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138 Posts authored by: ryan.quinn Employee

Advances in technology provide benefits to efforts like the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program by helping deliver the program’s message and add value to participants.

By expanding its use of GIS (Geographic Information system), the Firewise program and USAA were able to map the boundaries of specific Firewise Communities to provide insurance benefits to policyholders in those locations.

GIS maps offer a valuable asset to Firewise Communities for better understanding their risk through analysis of mitigation work, review of a fire’s potential and identification of possible evacuation routes. Boundary mapping expands the information provided by regular GPS technology by illustrating the footprint of the entire community and what potential risks that community may face.

The goal is to complete mapping for every recognized Firewise community.

To read more on what GIS technology has offered, check out the Spring Firewise How-To Newsletter.

USAA

One of the many major achievements of 2014 was the partnership between the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program and USAA to recognize community activity with policy savings.

In May 2015, USAA was approved by the California Department of Insurance to give insurance discounts to California homeowners living in recognized Firewise Communities.

USAA believes that community-level action is important and provides this discount to members in participating Firewise Communities to reward actions taken at the community level, rather than singling out individual properties.

For more details on this story, check out the Spring Firewise How-To Newsletter.

HIZ

In support of new research on how homes ignite and how to prevent disasters, NFPA’s Home Ignition Zone workshop (HIZ) is designed to better explain how fire professionals and community residents can work collaboratively in the face of the common threat of fire.

HIZ evolved from initial research done by Research Physical Fire Scientist Jack D. Cohen which showed the risks to a structure from 30 to 300 feet from the home. Since then, researchers have found new ways of stressing the importance of residents working together and understanding how to act in fire-risk situations.

This new research adds value to those communities who take part in the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program by reinforcing what residents can do to protect their homes and help their neighbors.

Check out the Spring Firewise How-To Newsletter to read the full story on this research and how to protect your home and property from wildfire. 

Leisuretowne

The community of Lesiuretowne, NJ, has gone above and beyond as a Firewise community. Not only spreading the word about wildfire risk and safety in their own area, but they have dedicated themselves to creating a fire-adapted region in hopes that their efforts will ‘pay it forward’ by encouraging neighboring communities to become Firewise.

By implementing effective Firewise tools and resources, and working collaboratively with their state and local Fire Departments and Fire service agency volunteers, Lesiuretowne was able to identify their fire threat and create a number of projects including the removal of dead and diseased trees and home evaluations.

These efforts has cultivated a 99-percent participation rate for residents thus far and over 400 homes have had complete evaluations. But this is just the beginning.  

To read more about Leisuretowne’s efforts and successes, check out the full story in the Spring Firewise How-To Newsletter.

Behavior-change_hed
Why do we do we make the choices we do, even if we know they are not particularly healthy or safe? For the answer to that question, fire and life safety educators are turning to behavior change theory in the hope that, by shedding light on what motivates us to do what we do, they can boost their programs’ effectiveness.

Knowing why people make the life and fire safety choices they do “can be the difference between an educational initiative that falls flat and one that succeeds in creating a genuine behavioral shift,” say Karen Berard-Reed, a senior project manager for high-risk outreach in NFPA’s Public Education Division, and Andrea Vastis, a public health educator and consultant.

This is an important development in public education, they say, because too many public education programs rely on changing behavior solely by making audiences aware of risks. The challenge for safety professionals is to identify strategies that not only provide knowledge, but include attitude development and skill-building opportunities for participants. To learn more about the way public education professionals are responding to this challenge, read Berard-Reed and Vastis’ article, “Change Agents” in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal.

Receive the print edition of NFPA Journal and browse online member-only archives as part of your NFPA membership. Learn more about the many benefits and join today.

Bush_Elaine_2013-Cropped

In the winter issue of the Firewise How-to Newsletter, Elaine Bush, MSU Extension educator for Manistee County, Mich., discusses how a bulletin created by the MSU Extension provides information to residents looking for ways to reduce the risk of plants igniting during a wildfire.

She explains that using fire-resistant plants can help reduce the chances of a homes igniting during a wildfire, though reminds us that all plants will burn if they become dry enough and are exposed to enough heat. 

Along with the bulletin, Michigan Firewise staff member Brad Neumann developed a document that offers sample zoning language that could be incorporated into a community's zoning ordinance to address wildfire mitigation in response to homeowners and local officials who asked what further measures could be taken to protect their communities.

Read the full article in the How-to Newsletter.

Image result for neighbors helping neighbors

In this feature of the winter issue of the Firewise How-to Newsletter, it is shown that the most effective way of reducing wildfire risk is by spreading information, knowledge, and know-how across fire-prone communities. Those people who maintain their own defensible space are more likely to have neighbors who also maintain their defensible space.

In addition to motivating those within a community, data also suggests that where individuals get wildfire-related information matters. Findings show that higher levels of mitigation are linked to residents talking about wildfire with their neighbors.

While programs and policies can be effective in getting homeowners to mitigate risk, it seems when neighbors encourage each other it can lead to more meaningful and long-lasting landscape-level changes.

Read the full article in the How-to Newsletter

Featured in the winter issue of the Firewise How-to Newsletter, Jim Pauley recognizes the nearly 1100 active Firewise communities in the US for their ongoing efforts in reducing wildfire risk. As of this year, there are over 1.3 million Wildland Urban Interface residents living in Firewise communities.

Mitigation projects have been very successful in protecting homes and properties from the damaging risk of Wildfire thanks to the actions of these people. Their commitment and dedication are what drives and inspire even more people to participate in Wildfire prevention programs.

For those who will be renewing their end of the year renewal application, check out the renewal video on the Firewise homepage for more information.

 

CaptureOver 1,000 communities across the country have worked tirelessly and passionately to earn the honor of being able to call themselves “Firewise”. But even after they get the recognition, they need to work just as hard to retain the title.

One of the requirements is having to host an annual “Firewise Day”. The Firewise Day is essentially one day that is set aside to hold events with the intention of educating neighbors about being Firewise, building community spirit and improving their current wildfire readiness strategy.

Every community has an underlying common factor in that they have all taken the necessary steps to be Firewise. But each community is different, with different needs based on their geographic location, climate, so their respective Firewise Board has complete freedom in deciding what, where and when their Firewise Day is.

Over the years, communities have hosted state fair exhibits or community clean-up days. An event that is quite popular is planning a “chipper day” in which volunteers gather equipment and chip up brush and limbs to make the area less of a fire threat. 

In this season’s Firewise How-To Newsletter, we talk to Sheila Doughty, Arkansas Firewise Information Officer with the Arkansas Forestry Commission, for insights on planning a fun, educational Firewise Day. With 139 recognized Firewise communities in Arkansas, she has experienced a lot of various Firewise Days.

One event Doughty particularly enjoys is when an Arkansas community combines their Firewise Day with their Halloween program at a local school. Everyone in the community who trick-or-treats receives Firewise handouts and candy, and is registered to win a prize.

There are many other events people have held to fulfill their Firewise Day activity requirement and if you want to read all about them, check out our Fall Firewise How-To Newsletter where Doughty highlights them all!

Ppp

In early August of this year, lightning ignited a wildfire approximately 12 miles northwest of Ellensburg, WA. The fire, fueled by grass, brush and timber, destroyed 19 structures and over 8,800 acres of land. In the fall issue of the Firewise How-To newsletter, Melinda Mays shares her story of how a little foresight and preparedness prevented her family’s cabins from being destroyed by this fire.

Melinda and her husband Tyler’s families each respectively owned property in Kittitas County, which is close to the Ellensburg area. Over the past four years, vegetation around Tyler’s side of the family’s cabin had been routinely thinned by the cost-share program run by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). And so during this year’s Snag Canyon Fire, although the fire did burn through sections of the thinned land, it stayed mostly on the ground and eventually burned out. Thanks to these preparedness efforts, what could have resulted in a loss of 80 acres of harvestable timber, was instead left untouched.

Melinda’s family, however, owned property on the opposite side of the canyon, where there were no NRCS clean-up efforts yet. She was aware of the dangers of the fire and knew she would likely lose her land and cabin if she did nothing. So she took matters into her own hands and, with the help of her family, piloted clean-up efforts which saved her house.

Read more about Melinda Mays and the steps she took in the fall’s Firewise How-To newsletter

 

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Home to the Olympic National Park and infamous Mount Rainier National Park, no one can dispute the fact that Washington is one of the most scenic states in the country. And with steep canyons lined with emerald green pine trees, the Forest Ridge community is quite possibly one of the most picturesque places in a state which is aptly coined as the “evergreen state.”


Homes in the Forest Ridge community are large, have wood shake roofing and are mainly located in heavily forested areas with little or no defensible space. The roads snaking around the homes are narrow with dead-ends that make it nearly impossible for rescue vehicles to turn around. And while aesthetic, the thick vegetation in the area serves as a major wildfire threat.


When local residents realized just how much at wildfire risk their community was, they decided to take immediate action.


Homeowners, local elected officials, Chelan County Fire District No. 1 and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), held a community meeting and created a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), which outlined all the main fire-hazards that needed to be tackled.


Then the Cascadia Conservation District and the DNR awarded a grant to the Chelan County Fire District. This grant was used to clear out forest fuels in a plot of land in Forest Ridge. Residents, seeing the success of this decided to take it upon themselves to take similar measures and continue the clearing up initiative.


Two years later, the community members banded together to create the Forest Ridge Wildfire Coalition (FRWC), which is dedicated to the continued efforts to prevent wildfire disasters in the area.


Their Firewise Day events in the past have included guest speakers, a show-and-tell with Firewise equipment and a pot-luck lunch.


For their efforts to keep their community safe from wildfires, Forest Ridge not only became a proud Firewise-recognized community in 2010, they also became one of the five Firewise Challenge winners!


For their prize, they get $5,000 to use toward Firewise efforts. They plan to use this money to continue their ongoing efforts to remove and chip brush and make sure homes in the community are prepared for a fire.


 

There are other communities in Washington that have just as exciting stories. Read about them on their success stories page!


Hartstene Pointe

Lake Cushman

Lummi Island Estates

Orcas Highlands

River Bluff Ranch

Ryderwood

Shelter Bay

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QuincyHSMembers

This summer’s Firewise How-To newsletter, shows us how a small group of school students can have a big impact when it comes to making a place safer from wildfires.

The small city of Quincy, in Northern California, is located in the granite-rich Sierra Nevada valley. Quincy has relatively mild winters and the summers are hot and sunny, perfect for biking or horseback riding.

Since 2000, there have been large fires occurring with greater frequency in close proximity to the town. Typically, there have been 100 to 200 fires in the area per year. With this being a major issue for the safety of the community, students from Quincy High School’s S club took it upon themselves be a part of the 2014 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. For their project they chose to help elderly residents with clearing flammable debris on their properties to reduce the risk of damage to their property or homes from wildfire. They picked up pine needles, fallen branches and cut brush, and then hauled it away in pickup trucks to the dump.

Read what the Quincy students themselves thought about the project in the Newsletter!

Rimrock

With the leaves slowly turning orange, ballet flats being replaced with riding boots and pumpkin spice lattes warming up everyone’s hands, there’s no denying it’s the beginning of fall. And what better state to experience it all than Oregon—the state with fall weather almost throughout the entire year—to highlight for this week’s Firewise blogpost.

Rimrock West, a subdivision in the Deschutes River canyon was densely packed with juniper and pine and entwined with thick brush and grass, which wouldn’t have been a major concern if not for the flammability of the vegetation and its close proximity to houses in the community. Around 40 homes sit on narrow roads with only one access road—which makes a quick evacuation for all the residents during a potential wildfire nearly impossible.

Every year, property owners tried to reduce the fire risk by raking up dead and dry plants. But these efforts alone would not be enough to save their homes in the event of a wildfire. So Oregon’s Department of Forestry (ODF), Bend Fire and Rescue and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducted a fire safety assessment and were able to list all the potential risks.

Most of Rimrock West’s houses were built over 30 years ago when they were required to have wood shake roofs. These wood roofs are most vulnerable during a wildfire because of flying embers from the flammable overgrown brush and vegetation. The residents were quick to find a solution for this. With the help of the Firewise Communities/USA Program tips, they cleared up their yards to help interrupt the fuel pathways from the brush to their homes, and pruned all low hanging limbs from trees.

And now, at least 91 percent of Rimrock West's resident homes meet Firewise standards.

For all their hard work, the community received their Firewise Community status and a National Fire Plan $5,000 matching grant.

Read more about Rimrock West’s efforts on the Firewise stories page.

In addition, there are other communities in Oregon that really worked tirelessly to earn Firewise status. Read all about their efforts! The communities are:

Horseshoe_lake_1

Nestled between Mount Susitna and the Talkeetna Mountains in Alaska, lies the small community of Big Lake. There are less than 3,000 people who live there and the area receives, on average, 51.4 inches of snowfall per year.

In June 1996, a fire known as the Miller’s Reach Fire, spread through and destroyed nearly 37,000 acres of land. Many Big Lake residents lost their homes and means of livelihood because of how much the fire consumed. Residents of the Horseshoe Lake Community, a smaller community located within Big Lake, had to be evacuated, but none of the residents were, thankfully, hurt.

Horseshoe Lake covers over 3,000 acres in a black spruce, birch and muskeg forest and it houses around 135 homes and recreational cabins. The Alaskan black spruce is known to be highly flammable.

Since the Miller’s Reach Fire, residents have come together to form an informal Breakfast Club to prevent such a disaster from happening again. They have met twice a week since the fire to accomplish tasks that would make Horseshoe Lake more Firewise.

Then in 2006, with the ten-year commemoration of the devastating Miller’s Reach Fire on the horizon, Horseshoe Lake received Firewise recognition. The main goal for the first year of the program was to educate people about wildfires. Firewise material was distributed to property owners and neighbors spent hundreds of hours clearing away fire hazards and creating defensible space.

So far, the community has completed a four-year project designed to bring natural gas into the area, thereby eliminating oil and propane fuel tanks from their properties and a neighborhood directory that includes information such as emergency contacts, residents with fire pumps, and Firewise information has also been scripted for quick use during a wildfire.

Watch their Community Planning for Wildfire video on the Horseshoe Lake’s success page!

Horseshoe_lake_1

Nestled between Mount Susitna and the Talkeetna Mountains, lies the small community of Big Lake. There are less than 3,000 people who live there and the area receives, on average, 51.4 inches of snowfall per year.

In June 1996, a fire known as the Miller’s Reach Fire, spread through and destroyed nearly 37,000 acres of land. Many Big Lake residents lost their homes and means of livelihood because of how much the fire consumed. Residents of the Horseshoe Lake Community, a smaller community located within Big Lake, had to be evacuated but none of them were, thankfully, hurt.

Horseshoe Lake covers over 3,000 acres in a black spruce, birch and muskeg forest and houses around 135 homes and recreational cabins.

Since the Miller’s Reach Fire, residents have come together to form an informal Breakfast Club to prevent such a disaster from happening again. They have met twice a week for the past ten years to accomplish tasks that would make Horseshoe Lake more Firewise.

 Last year, they completed a four-year project designed to bring natural gas into the area, thereby eliminating oil and propane fuel tanks from their properties. A neighborhood directory that includes information such as emergency contacts, residents with fire pumps, and Firewise information has been scripted for quick use during a wildfire.

For the past three years, residents have also participated in a clean-up project to clear roadways of trash and woody debris.

Then in 2006, with the ten-year commemoration of the devastating Miller’s Reach Fire on the horizon, Horseshoe Lake received Firewise recognition. The main goal for the first year of the program was to education people about wildfires. Firewise material was distributed to property owners and neighbors spent hundreds of hours clearing away fire hazards and creating defensible space.

Watch their Community Planning for Wildfire video

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