based changes that can be made to the home and the landscape surrounding the home to help improve a home and neighborhood’s ignition resistance.

Individual teens, as well as members of youth groups like Boys & Girls Clubs, Scout Troops, faith-based groups, 4-H Clubs, and after-school groups, can apply to receive funding to be used for a project on the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page.  There are one hundred fifty opportunities for young people to apply for and possibly receive a $500 dollar award provided with generous support from State Farm® through NFPA®.  A how-to video on YouTube provides step by step help for them to complete the project application before March 1, 2019.

NFPA also provides a free downloadable “Tool Kit” resource with everything they need to plan and execute project work on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  There is information in the toolkit about project safety, how to pick a project, how to work with the media to promote their efforts and even a customizable flyer to encourage other young people to participate. 

It has been my experience that this wonderful young generation really has the heart to make the world a better place. Help them get started by learning how they can participate in wildfire safety project work on Wildfire Community Preparedness Day today!

Photo by Faith Berry: teens and aunt at Prep Day event 2018 in Aroostook County, Maine

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit Image

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is only a few months away. And while many communities, organizations, groups, and individuals are thinking about what project to undertake on May 4, they may not know how to take the needed steps to organize an event.

 

To help, NFPA has created a new Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit just for this purpose. From picking a project to tracking progress and promoting the event, the toolkit provides a number of great resources that are easy to download and can help get you started on your project and your journey to wildfire preparedness! Take advantage of this free resource and download the toolkit today!

This image shows a group of people having a discussion in an outdoor wooded area. At the recent Northeast Fire Compact Annual Meeting in Maine, Katie Lighthall, coordinator for the Western Region of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy effort, shared a concept that is showing success across the West in stimulating increased action within communities at risk of wildfire.  What she shared at a team meeting brings the model east and with the hope that it is more widely adopted.  Katie explained that, “most people do not think of the Northeast or the Midwest as the proverbial hot bed of fire activity, but nothing could be further from the truth.


Katie shared that
the Learning Lab is a shared learning event tailored to a specific community that brings together all levels of stakeholders in the setting of a previous fire incident.  There, they collaboratively learn about the Cohesive Strategy vision of living with wildland fire and what it means to work better together for better fire outcomes.

Katie said that participants are local stakeholders including representatives from US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management offices, state fire and land management agencies, Tribal entities, elected officials, planners, non-governmental organizations and other community leaders and members. Typically, these events are an all-day affair in which stakeholders hear candidly about successes and challenges in how the previous fire was managed or suppressed, vegetation treatments, challenges with evacuation, post-fire impacts, and other hard truths about living with wildland fire.  This conversation is achieved in a facilitated, non-judgmental atmosphere. Short presentations are sometimes followed by a field tour during which additional information is shared. Questions and interaction are strongly encouraged.

Katie went onto explain that facilitators ask members of the audience what they’ve learned from the day’s agenda in the context of the goals and vision of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy. She noted that there are many “aha” moments that surface during this part of the event. They provide a perfect lead in to the Learning Lab finale of audience-suggested and ranked recommendations with commitments to move forward by implementing actions that will help improve fire outcomes in that community.

Importantly, she noted that this type of face-to-face engagement at the community and local agency level has proved successful in helping stakeholders understand more about the Cohesive Strategy and what it means to live with wildland fire.

The Northeast Region of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy convened this week in Portland, Maine alongside the Northeast Fire Compact’s Annual Meeting. NFPA representatives routinely participate in these meetings as partners and stakeholders in the overall objectives.

 

Image: Learning lab in McCall, ID, part of Living with Fire in Valley County, courtesy of Katie Lighthall.

2019 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day banner

You can apply for a great opportunity to get $500 dollars to use on the project of your choice so that you, those you love, and the things you care about are safer from wildfire. With generous support from State Farm®, the National Fire Protection Association is again offering the opportunity to apply for one of 150 awards of $500 to complete a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project on May 4, 2019.

It is so easy to apply using our simple online form. Did you know that almost anyone living in the U.S. and the U.S. Territories can apply? You don’t need to have non-profit status. Young people between the ages of 13 and 18 can apply with a guardian’s permission. So who else can apply? 

State Farm employees at Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event1. Individuals who need help with wildfire risk reduction projects

2. Members of Firewise USA® sites, Fire Adapted Communities networks or Fire Safe Councils 

3. Young people completing community service projects, Eagle Scout requirements or 4-H projects

4. Seniors who need help with wildfire safety clean-up work around their homes and in their yards

5. Fire departments supporting neighborhood wildfire safety efforts

6. Faith-based groups 

7. Tribal organizations

8. Volunteer groups

9. Any group of neighbors who want to make their community safer from wildfire

Don’t wait! The application period closes on March 1st, and you want to give yourself plenty of time to craft a winning application. You don’t have to win a funding award to participate on the day! Be a part of creating homes, neighborhoods, towns, and cities that are safer from wildfire this year! Make sure to check out the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day page for resources that can help you, including a how-to video on YouTube, project ideas and more.

 

Photo of State Farm representatives assisting at Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event taken by Faith Berry, NFPA.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is only a few months away. If you know what project your community will engage in on May 4, now’s the time to apply for a funding award that can help offset the costs. Our newest video below can help walk you through the applications process.


The deadline to apply is March 1, so give yourself plenty of time to craft a winning application. The funding awards are available through the generous support of State Farm.
For additional information about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, project resources, tip sheets, and more, visit www.wildfireprepday.org. wildfireprepday
The January 2019 edition of NFPA’s® Journal explores why older residents suffered so greatly during the recent Campfire in an article titled, “Old & In Harm’s Way”.

According to the article,” The demographics of Paradise skewed older, with a significant portion of the population 65 or above. The town also had a significantly higher proportion of disabled residents. When those vulnerable populations came face to face with the topography and fire history of Paradise—most of the town exists in the wildland/urban interface—it was a meeting primed to end in disaster.”

 

A separate article by the Los Angeles Timesbacked up this observation, sharing that the majority of deaths that occurred during the Camp Fire were seniors. According to the article, “The victims who have been identified range in age from 39 to 99; however, 60% were in their 70s, 80s or 90s.”

So, what can be done to help prepare vulnerable populations such as the elderly, those without vehicles, those with physical or mental limitations, latch key children home alone while parents are at work, the homeless, and those for whom English is a second language? 

 

A first step is to learn more from NFPA’s emergency evacuation planning guide for people with disabilities.

Some other steps that can be taken include:

 

1.  Community members can identify and connect with those needing assistance in their neighborhood and make a plan where neighbors act as a buddy to assist disabled residents during events. 

 

2. Have a neighborhood, youth, or church group connect with disabled residents and help them with wildfire safety-focused yard work. Apply for a $500 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day award to help.You are not only helping to make their home safer, but yours as well.

3. Make sure disabled residents have a go-bag with extra medications, prescriptions, and anything else they need to have with them to reduce the time it will take for them to leave their home. Check out NFPA’s “Go Bag” checklist to learn more. There is even one for pets.

4. Host a community practice evacuation day, make it fun!

 

5. If a community finds they have a large percentage of residents that will need assistance, host a meeting with local emergency responders to share this with them and develop plans to ensure everyone’s safety.

 

We all have a part to play to improve the safety of our homes, neighbors, and those closest to us.  Let’s make sure it includes everyone too!

 

Photo Credits: Top photo, Marie Brescht; Second photo, Fallbrook Fire Authority. 
Home in Durango Colorado where a wildfire burned nearbyMany times I have seen pictures of a lone home that survived a wildfire while all the surrounding homes in the neighborhood burned. Recently I saw a compelling 3-D image shared by the New York Timesof one home that survived on a street in Paradise while all the surrounding homes burned. Was it luck, a miracle, or is there more to it? Although there is never a guarantee, there are many things homeowners can do to help their homes survive a wildfire.
If you look closely at the 3-D shot you can see some things this homeowner did that helped to protect their home:
1. Hardscaping -- rock has been used in the landscaping close to the home
2. A well-maintained roof
3. The yard was cleared of debris -- no trash, leaves or other debris, especially within the first 5 feet
4. The area around the bottom of the home is covered
5. The vent at the base of the home has screening
Siting and relative location to other flammable structures also played a part. It appears that the trees next to the home absorbed the heat from one home that ignited close to this home and it was far enough away from other homes that ignited.
NFPA®has created resources to help you learn what causes homes to burn and what steps you can take to increase the survivability of your home. These resources help you look at the “Home Ignition Zone”, completing wildfire safety project work that can help make your home safer. Still don’t have a good resolution for the New Year? How about increasing the wildfire safety of your home and neighborhood by taking action today?   Followtips you can downloadat no cost from NFPA's  Firewise USA® webpage.
Photo: Home that survived a wildfire in Durango, Colorado, by Faith Berry.

 

You can create a wildfire success story in your own community by participating in wildfire safety project work on Wildfire Prep Day. Wildfire Community Preparedness Day this year it is May 4, 2019. NFPA® will again be offering project funding awards to 150 communities across the United States. Each of these $500 awards provided with past generous support from State Farm, can be used to complete a wildfire safety project where you live!
There are some simple steps you can follow to help you create a successful project including:
1. Collaborate with all stakeholders in your neighborhoods including local water districts and other utilities, volunteer organizations including CERT groups, Fire Safe Councils, Firewise USA® sites, park districts, schools, public works departments etc. (You might even find some additional help from these sources)
2. Identify one goal to be completed. It is better to start with something simple, that you can be successful at. Don’t try to do something too complicated for your first project.
3. Identify what other resources might be made available to your community to help you complete your project such as; tools, power equipment, vehicles, youth volunteers and financial sponsorship etc.
Don't forget to share with others what you are doing and when by using social media, newsletters, flyers, local radio, television and more to promote the success you create to help others be successful.
Still not sure what kind of project to do to improve your neighborhood and home safety? Check out the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day web-page for stories of successful project work completed with past award funding in 2018and 2017.  
Photo of the La Tuna Fire burning at night in the background behind LA City.
The frequency and severity of recent wildfires has not only impacted homeowners and firefighters but has also impacted various industries across the United States. Some of these impacts are new, such as the destruction of 528 commercial properties and 102 damagedin the recent Camp Fire in Northern California, according to the latest CAL FIRE report.  Researchers are looking for new ways to protect the interests of business owners and the local economies.
One agricultural industry recently impacted has been the wine industry, especially since there have been multiple recent fires in wine country. Smoke from wildfires have negatively affected the flavor of grapes. This phenomena is known as “Smoke Taint”.  Using grapes that have been exposed to wildfire smoke can destroy the flavor of a whole batch of wine. University of California, Davis and the California Winegrowers Association are cooperating on a study to help minimize the effects of smoke as well as determine more accurately which grapes are ruined so growers aren’t overly cautious costing them extra money in loss. The economic losses to the industry are not only the wine but the tourist industry in the area that caters to tourists who visit the vineyards in the fall.
The tourism industry has also been impacted by wildfires in areas across the United States. Around Yosemite National Park, according to one report in July 2018, impacted the local economy with a loss of almost 20 million dollars.
The insurance industry has also been impacted by wildfire loss. For example according to one article, one company State Farm lost in last fall’s Northern California wildfires, about $1.2 billion dollars for 4,540 homeowner claims and about $20.7 million for 1,300 automobile claims for loss. 
According to a May report, wildfires in Oklahoma have impacted cattle rancherscausing a loss of 26 million dollars.
Other infrastructure impacted by wildfires last year includes freeways, cell towers, utilities, and schools. Communities can make effective, science based changes to reduce their risk of loss due to wildfires. Check out the Firewise USA ® webpage todayto learn about how you can help make a difference today where you live, and become a part of the wildfire safety solution.  Tell us what you are doing in your community.
Photo credit: LA City Fire Department
Weather forecast map of the San Diego, CA area. Color gradient reflects the relative humidity, much of the area is red with percentages below 20%, going in to single digits.
Wildfires can occur anywhere when the conditions are right. One of the most horrific wildfires in the history of the United States occurred in October 1871 in Wisconsin, “The Great Peshtigo Fire.” In that fire alone which occurred on the same date as the Great Chicago Fire over 1,500 people may have perished though there is no accurate record of the loss.
Low humidity, winds, dried vegetation (perhaps from extended periods of drought), the type of topography, and warm temperatures can all contribute to the behavior and spread of a wildfire. But what makes a wildfire a slowly creeping natural event, a normal part of many ecosystems, and what causes it to become a raging mega fire? How can firefighters and residents understand what the potential risks are during their wildfire incident? How do conditions change and can these changes cause wildland firefighters to be put at greater risk while they engage in suppression and mitigation efforts?
Researchers are studying how wildfires burn and how weather conditions can contribute to wildfire severity.  One new study being carried out by Worcester Polytechnic Institute by professor, Albert Simeoni, who was once himself a firefighter in France. The study is examining how fires burn vegetation in a wind tunnel. This experiment tries to help understand how fires grow and spread in natural environments under different wind conditions. Another study, by the Fire Protection Research Foundation (NFPA’s research affiliate), is Pathways for Building Fire Spread at the Wildland Urban Interface, .This was completed in collaboration with Dr. Michael Gollner and his research team from the University of Maryland, and identifies pathways for fire spread at the wildland urban interface and gaps in information to inform prevention and protection strategies.   Yet another Research Foundation study, "A Collection of Geospatial Technological Approaches for Wildland and Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Events", looks at, “key details involving current applications of geospatial technology to address wildland and WUI fire hazards. They provide a summary of core information regarding the features and specific use of different geospatial tools, with a primary focus on Graphic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS), and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies.” NOAA is currently providing weather predictors for wildfire severitythat are being used in before and during wildfire response.
Perhaps in the future there will be better wildfire weather warning systems like other severe warning systems available for weather occurrences like tornadoes and hurricanes, which can help residents and firefighters better understand the severity of the fire complex approaching and developing within their community to help them make better suppression and evacuation choices focusing on life safety. Maybe just like a cat 5 hurricane prediction, weather and fire researchers using satellite information and information about vegetation and topography will better be able to model the severity of a potential wildfire event.
Image: courtesy of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
residents raking up flammable debris near a houseIf you are wondering if wildfire safety projects are worth the effort, check out the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network’snew blog, “Does Wildfire Mitigation Work? 16 Examples and Counting.” The article explores success stories shared from seven western states including Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and California.
The stories highlight the importance of working on wildfire preparedness projects focusing on the home and the area surrounding the home, the Home Ignition Zone. One example of a home in Redding, California that survived the Carr Fire was a home owned by Randal Hauser. He not only had made changes to his home including a metal roof and clean gutters but also paid attention especially to the five-foot zone around the home using cement walkways, crushed rock, and other non-combustible materials.
In Nevada, another homeowner who made updates to his home including a class A rated roof, concrete border and deck made with synthetic materials was given assistance by the Nevada Division of Forestry to help with supplemental fuels work. Even though the Berry Fire came within feet of his home, his home was spared and he is credited with creating a safer location for firefighters to stage their firefighting efforts.
For other great stories of success and survival check out the Fire Adapted Learning Network’s blog.  Also, check out other examples of Firewise USA® site success stories. Wildfire project safety work does make a difference. We can all play a role in creating safer neighborhoods and cities. Learn more about how you can get involved today!
Image credit: Residents engage in wildfire safety project work in Bustins Island, Maine. Photo by Faith Berry, NFPA.
Screenshot of The Weather Channel video on YouTube
The Weather Channel has created a video that shows how a wildfire spreads. It does not take much for a fire to ignite when the conditions are right, and this video not only gives you an on the ground view but also provides a bird’s eye view with nicely embedded graphics.
Other weather conditions like high winds, low relative humidity in the vegetation, and extended drought conditions can all contribute to wildfire intensity.
By better understanding what causes wildfires and home ignitions during wildfires, residents can better prepare their homes and landscape surrounding the home before a wildfire occurs and have plans in place to make their escape more quickly. Check out the video to get a sense of what a wildfire can be like.
It is that time of year and you are working hard to make your yard and home safer from wildfire, so what do you do with the pine needles, leaves, branches, weeds and other stuff you get rid of from on and around your home?  In my recent travels to film stories about communities who made a difference in their wildfire safety, I heard from one homeowner who told me that before they knew it created greater risk, they just threw the grass clippings and other debris they removed doing yard work downhill below their home.  An even worse scenario is when, individuals remove material from their yards and dump it in a park or other common area.
It is just as important to properly dispose of the debris that you remove as it is to complete your home wildfire safety maintenance project.  That is the important final step of any project work.  Removing debris improperly or just keeping it on your property can add flammable material that can ignite from embers or burn from other flame sources and actually contribute to increased risk of loss from wildfire.
It is important to know what you are going to do with all the stuff you want to remove to reduce your wildfire risk.  Some solutions include:
1. Use goats to eat up unwanted material.  Did you know they love to eat poison oak?
2. Haul debris to a local solid waste facility.  Some will even compost the material.
3. Burning can be an option if it is carried out and coordinated with your local fire and other land managing agencies.  One community had a portable incinerator they used that burnt even large branches to tiny ash.   Make sure you are aware of all ordinances in your community before using this option. In some areas there are air pollution regulations to be aware of.
4. Chip material, and keep mulched material at least five feet away from your home.  One community donated clean chips to a local recreation area for trail maintenance work.
5. Find a biomass facility that can use the material for a product like pellets for wood stoves.
6. Create craft objects such as picture frames etc. from materials removed from around their yard.  This can actually become a community fund raising project!
 
7.Pool resources to rent a green dumpster to help neighborhood residents remove debris in a cost effective way.  Enjoying a meal together afterwards helps build on relationships developed by working together cleaning up.
For more ideas about how communities worked together to reduce their threat of loss during a fire check out the Prep Day success pages. What solution have you created to remove your materials?

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