Mom and child raking leaves

Take action to protect homes and neighborhoods on May 7 during Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

Research shows risks can be lessened when we invest time in preparing our homes and landscaping to reduce the damage caused by embers during a wildfire. That’s why NFPA and State Farm are pleased to announce the launch of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day (Preparedness Day) on May 7, 2022. Thanks to the generous support of State Farm, NFPA will be able to provide up to 100 applicants from across the country with $500 funding awards to complete a wildfire risk reduction project on event day and we make it easy for you to apply! Learn more about the application process and apply directly on our website. Since the inception of Preparedness Day in 2014, we continue to be inspired by the hundreds of individuals and groups of all ages from across the country who participate every year. Everyone can get involved and have fun, too! If you’re new to the event, or even if you participate every year, we make it easy to get involved. The following can help you get started: Check out information about how you can play a role in wildfire safety at home and download the home improvement project guidelines that apply to any residence and can be accomplished all year long. Learn about the May 7 Preparedness Day event and related information on the Preparedness Day webpage. Check out past success stories to learn how others have participated on event day. Listen to a video interview with residents and firefighters about how their preparedness efforts helped protect their community during a wildfire. Download a home ignition zone checklist and additional related resourcesthat you can use to guide you through your projects on event day and throughout the year. Download the 2022 Preparedness Day toolkit to get project ideas, tips, and ways to share your accomplishments with the community. Apply for a $500 funding awardto help with the cost of your project. There’s so much to learn and ways to get involved that we can’t wait to get started! Won’t you join us! For more information about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, how to apply for funding awards, and for project ideas and free resources to download, please visit www.wildfireprepday.org.
house on fire

Hard truths about a hard time: Marshall Fire devastation illustrates conditions leading to wildfire disaster

The fires just before the New Year in Boulder County have been devastating in terms of property loss and human suffering. I join with all my colleagues in sympathy for those who have been left homeless and those who have been traumatized by the experience of fleeing their homes with minutes to spare. In our world of wildfire and disaster resilience, we sadly know there are many others who are retraumatized by watching this event unfold, as they have so recently experienced similar losses. In addition to supporting our friends and neighbors as they recover, it is of the utmost importance that we use this time to understand what happened and to communicate how we might change future outcomes. The Marshall Fire illustrates an important truth about wildfire disasters. For decades, attempts at disaster reduction and mitigation have relied on a definition of “wildland/urban interface” to try to describe the location, or the line, where we might take protective steps when building in areas prone to nature’s fire. And for at least 20 years, NFPA has argued for an alternate description of the so-called interface, as a set of conditions that can exist nearly everywhere. In other words, wildfire disasters (what happens when homes and other structures ignite during wildfires) can happen almost anywhere given just the right conditions of vegetative and structural fuel, weather and topography. The destruction caused by the Marshall Fire, with nearly 1,000 homes and other structures obliterated, was the result of a veritable perfect storm of fire conditions. Unseasonable warm and dry conditions have persisted in the Front Range area of Colorado for months, with virtually no snow in fall or early winter. As described in a recent New York Magazine Intelligencer interview with climate scientist Daniel Swain, the region is subject to strong winds, especially in winter, that materialized on a sunny day at the end of December. With an ignition on a warm and windy day, in bone-dry vegetation, the wildfire took off through grass and brush and began to ignite the other plentiful fuel source in the form of homes and commercial buildings. With wind gusts that would qualify for a strong Category 2 hurricane along the coastline, there was no stopping the spread of flames and especially embers that penetrated vulnerable buildings through vents, cracks, garage doors and other openings. Outside, once any combustible material – grass, shrubs, mulch, a rattan doormat, a parked vehicle – ignited, it was bound to burn and to then ignite the next combustible fuel – porches, decks, combustible siding on exterior walls, outbuildings. In the dense development throughout Superior, Louisville and surrounding areas, buildings aflame easily ignited the next home, the next business, and so on. The result was urban conflagration that Swain described in the interview as not unlike the Great Fires of history (London, Chicago, and the list goes on). The reality that home destruction from wildfire can happen nearly anywhere complicates attempts to regulate new construction and to reach vulnerable residents with vital safety information. As the past week has shown, however, safety advocates and policymakers must embrace the complexity of this problem, tell the hard truths, and recommit to ending wildfire disasters. NFPA launched Outthink Wildfire last year for this very reason. We owe it to our friends and neighbors to work to make this kind of destruction rare instead of recurrent.
Ladder on a fire truck
Wildfire

Latest NFPA Podcast Takes a Sobering Look at Wildfires and the Devastating Effect on Farmers, Ranchers, and Livestock in the American West

In August, the Richard Spring Fire burned more than 170,000 acres of land through southeastern Montana. Cattle ranchers, who often serve as first responders for wildfires on their property, were hit particularly hard during this time. But this was not the first experience these ranchers have had with a wildfire. For decades, farmers, ranchers, and others have worked tirelessly on strategies to mitigate wildfire and the threats they pose to their animals. Weeks after the Richard Spring Fire, Jacqueline Wilmot, a research project manager at the Fire Protection Research Foundation, spoke with Clint McRae, a longtime cattle rancher, about his experience dealing with the Richard Spring Fire. Their conversation is captured in the podcast, Fire on the Ranch. A sobering story, McRae tells listeners what he and other ranchers have been doing to help their cattle survive, and the difficult choices they must often make during and after a wildfire burns through their area. Following McRae’s interview, Jesse Roman, senior editor of NFPA Journal, dives deeper into the topic of wildfire and interviews Michele Steinberg, the director of the NFPA Wildfire Division about this year’s fire season. Together they discuss legislative efforts currently underway to help address the damaging wildfire trends the U.S. has seen over the last five years. Listen to the podcast and read related articles about wildfire in the latest issue of NFPA Journal and share the information with others you know.    
Man raking

It's time to start working on your 2021 renewal application!

Did you know that being recognized by the Firewise USA® program requires annual commitment to action? Each year, participating communities engage in educational outreach and science-based risk reduction within their boundaries. This annual work improves the overall condition of homes and properties, increasing the odds of withstanding a wildfire.  Firewise USA sites share the work they've done through the annual renewal application, found on the Firewise USA portal. This sharing keeps them In Good Standing for the next calendar year. In 2021, renewal applications are due Friday, November 19, and can be started now. In addition to the regular criteria, some participants may need to update their Action Plan. The Action Plan is a prioritized list of risk reduction projects or investments for an induvial Firewise site, along with suggested homeowner actions and education activities that the community will strive to complete annually or over a period of years. The Action Plan should be broken down by year and reflect the community’s goals. This document is required to be updated at least every three years so that it best reflects your community’s needs and past accomplishments. As circumstances change (e.g., activities are completed, a fire or a natural disaster occurs, new construction in the community started, etc.), the action plan may need to be updated more frequently. The Action Plan update should be completed by the community's Firewise committee, which is comprised of residents and wildfire experts. The plan can be as short as one page but should address the components in the definition above. The plan should include some basic measurements for each goal, such as “Increase number of residents participating in meetings by 5 percent,” or “Increase number of homes completing all recommended actions in the 0-5 foot space by 10 percent.”  Some ideas to address in your plan can include, but are not limited to: Increase overall participation in risk reduction efforts within your community. Are there a few homes or sections of a neighborhood that are not participating? Increase the number of homes that have had a fire safety check-up or risk evaluation.  What percentage of homes have tackled the 0-5 foot space in making it non-combustible? Highlight those positive efforts, share with other community members, and work to increase the number of homes that have completed recommended actions in that area. What do your community’s gutters and roofs look like, are they covered in debris? Identify homes that are not doing annual cleanup work and find ways to encourage them – maybe they just don’t know, maybe the owners are older and need assistance, etc. What educational outreach plans do you have? Is there room for expansion of those plans?   The updated action plan is submitted with annual renewal application. Visit the portal today to check your status and get started.

Recognizing a need for clarification: Firewise recognition vs. certification

As wildfires ignite landscapes and communities during this active fire year, interest in community action to improve wildfire safety is at an all-time high. Folks are seeking out the Firewise USA® recognition program in greater numbers than ever before, with hundreds of new sites in the process of having their applications approved. This is great news, but when articles come out that a new site has met the criteria, the headlines often say that the community has become “Firewise-certified” or “earned their certification from Firewise.” What's in a name? And why doesn't “recognition” smell as sweet to copy editors as “certification?” Often, the brief articles I see celebrating a community's hard work to become safer from wildfire will use NFPA's information about Firewise verbatim, and will talk about the community being recognized for its efforts, even when the headline says “certified.” All this would be simply a fussy English major's headache, if it weren't for the real concern our program team has about what “certification” and “certified” imply. A quick web search showed a pretty consistent pattern that certification applies most often to people, not to groups, and implies a high professional standard of achievement that allows an individual to access a certain job role or professional qualification. Certified accountants come to mind. One of the few certifications I found applying to an organization had to do with the ability of organizations to access specific government funding. And of course, NFPA develops and provides certifications of various kinds to help fire inspectors, electricians, and others demonstrate technical competency in their fields. NFPA's national recognition of neighborhoods where residents organize and follow guidelines to become safer from wildfire doesn't apply to individuals (and certainly not individual homes). Yes, there are criteria that have to be met, but they are fairly flexible and are intended to encourage people living in high-risk areas to get started on a years-long, community-wide journey toward greater safety. Unlike a certification, Firewise USA recognition is not an end-point, nor the end-all-and-be-all of wildfire safety. The more we see “certified” and “certification” being tossed around in articles and online conversation, the more the perception of Firewise USA seems to become warped and conflated with individual homes meeting some mythical standard of safety or insurability. This perception is understandable, especially in California, where more and more people living in high-risk areas have experienced insurance rate increases or have had to shop for insurance when their carrier declines to continue covering their property. However, we simply can't claim that any given property is safer or its risk has been reduced just because the minimum community-wide criteria have been met on a voluntary basis. While we've seen positive effects on overall community safety over time, Firewise recognition is not a magic wand we wave to make a home with a flammable roof and overgrown vegetation safe from wildfire. Recognition is our encouragement and acknowledgment that communities have taken the first steps toward safety, and toward a sustained effort to change the results when wildfire strikes. Photo: Community members presented with Firewise USA Recognition sign, NFPA.
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