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36 Posts authored by: megan.fitzgerald-mcgowan Employee

 

During May of this year NFPA partnered with insurance industry experts to share tips and resources on how to financially and physically prepare for wildfires. Recordings of the webinars are now available and easily accessed - all you need is a free NFPA Xchange account.

 

If you already have an account, skip down for direct links to the webinars. If you need to set one up, follow these easy steps:

  1. Go to https://www.nfpa.org/Login
  2. Click "Create a Profile" - highlighted in yellow below
  3. Fill out the information and click "Register"

 

Once your profile is established you can access the webinars!

 

Wildfire and Insurance: Learn How to Prepare Financially. Listen as Janet Ruiz from the Insurance Information Institute and Nicole Mahrt-Ganley from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, address questions about protecting yourself and your property, including important home insurance tips such as how to do an insurance check-up to prevent underinsurance and the right way to make a home inventory. https://community.nfpa.org/community/xchange-exclusives/blog/2020/05/14/full-webinar-wildfires-and-insurance-learn-how-to-prepare-financially


Wildfires and Insurance: How to Protect Your Property From Wildfire. Bob Roper from the Western Fire Chief's Association paints the picture of challenges and options for fire suppression this year and highlights the importance of work done by residents. Daniel Gorham and Faraz Hedayati with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) share how reducing your risk from wildfire can be affordable and practical. https://community.nfpa.org/community/xchange-exclusives/blog/2020/06/15/full-webinar-how-to-protect-your-property-from-wildfire


Each webinar is about 60 minutes long - a perfect reason to stay inside during a hot afternoon or for settling down in the evening. Share the webinars with your friends and neighbors and take the opportunity to apply what you learn.

scrabble tiles spelling out "keywords"

The Firewise USA program greatly values its participants and partners, and looks for opportunities to share and learn from them.  Through the Sites of Excellence Pilot program, we've been using a more focused approach to learn about why sites are successful and what steps they can take to be even more engaged.

 

We know that engaging neighbors in conversations can be difficult, and sometimes one wrong word will put someone on edge.  How do we overcome these hurdles?  Bill Santner of Crystal Lake Club (Sites of Excellence participant) shares how changing one phrase broke down a wall and got folks to open up and work together.

 

Crystal Lake Club

National Sites Of Excellence

Wautoma, Wisconsin

 

Words Do Matter

 

In August of 2019, our Firewise committee along with our Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator and County Forester with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the manager of the Denver field office at National Fire Protection Association met to go over the results of our initial efforts to have every household have a Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) Assessment completed. At that point approximately 45% of the properties agreed to have an assessment.

 

Our task at this meeting was to analyze the feedback we received during the assessment timeframe and then go back to the remaining membership to promote having an assessment done during the remainder of 2019. The main discovery during our discussion was that many members had a feeling that “assessment” meant judgement, punishment and accountability. They were cautious to have a government official come on their property and tell them what they had to do to make their properties safer from wildfires. Some even reported that neighbors were telling them that their homeowners’ insurance companies would be given the results and they could lose their insurance coverage if they did not follow the assessment report findings.

 

During our meeting one of the Crystal Lake Club Firewise committee members offered the idea that we should change the name of the assessments from HIZ to “Fire Safety Check-Up.” Everyone agreed that this title was more descriptive for the public and was non-threatening to the homeowner. We put out a revised invitation with that message and promoted the Check-Ups at our next Club meeting. The results proved effective. We ended the year with 65% of our member households having a Fire Safety Check-Up by the end of 2019.

We believe this proves that Words Do Matter.

 

Thank you so much Bill for sharing this lesson learned!  To read more about what words can make difference, check out our Community Conversations blog from a couple of years ago or download our findings.

 

Is your community ready to take the next step on its wildfire journey?  Visit Firewise.org to learn how you can get organized and become a Firewise USA site.

 

Sign up for NFPA Networkto stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

  

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.

When we look at completing fire safe actions in the home ignition zone, it can mean different things to different people.  Concerns we hear from people who are looking to get started include "I don't want a moonscape" or "I moved here for the trees" or "this is my favorite plant."  Practitioners often speak about the science verses the art of managing vegetation in the home ignition zone.  Just because you live in a wildfire area doesn't mean you can't have plants, but when they are near the home, you have to treat them the same way - make sure they are in good condition, perform annual maintenance, and give them space.

 To illustrate this, I thought I would share an example from my family's yard.  The different shrubs and trees were planted by the previous owners, but are valued for their beauty, smell (honeysuckle and lilac), and shade they help provide during the heat of the day.  Admittedly, we have not done a good job at caring for them during the almost three years we've lived here.  As you can see in the photo, they are:

  • Overgrown oak leaf and pine needle litter at the base of plant and between it and nearby honeysuckle
  • Have leaf and needle litter around the base and mixed in
  • Dead branches
  • Bark mulch underneath

 As they are in the 0-5 foot space from our deck, we really need to do a better job.  Some positive things we have going for us:

  • Not highly flammable plants
  • Water system in place to keep them green and healthy throughout our typical fire season

 With all of that I mind, I set out to work.  Armed with a pair of gloves, loppers, rake, and a bag, an hour saw things looking much better.  The most valued plant by the family is the honeysuckle.  Here I focused on removing all litter debris, pulling out the runners that were going under the deck, and giving it space from the other plants in the area.

Before and after picture of shrub and honeysuckle showing removal of vegetative debris and pruning

 The others plants were treated the same:

  • Pruned limbs that were touching or reaching under the deck
  • Removed debris from the base of the plants and all around under the deck

We made progress but there's still more.  The next steps for us are bringing in rock to replace the mulch, continue to keep up our maintenance, and screen in the deck.

 For more tips on how to improve your safety, visit our Preparing Homes for Wildfires page.  You can also learn more the importance of the 0-5 foot space around you home by checking out our fact sheet Immediate (Noncombustible) Zone.

Sign up for NFPA Networkto stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

  

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.

 With the 2020 wildfire year well underway, it is important to remember that preparing for wildfires is a year-round endeavor. To assist with your wildfire preparedness journey, NFPA is excited to present the second part of our webinar series with experts, Wildfires and Insurance: How to Protect Your Home From Wildfire.

 

Join us Wednesday, May 20th at 11:00 am MDT (1 pm Eastern) as we speak with Bob Roper from the Western Fire Chief's Association, and Daniel Gorham and Faraz Hedayati, researchers with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).

 

Bob will help paint the picture of challenges and options for this wildfire year as we enter an era that most fire service professionals and residents have never encountered before. Reinforcing the importance of the work done by residents done to protect homes.

 

Daniel and Faraz will share how reducing your risk can be affordable and practical. Research from IBHS shows a variety of low-cost, do-it-yourself actions can reduce common structural vulnerabilities and increase the chances of a home or business surviving a wildfire.

 

Register today and get this date added to your calendar to ensure you are a part of this informative webinar (advance registration is required). NFPA recommends registering even if you cannot participate in person, so you will receive notice when the recorded webinar is available.

 

Sign up for NFPA Networkto stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

  

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.

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First, a big shout out to all of those who participated in Wildfire Community Preparedness Day!  We are always in awe of the number of people and organizations that use the day to take action to make a difference in their community.  Many of our friends in different states and organizations are continuing their campaigns throughout the month of May. Whether you are a resident, fire department, or other wildfire risk reduction partner, there are tools and resources to help you out.  Here are a few of the efforts, but not an exhaustive list.

 

The RSG! Program, managed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has created a series of challenges with their 'Are YOU Wildfire Ready' campaign.  RSG members and organizations are encouraged to share these challenges with their communities.  They are starting with our favorite topic - completing actions in the Immediate (0-5 foot) Zone, right around the base of your home.

 

The following are a few of the states participating in a long-standing, multi state effort of Wildfire Awareness Month.  Be sure to check out their websites and follow their social media pages for tips and resource throughout May. 

 

Remember that wildfire safety is a journey, not a destination and there is still more work to be done.  Continue to build on your efforts to improve your home and community's chances of surviving a wildfire.  Also, wildfires aren't limited to the west.   Be sure to check in with your state's wildfire agency for updates on current news, events, and tips on how you can be a part of the wildfire solution.

 

Sign up for NFPA Network to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

  

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.

Hands holding house

With wildfire season already starting in some regions of the United States and around the corner in others, now is the time to start thinking about your physical and financial preparedness.  To help you be better informed, NFPA is hosting two free 60-minute webinars, the first being Wildfires and Insurance: Learn How to Prepare Financially.

Join us Wednesday, May 6th at 11:00 am MDT (1:00 pm Eastern)  as we speak with insurance experts Janet Ruiz from the Insurance Information Institute and Nicole Mahrt-Ganley from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.  They will address questions about protecting yourself and your property, including important home insurance tips such as how to do an insurance check-up to prevent underinsurance and the right way to make a home inventory.

Register today and get this date added to your calendar to ensure you are a part of this informative webinar (advance registration is required). NFPA recommends registering even if you cannot participate in person, so you will receive notice when the recorded webinar is available. 

As a follow up, NFPA will be hosting a second webinar on Wednesday, May 20, 11:00 am MDT (1:00 pm Easter) with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) on what actions residents can take to prepare their home and immediate (noncombustible) zone.  Sign up for Wildfire and Insurance: How to Protect Your Property from Wildfire as well and take control of your wildfire risk!

One of the benefits of the Firewise USA program is that it brings residents together to have structure and a voice. We've all heard that wildfires don't recognize boundaries and how it is important for landowners (individuals, private companies, government, etc.) to work together. Being organized can make it easier to partner with neighboring landowners on wildfire risk reduction projects. Brad Wright with the Virginia Department of Forestry shares with us the power of relationships and what they can lead to.

 Brush Mountain West Fuels Break Cross Boundaries Accomplishment

On January 22, 2020 the Eastern Divide Ranger District of the GW & Jefferson National Forest conducted an 18 acre controlled burn along the top of Brush Mountain outside of the Town of Blacksburg VA. The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) assisted with the burn to address a shared goal with USDA Forest Service-George Washington/Jefferson National Forest (USFS-GW/JEFF), to reduce the threat to the Wildland Urban Interface. Map of the area burned to create a fuels break for the Laurel Ridge Community

Plans for the controlled burn started 3 years earlier as part of mitigation efforts for the adjoining Wildland Urban Interface community of Laurel Ridge as a Cross Boundaries project.

The Cross Boundaries Program allowed for both agencies to effectively achieve a common goal by:

  • Strategically focusing on high risk areas
  • No boundaries allow for work on abutting properties
  • Collaborative planning, implementing, sharing success and lessons learned
  • Allow limited funding and resources to go further
  • Providing the same message

 Even before planning for the controlled burn started the VDOF had been working with the Laurel Ridge Community since 2008 to mitigate its risk of wildfire through the Firewise USA Program. One of the original mitigation objectives in the Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Laurel Ridge was for a fuels break to be established and maintained along the adjoining USFS-GW/JEFF boundary. USFS and DOF resources working together to burn and hold the unit

Although this project was small in acreage it was big in impact and helped set the stage for another Cross Boundaries project along the same mountain range to protect another Wildland Urban Interface Community.

 Last fall I had the opportunity to visit Laurel Ridge and see the preparation being done ahead of this project.  Residents adjacent to the proposed fuel break had taken steps to improve the ignition resistance of their homes and home ignition zone.  They understood that in order for the controlled burn to happen, they had to do their part to help create the best possible outcome.

 A big thank you to Brad, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest, and Laurel Ridge for sharing your story!  Has your community found success through its participation in Firewise USA in engaging partners in landscape level projects? Share your story with us by emailing firewise@nfpa.org.

What will it take for you and your neighbors to take action?  Visit Firewise.org more to learn more about how to organize your community and steps towards increasing your chances of withstanding a wildfire.

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need tminimize 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.  

 

Photo credit: courtesy of Brad Wright, Map of the area burned to create a fuels break for the Laurel Ridge Community and USFS and DOF resources working together to burn and hold the unit.

Side by side pictures of pine needles and leaves under a deck.Like many of you, I live in an area with high potential for wildfires.  With spring officially here, we are starting to see temperatures rise, the lingering snow melt, showing us all the work we have to do to prepare  for this year.  When you look around your home, it might seem a bit overwhelming but rather than endeavoring to do it all at once, try breaking your home and yard in to projects, prioritize them based biggest threat or easiest win, and work on one at a time.  Since my state is under a 'stay at home' order due to COVID-19, now is a great time to tackle our priority list, with just a little bit of work each day. 

 

Science tells us that one of the most important areas you can focus on is your home and the 0-5 foot around the base of it Home ignition zone map highlighting the immediate zone (0-5 feet) from the base of the structure.and attached structures.  This area should be free of combustible materials, which can be a landing bed for embers or can help carry surface fires up to the house.  Much of the work in this area tends to be annual maintenance, raking up leaves, needles, and other vegetative debris.   

 

Since my family's house is well built with fire resistant construction materials and there isn't much to do there, I decided to focus on what needs to be done the immediate zone (0-5 feet from the base of the house).  One area that stood out is our deck. 

 

Decks can be a source of vulnerability for your home, a burning deck can ignite the siding or break the glass in windows or doors, allowing fire into the house.  When I looked around

and under my deck, there was a build-up of needles and leaves, which are susceptible to ember ignition.  Armed with a simple rake, less than an hour saw the debris cleared away and our immediate zone looking much better. 

 

One fifty gallon leaf bag and part of a fifty gallon leaf bag filled with pine needs and oak leaves with rakeWe still have more work to do but I can check this off my annual maintenance list.  For more tips on what actions you can take check out our Preparing Homes for Wildfire page and our Wildfire Research Fact Sheet featuring the Immediate (noncombustible) zone. 

 

In light of the current COVID-19 situation, it is reasonable that folks aren't necessarily in the mindset of preparing for fire season, but now might be the perfect time.  Many states, counties, and cities across the U.S. are under stay at home orders.  To help break up the monotony, get outside for 30-60 minutes and do something to help improve your home's chances of survival during a 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. 

 

One of the things I love about the Firewise USA program is how it encourages people to work together and can bring about partnerships that might not have been considered in the past.  State and federal agencies collaborate with local fire districts, conservation districts, fire safe councils, and many other organizations that have the capacity and willingness to learn to deliver the program, and the drive to help their community decrease their risk from wildfire. 

 

Building those relationships and programs can be difficult, but sometimes all you need is a little information on where to begin.  Kelsi Mottet with Whidbey Island Conservation District shares an excellent learning opportunity for folks who are looking to get involved in wildfire preparedness and provides tips on how to build your network and program. 

 

Professional development resource for fire experts: Tips for developing a successful wildfire preparedness program, models from Washington state

So, you have a community in your area who has approached you to get a wildfire preparedness program started. Where should you begin? Watch this recent webinar presented in December 2019 that shares two models in Washington state that have proven successful, both for those new to creating effective programs and those seasoned. When it comes to successfully supporting communities in wildfire preparedness initiatives, the key to success is in the development of effective partnerships that are tailored on a local level. This webinar was developed by Washington state’s Cascadia Conservation District, Whidbey Island Conservation District, and the Washington Department of Natural Resources Wildfire Northwest and Southeast Regions, and was nationally broadcasted through the National Association of Conservation Districts Urban and Community (U & C) webinar series, sponsored by The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation and U & C Resource Policy Group. View the webinar at https://youtu.be/O36Md6Lhbf4 .

 

Are you ready to build your wildfire preparedness program?  Check out Firewise.org for information and resources to share with your community today!

Wooden sign "Summit Park" surrounded by wildflowersIn this final piece of Taking on Excellence, we travel to Utah to learn more about Summit Park.  I had the chance to visit them over the summer, it is a beautiful place in the mountains with a variety of style of homes, just the type of place I would like to live.  But part of its beauty is what puts it at risk.  Mike Quinones, the resident leader of Summit Park, shares their story.

Can you describe your community for me and tell me why you choose to have a home there?  What do you love about your community?  

Summit Park was developed in the late 1950's and lies between 6800 to 8000 feet in elevation. We have approximately 820 lots with around 550 having been developed with single family homes. Some homes being built in the 1960's and some just being finished, so we have a wide range of architecture and building materials. Our community sits in the middle of dense conifer forest, which in the past has been neglected but has become recognized by our community, state and local agencies as a priority for fuel and forest health management projects. 

I live here because I enjoy mountain living and the challenges it offers. We receive a lot of snow, wildlife is common and it’s quiet and dark at night. The location is perfect as well. We're between Salt Lake City and Park City with skiing and mountain biking literally right out our back door.

Tell me about your community's journey in wildfire risk reduction.  What led you to Firewise USA and participation in the pilot?

Because of my wildland fire suppression experience, I recognized the need to address our threat. Nothing was being done in our county or the country at that time. I've been here for 35 years.  We started by me joining the HOA board and developing the CWPP when that was introduced. We developed a web page and started to educate our neighbors. We brought in the local FD and reached out to the State division of forestry and fire. We quickly qualified for a shaded fuel break project which launched more involvement.

Firewise came about when I recognized the advantages of being a member, the state also encouraged our involvement.  The Pilot Program was suggested by our WUI representative and I immediately knew we has to apply, it helps to validate the work we are trying to accomplish.

What are your goals in the pilot?

The ultimate goal is to get 100% homeowner participation with a secondary goal of providing data to the national agenda.

What are some challenges you think you might face?  

The biggest challenge to our journey is getting community members to recognize their responsibility to reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic fire in our community. We are so accustomed to having the notion the government should do something and they are to blame when they don't.  

There are two misconceptions I see. They are "it won’t happen to me (complacency) and the other is "it’s just too much work" (procrastination).   Everyone knows the threat, they watch the news and see the unprecedented losses. They’re the first to admit it when I talk to them, but when it comes to getting the job done, it’s not on most priority lists. However, the message it getting out and neighbors are talking. My expectations at first may have been to bold but when you put all the pieces together, we're making progress. Hopefully it won't be too late. 

How do you propose to overcome them?

I think it’s a multi pronged approach to set the new standard.  A combination of community, local and state agencies all on the same page pushing an aggressive agenda and implementing the narrative of personal responsibility. 

What else would you like to share?

The pilot program sparked an accelerated interest in fuel reduction, defensible space and home hardening. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next summer.

Thank you Mike for sharing your story. We appreciate Summit Park’s commitment to personal responsibility when it comes to wildfire risk reduction.  Can’t wait to see the progress you make over the next year.

A big thank you to all of the readers for joining us in learning about the pilot participants.  We look forward to sharing their results and lessons learned later in 2020 and 2021.

Is your community ready to take the next step in wildfire risk reduction?   Visit Firewise.org to learn more about how to organize your neighbors and get started.

Photos: Community sign and moose provided by Mike Quinones

Sunset over Crystal Lake in Wisconsin

For this next edition of our Sites of Excellence highlight, we head to Crystal Lake Club in Wisconsin.  Bill Santer II shares the journey his community has taken on the wildfire risk reduction path.

Crystal Lake Club (CLC) is in the north central portion of Marquette County, Wisconsin in a geographical area known as the Central Sands. The location is determined to be in a high-risk area for wildfires. This area is famous for Aldo Leopold’s, Sand County Almanac, and the boyhood home of John Muir. The environs are credited with inspiring Muir to his lifelong passion for the environment. 

Seventy-five residences line the Crystal Lake shoreline, the homes are occupied seasonally (75%) and year-round (25%). The lake association, CLC, with a membership of 130, owns 1,026 acres surrounding Crystal Lake. The common lands are primarily used for forestry, habitat and recreation, with areas designated for golf, tennis, pickle ball, hiking, trap and skeet shooting, pistol range, cross country skiing and frisbee golf.  Crystal Lake is a 124-acre, spring-fed lake, with a maximum depth of 60 feet. There is a public access location on the lake, made available by a walk-in trail. Crystal Lake, the Mecan River and Weddle Creek provide water for suppression efforts. 

Two dry hydrants were installed in the nearby area within the past few years. All homes have private wells. The club maintains four alarms around the lake shore to alert Club members in case of a wildfire or other emergency. A designated debris pile site eliminates the need to burn debris on individual properties. CLC falls within the Montello Fire Response Unit (FRU) with the Montello Ranger Station located in Montello approximately 12 miles to the south. The Wautoma Ranger Station is located approximately 9 miles to the north. Access from both stations is via Highway 22, which is one mile east of the development. The personnel and equipment of both stations are available for fire response in an emergency. The fire department serving the Crystal Lake community is the Neshkoro Volunteer Fire Department. 

The vast majority of residents have been on the lake since birth. Most are daughters and sons Blue Heron standing in Crystal Lake, WIof original owners. Others are long-time friends of owners and/or nieces and nephews of original owners. The Caribbean blue/green water, great fishing, banning gasoline powered engines, the smell of the pines, the nesting eagles, egrets, herons and sandhill cranes, the abundant white tail deer, the undeveloped surroundings that are only a short drive to the state capital and other major city centers, makes CLC an oasis of peace and tranquility where neighbors share and support common values of stewardship and conservation.

Tell me about your community's journey in wildfire risk reduction.  What led you to Firewise USA?  Why did you decide to participate in the pilot?

We got a “wake-up call” on April 13, 2003. That day the weather was partly cloudy, temperature 82-83 degrees (unusually hot for a Wisconsin April), minimum humidity at 25%, SW winds at 15 MPH increasing to 25 MPH in the afternoon. The CLC (township) Fire started within a quarter mile of our club lands around 2 pm. By the next day 572 acres burned, 6 structures were lost, and 49 other structures threatened. Two CLC members immediately recognized future danger and contacted our state DNR. The CLC Firewise Committee was formed in 2003, with Firewise Community status earned in 2004, the first site in Wisconsin.  

The initial Firewise Community Assessment was conducted on Sept. 8, 2003, again on June 15, 2013 and most recently June 26, 2018. Dynamic action plans were developed from each assessment. Priorities for each year’s activities are drawn from the action plan. The committee currently has five club members, chaired by Bill Santner II. We have a workday in the spring and fall of each year. Upwards of 90 people work on Club land projects during the workdays, as well as individually throughout the year. We sponsor a lunch in the fall as a thank you for the members efforts and provide educational materials, presentations and updates on Firewise efforts within club lands.

When asked if we would like to be considered as a Site of Excellence for this pilot program, the committee was unanimous in agreement to apply for this distinction. We see it as a way to learn and grow in our knowledge base and to network with other communities to share best practices to keep our members and their investments as safe as possible from the dangers of wildfires.

What are you goals in the pilot?

CLC has two specific goals for the Sites of Excellence 2-year pilot program. First, within the first year of the program, the goal is to get as many residences as possible to agree to have a Home Ignition Zone assessment. By the way, we realized that people don’t react favorably to the word “assessment.” So, we now label it the “Fire Safety Check-Up.” The second goal, in the second year, is to follow-up, encourage and support, and record the work done based on the residences’ fire safety check-up report. Updates and results will continue to be reported to the membership.

What are some challenges you think you might face?  How do you propose to overcome them?

Some of our members have the perception that “outsiders” will come on their property and tell them what must be done. The only way to overcome this is to continue education efforts and have participating members share their favorable experiences. Another challenge is to engage with absentee owner/members. There are few at CLC, but still critical to get those involved. We continue to do outreach through emailed newsletters, etc. 

What else would you like to share?

We are grateful for the training and support received from NFPA and our state DNR and Forestry personnel. We are confident that this pilot program will make our club more aware of wildfire dangers and more proactive in protecting our land and dwellings. One member put it this way: “Doing the work around our home is like getting a vaccination. It’s for our own good, but also for the protection of the community. What we do around our home helps protect those homes around us.” We believe that’s a great metaphor for the work to be done.

Crystal Lake Club Community members, WI DNR staff, and NFPA staff member Tom Welle standing in front of a building with Firewise Community banner

Thank you Bill for sharing your story. We appreciate Crystal Lake Club's commitment to personal responsibility and look forward to your progress over the next year.

Is your community ready to take the next step in wildfire risk reduction?  Visit Firewise.org to learn more about how to organize your neighbors and get started.

Photo credit: all photos provided by Bill Santner II, resident leader

Fire Prevention Week is here!  This year’s theme, "Not everyone wears a cape. Plan and Practice your Escape" emphasizes the importance of fire escape planning, whether from a home fire or evacuating during a wildfire.  NFPA and its partners have some excellent resources to help you reach hero status.

 

Keep in mind, a hero isn't just someone who is courageous and performs good deeds, but also takes small actions that help keep themselves and those around them safe from fire. 

 

Plan it

The first step is working with your household to develop a plan for home. IAFC’s Ready, Set, Go! Program’s "Your Personal Wildland Fire Action Guide" provides handy checklists that will walk you through creating a family disaster plan, building emergency kits, identifying where to get wildfire updates from, and knowing when to evacuate. 

 

Does your household include young children, seniors, or individuals with disabilities?  These populations may need special consideration when preparing for an event such as a wildfire.  The following can help in the planning process:

 

After building a plan for the human members of your household, it's time to look at the rest of the family. Check out NFPA's TakeAction campaign for the following resources:

 

Practice it

Once your plan is complete it is time to practice it.   Go over different scenarios such as when people are at work and others are at home, set up drills for day and night time.  Make sure everyone knows where to meet and have a communication plan in place.

 

For more resources on steps you can take around your home, visit the Fire Prevention Week website for more information.

 

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire related topics.

Three teenage girls raking pine needles and other vegetation debris on to a tarp, clearing around a home

The impacts from disasters such as wildfire or flooding are not just felt by adults, but people of all ages.  During week three of National Preparedness Month we want to take a moment to share ways that teenagers and other young people can be involved in helping their families and neighbors be ready for wildfires.

Through a series of conversations with NFPA, youth living in areas with a wildfire risk expressed a want of knowledge about wildfires and how they can help their family, including pets, be ready to evacuate when needed.  NFPA's TakeAction campaign was developed to meet those needs.  Share the following resources with young adults, teachers, and youth leaders to give them the opportunity to play a role:

Service can be another great way to be involved and feel like you are making a difference.  There are many wildfire risk reduction activities that are safe for young people to do including:

  • Sweeping porches and decks clearing them of leaves and pine needles.
  • Raking under decks, porches, sheds and play structures and dispose of debris
  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches

Check out this community service project guide and our preparing homes for wildfire page for more ideas on how to get started.

Follow my colleague Lisa Braxton on Safety Source as she shares other resources to help families prepare for home fires and other disasters.

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

Flowery trail community members standing with their 2016 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day sign

 

Set near the base of 49° North Mountain Resort, Flowery Trail is an ideal getaway for ski enthusiasts and lovers of the great outdoors.  A little over an hour north of Spokane, WA, the community is set in a forest of Lodgepole and other pines.  The location and terrain allow for recreation year round, with skiing in the winter to mountain biking and hiking in the spring and summer.  

While it sounds like the perfect destination to me, there are concerns for residents and local fire officials in regards to wildfire.  Dan Holman, the community’s resident leader, filled me in on the efforts the Flowery Trail Community Association (FTCA) has taken over the years and why they are participating in the Sites of Excellence Pilot Program.

Tell me a little about your community and its journey in wildfire risk reduction.  

In 1972, construction on the ski area was completed.  To help bring in people and revenue, they laid out a community of 100 lots.  The ski area is part of US Forest Service land, but the community was built on state land, with a 100 year land lease with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  (From other conversations I’ve had with Dan, this presents an issue because the residents don’t own the trees.  They have to work with DNR to get permission to remove any large/merchantable timber.   They have had some success in purchasing plats in order to harvest timber and are in talk to complete a land swap.)

This area has a history of fire, with a large one 1910 resulting in a regrowth of Lodgepole pine – which is where we live.  Our community is located in an area of “no man’s land” for fire protection – we don’t fall under a fire district or state response for a home fire.  We have been in a 20+ year discussion with the local city to be included in their protection plan, installing water tanks and hydrants at their request.  Five years ago our proposal was accepted, homeowners are now able get insurance up here.

Our community has recognized the danger of wildfire up here.   Part of our annual dues support our wildfire risk  Flowery trail work day, community members feeding a chipperreduction efforts and we have an annual fuel reduction push in the spring.  Over the years, working with the state, we’ve been able to thin and remove on plats that pose a risk – 34 trucks with trees, we have 10 slash piles the size of houses to remove/burn when appropriate.

Now our efforts are focusing more on the homes and the 0-5 foot space – spreading gravel around home.  We have lot of engagement from our residents and have made excellent progress

What are your goals in the pilot?

We are using the pilot as a way to emphasize the importance of work being 0-5 foot zone.  We have spent a lot of time and effort clearing away trees and brush, this is the next step.  We also see it as a way to get buy-in from the last of the holdouts who haven’t wanted to participate in the cleanup days.

Participating in the pilot also can help provide leverage, showing our commitment.  The Flowery Trail Community Association is working on a land-swap with Washington DNR.   Due to the land lease situation, there hasn’t been any building in the last 15-20 years.

What are some challenges you have faced or think you might face and how do you propose to overcome them?

With the long history of work in our community, a lot of progress has been made.  We did have some resistance at the beginning.  With the help of community pressure/neighbor shaming, maybe of the attitudes have changed.  One thing FTCA implemented that has helped get more people interested is a $100 credit towards annual dues for a full day of volunteer service.  

Flowery trail work day potluck

What else would you like to share?

This type of work takes time.  Use the resources you have and just keep moving forward.

A big thank you to Dan and the Flowery Trail community for sharing their wildfire preparedness journey.   They have been in the game for a long time but it goes to show that the work doesn’t end, rather it just changes in terms of what level and type of work is needed.  Join us in October when we learn more about wildfire preparedness efforts in Wisconsin.

Is your community ready to take the next step in wildfire risk reduction?  Visit Firewise.org to learn more about how to organize your neighbors and get started.

Photo credit: all photos provided by Dan Holman, Flowery Trail resident leader

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire related topics.

Graphic promoting National Preparedness Month - Prepared, Not Scared.  Week 1: Sept 1-7, Save Early for Disaster Costs; Week 2: Sept 8-14, Make a Plan to Prepare for Disasters; Week 3: Sept 15-21, Teach Youth to Prepare for Disasters; Week 4: Sept 22-30, Get Involved in Your Community's Preparedness

There's no time like the present to help your family prepare for disasters.  Join NFPA throughout the month of September as we participate in National Preparedness Month, sponsored by FEMA.  We'll share different resources from Fire Break and Safety Source to help you address wildfire and home safety concerns. 

Week 1: Save Early for Disaster Costs - Check on your Insurance Policy

Is your home covered in case of a disaster? An unfortunate reality is that most homes are underinsured, meaning they don’t have enough coverage to protect them if they are damaged or destroyed. While we hope you are never faced with making a claim, here are some resources to help make sure you are prepared:

 Complete the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America’s (PCI) Wildfire Reality Check:  Hands holding house

  • Conduct an annual insurance checkup – call your agent or insurance company to discuss policy limits and coverage. Not sure what to ask? Check out these 10 questions to ask your insurance agent from Linda Masterson, author and wildfire survivor.
  • Know what your policy covers
  • Update your policy to cover home improvements
  • Maintain insurance – continue to carry homeowners insurance after the home is paid off
  • Get renters insurance

Create a home inventory. Having a home inventory is one of the best ways to determine if you have enough coverage to replace your possessions. This task may seem daunting, especially if you’ve been in your home for many years, but it can be manageable. Some simple steps from the Insurance Information Institute include:

  • Pick an easy spot to start, an area that is contained such as a small kitchen appliance cabinet or sporting equipment closet
  • List recent purchases
  • Include basic information – where you bought it, make and model, what you paid
  • County clothing by general category
  • Record serial numbers found on major appliances and electronic equipment
  • Check coverage on big ticket items
  • Don’t forget off-site items
  • Keep proof of value – sales receipts, purchase contracts, appraisals
  • Don’t get overwhelmed – It’s better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all

When creating your home inventory, embrace technology! Take pictures or videos, back them up digitally. There also many apps available to help organize and store your records.

 For a more in depth discussion on financial preparedness, check out our Firewise Virtual Workshop: Understanding Insurance in the Wildland Urban Interface. Or, listen to Linda Masterson share her experience of losing her home and contents in a wildfire, Firewise Virtual Workshop: Get Prepared, Stay Alive, Rebuild Your Life.

 Along with financial preparedness, it’s never too late to take action around your home. Visit the NFPA’s wildfire division for steps on how to prepare your home for wildfires.

 

Photos: Top photo courtesy FEMA

 

Sign up for Fire Break Newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.

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