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

 

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

 

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

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

In response to recent wildfires that have devastated California communities, Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West hosted the 2020 Big Earth Hackathon that brought university students together from multiple disciplines to tackle wildfire’s challenges of equity and fairness, prediction and analysis, and mitigation.  Students worked in teams to develop actionable solutions and compete for over $10,000 in continuing research grants. 

Dave Shew, NFPA’s Wildfire Field Representative, provided an online presentation to the students focused on the history of wildfire evolution and suppression management practices in California.  Dave relayed that these factors – along with climate change – have led to the current state of catastrophic wildfires, massive structure losses, and unfortunately many fatalities as a result. 

After speaking to several of the teams individually to provide additional information, Dave was asked to help score the submitted projects from the student teams.  These projects included new ideas for evacuation apps, early wildfire detection, defensible space inspections, damage assessment, community recovery, carbon output, and even a new methodology to assess potential success of ballot measures to improve funding for wildfire mitigation. 

You can review the various submitted projects and see how they tackled wildfire challenges on the hackathon web page. 

Dave shared with me his appreciation of the student work, saying, "To say these projects were visionary and pushed the boundaries of our “normal” way of doing business is an understatement!"

Dave further explained that, "These insightful students – none of whom had any connection to the fire service – clearly listened to the problems as presented, and tackled them without the restrictions of the status quo or the more commonly heard reprise of, "That’s not the way we do things around here".  The innovation was astounding, insightful, and filled with the promise that new ideas from outside the fire service may be one of the best ways to solve some of its’ biggest problems.  The future looks bright and promising indeed!"  

Learn more about the hackathon and the student submissions for a future better prepared for wildfire

Photo credit: Stanford Big Earth Hackathon Wildland fire Challenge web screenshot, pulled 26 June 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.

Landscaping photo - bark mulch up again rocks that are used to create a barrier between the mulch and other ground surfacesA handful of mulch fires in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island,  has led the Office of the Fire Marshal to educate residents about where to place mulch, how to maintain it, and how to keep it from igniting in dry weather. The heightened fire-safety awareness comes after mulch-ignited fires separately destroyed an apartment building and a hotel in the province last summer.  

Laura King, NFPA’s public-education representative in Canada shared with me that "Canadians have been at home and doing lots of gardening as COVID-19 restricts movement. So much so that many retailers have sold out of mulch or are low on stock.” Laura further explained “While mulch makes our gardens look lovely, homeowners should avoid putting it immediately adjacent to structures – homes, sheds or even wooden fences – and keep it free of debris. More importantly, smoking material should never be discarded in mulch, which can be highly combustible.”

While mulch has many positive attributes - it reduces the water requirements of plants, cools the soil temperature, controls weeds and soil erosion, and visually enhances the landscape - a major drawback is that many types of mulch can be combustible, which presents a huge problem in fire prone areas. Embers from an approaching wildfire can ignite areas where mulch is used. If these areas are adjacent to the home, it could be wind up to be a disastrous mix. Previous research on mulch combustibility provides guidance on placement and proper maintenance to reduce fire risk. 

As many localities across the US and Canada have learned, a smoldering wildfire ember bringing flame and heat to a combustible material can also be as simple as a carelessly discarded cigarette under the right weather conditions. The town of Harrisonburg, VA,in 2015 banned combustible landscape materials from within 18 inches of apartment blocks, businesses, and industrial buildings that have combustible siding.  

To advance your own fire safety messaging around mulch risks this summer, NFPA has 
valuable messaging focused on risks from cigarettes and their proper disposal in and around buildings.  The NFPA Educational Messages Desk Reference also shares vetted and concise social behavioral change language you can use in your outreach.  This includes language highlighting:

  • The proper disposal of cigarettes around landscaping (Chapter 11, page 23); and
  • The ignition risk to mulch and appropriate distancing of combustible materials form the edges of structures (Chapter 17, page 28)

While mulch can be used around your property, consider using gravel, stones, low-flammability and well-maintained plants, or other non-combustible decorative accents for your ground cover in that 0-5 foot zone (1-2 meters) around structures so possible flames do not touch. Moreover, make sure to keep this area clean of seasonal debris.  

Visit NFPA’s 
Preparing Homes for Wildfire resources page to learn more about this “immediate zone” around structures and how you can keep them safe from any materials that can spread a flame.

Photo Credit: Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan, NFPA

 

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.

Wildfire Red Flag Warning

With recent dry weather bringing Red Flag Warnings to communities across the Southwest and Western United States, it’s important to understand what triggers a “Red Flag Warning, what those conditions mean, and what you can do when one is announced in your area to make your home and community safer from wildfire. 

You will see in weather reports on the news that Red Flag Warnings begin as a Fire Weather Watch.  A Fire Weather Watch means that weather conditions are predicted to occur that can support rapid wildfire growth and rates of spread 24-72 hours from when the watch is issued. 

When those conditions are predicted to occur within 24 hours, or are already happening, a Red Flag Warning is then issued.  

So, what are the conditions that combine to create such risk?  In the broad sense, they are:

  • High temperatures,
  • High surface winds,
  • Low relative humidity, and
  • Persistence of dry air and low fuel moisture that creates dry vegetation. 

 

Red Flag Warning criteria varies state to state, mainly concerning relative humidity and fuel moisture.   For example, relative humidity of less than 30% in the humid Southeastern U.S. can trigger a Red Flag Warning, while this would not be a threshold in the arid Western U.S. where critical relative humidity is often in the single digits.  The same goes for fuel moisture values. 

 

It’s important to remember that the combination of conditions cause Red Flag Warnings to be issued and they are locally specific.  Your local fire authority will have more information on how these are issued and guidance for local action on what activities are restricted during such periods. 

When a Red Flag Warning is announced, there are steps you can take.  Check out this brief video sharing 2 steps for immediate action to make your home and community safer from wildfire.

Photo Credit: NIFC 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.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

 

Wind-blown embers igniting dry vegetation and threatening homes sounds like a wildfire. Yet, this summer that source of embers may well be your own patio fire pit or backyard campfire.  Recently, Summit County, Colorado, amended their fire code to require permits for these types of backyard fires out of an abundance of caution to reduce wildfire threats and educate residents on safe fire management practices. 

 

These free permits are good for a year and involve a brief visit by a local department fire inspector – practicing appropriate social distancing, of course – to review and explain the minimum requirements.  These steps are positive fire safety behavior and can be successfully employed by others, wherever they may live.

 

According to the article in the Summit Daily newspaper, “backyard recreational fires must be:

  • Kept under three feet in diameter and two feet high, and
  • Confined to a permanent outdoor fire ring, a portable outdoor fireplace, or a commercially-designed chiminea.
  • Residents are also required to install a screen to prevent embers from escaping, and
  • have a garden hose, fire extinguisher, or five-gallon bucket of water nearby.

The fire pit’s location is important, with a part of the fire inspection visit suggesting other locations if the fire pit is under low hanging branches or the overhanging eaves of a house, or too near other structures. 

 

Fires are prohibited during times of high fire danger ratings and on “red flag” days that bring high winds to dry landscapes.  

 

It is important to remember that embers blowing from a backyard fire pose the same threat to your home as if they are from a wildfire.  Start with these simple steps to reduce the ignition risk, like:

  • Cleaning out gutters of seasonal debris,
  • Clearing away leaves and needles in the 0-5 foot “immediate zone” around the house,
  • Moving any flammable material away from wall exteriors, like mulch, flammable plants, firewood piles, and
  • Removing anything flammable stored underneath decks or porches. 

Most of all, safely enjoy your patio fire pit or backyard campfire and keep blowing embers that come from any source from threatening your home this summer.  Make sure to check in with your local fire authority to see if backyard fires are allowed and if burn bans are in place due to weather. 

 

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.

Beginning on June 3rd, the European Union funded PyroLife Research Program will host a series of insightful webinars every Wednesday through July 22nd.  Each webinar will explore themes of global challenges from wildfire, how communities are adapting, the experiences from traditionally and non-traditionally wildfire prone countries in Europe, and the impact of wildfire in its societal context. 

 

For US audiences, these webinars are in the mid-morning eastern-time, are presented in English, and are free with registration.   The individual Wednesday webinars will include two speakers presenting on different topics, with question and answer periods following each presentation.  You can sign up for the them on the PyroLife events page and please consider attending them all. 

 

The kick-off webinar in the series will be on Wednesday, June 3, at 10am ET / 4pm CET.  Learn more about the topics and speakers for this and the other webinars.

 

PyroLife is the first large scale and integrated doctoral training program focused on wildfires, globally.  NFPA is engaged in this effort, providing structural risk reduction information and knowledge and will host some of the program’s PhD’s to further their wildfire structural risk research from the American wildland urban interface context.  

 

NFPA’s Director of Applied Research, Birgitte Messerschmidt, highlighted the start of this program’s work in the March NFPA Journal Research column.  PyroLife shares that it is, “…an Innovative Training Network bringing together universities, research institutes, forest centers, laboratories, public companies, SMEs, emergency services and NGOs across the world to train researchers to doctorate level.”

 

Photo Credit: PyroLife webinar series banner image, pulled 29 May 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.

As summer brings the threat of uncontrolled wildfire to many US states, the just released edition of NFPA Journal explores the challenge of fighting wildfires while also deterring coronavirus outbreaks in both operational camps and local evacuee shelters.

 

Dave Shew, with the NFPA Wildfire Division, co-authored the piece and shared with me that, "It's been less than two years since our experience with the mass evacuation in the Camp Fire in Butte County.  We know what happened with the norovirus outbreaks in local shelters, and we need to factor that knowledge into our preparedness for the upcoming wildfire season."

 

Learn more from the article about how wildland firefighting agencies and public health agencies at every level of government will need to work collaboratively over this summer and fall through a difficult economic environment to protect firefighters and the public from both threats. 

 

If you are looking for additional guidance on what you can do around your home now to help wildland firefighters in the event of a fire, check out the second half of this recent Fire Break blog.  

 

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.

Spring is usually when local fire departments are training for wildfire response and making public appeals for preparedness work around homes.  Yet, in response to the coronavirus, both have become very difficult tasks while wildfire season still approaches.   There has never been a more important time for residents to play their part in wildfire risk reduction.  Two recent articles highlight this message and some key tips from Firewise USA can provide you with guidance for action around your property.

 

In an article and video from California’s KTVU, Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal explains that, “We're both in the same boat. The focus is on the pandemic, but not ignoring the fact June is around the corner…we need to make sure the community understands that even though they may have to shelter in place or are under quarantine, there are things they can be doing pro-actively around their home."  The article also speaks to the challenges the department is seeing in training firefighters in large groups because of physical distancing requirements. 

 

This challenge of training for, deploying to, and fighting large wildfires is also highlighted in a recent article from Alaska.  Their state division of forestry shares that, “We face a tremendous additional challenge this year in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. As our number-one priority is the safety of the public and firefighters, we plan to follow as closely as possible the Centers for Disease Control anti-virus protocols and best practices on hygiene standards, social distancing, and non-essential travel.”

 

To meet this challenge, they note various operational efforts being employed and make a special appeal to residents, stating, “Be a leader in your community by helping us spread the fire safety message. Use the unexpected opportunity from self-quarantine to use the Firewise program to make your property and your neighbors’ as fire-resistant and resilient as possible.”

 

So, what can you do to play your part and make both your home and responding firefighters safer from wildfire?  Start with these simple steps on the house itself like cleaning out gutters of seasonal debris and then move to cleaning in the 0-5 foot “immediate zone” around the house. 

 

In addition, this 2-minute video helps you identify 5 key areas around the home you must examine when assessing wildfire risk and easy ways to reduce that risk.  A great step you can also take is to share the video link with your neighbors and play your part in building your community’s wildfire education. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) continues its promotion in April of “Wildland Urban Interface Awareness Month” to, “Raise awareness about what wildland urban interface (WUI) fires are and how fire departments can help communities become safer."  Resources from their campaign website and from Firewise USA can help you protect your own home and your community.

 

The theme for this final week, April 27- May 1, is, “Fire-adapted communities make the difference.”   USFA highlights individual projects residents can do around their homes to make themselves, their community, and responding fire departments safer in a wildfire. 

 

With the upcoming Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May, 2, kicking off a summer of risk reduction work, learn about other project ideas you can do around your home and see where  communities have planned 2020 events across the country for when it’s safe to come together again.  You can also learn project ideas from success stories shared from previous years and use those as examples in your local educational outreach.

 

Learn more about USFA’s Wildland Urban Interface Awareness Month and play your part in making your community safer from wildfire. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

The “WUI disaster problem is truly a "wicked problem", with impacts and solutions that do not fit neatly into one or two disciplines”, said Michele Steinberg, Director of NFPA’s Wildfire Division, about an early March workshop in San Francisco, CA.  The 2-Day workshop brought together a very diverse group of land use planners, scientists & researchers, policy makers, technology developers, engineers, utilities, and educators for the first time to collaboratively advance wildland-urban-interface (WUI) resilience.  The workshop was hosted by the NFPA Research Foundation and the NFPA Wildfire Division, along with the University of California, BerkeleyArup, and Reax Engineering to identify actions to resolve gaps in research and the marketplace and outline the steps to execute sustainable solutions.

 

Michael J. Gollner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Deb Faculty Fellow in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, chaired the workshop and shared with me his thoughts on the uniqueness of the event.  He said, “So often, we discuss WUI challenges within our own community.  This was a rare chance to bring together so many diverse communities and collectively develop solutions that are actionable.  Beyond the connections between wildfire and resilience we’ve made, I think that some of these ideas deliberated in the workshop will have real traction in the near future.”  He went onto say that, “These plans may also be useful in setting an agenda for future work and development.”

 

Michele Steinberg also saw value in this diverse exchange.  Speaking about the various disciplines present, she shared that, “There is no single - nor simple - solution that brings us to a future where wildfires occur, but disasters do not.  Because the problem is complex and multi-varied, the set of topics we wrangled with over two days were broad ranging.”

 

In her remarks to the workshop, Steinberg spoke about the power of community engagement and individual action to make a difference in home and community ignition potential. She said:

 

“Long-term solutions must include acknowledgment of what I've come to call "the 98% problem." That is, we cannot hope to end WUI disasters without addressing the enormous risk to structures already built into our fire-prone landscapes. Since, on average, only 2% of building stock is created in the US each year, we are dealing with the 98% of already sited, designed and built homes, businesses and infrastructure that are vulnerable to ignition from wildfire. This huge inventory of property at risk is almost all privately owned, yet it exists in a cultural context where protection of structures is seen not as the job of the private property owner, but as the job of government - namely, firefighters. Yet, we know from experience that attempting to prevent WUI disasters by waiting for the fire to start and grow, and then responding with fire suppression while it is igniting dozens or hundreds of homes simultaneously, is not the solution. By the time a fire starts, it's too late to prevent disaster using traditional response, without any prior risk reduction by property owners.

Community engagement works to teach people about wildfire, about how homes ignite, and about the things they can do to reduce the risk of home ignition and community-wide disaster. It begins to change the cultural context to one where people realize that if they own the home, they also own the home protection. Individuals must reduce risk at their own property, but also engage with neighbors to do likewise. Just as we're learning in the age of COVID-19, our individual behavior will greatly affect others - and neighbors' behavior will affect our own risk.”

The NFPA Research Foundation released a project summary of the workshop and plans to share the full workshop proceedings later this summer (2020).

 

Photo Credit: Lucian Deaton


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.

All throughout April, the United States Fire Administration (USFA) is promoting “Wildland Urban Interface Awareness Month” to, “Raise awareness about what wildland urban interface (WUI) fires are and how fire departments can help communities become safer."  Resources from their campaign website and from Firewise USA can help you protect your own home and your community. 

 

The theme for this week, April 6-12, is, “What do communities need to know before a wildland fire?”  USFA highlights defensible space to protect homes and encourages creating family evacuation plans if you need to leave. There are downloadable tip sheets and images on their campaign site for you to learn from and share with others.

 

Firewise USA has additional guidance on what you can do around the “immediate zone” of your home to ensure it is safer from embers cast from wildfires. This immediate zone includes the home and the area 0-5 feet from the furthest attached exterior point of the home and is defined as a non-combustible area. 

 

Science tells us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers.  This is because an ember landing there can spread fire to the structure if fuels like dry seasonal debris or flammable plants continue the flame.  Likewise, aspects of the home, like decks, eves, and other vulnerable points to embers can be improved for protection. 

 

NFPA’s Take Action campaign also provides resources and projects that benefit young adults in creating their own evacuation and communication plans for their families and pets. Find evacuation checklists, go-kit lists, and community service project ideas to build wildfire understanding in your community. 

 

Learn more about USFA’s Wildland Urban Interface Awareness Month and play your part in making your community safer from wildfire. 

 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

Jim Pauley, President and CEO of NFPA, has a great blog about the new NFPA Network e-newsletter that our previous subscribers to the monthly FireBreak now receive.  Jim explains that the new, “NFPA Network aims to deliver the content you want and need, while at the same time providing additional insight into the broader fire and life safety issues that directly impact the work we all do every day.”

 

NFPA Network places wildfire within the broader context of knowledge and information about risk reduction and available resources for you.  The new platform also lets you set your own preferences and we encourage you to explore additional topics, like public education, research, emergency response, or others to strengthen your valuable local efforts.  Learn more about how to update your preferences and subscribe if you do not already receive NFPA's e-newsletter.  


Of course, continue to find the latest wildfire resources and information right here on the FireBreak blog, and across our social media platforms (Twitter and Facebook) as well. 

 

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.

Meghan Housewright, Director of NFPA’s Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute, has a great blog about the impacts of COVID-19 response on local fire department readiness and available PPE equipment.  As she points out in the piece, “In the U.S., every 24 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire. Well before this crisis, every 1.3. seconds, a fire department responded to a call for medical aid. Our nation’s first responders were 24-7 well before this national emergency.” 

This got me thinking about the upcoming spring/summer “wildfire season” in many parts of the U.S. and how demands on emergency services now will impact both the preparations and response to wildfires looming on the seasonal horizon. 

The San Francisco Chronicle shares that preparation for a predicted dry wildfire season is being, “crippled as the coronavirus pandemic prompts fire agencies across the West to cancel or delay programs aimed at preventing catastrophic wildfire.”  These include impacts to fuel treatments, prescribed burning allowances, firefighter training, and even planning for physical distancing needs of wildfire teams. 

I’ve seen internationally as well that the demands of COVID-19 response on services is impacting prescribed burn allowances in the UK and their ability to respond to active rural fires.  In South Africa, which is in the height of its summer, wildland firefighter crews are isolating from their own families so they can remain healthy for wildfire response calls. 

Meghan’s blog goes into depth on the needs of emergency responders during this time.  We deeply thank all of them for their service to community now and in the face of additional challenges that lie ahead. 

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Follow NFPA’s FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.

The well-earned recognition for the local accomplishments of Firewise communities knows no borders.  This rang true once again as the Beacon Road Firewise community in Dorset, United Kingdom, recently received the Neighborhood Watch Group of the Year Award from the Dorset Police Service. 

 

I caught up with Lin Kettley, manager of the Firewise UK effort in Dorset, who shared her praise for the community.  Lin said, “I am so pleased that the Beacon Road Firewise community has been recognized for all their hard work. From being evacuated following a large fire back in 2011, to being approached by us to become our first Firewise community and gaining this award, they have worked together tirelessly to make their homes, gardens and surrounding areas safer from the threat of wildfires.”  Lin went onto say that, “They are a fantastic example of what community spirit looks like and I know that they will continue to thrive and are very keen to encourage other communities to join them.”

 

Community leader, Susan Jefferies, shared with me that, “The group was established formally 18 months ago, assisted by the [Dorset] Urban Heaths Partnership, to draw the community together to protect ourselves, our homes and the heathland from heathfire.  We live on the edge of a large well established area of heathland where traditionally, regular and dangerous large fires have occurred every ten years or so when the gorse gets overgrown and dries out.”

 

Historic wildfires can be a strong community motivator.  Susan explained that, “The sparks for this group were laid 8 years previously, directly after an extensive fire when neighbors got together and realized that better planning was needed ensure everyone knew about Heathfires and how to act sensibly and safely.”

 

Now, brought together by Firewise, the community hosts seasonal work parties to clear ditches, undergrowth, and their own properties.  Susan noted that, “This way we all get together, help those less able to clear their gardens and keep the neighborhood safer.” 

 

Beacon Road also hosted its first Wildfire Community Preparedness Day in May, 2019.  In an innovative approach, they partnered with the UK’s Exeter University to measure the risks and flammability of their yard debris to influence future landscaping.   

 

This focus on community-led action was highlighted by the award event’s program that stated, “The whole community is involved and the creation of the group and the excellent work of its members has brought forth a stronger, sustainable, and empowered community that cares for each other.”  

 

Susan echoed this connection, sharing that, “We all know each other and are aware who might need assistance if they needed to evacuate in the case of a large fire causing a lot of smoke.”

 

NFPA applauds their well-deserved recognition as a great example of neighbors working together to reduce their wildfire risk.  We hope others will follow their lead in the UK and everywhere else. 

 

Photo Credit: First: Award photo of Paul Attwell, UHP, and Susan Jefferies, courtesy of Lin Kettley.  Second: Upton Heath Dorset May 2019, courtesy of Andy Elliott, @WildfireTacAd

 

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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