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Wildfire snapshot

Why? Or, more precisely: Why here?

Those are questions that need to be asked more often, and sooner in the process, when it comes to planning development in areas potentially threatened by wildfire.

In his latest "Wildfire Watch" column in the May/June issue of NFPA Journal, Lucian Deaton, a member of NFPA's Wildland Fire Operations Division team, writes that even beneficial regulatory and policy solutions regarding wildland fire can sometimes lose sight of why communities in the wildland/urban interface encourage potentially destructive development in the first place. "How are economic development models, banking and loan requirements, construction practices, local tax models, comprehensive planning efforts, and consumer 'demand' influencing the initial decision to build?" he asks. 

The challenge, Deaton says, is to reach planners and other stakeholders with solutions before potential problems become real problems—when it's too late.

One steadily rising phrase being used in fire and emergency services as well as emergency management circles is Community Risk Reduction or CRR.

DictionaryWhile this phrase has its roots in business and management, those who are pro-active in community safety and response as it relates to natural or made-made disasters are advancing this concept. What is unique are the similarities being considered in the less-traditional or less-considered aspects of emergency response and support.

From a traditional emergency preparedness and response perspective a community risk might raise concerns for a city that rests on an earthquake fault. Significant resources, time, money and effort are streamed into developing plans to prevention loss of life and mitigate the circumstances.

Consider the community that in its risk assessment recognizes that teen pregnancy is becoming an epidemic. Emergency response in the traditional sense may not recognize this as a primary concern. It’s been suggested that it is a concern. For a number of reasons ranging from a lack of pre-natal care to advanced pre-hospital care, the EMS provider will be involved in and without proper awareness and action will “burden” the system. It will be the EMS provider who will be taxed and thus a risk to the community. From a pro-active approach the EMS provider and hospital and ob-gyn professionals could work together to balance the “threat” to community risk.

Recently, the Technical Committee (TC) on Public Fire Educator Professional Qualifications, chaired by Mr. Ernest Grant, was completing its revision of NFPA 1035, Standard on Fire and Life Safety Educator, Public Information Officer, Youth Firesetter Intervention Specialist and Youth Firesetter Program Manager Professional Qualifications, 2015 edition. One item they accomplished, based on the previous edition, was the conversion from “risk reduction” to “community risk reduction”. This not only included textual changes and the need to incorporate a definition for CRR.

The Technical Committee on Fire Marshal Professional Qualifications, chaired by Mr. Paul Valentine, found itself addressing the same topic as it was revising NFPA 1037 Standard for Fire Marshal Professional Qualifications. After reviewing the NFPA 1035 definition, the TC for Fire Marshal could not address the CRR issue using that definition. They began their journey to develop a definition unique for them.

All Professional Qualifications Technical Committees and documents are overseen by the Correlating Committee (CC) on Professional Qualifications. This committee is chaired by Mr. Bill Peterson. One of Mr. Peterson’s common concerns is that Pro-Qual documents should have as much in common including format, definitions and terminology.

The CC reviewed the documents in revision and addressed the need to clarify the definition of CRR. Utilizing the common threads established in other NFPA documents, including the recent efforts by TCs Public Fire Educator and Fire Marshal Pro-Qual, the CC has established a definition which each TC that addresses CRR is encouraged to use. The following definition has been approved by the Correlating Committee on Professional Qualifications:  

Community Risk Reduction. Programs, actions, and services used by a community which prevent or mitigate the loss of life, property, and resources associated with life safety, fire, and other disasters within a community.

Annex Explanatory Material: Community risk reduction can be achieved through the adoption of prevention or mitigation initiatives, policies, protocols, and standards to address specific problems. Actions would imply that a specific plan of operation is in place and practiced. Services would incorporate fire, police, emergency medical services, and other community services that could be called upon to address the specific risk.    

The CC believes that this definition encompasses the vast concerns that emergency services, allied professional and related services and fields would recognize as it relates to Community Risk Reduction.

-Tom McGowan 

On Tuesday, May 13, 1997, a fire occurred at a board and care facility in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania. HarveysLakeState fire investigators determined that the fire most likely started on a screened-in porch. Investigators determined that the fire was caused by disposal of smoking materials on the screened-in porch area of the building. The fire killed ten residents and injured three others. The building was heavily damaged by the fire, and the property loss was estimated at $270,000.

The facility was a two-story plus basement, wood-frame structure with several additions that had been made over time, which increased the size of the building. Fire protection features included a fire alarm system with smoke detectors and heat detectors, and fire extinguishers. Interior stairways were enclosed. Steel doors with self-closing devices protected openings to the stairways; however, the self-closing device on one of the stairway doors was deactivated. Wall and ceiling finishes were noncombustible. The facility was not equipped with an automatic sprinkler system. 

Based on the NFPA's investigation and analysis of this fire, the following factors were considered to have contributed significantly to the loss of life and property in this incident:

  Improper use or disposal of smoking materials.

  Ineffective resident and staff action.

  Inadequate means of egress.

  Open fire doors in vertical fire separations.

  Room doors with inadequate fire resistance ratings.

  Lack of automatic door closing devices on individual room doors.

  Lack of automatic sprinkler system.

To read about this board and care facility fire NFPA Fire Investigations.

For more information on board and care facility fires NFPA's Fire Analysis and Research

NFPA’s report on Electrical Fires has statistical information to keep you informed about some types of HomeElectricalFiresFactSheetelectrical failures or malfunctions as a factor contributing to ignition in home structure fires.

  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 47,820 reported home structure fires involving
    electrical failure or malfunctions in 2007-2011.  These fires resulted in $1.48 billion in direct property damage.
  • These estimates are based on data from the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA’s) National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) annual fire department experience survey.

For more information on NFPA's Electrical Fires report. To learn more about electrical safety in the home . To find out more about NFPA 70 NEC go to  NFPA Codes & Standards Document Information Page.

At this year's NFPA Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, the Foundation, along with NFPA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will host a research planning workshop for human behavior in fire related to occupant evacuation in fires and similar emergencies.  The goal of the workshop will be to develop a research roadmap for this topic.  The focus will be on the practitioner's specific data and information needs for egress system design and simulation of evacuations.  The information gathered will directly inform the research plan.  

The session is Tuesday, June 10 from 11am to 12:30pm in Lagoon GH.  This session is open to anyone registered for the conference.  If you have any questions or need more information, please contact Amanda Kimball ( at the Foundation.

There are many potential pathways for wildland fires to ignite buildings within the WUI. These pathways (including both fire and ember exposure) depend on the characteristics of the wildland, the characteristics of the community, and the characteristics of the interface. The Foundation is seeking a contractor to compile information on these pathways and identify gaps to inform prevention and protection strategies in NFPA standards.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and other recent events with major impacts on the built environment, the building and emergency response communities are reassessing their future preparedness for such events. NFPA codes and standards the full spectrum of preparedness – from built in resiliency in structures and systems, to emergency planning and response. 

The Foundation seeks a contractor to map those codes and standards provisions and compile relevant technical information for NFPA technical committee use.


Fire service representatives and other safety advocates from NFPA's Northwest, Southwest, and Central regions of the United States are gathering in Denver on May 13, 2104, for a one-day home fire sprinkler summit. The event, sponsored by NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative, brings together more than 50 attendees to network, share best practices, and learn more about efforts and strategies to require the installation of fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes.

Brian and Frank

Brian Whitten and Frank Conway of Ohio.

Phil Tom Kevin

Phil Zaleski, Tom Lia and Kevin Schott of Illinois.

Jeff and Mark

 Jeff Tucker of Alaska and Mark Sweaney of Kansas. 

Rich Suzanne Justin

Rich Broderick, Suzanne Mayr of Washington, and Justin Smith of Wyoming.

Rich and Gregg

Rich Miller of Michigan and Gregg Cleveland of Wisconsin. 

Sean and Greg

Shawn Olson and Greg Kleinberg of Oregon.

Joan Mike Brian

Joan Maisonneuve of Alberta, Mike O'Brien of Michigan, and Brian Whitten of Ohio.

Amy Andy

Amy Ray (Solaro) of Nevada and Andy Cater of Idaho.

Owen Rich Tim

Owen Davis of NFPA, Rich Broderick and Tim Behlings of South Dakota.

Dan and Mike

Don Fortier of Washington and Mike Dell'Orfano of Colorado.

Ray Julie Jeff

Ray Bizal of NFPA, Julie Frasure of California, and Jeff Hudson of NFPA.

Tim and Greg

Tim Travers and Greg Cade of NFPA.

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