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43 Posts authored by: megan.fitzgerald-mcgowan Employee

In a year that has been described as unprecedented, September has lived up to that reality. In the last several days Washington, Oregon, and California have dealt with extreme weather conditions resulting in devastating wildfires.  Many of our partners and Firewise USA participants are in a state of heightened alert, watching to see what the current fires will do and monitoring for new ones.

 In light of that, and the fact that September is National Preparedness Month, we want to encourage folks to take a few minutes to make sure you and your family are ready. If there are wildfires in your area:

  • Stay aware of the latest news and updates from your local media, fire department, and state agency responsible for wildfire
  • Get your family, home and pets prepared to evacuate.
  • Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle.
  • Move patio or deck furniture, cushions, door mats and potted plants in wooden containers either indoors or as far away from the home, shed and garage as possible.
  • Close and protect your home’s openings, including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, garage doors and pet doors to prevent embers from penetrating your home.
  • Leave as early as possible, before you’re told to evacuate. Do not linger once evacuation orders have been given. Promptly leaving your home and neighborhood clears roads for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire, and helps ensure residents’ safety.

This week has been heartbreaking to watch. The staff in NFPA's wildfire division would like to acknowledge that there are Firewise USA sites impacted and those residents remain close to the heart of the program as these fires continue to burn. 

 

 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.

A cornerstone of the Firewise USA program is neighbors working together to reduce their shared risk from wildfire. Each year residents in participating sites work together to meet goals identified in their action plan that increase the ignition resistance of their homes, property, and community.  As we continue to wade our way through 2020 and the ongoing COVID-19 situation, I want to take a moment to remind folks of how important this work is and provide some resources to assist in meeting the annual renewal requirements.

 

 As a part of the program, each site is required to annually invest the equivalent of one volunteer hour per dwelling unit in wildfire risk reduction actions. If your site has identified 100 homes within its boundary, than 100 hours of work or the monetary equivalent, need to be completed for the year.  This is still the expectation in 2020 and should be reported in your renewal application, due November 20th.

 

Over the years many of our sites have achieved this requirement by hosting a community work day, something that has been difficult to safely achieve this year.  Don't let that hold you back.  Remember, hours worked and money spent by individuals on their property count towards your whole community. Use this year to really drive home the importance of work done on the home and in the 0-5-foot space. 

 

Science tells us there are a lot of simple tasks that make an impact on the chance of a home surviving a wildfire.  Share these resources with your neighbors to help guide their actions, then collect their hours.  In no time at all your community will be on its way to completing the 2020 renewal.

  • How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfire one-pager (English and Spanish)
  • Research Fact Sheet series - developed in partnership with IBHS, these fact sheets address different aspects of the home and provide suggestions for how to improve them.
  • Weekend Wildfire Preparedness - our friends at IBHS have developed a list of different weekend activities that over time will make a big impact
  • Some communities have still been able to host chipper days with individuals working on their property and bringing the material to the road for crews to pick up.  Just make sure you are following any local guidelines/safety precautions

 

Remember, preparing for wildfires and lowering home ignitability is a year-round event – not limited to a weekend or two leading up to summer. Many of your residents did excellent work this spring, this a reminder to keep it going.  It might be time to revisit those gutters, the 0-5 foot area where they rake up the leaves/needles/other debris, or to mow that lawn again.

 

For more resources to assist with your renewal visit our website. If you have any questions or needs assistance please fill out our contact us form.

 

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.

 

One of the privilege's of managing the Firewise USA program is the opportunity I have to connect with communities and hear their stories.  My colleagues and I love to learn about how a sites get started on their wildfire journeys, what motivation moves the residents to do the work, the resources they use to meet their goals and objectives, etc.  We also know that participants and interested communities want to connect and learn from each other, and are excited to facilitate that exchange through our blog.  A big thank you to Jonathon Hartsell of Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc. (BRRCD) and Samantha Greeno, Buck Mountain Firewise USA Coordinator for sharing the efforts of their community.

 

Background

The largest subdivision in the county, Buck Mountain is a 3000+ acre development, with approximately 236 homes, and 351 unimproved tracts of land, with over 30+ miles of gravel and partially paved roads.  In 2000, over 800 acres burned in the community which provided a wakeup call to potential wildfire risks. However the path to Firewise USA recognition took time.  Buck Mountain achieved that status in 2017 and is one of thirty eight active sites in North Carolina and the only current participant in Wilkes County. 

 

Successes and Lessons Learned

Fire mitigation on our mountain is an ongoing, challenging endeavor.  Buck Mountain has a Firewise Committee, has held Firewise Fairs for our POA, created a SAFE Zone, a secondary Emergency Vehicle access road, a Helipad, and posted Buck Mountain community gathering to promote Firewise USA and wildfire risk reduction efforts by residentsevacuation signage around the mountain.

 

If the attendance of our recent Firewise Fair is any indication, our POA seems to be starting to understand what a Firewise USA designation means, and that it is an ongoing process.  For a community our size, I believe they are also starting to realize that community participation is an absolute necessity, in order to be successful.  Buck Mountain Firewise awareness is impacting our own POA, and our hopes is that of surrounding communities, as well.  We are fortunate enough to have a strong group of supporting partners (e.g. CFD, NCFS, BRRCD, Wilkes EM, etc.).

Completed Firewise Projects & Noteworthy Dates

*11/2017- Buck Mountain Property Owners Association (BMPOA) members attended NW Fire & Rescue College (S215: Fire Operations in the Wildland/Urban Interface)

*12/2017- Buck Mountain became a Firewise USA site

*2017- Fire evacuation signage put in place throughout the community

*2018- Deer Run Medical-Fire Access/Evacuation Road completed

*2018- Staghorn Road MM 4.5 Fire Evacuation Route completed

*3/2018- awarded the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Award ($500.00)

*5/2018- Firewise Fair with mock ATV rescue, and mock evacuation for BMPOA, Champion Fire Department (CFD), and Wilkes Rescue using new Evacuation road.  Firewise packets with evacuation plan and map, and policies given out to BMPOA.

*8/2018- Buck Mountain awarded the NC Community Firewise Mitigation Grant (value $8,000.00).  This grant was used for “Firewise Coupons” for members to help off-set the cost of fire mitigation around their home, 2-Chipping programs (fall/spring) for our members, tree removal at Safe Zone, canopy removal and trimming for emergency vehicles, widening of switchbacks on new emergency vehicle access road, and a community Firewise fair.

*11/2018- Helipad completed

*12/2018- Firewise FEDERAL personnel tour of Buck Mountain.

*Spring 2019- Blue Rock 12,000-gallon water tank installed.

*9/2019- Wildfire & Wildfire Mitigation Presentation to BMPOA by Justin Query & Mickie Parsons, North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS).  This was a 3-hour presentation held in our club house, and 19 members attended.  Awesome presentation!

*11/2019- Individual Home Assessment Training for BMPOA members, by Mickie Parsons & other NC Forestry personnel.  Three POA members attended the training, hoping to help other POA members assess their homes.

*3/2020- Awarded the NC Forestry Fuels Chipping Program Grant (value $9,125.00).  18 homes participated in this chipping program.  73 piles of brush were removed and chipped.

*3/2020- Buck Mountain was awarded the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Award ($500.00).  Our original event was to be held in May, but postponed due to COVID.  We plan to hold an outdoor POA event at our Club House this fall, trimming bushes, raking leaves, and cleaning out gutters.

Brush piles and chipperVisibility and Impact

The Buck Mountain Firewise USA committee presents the above projects to our POA and surrounding communities, via our POA website, POA newsletter, posting on information boards on Buck Mountain, posting in our local paper (Wilkes Journal Patriot), as well as local invitations to our Firewise Fair.

Our hope is that Buck Mountain will set an example, not only to our own POA, but to other communities, and inspire them to take the same responsibility, bringing awareness of wildfire danger and fire and fuel mitigation, to their communities.

We plan on making our Firewise projects ongoing, hoping more and more of our POA will participate, making for a safer place for us to live and play.

 Project Coordinators, Partners and Cooperators

Coordinator:  Samantha Greeno, Full-time Buck Mountain resident, past full-time firefighter/EMT

Finance & Contract matters:  Dana Warren, Buck Mountain POA President

North Carolina Forest Service

Champion Fire Department

Wilkes County Emergency Management

Appalachian RC&D Fire Adapted Communities Coalition

 While only in the program a few years, Buck Mountain appears to be all in.  I asked Jonathan and Samantha what they attributed this success to.  They both shared that having a passionate community leadership team and a great group of supporting partners is what made the difference in Buck Mountain moving forward, and that is the take away for me.  Wildfire risk reduction efforts take time and people.  It may take a while to build your team but once you have it, amazing things can be achieved.

Photos provided by Jonathan Hartsell

 

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.

 

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.

August outlook for wildland fire potential showing above normal conditions across western states and below normal across the south.

On August 1st the National Interagency Fire Center’s (NIFC’s) Predictive Services issued their newest National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for August, September, October, and November 2020. While the main objective of this outlook is to improve information to fire management decision makers for proactive wildland fire management, it is also of use to wildfire preparedness practitioners and residents on what they can do to respond to the risk.

 The maps help to visualize fire potential - red means there is an increased fire potential based on conditions and green means below normal.  As you can see there are many states under red between now and November but it doesn't have to mean doom and gloom if people plan and prepare beforehand.

 We know that preparing for wildfires and lowering home ignitability is a year-round event – not limited to a weekend or two leading up to summer. Many of you have done some excellent work this year, this a reminder to keep it going.  It might be time to revisit those weekend projects to see if additional maintenance is needed.  My family spent a lot of time this spring clearing out pine cones, needles, and oak leaves, only to have summer storms blow in and put more debris back on the ground close to our home.  We'll be going back out for round two of clean up soon.

Girl pushing lawnmower through tall grass

To help you be ready, here's a list of activities that may need a follow up:   

  • Check those gutters - they should be clear of all needles, leaves, and other debris
  • Look around the base of your home, 0-5 feet from foundation should be free from combustible material (bark mulch, leaves, needles, plants, other debris)
  • Trim and clean up dead/decadent plants
  • Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of four inches.

 Remember, small actions can made a difference. Visit our Preparing Homes for Wildfire page for more tips and handy fact sheets that you can share with your friends and neighbors.

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.

As we get deeper in to the summer, it's time to start thinking about the annual commitment that participating Firewise USA sites make.  In light of COVID-19, many have asked if Firewise USA(r) be rolling back any of its renewal requirements and specifically, the role of an educational outreach event? The short answer is no.  This is because the alternatives to in-person large events are not only achievable, but we've learned of great solutions from communities who have already done them this summer.    

Each year, communities agree to host some sort of educational outreach event and invest in on the ground actions that reduce the chance of ignition from a wildfire within a community.  These communities share their stories on all that they achieved.  These are always amazing  and inspiring, submitted via the renewal application on the online management portal.  This year, renewal applications are due by November 20th.  

It is human nature to find something that works, and then stick with it.  Many of our participants are used to having an annual meeting, maybe some food, do a presentation and handout some flyers.  In this time of social distancing, that can be difficult and may go against local safety regulations.

We are encouraging sites to get creative, try new and different ways of engaging your neighbors in the importance of everyone doing their part to protect the community. 

This list is not exhaustive, but they all meet the intent and renewal requirement of educational outreach in Firewise, so don't be limited by what you've done in the past.  

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 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.

 

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.

 

With increasing wildfire risks for many comes the reality that preparedness is a year-round endeavor. However, reducing your risk can be affordable and practical. Research from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (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. Wildfire experts from IBHS will join NFPA to outline how affordable weekend projects can have a significant impact on your wildfire risks.

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.

Despite the global challenges posed by COVID-19, another wildfire season is just around the corner. This webinar will help you prepare physically and financially to defend against the destructive threat of wildfire. Join us to learn from and interact with wildfire and insurance experts who will address questions about protecting yourself and your property, including important home insurance tips. For anyone seriously concerned about the dangers posed by wildfire, this webinar provides the information you need to stay informed and stay

safe.

 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.

.

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. 

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