AUTHOR: Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan

Revisiting the home ignition zone: the intermediate 5-30 feet

The home ignition zone (HIZ) is the foundation NFPA has built its wildfire preparedness programs and resources on.  A concept coined by retired USFS researcher Dr. Jack Cohen, the basic premise of the HIZ is that the condition of the home (what it is made of and its state of repair) and the vegetation surrounding it, out to 100 feet, have the biggest influence on whether or not a home will ignite from a wildfire.  It is broken down into three areas of concern, the immediate, intermediate, and extended.  Previously we learned about the immediate 0-5 feet, today we'll cover the 5-30 foot zone. The Intermediate Zone is 5-30 feet from the furthest exterior point of the home.  While the 0-5 foot focuses on eliminating combustible material, this area is all about spacing and maintenance, making sure there isn't continuous vegetation all around the home.  It uses landscaping and breaks (areas of non-combustible materials such as dirt, cement, or rock) to help influence and decrease fire behavior.  When looking at a home or group of homes, here are items to consider:       Are there fuel breaks such as driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks? Are lawns and native grasses maintained? General recommendation is a height of 4 inches. Is vegetation in this area spread out? It is recommended that trees and shrubs should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up continuity; trees should be spaced to a minimum of 18 feet between crowns. Have ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) been removed so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns?  Have trees been pruned? General recommendations are up to 6 to 10 feet from the ground; for shorter trees, do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.  Are plants, trees, and lawns watered to keep them from becoming dry?  There is potential for a lot of work needed in this area, but don't get overwhelmed.  Take stock of what you have, prioritize tasks - maybe put some easy wins first, and keep chipping away.  Our preparing homes for wildfire page has excellent tips to help you on your way. This intermediate zone presents an opportunity for overlap with adjacent properties.  As you work on projects, consider reaching out to your neighbors to collaborate and leverage resources.  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, pleasevisit our webpage.
CLC with 5 other Wisconsin Firewise Sites, DNR, Forestry & NFPA manager Tom Welle

Webinar: becoming wildfire ready with Firewise USA®

When looking at wildfire preparedness, it is important to remember that everyone has a role to play, including residents.  More and more people are living where wildfires are a real risk, but that risk doesn't have to go unchecked.  There are proactive steps that individuals and neighbors can take to help protect their homes and communities and improve their safety when faced with a wildfire.   Join us Wednesday, October 7th at 4 p.m. EDT as NFPA's wildfire safety team discusses the Firewise USA program and resources to help you and your neighbors on your wildfire preparedness journey.  We'll walk step by step through the process of organizing a Firewise USA site, using our online portal and web resources to help you learn about wildfire and take action to make homes more ignition-resistant.   If you're already part of one of the more than 1,700 Firewise USA sites around the nation, we'll show you how to update your information for 2020 and point out where to find new and helpful resources to educate and motivate your neighbors. Remember, annual renewal applications are due by November 20, 2020.   Register today for Becoming Wildfire Ready with Firewise USA: Tips, Tools and Techniques and share the event with your friends and neighbors.  Just in case you aren't able to join us live, the event will be recorded and available on our website at a later date. 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.
HIZ immediate zone with attribute

Revisiting the home ignition zone: the immediate 0-5 feet

Here at NFPA we spend a lot of time sharing resources to help residents who are trying to reduce their risk from wildfire. We frequently speak of the home ignition zone and what actions to take, sometimes forgetting that people might be new to the entire concept.  With that in mind I'd like to take a moment to review the what home ignition zone is and its first component - the home and the immediate area. The Home Ignition Zone is a concept coined by retired USFS researcher Dr. Jack Cohen.  The basic idea is that the condition of the home (what it is made of and its state of repair) and the vegetation surrounding it, out to 100 feet, have the biggest influence on whether or not a home will ignite from a wildfire. Original research by Dr. Cohen and additional research from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) shows that the first 0 to 5 feet around the structure, known as the immediate zone or noncombustible zone, has the greatest impact on your risk and should be your starting point. This area is critical due to the primary source of how homes ignite - embers and small surface flames.  You want to keep this zone free of  combustible materials, which can be a landing bed for embers or can help carry surface fires up to the house. Some items to consider in the immediate zone:      Is there dead vegetation, dried leaves, pine needles, and ground debris near foundations? Has hardscaping been used around perimeters to keep them free of litter/debris? Are there concrete, stone, or gravel walkways? Have wood mulch products been replaced with non-combustible alternatives, such as crushed stone/gravel options? Are there trees/shrubs next to the home? Are there branches overhanging the roof or within 10 feet of chimneys? Check out these resources to learn more about the area and what actions to take to reduce your risk in this zone: Preparing Homes for Wildfire - get recommendations and download tip sheets (English and Spanish) to share with your family, friends, and neighbors. Immediate (noncombustible zone) wildfire research fact sheet - download this fact sheet and share far and wide with those in wildfire prone areas. Understanding the Wildfire Threat to Homes -This online learning module is an overview of fire history, fire basics, and how homes burn. The module can be completed in approximately 30 minutes and is available in English and Spanish. By spending a little time in this area you can greatly improve the chances of your home withstanding a wildfire and gain a greater peace of mind. 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.
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September wildfires remind us to be prepared

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. Household pet evacuation checklist Horses and livestock evacuation checklist 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.
Taking control of your wildfire risk brochure front picture

Achieving your Firewise USA investment requirement

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 20. 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, pleasevisit our webpage.
Buck Mountain FW sign presentation

Learning from Firewise USA sites: Buck Mountain

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 evacuation 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 <p.*2017- Fire evacuation signage put in place throughout the community</p.   *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. Visibility 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. 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.
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