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176 Posts authored by: luciandeaton Employee

Evacuating large groups of people with little notice during an evolving wildfire event is challenge enough in any other year.  But in 2020, the added risk to evacuees and responders from COVID-19 exposure hangs ominously over an already difficult effort.  So what is being done to balance this current reality?  The latest NFPA Podcast talks with Luke Beckman, a director at the Red Cross Pacific Division, to learn how the organization revamped its response plans and operations ahead of the massive wildfires now striking Northern California.

 

I caught up with Jesse Roman, Associate Editor of NFPA Journal and the host of The NFPA Podcast, to learn what stood out to him from the conversation.  Jesse shared, “It was amazing to learn how the pandemic forced the Red Cross to completely change so many aspects of its disaster response. Even things like feeding and sheltering evacuees—stuff the Red Cross has been doing a very long time—suddenly had to be completely re-imagined in just a few months because of the virus."

 

Jesse went onto explain that, “It’s incredible how quickly they were able develop new strategies, train their huge staff of volunteers, and be ready to jump right into action when the fires hit.”

 

This conversation, "Disaster Planning During a Pandemic", has additional insight about similar evacuation planning for late July’s Hurricane Isaias, and can be found under the “Latest Podcasts” from August on The NFPA Podcast page.  Previous editions are also worth your time and you can listen and subscribe to it on Apple, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

 

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.

Today’s LA Times article about the numerous wildfires north of San Francisco, CA, and in Northern California highlights in stark terms their current challenge.  “…The sheer magnitude of what has already burned is sobering: about 1.3 million acres this month alone, with four more months of potential fire season to go. Only 2018 saw more land scorched in California — over an entire year.” 

Wildfires in California are a normal occurrence, but two factors make the current situation more severe then we’re used to hearing about at this time of year.  One is a tremendous amount of lightning and the other is that August’s dry weather creates a much different landscape then what meets the usual wildfires of October and November. 

 

As of Monday, August 24, there are over two dozen major fires and multi-fire event “lightning complexes”.  The San Francisco Chronicle has a very good live-map of the current wildfires and their status information.  The LA Times explains that, “the blazes include the LNU Lightning Complex fire, which at nearly 350,000 acres is the second-largest fire in California history. The SCU Lightning Complex fire, at more than 347,000 acres, is the next largest.  Combined, they dwarf the Thomas fire, which at 281,893 acres shattered the records just three years ago.”

 

The majority of the roughly 1100 residential and commercial structures lost and evacuations seen thus far have occurred since August 15th, “which marked the start of what officials are calling a “lightning siege” of about 12,000 strikes that started an estimated 585 fires…” in the state, as noted by the LA Times. 

 

I spoke with NFPA’s Wildfire Field Representative, Dave Shew – also a long-time California resident – about the role lightning is playing in ignitions and he explained that usually at this time of year, weather that is generating lightning is more north in the Sierra Nevada Mountain areas, not down towards San Francisco, and never this concentrated.  He stressed, “the widespread lightning siege in the Bay area is unheard of at this time of year.” 

 

Lightning is also connecting with a landscape full of dry vegetation baking in August’s heat.  There is also little respite delivered by over-night lower temperatures that one would usually see in the fall months. 

 

From his vantage point in Napa County, CA, north of San Francisco, Dave shared with me that these current wildfires, “seem to have a very different feel from our typical fall wind event fires.  With those, we get hurricane force winds blowing everything up, but as soon as the wind stops blowing, the fires essentially go out.  With these, we are still in the summer, with longer, hotter days, and very little or no cooling at night to allow for a “recovery” period.”

 

Dave went onto explain that these current fires, “appear to be largely topography driven, and yes, there are significant winds, but much more influence from dry vegetation and topography than normal.”  As lightning findings this fuel, he explains that it is, “not uncommon for them to smolder for a week or more before they start really burning.  So unfortunately, we are nowhere near out of the woods yet.”

 

Photo Credits:
1) Dave Shew, NFPA. 8-17-2020 PM Hennesey and Gamble Columns.  
2) Dave Shew, NFPA. 8-24-2020 current smoke obscuring views from a similar perspective. 

 

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.

One of the most notable features about NFPA standards is that their development process is open and consensus-based.  That means anybody can participate in the development of these important documents and the standards reflect the professional insight of their various stakeholders and end-users.  This goes for NFPA’s wildfire standards as well and their current revision process is underway.  This process includes a consolidation effort, review of term definitions, and technical updates. 

Below is an overview of that current process by Barry Chase, NFPA Standards Lead for Emergency Response and Responder Safety.  Barry is also the Staff Liaison to the NFPA technical committees on Wildland Fire Management and Wildland and Rural Fire Protection.  He explains the consolidation effort and technical changes the committee are examining.  Their process is public and you can both learn more about their deliberations (narrative below) and submit your own comments for official consideration (steps described at end).    

Barry shares, "By far, the largest and most obvious change in this revision cycle is the consolidation of four wildland standards: NFPA 1051, NFPA 1141, NFPA 1143, and NFPA 1144 into a single, new document, titled, NFPA 1140 Standard for Wildland Fire Management. This consolidation is part of a larger plan to eliminate redundancy and align content across all of the emergency management, emergency response, and responder safety standards.  The consolidation will also simplify the standards-buying experience, which is something that our stakeholders have requested.

I should mention that NFPA 1142 Standard on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural Fire Fighting and NFPA 1145 Guide for the Use of Class A Foams in Fire Fighting are also being revised at the same time, but they will remain as separate, standalone documents.

One area where the consolidation of four standards into one will have a noticeable impact is the definitions of terms. Because the four standards were developed by different groups of people at different times, the definitions for several key terms were not consistent across all four books. Going forward, we will have a single definition for: defensible space, fire hazard, fuel, incident action plan (IAP), jurisdiction, risk, slope, wildland fire, and wildland/urban interface.

While most of the focus has been on editorial adjustments and technical alignment of the consolidated material in NFPA 1140, some topics that could see significant technical changes include the following: [Note: These are shared with the standard number, followed by its referenced chapter]

  1. Building separation and setback distances [1140: 12.2]
  2. Automatic protection of one- and two-family dwellings and residential apartment buildings [1140: 14.1]
  3. Planning for physical space as an element of the community’s emergency operational plan [1140: 17.7]
  4. Planning for backfill costs as an element of the wildland fire response plan [1140: 20.2]
  5. Building construction design and materials specifications [1140: 2.2]
  6. Guidance on air operations for wildland fire incidents [1140: Annex J]
  7. Minimum water supply and delivery rates [1142: 4.6.1]
  8. Water availability studies [1142: 7.1.7, along with several new definitions]
  9. Water supply strainer clearance [1142: 8.5]
  10. Guidance on the use of floating submersible source pumps [1142: E.5.5]
  11. Class A foam mix tables [1145: 4.2.1]

I encourage anyone with an interest in wildland fire management to review and comment on the first draft reports by  following the "submit a public comment" option.

 

The comment period ends on October 9, 2020.”

Photo Credit: 
Firewise USA 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.

COVID-19 has made in-person meetings difficult, but that doesn’t have to stop your educational outreach with fellow residents.  Move those gatherings with your neighbors online with these three “immediate zone” resources from Firewise USA to spark the conversation about how they can reduce the risk of wildfire around their homes.

 

For an introduction, share your screen and talk through the, “How to Prepare your Home for Wildfires” 1-pager (available in English and Spanish) that will help your fellow residents better understand the wildfire home risk.  The document reviews vegetation management needs.  It gives guidance on reducing the risks from embers on roofing, vents, decks, porches, sidings, and windows.  It also addresses emergency responder access, their safety, and tips for your wildfire emergency action plan.

 

Next, dive deeper into the “immediate zone” of 0-5 feet around structures with the most recent wildfire research fact sheet from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and Firewise USA, which focuses on the “Immediate (Noncombustible) Zone”.  The document provides key observations and actionable recommendations from the latest wildfire science research on how to create and maintain 5 feet of noncombustible space around the exterior of a building.

Finally, call on your neighbors to put this knowledge into action by agreeing to do simple activities around their homes on their own that can reduce wildfire risks.  These include:

1) Raking and removing pine needles and dry leaves within a minimum of 3 to 5 feet of a home’s foundation. And if you have the time, continue raking up to a 30-foot distance around the home. Dispose of collected debris in appropriate trash receptacles.

2) Cleaning pine needles from your roof and gutters and paying attention to maintaining the home ignition zone.

3) Getting out your measuring tape and seeing how close wood piles are located to the home. If they are closer than 30 feet, relocate them to at least 30 feet away from structures.

4) Sweeping porches and decks, clearing them of leaves and pine needles. Raking under decks, porches, sheds, and play structures.

5) Mowing grasses to a height of 4 inches or less.

6) Removing items stored under decks and porches and relocating them to a storage shed, garage, or basement. Gasoline cans and portable propane tanks should never be stored indoors and should be located away from the home.

As an additional resource, IBHS has a series of “Weekend Wildfire Preparedness” projects that highlight what residents can do to create defensible space, maintain their roofs & gutters, seal garage doors to protect against ember intrusion, maintain decks, assess their overall wildfire risks, and most importantly, promote the value of talking with neighbors. Their corresponding image cards can become slides that continue the conversation amongst your fellow residents on your video call. 

Now, go host an online meeting with your neighbors on one of the many video-conferences platforms and show these 3 (plus one more) “immediate zone” resources during your educational outreach event. 

Additionally, you can also link to these resources from your community website or social media page to spread the educational outreach message with neighbors and collectively reduce your risk from wildfire. 

 

Want even more? Check out our recent blog that shares 3 videos for your community’s next online gathering.

 

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 the July/August NFPA Journal, a feature section shares the completed 2019 NFPA Firefighter Fatalities in the United States report. While the report highlights the lowering trend of line-of-duty-deaths in the United States, those occurring on wildland fires continue.  The report’s selected on-duty firefighter fatality case studies provides insight on these loss-events and affords all of us a moment of reflection on how these tragedies could be avoided in the future. 

 

As the Journal article shares, “An important milestone was achieved in the United States in 2019: For the first time, fewer than 50 deaths of firefighters occurred while they were on the job. The article continues that, “Other important achievements included the lowest number of deaths of volunteer firefighters, the fewest deaths in road vehicle crashes, and the lowest number of cardiac deaths. There were no multiple-fatality incidents in 2019, the only time that has been the case since NFPA began conducting this study in 1977.”

 

While these trends are lower, 48 firefighters in 2019 gave the ultimate sacrifice while on duty related to injuries and illnesses.  Of that count, six died while engaged or responding to a wildfire or prescribed burn and one in wildland firefighter training.  Two were firefighters who had heart attacks while responding; one from fatal burns when their vehicle was overrun by flames; one in a water tanker trash responding to a wildfire; one from heat exposure during a training exercise; and two while engaged in prescribed burns.   You can read about some of these and others in the report’s selected on-duty firefighter fatality case studies

 

Rita Fahy, NFPA Applied Research Manager and lead author of the 2019 report, shared some historic context with me on wildfire firefighter losses over the past 10 years.  She explained that, “Of the 670 U.S. firefighters killed on-duty over the past 10 years (2010-2019), 90 were killed on wildland fires or during prescribed burns, and at least 20 others were killed while responding to or returning from such fires. These included volunteer and career firefighters as well as employees and contractors with federal and state wildland management agencies, inmate firefighters and supervisors, and military firefighters.  In addition to those fatalities directly related to fires, another 21 wildland firefighters were killed while on-duty.”

 

In addition to the NFPA Journal article summary, you can read the entire 2019 NFPA Firefighter Fatalities in the United States report.  As always, our thoughts are with the families of the fallen and we are again reminded of the sacrifices firefighters give to ensure the safety of others. 

 

Photo Credit: Firefighter Fatalities report NFPA Journal article screen shot pulled 30July2020. 

 

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.

COVID-19 has made in-person meetings difficult, but that doesn’t have to stop your educational outreach with fellow residents.  Move those gatherings with your neighbors online with these three quick videos from Firewise USA on YouTube to spark the conversation about how they can reduce the risk of wildfire around their homes.

 

For an introduction, the 2-minute video, “If Your Home Doesn't Ignite it Can't Burn”, introduces viewers to the ember risk and explains that there is something they can do to protect their home from wildfire.  The video helps to focus the resident on the “immediate zone” of 0-5 feet around their property where debris clearing can make a big difference.  The video can lead to a discussion about the effects of recent wildfires and what their property conditions are right now.  

 

Next, dive into the “immediate zone” of 0-5 feet around structures with the 2-minute video, “5 Key Areas Around the Home you Must Examine when Assessing Wildfire Risk.”  The video reminds us that where the wind piles up leaves and seasonal debris is also where the embers from a wildfire will pile up too.  The video’s walking assessment quickly addresses areas next to the home, gutters, roofs, vents & screen meshing, and any vegetation near the structure.  Residents sharing examples of the work they do around their own homes can strengthen this video’s message well.     

 

Finally, step out to the “intermediate zone” of 5-30 feet around structures with the 4-minute video, “Your Home and Wildfire, Choices that can Make a Difference.”  Learn from a homeowner’s testimonial about the value of mitigation work around the property and the discuss their message that this work does not mean clear-cutting, but is about making wise choices about grasses and ladder fuels.

 

Host an online meeting with your neighbors on one of the many video-conferences platforms and play these 3 videos during the educational outreach event. 

Additionally, you can also link to these videos from your community website or social media page to spread the educational outreach message with neighbors and collectively reduce your risk 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.

A wide brush of red across the American West stands out in the July, 2020, Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook from the National Interagency Fire Center.  It marks a greater than usual likelihood that significant wildfires will occur and is a reminder of how drought increases the risks on our landscapes.  Two recent articles that explore the issues of persistent drought and recurring heatwaves provide good context for what is happening and what we can expect in wildfire-prone areas for years to come. 

This past winter brought heavy snowfall to the Rocky Mountains and was expected bring a needed reprieve from a long-term drought that has impacted down-stream river flow in the American West.  Instead, current dry conditions are being blamed on a warmer and dryer than usual April and May, which caused winter snowpack to melt too quickly.  The article, “In Parched Southwest, Warm Spring Renews Threat of ‘Megadrought’”, explores how snowpack is measured and how the region is being effected by shifting spring weather. 

The second article showcases recent research out of Australia that made the first worldwide assessment of heatwaves at the regional scale.  Reviewing data trends since 1950, their findings illustrate that its not only hotter, but that the increased number of heatwaves seen and how much extra heat a heatwave can contribute on the landscape is stressing already high-wildfire risk areas.   

Severe fire conditions can fuel wildfire spread.  Yet, the risk to homes remains the embers from a fire and there are steps you can take to reduce its potential impacts, especially during persistent drought. 

Photo Credit, Predictive Services, National Interagency Fire Center


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 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.

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