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443 Posts authored by: faithberry Employee
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?

Picture shows community members standing in a group near a pickup truck and a trailer both loaded with branches and vegetation.  The trailer is overflowing with debris from their wildfire risk reduction activity

 

According to a Vail Daily article, Colorado is ranked third in the nation with homes located in areas of high wildfire risk. With this risk comes responsibility for homeowners to educate themselves about how to reduce their risk and take action to complete wildfire safety projects. The Colorado Realtor's first project was creating a guide to inform homeowners about their risk and define steps that could be taken to reduce their risk of loss through “Project Wildfire”.

 

Reading through the Colorado Realtor’s website I noticed that they wanted to develop other incentives for encouraging residents to get involved in mitigation efforts including, “Support the idea of creating incentives (tax deductions or credits, lower interest rates) for residents who provide evidence of voluntary wildfire safety compliance.”

 

The article described how homeowners can make a significant difference by completing wildfire safety project work, in not only improving their home’s survivability but also providing for the safety of responding firefighters. Learn more about how you can create effective changes and improve the survivability of your neighborhood by visiting the Firewise USA ® site and share your success story with us here.

 

Photo credit: Wildfire safety project work in Mosca, Colorado submitted by Anna Dvorak.

 

As part of National Preparedness Month on September 20 (primary date) or October 3 (secondary date), FEMA will be testing the National Emergency Warning System. This warning system test will include two parts, the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which broadcasts over radio and television and the Wireless Emergency Alert System (WEA) which are emergency messages sent by authorized government alerting authorities through your mobile carrier.

 

Since youth will also be receiving these messages, it is important that parents and guardians have conversations with them before September 20th to explain that this is a test and not a real emergency. Parents and guardians might want to also connect with them about developing plans for emergency situations if they are separated from their children say when they are at school or other function during an emergency. This picture of two teens and their aunt were working on a wildfire Prep Day project in Maine. They were raking and posed together with their aunt as they were taking a break

 

Talking to young people before something happens helps them better prepare. One preparedness activity is creating a “Go Bag” (a small evacuation bag or backpack with essentials) in case you have to evacuate during a wildfire or other natural disaster, so they won’t be as anxious and will feel more empowered about what they want to take with them in case they have to evacuate. Check out NFPA’s TakeAction ™ site for more information about how you can create your own “Go Bag”

 

These notices from WEA will look like text messages and will share information about the type and time of the alert and which agency is issuing the alert. There will be three types of alerts, Amber alerts, presidential messages, and extreme weather or threatening emergencies. According to the FEMA webpage, WEA messages will include a special tone and vibration, both repeated twice. For more information about this emergency warning test check out the FEMA webpage. Send questions you may have about this test to; FEMA-National-Test@fema.dhs.gov

 

 

Photo credits: Top - FEMA; Side - Faith Berry NFPA employee.

Photo by Faith Berry of burned landscape behind Durango, Colorado area home

This is National Preparedness Month and we are all reminded to take steps to be prepared for an emergency. But with all the hype do preparedness efforts really make a difference, you may be asking yourself.


Working with communities to implement project work with Wildfire Community Preparedness Day this last year, I connected with a Firewise USA® site leader Paulette Church in Durango, Colorado who was actively helping her community be better prepared for their greatest risk of loss from wildfire. Their community had been impacted by a wildfire in 2002, and it spurred them to be better prepared in case it happened again. That fire in 2002 consumed over 70,000 acres and 56 homes in the region.


Their community worked on a number of projects including a fuels reduction Prep Day project this year, and as Paulette shared with me they went from having a 10% initial involvement by residents in the community to almost 90%. Their community was again impacted by a wildfire this year but this time their efforts really made a difference. I went with a crew to film their story and was awestruck by how close the fire came to homes throughout their community. Paulette shared that they had made the work activities to increase their preparedness, fun to garner more engagement and support from the neighbors to participate in fuels reduction activities and it worked! They did not lose one home to the fire this time around due to their efforts which made it easier and safer for firefighters to do their jobs!


Even the Inciweb (incident report) mentioned; “In Division A, south of the fire, line construction continues, and firefighters have connected a line from 550 northwest into the rock face above Hermosa. Last night, the fire pushed into areas with structures. Crews engaged in active firefighting. No structures were damaged or lost, and no firefighters were injured. The work that the community has done to make this area “Firewise” contributed a great deal to firefighters’ ability to defend these homes. The Falls Creek and Lower Hermosa areas are set with hoses, pumps and sprinklers, and are prepared for the possibility of further active firefighting.”


The lesson learned from this incredible story of a community’s survival is that good preparedness efforts completed with neighbors working together with local agency partners can make a difference. What will your story be? Learn more about how you can better prepare your home and neighborhood for wildfire, visit Firewise USA® today!

Perhaps you live in a large metropolitan area and are thinking, “I don’t have to worry about wildfire risk.”  Many people think incorrectly that because they live in a big city away from forests and parks that there is no need for them to maintain their home and property for a wildfire threat.

So how can homes located within city limits be impacted by a local wildfire? The most common way is by embers lofted by burning materials in a wildfire. One example of this occurred in Wenatchee, Washington where businesses located 1.2 miles away from the fire burned.

 

Another way wildfires can impact city dwellers is by fires ignited in brush along highways. Poorly maintained vehicles can catch brush on fire and even pulling over on dry grass next to the highway can cause a fire to burn from overheated parts. This year’s Carr Fire for example was caused by a flat tire.

 

Another way homes can burn in big cities during a wildfire is from canyons or common park areas located inside the city burning. In 2014, Carlsbad - a Southern California community located on the ocean - was impacted by a devastating canyon fire that destroyed at least 18 condominiums and 4 single family homes.

 

No matter where we live, whether we live in rural enclaves or big cities, we can be impacted by wildfires.  Wildfires are one event that can be planned for.  We all can do a lot to reduce our risk of loss by taking steps today to make our homes and neighborhoods safer.  Learn more about simple and inexpensive actions you can take by visiting the Firewise USA® Program website

Photo Credit: Los Angeles City Fire Department

Photo by Faith Berry

 

Land use planning can reduce the risk of loss due to wildfire.  Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) program is a partnership between Headwaters Economics and Wildfire Planning International and provides according to their webpage, “grant funded professional guidance about integrating wildfire mitigation into the development planning processes of communities.”  It is funded by the US Forest Service, the LOR Foundation and other private foundations.

 

Communities now have the opportunity to apply for no cost assistance to look at integrating wildfire safety measures into current and future development and learning how to leverage local assets and resources.  According to the webpage all recommendations they share are voluntarily adopted.

 

CPAW is accepting applications now through October 5 for planning assistance.  To apply for this opportunity to receive no cost wildfire risk reduction assistance, check out the CPAW website.

Photo by Faith Berry

 

Many of us are making last minute vacation plans, before the kids go back to college or school, and cooler weather sets in.  To make good memories there are some safety tips to keep in mind.

 

Before heading down the road, make sure that you left things in order at home, in case a wildfire occurs while you are away. Some tips to follow before you leave:

  1.       Make sure that all doors and windows are shut. If there is a wildfire embers will find a way into your home.
  2.       Remove flammable items from your patio, such as chair cushions, coco mats, planters, trash cans, brooms etc. Either put them in a shed, inside the house or far away from your home.
  3.       Make sure pine needles and other debris is cleaned up, and follow Firewise USA ® tip sheets for maintaining landscaping around your home.

 

Before you leave make sure you check the National Interagency Fire Center Report, to make sure that your pre-planned vacation site is not being impacted by wildfire.  This is important especially if you are traveling in high wildfire prone regions.

 

Check out your recreational vehicles and make sure that they are well maintained.  Following some simple safety tips will make sure that you don’t spark a wildfire as you head down the road.  Some tips to keep in mind include:

  1.      Off road motorcycles or other off road vehicles should have properly maintained spark arrestors.
  2.       Never park a vehicle that has been running on dry grass. Hot parts from underneath your vehicle can spark a fire.
  3.       Tow equipment is should be properly maintained.  Dragging chains can cause sparks that can ignite wildfires.
  4.       Check for proper tire pressure, this can not only save you gas as you travel, but also prevent exposed wheel rims from under inflated tires igniting a wildfire.
  5.       Complete proper vehicle maintenance and carry a fire extinguisher that you know how to use.

 

When you arrive at your destination, be aware of local fire conditions and follow all campground rules.

  1.       Check first to see if you are allowed to have open fires. If campfires are allowed, make sure that you keep them in a designated fire rings.  Never build a fire too large, and be aware of overhanging limbs.
  2.       Don’t engage in recreational activities at your campsite that can ignite wildfire like fireworks.
  3.       Tiki torches may not be allowed in your campground, check with your local park ranger/manager, or better yet bring and use portable solar lights.
  4.       If you are using citronella candles in the evening to keep bugs away, make sure that you keep them on a non-flammable surface and put them out before going to bed.

 

By proactively taking simple steps before and during your vacation, you can make sure that your vacation if fun and leaves you and your family with lasting good memories.  Check out the Firewise USA® website for more information about wildfire safety.

Photo by Faith Berry

As wildfires rage across the globe, we ask ourselves what can be done to help cities, homes, people and animals be safer during these events?  The losses are heart wrenching. The pictures are horrifying.  Wildfires occur across the globe and can increase in intensity anywhere, in the right set of conditions; hot temperatures, dried out vegetation, and high winds.

 

But we also see many people, neighborhoods, and cities coming together to create safer communities; firefighters, elected officials, land managing agencies, and residents all working together to be a part of the solution.  Did you know that there is a lot that you can do long before a wildfire happens to protect yourself, your family your pets and your home?  People of all ages can come together and complete property maintenance chores that are simple and don’t cost a lot of money but can provide huge benefits.

 

So what can we do?

 

  1.       Help a senior neighbor or neighbor unable to do the work, with yard maintenance.  This helps protect your property from damage if their home ignites.  It will also make you feel good.
  2.       Host a neighborhood clean-up day!  Rent a large dumpster to dispose of those human treasures (plywood, furniture, yard ornaments etc.) around and next to everyone’s home and create safer, and more desirable neighborhoods to live in.  You will make new friends and perhaps increase property values.
  3.       Host a day to complete one project waiting for your attention.  Get the neighbors together for a morning of work, with everyone doing their own thing at their own home; cleaning out gutters, cleaning up under decks, removing dead vegetation from around the home or liming up trees next to the house.  Get together afterwards for a picnic and half day of fun to celebrate your success!
  4.       Have lots of dead wood in your yards from storms?  Organize your own “Dead Wood Gang”.  Neighbors working together to clean up wood from property to property.  Place branches butt ends facing the street in easy to manage piles, and chip them up as soon as possible.  Just don’t put those wood chips in your landscaping next to the house or leave those piles hanging around long.
  5.       Have someone that your community trusts and enjoys working with locally (from a local fire department or land managing agency etc.), help you “see” what maintenance projects you can do to your home and in the area surrounding your home. Make a list for each neighbor to complete at a later date, and do something nice for the agency person assisting you to show your appreciation.  You are also helping to build a great relationship with an agency partner.

Be a part of making your home, neighborhood, and city safer.  Dust off those gloves and put them to work.  If nobody leads the way, be the hero in your neighborhood and help organize your neighbors to take action. For more information about projects you can do to make your home safer check out the Firewise USA® web-page.

                                                                                                                       Chipping at Bustin's Island photo by Faith Berry

Photo by Faith Berry

According to Representative Dan Newhouse’s site,  the Interior, Environment, Financial Services, and General Government Appropriations Act was passed in the House of Representatives. This legislation provides yearly funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Forest Service, the Indian Health Service, and other related agencies.

 

Although the bill addresses other areas of conservation and agriculture, like grazing monitoring, and big horn sheep research it also provides increased funding for wildfire prevention. According to Newhouse’s report, “In total, the bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.9 billion, fully funding the 10-year average for wildland fire suppression costs for both the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service, and providing robust additional funding – $500 million– for Forest Service suppression operations. The legislation also includes $655 million for hazardous fuels management, which is $30 million above the fiscal year 2018 level.”

 

You can follow the progress of this appropriations bill as it must next be passed by the Senate and then signed by the President to become a law.

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