AUTHOR: Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan

Now Accepting Nominations for the 2023 Wildfire Mitigation Awards

Established in 2014, the national Wildfire Mitigation Awards program recognizes outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation. By honoring the achievements of awardees, the program sponsors seek to increase public recognition and awareness of the value of wildfire mitigation efforts. The Wildfire Mitigation Awards are jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®), and the USDA Forest Service. The program includes three awards: (1) the National Wildfire Mitigation Award, (2) the National Mitigation Hero Award, and (3) the Wildfire Mitigation Legacy Award. Effective community fire adaptation efforts can take many shapes. Creating a local mitigation coalition, implementing community wildfire protection plans, conducting community-wide assessments, promoting defensible space and home hardening, treating for hazardous fuels, and engaging fire departments and building code officials to reduce wildfire risk are ALL great examples of wildfire mitigation work. You can submit a nomination and view the nomination guidelines and selection criteria here on NASF’s website. All nominations for the 2023 Wildfire Mitigation Awards must adhere to these criteria and be submitted to this online form by Friday, November 11, 2022. To meet past Wildfire Mitigation Awardees, go to stateforesters.org/mitigation. Have questions? Please contact Meghan Marklewitz at meghan@iafc.org or (703) 896-4839. Photo: Winners of the 2022 National Wildfire Mitigation Awards (WMAs). From left: Schelly Olson, Chris Colburn (and Mike Mathis), Jonathan Riley, Danny Blevins, Paul Cada, and The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (Amanda Milici).

Firewise USA renewal season is almost here!

A critical component of the Firewise USA® program is annual commitment to wildfire safety and risk reduction action. Every year participating communities across the country host educational outreach events and organize their residents to complete activities around on their homes and in their home ignition zones (HIZ).  This annual work  improves the overall condition of homes and properties, increasing the odds of withstanding a wildfire.   In 2022, renewal applications are due Friday, November 18, and can be started now. Resident leaders should logon to the Firewise USA portal to start the process. Completing the application by the due date will keep your community In Good Standing for 2023 and ensure you are included in any reporting that NFPA does. Need some inspiration on what to tell us? Here are some highlights from 2021: Educational outreach  Two members of our Firewise Committee were trained by MOFD as Firewise Safety Ambassadors. Using this training we performed walks with individual neighbors to identify opportunities to improve the wildfire readiness of their properties. Completed review of approximately 20 properties between May and July of 2021. - Greater Monte Vista, CA. Monthly FW Committee Meetings to discuss FW activities and participation by residents throughout the year. Monthly Firewise news articles were published in the MTS Newsletter. - Myrtle Trace South, SC. Vegetation removal Program wide over 2,000 vegetation removal events were reported for over 2.5 million cubic years. Example - River Bluff Ranch, WA Removed vegetation Prescribed burning Notes: Several residents did their own DNR permit burning Recycled/reused vegetation Notes: Several residents rented chippers to recycle the vegetation they removed. Many of River Bluff Ranch residents did individual Firewise mitigation work on their personal properties this year. Trees and brush removed, bark replaced with river rock, and plants replaced with fire resistant plants. Total vegetation removed (as able to report): 32 Cubic Yards Risk reduction investment Ever community is required to meet an investment of 1 hour of work per home or the monetary equivalent, so 8 homes would equal 8 hours.  Most participants far exceed this and report a combination of hours worked and money spent.  In 2021 new and renewing sites reported over 2 million hours worked and over $134 million spent. The commitment of residents across the country to wildfire risk reduction is truly astounding and I can't wait to read about what they did in 2022! Visit the portal today to start your community's renewal and tell us how amazing you are.
Hands holding a house

Spring in to action: financial preparedness for wildfire

As we work through the last month of spring, NFPA wants to make sure you are ready for wildfires.  There are many actions when it comes to preparation ahead of a wildfire, one important step that often gets overlooked is financial preparedness. Homeowners and renters need to have property insurance in place to help recover from a wildfire or other disaster. Recent wildfire losses are highlighting a real problem of underinsurance. According to a posting on insurance.com, "Most homes are underinsured. Nationwide estimates that about two-thirds of American homes are underinsured. Some homes are underinsured by at least 60 percent and the average is about 22 percent. CoreLogic estimates that three out of five American homes are underinsured by an average of 20 percent." This means that when a loss from wildfire or other disaster occurs, much of the repair or rebuild cost will fall on the homeowner as an out-of-pocket expense. To ensure your coverage is update to-date, our friends at American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) recommend doing the following each year: Update your policy after remodels or home improvements. Ask if your policy has coverages for three key things to prevent underinsurance: Extended replacement cost; Building code upgrade coverage; and Annual inflation adjustment. Be sure your policy reflects the correct square footage, number of bedrooms / bathrooms and doors and windows. Make sure your policy reflects your home’s finishes like granite countertops or hardwood floors. Renters need property insurance too. Consider bundling renters’ insurance with your auto coverage. Add comprehensive coverage to your auto policy to protect car in a wildfire Another important step to determine if you have enough coverage to replace your possessions is to create a home inventory. 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. The current wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico remind us that wildfires can occur any time of year when the conditions allow.  Start your financial preparedness now – visit APCIA to download the How to Update Your Insurance and How to Create a Home Inventory tip sheets to guide your annual insurance review.  Share with your friends and family so they can be ready too!
500 Firewise Communities in California

California residents lead the way in Firewise USA

In the years that I've worked with the Firewise USA program, I have been amazed by the commitment of resident leaders and their community members to address wildfire hazards in their area. In the last several years we have seen rapid interest and growth in the program, especially in the west, as a result of the wildfire situation. Rather than watching fire happen to them, individuals are taking action ahead of time to improve the condition of their home and immediate surrounding property, to be more resistant to the threat of embers and surface flames from a wildfire. It truly is astounding and I'd like to take a moment to recognize an awesome achievement. Earlier in March I had the opportunity to on-board Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County, the 500th community in California…that's right, 500th! And as of writing this blog, the number of communities in good standing in California has grown to 513.   Since the beginning of 2020 California has seen a groundswell in participation, with much of the effort really occurring at the grass roots level.  While state and local partners are supporting communities, resident leaders are truly driving the charge. Firewise USA sites are guiding and mentoring each other through the recognition process, forming coalitions to learn from each other and leverage mitigation efforts, and even supporting policy changes at the local and state level to help regulate building and vegetation management.    We applaud the residents of California for stepping up and doing their part to address wildfire. A big thank you to CAL FIRE, the host of the state liaison to NFPA, and the network of local fire safe councils, fire departments, and other partners that support these communities. We look forward to seeing the great work continue.   Is your community ready to take action? Visit Firewise.org  to learn more about how to organize your community and take steps towards increasing your chances of withstanding a wildfire.
A wildfire burning at night

Maintaining vigilance through the 2021 fire year

The 2021 fire year is halfway through, and it has been a busy one so far. As of today, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reports over 32,000 fires had been reported, burning over 1.6 million acres.  Communities have been threatened and homes have been lost. Looking forward, the National Interagency Fire Center’s (NIFC’s) Predictive Services newest National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for July, August, September, and October 2021 shows much of the west above normal wildfire potential. This is setting up for a volatile situation. While the main objective of NIFC’s outlook is to improve information to fire management decision makers for proactive wildland fire management, thus better protecting lives and property, reducing firefighting costs and improving firefighting efficiency; it can also be of use to wildfire preparedness practitioners and residents. The outlook reminds us to be proactive, dedicating time throughout the year to improve your home's chances of withstanding a wildfire. Here are a few actions you can take: Clean out leaves, needles, and other debris from your roof and gutters 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. Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating Create space between plants, trees and shrubs in the 5-30 foot zone from the house, limit to small clusters of a few of each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape. For more ideas on what steps to take around your home and property visit our Preparing Homes for Wildfires Page.  You can also order a package of our Reducing Wildfire Risks in the Home Ignition Zones Poster checklists to share with your friends and neighbors.

Firewise USA® sites staying resilient in 2020

Firewise USA® is a program built on the concept of people connecting and working together. What that means to a community was flipped on its head in 2020 as in-person gatherings were not allowed or were greatly limited. Community workdays had to navigate health and safety recommendations that limited size and required additional personal protective equipment. Yet, with all the challenges presented by COVID-19, the participants of Firewise stayed committed and accomplished some amazing local risk reduction tasks. Reviewing Firewise site annual renewal reports, it was inspiring to read how communities adapted and overcame challenges in meeting the annual educational outreach criteria.  They adopted new technology, switching to virtual meetings instead of in-person. One community hosted a drive-thru event to celebrate a newly restored bridge and shared information about wildfire preparedness. Another community hosted a "safari" where residents traveled to different locations to learn about the efforts in their community and gained stamps in their passport (social distancing and masks were required).  These are just a couple of examples of the creative and adaptive solutions people found to keep local focus on wildfire preparedness going. A shift in 2020’s focus was from popular community work days to individual efforts that emphasized the importance of work on individual properties, on the home itself, and the different areas of the Home Ignition Zone. We always say that wildfire does not recognize boundaries, but it does not recognize pandemics either.  Residents across the country stepped up and far exceeded expectations.  2020 Risk Reduction investments by Firewise USA® Sites Included: 2.4 million volunteer hours worked, with more than half of those at the home and home ignition zone level; Over $54 million spent on chippers, contractors, and home improvement costs, etc; In 2020, the combined volunteer hours and project monies spent generated over $115 million. At the end of 2020 we had a total of 1,750 participating communities that were In Good Standing, with 200 of those new to the program.  We at NFPA thank all of you and your local supporting partners for your acknowledgement of the role you play in wildfire preparedness and commitment you show to being a part of the solution.  Congratulations on your continued forward progress. We cannot wait to see what you accomplish in 2021! 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. You can follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics. Photo credit: Ken Light, Orinda Firewise Committee members handing out How to Prepare Your Home For Wildfire brochure and other information at local farmers market. 
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