Area in the mountains

Leading Wildfire Management Groups Honor 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Award Winners

Thank you to all the individuals and organizations who were nominated for this year’s Wildfire Mitigation Awards. Each project submitted is a testament to the hard work and commitment of people across the country who are making a real difference in the safety of their communities against wildfire. The decision to name the finalists is never easy given all the great submissions! Congratulations to the following recipients who were chosen to receive an award: Paul Cada, Vail Fire and Emergency Services, Vail, Colorado As the Wildland Program Administrator for the Town of Vail's Fire and Emergency Services, Paul Cada has led fuels reduction projects on over 250 acres and completed wildfire risk assessments on every property in Vail. Paul’s Fire Adapted Vail program earned his town Fire Adapted Community status, and more recently, his social media campaign "Vail Wildfire Ready" resulted in 88 new resident registrations with the Vail Fire Community Connect program and a 100% increase in registrations for the county-wide emergency notification program "EC Alert." Thanks to Paul’s tireless community outreach efforts, he has inspired awareness not only among permanent residents of Vail, but also among vacation homeowners and thousands of annual visitors. William "Danny" Blevins, Kentucky Division of Forestry, Morehead, Kentucky William “Danny” Blevins is well known in eastern Kentucky for promoting wildfire preparedness and mitigation. A volunteer firefighter, fire and rescue instructor, and regional director for the Kentucky Firefighters Association, Danny was instrumental in the development of the Kentucky Fire Commission’s Wildland Firefighter Awareness program, which is now a required course for all Kentucky firefighters. Through his work with the Northeast Rowan County Fire Council (NRCFC), Danny helped Lake Lewman become one of the first Firewise USA communities in the state. Additionally, in 2014, a Triplett Creek Watershed mitigation project co-developed by NRCFC was chosen to receive grant funding by the USDA Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership. Ultimately, the project accomplished wildfire risk assessments on 1,000 homes within the watershed’s wildland-urban interface. In 2018, Danny teamed up with the Kentucky Division of Forestry to plan Kentucky’s first Wildfire Preparedness Day celebration, an event that garnered more than 500 attendees. Jonathan Riley, Chelan Fire District 1, Wenatchee, Washington In the last five years serving as the Chelan Fire District's first Community Wildfire Liaison, Jon Riley has cultivated the district's Community Wildfire Program and expanded its role within the community by offering virtual and in-person information sessions, securing grant funding, utilizing new mitigation tools for home assessments, implementing seasonal fuels reduction projects, and partnering with local organizations. Jon forged one such partnership with the non-profit CAFÉ in order to host bilingual presentations on wildfire mitigation for underserved Spanish-speaking community members. He also helped to train CAFÉ staff in providing wildfire risk assessments. Jon's out-of-the-box thinking—which most recently brought goats to Wenatchee for hazardous fuels reduction—has inspired others, both regionally and nationally, to take action to protect their communities. Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, Lake Tahoe Basin, Nevada and California The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT)—comprised of 21 federal, state, local, tribal, and non-profit entities—was formed after the Angora Fire of 2007 to tackle wildfire prevention, fuels reduction, and community preparedness in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Since 2008, TFFT has treated 65,000 acres in the Basin’s wildland-urban interface (WUI) for hazardous fuels. Those efforts paid off during the 2021 Caldor Fire. Without them, the fire would have caused massive destruction to homes and businesses in Meyers and South Lake Tahoe, killed firefighters and residents, and burned thousands of additional acres of forestland. TFFT is now the primary coordinator of wildfire mitigation work in the Basin. TFFT has helped 59 Basin communities become Firewise USA recognized and, through its "Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities" effort, hosted events and workshops that have reached over 18,000 people in-person and another 3,800 people through social media. Mike Mathis & Chris Colburn, Florida Forest Service, Southport and Tallahassee, Florida The work of Mike Mathis and Chris Colburn is a shining example of how to quickly mitigate wildfire risk following natural disasters. In October 2018, a category 5 hurricane hit Florida’s Panhandle, leaving 72 million tons of trees broken or uprooted and prime for burning. The Florida Forest Service tasked Mathis and Colburn with developing a plan to address wildfire risk imposed by Hurricane Michael. They hit the ground running, forming emergency strike teams that cleared 574 miles of forest debris on 314 private properties across eight counties. Both Mathis and Colburn were displaced by the storm like so many Floridians, but they continued to work tirelessly, inspiring county administrators to develop wildfire mitigation plans and landowners to participate in wildfire risk property assessments and clearing projects. They helped over 500 residents receive prescribed burn training, held prescribed burn classes for the public, and waged a wildfire prevention campaign to educate residents about dangerous fuel loading. Mathis and Colburn were also instrumental in getting Timber Recovery Block Grant relief to affected forestland owners. Schelly Olson, Grand Fire Protection District 1, Granby, Colorado Schelly Olson, the Assistant Chief of Administration and Community Risk Reduction for the Grand Fire Protection District, founded the all-volunteer Grand County Wildfire Council (GCWC) in 2015 to establish crucial partnerships across local, regional, state, and federal boundaries. The GCWC has since held 26 free chipping service events with over 999 participants, developed a fuels reduction cost-share program that has treated over 1,000 acres of private land, created and sold reflective signs that first responders use to navigate smoke-filled properties, and helped several HOAs identify water supplies for wildfire response. With Schelly's expertise and initiative, her organizations have implemented wildfire mitigation programs across the entirety of Grand County, an area of 1,870 square miles with 15,000 residents. Co-sponsored by NFPA, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and the USDA Forest Service (USFS), the Wildfire Mitigation Awards demonstrate the tremendous societal value wildfire mitigation efforts provide and celebrates those who have earned the highest commendation for innovation and leadership in wildfire mitigation. The awards will be presented at the IAFC Wildland Urban Interface Conference (WUI) in Reno, Nevada on March 22, 2022. If you’d like to learn more about the Awards, visit the NASF website where you’ll find information about the criteria, see interviews, and read about past awardees.
House with Prep Day sign

For homeowners in wildfire-prone communities, securing adequate insurance coverage takes education and action

Property insurance is the primary and largest financial safety net for recovering from disaster-caused property damage including wildfires. Roughly 95 percent of homeowners carry homeowners insurance, equating to some 70 million policies in force across the country. When wildfires destroy hundreds, even thousands, of homes, the payout of these policies is key to rebuilding communities and reducing the demand on public funding. As important as insurance is for both individual financial preparedness and community resilience, many Americans are poorly informed about both their own insurance needs and the overall functioning of the insurance marketplace. An estimated two-thirds of American homeowners policyholders are underinsured, typically by 20 percent, and by as much as 60 percent, imperiling their ability to recover in the event of a wildfire disaster. Moreover, as insurers reel from payouts spurred by recent wildfires—such as the $12 billion in insured losses in 2018—residents are increasingly fearful for the fate of their own coverage and rates. Such fears create political pressure for regulators to mandate rates that may not reflect actual risk and thus distort an important signal that could influence mitigation behavior. Insurers and related industries are well aware of all these factors and are actively engaged in reducing community wildfire risk through research, modeling, data analysis, and public education. During the upcoming presentation, “Sticks or Carrots? Insurance Industry Approaches to Wildfire Risk Reduction” Janet Ruiz, Insurance Information Institute; Karen Collins, American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA); and Arindam Samanta, Verisk will address these data points, focusing on steps homeowners can take to ensure that their insurance policies will adequately cover them in the event of a wildfire.   To be held on March 15, 3:00- 4:00pm EST, this presentation is part of the FREE, full-day wildfire program, “Outthink Wildfire: Identifying Solutions to End Community Loss” hosted by NFPA. A total of nine sessions are scheduled, addressing a wide range of wildfire issues, challenges, and opportunities.   To attend “Sticks or Carrots? Insurance Industry Approaches to Wildfire Risk Reduction,” register for “Outthink Wildfire: Identifying Solutions to End Community Loss.” If you’re unable to join online that day, you will still have access to all the sessions for a full year simply by registering for the event.
Representatives of a Firewise community

Stepping up to the challenge - Firewise USA participation increases along with more rigorous criteria

It’s never been more important for communities to engage in wildfire risk reduction around homes and neighborhoods. During 2021, participation in the only nationally available, standardized, and documented community wildfire risk reduction program, Firewise USA® increased to 1,839 sites in 43 states. Thirteen percent of the current total are new to the program; more than half of participating sites have been working on wildfire risk reduction for five or more years. Wildfire risk reduction is an ongoing process and must be addressed continuously due to the dynamic nature of wildfire risk. NFPA staff are especially proud of all communities that stepped up to the challenge of new criteria meant to ensure the continued high quality of the Firewise USA program. Behind every smiling face holding a Firewise sign, there is a tremendous amount of work and coordination that happens each year. Let’s take a look at the numbers! There are nearly 1.5 million people living in Firewise USA® sites around the country, working on wildfire risk reduction for 645,874 dwelling units. During 2021, these sites: Invested $133.9 million in wildfire risk reduction work Logged 2 million volunteer hours Removed 2.49 million cubic yards of flammable vegetation The volunteer hour for 2021 was valued at $27.20, and participating sites must accomplish the equivalent of one hour of work for every dwelling unit (home) in the community. They can achieve this through documenting work hours, cash spent, or in-kind services received. Most encouraging in the numbers was the significant effort to make changes to homes and home landscapes within 100 feet of the structure – modifying the Home Ignition Zone to reduce vulnerability to flames and embers. A solid 70% of the documented work was in the Home Ignition Zone last year, up from about 65% in 2020. The $133.9 million in risk reduction investment was split roughly 60/40 between volunteer hours vs. cash or in-kind. Nearly half of the annual cash investment in risk reduction were costs for professionals to do the work needed. Nearly a quarter of these investments involved home improvements to reduce ignition potential. While growth has been significant in the West, a number of states that usually aren’t associated with wildfire risk show strong commitment to wildfire risk reduction when we look at the top 10 states for Firewise participation. In 2022, NFPA will be creating more tools to help interested communities work through the Firewise process more readily. Stay tuned for what’s new as the year goes on!
Firefighter looking at fire damage

Registration for “Outthink Wildfire: Identifying Solutions to End Community Loss” - a FREE full-day program on March 15 – is now open

On Tuesday, March 15, NFPA is hosting “Outthink Wildfire: Identifying Solutions to End Community Loss,” a FREE one-day program that addresses new, innovative approaches for effectively combating today’s wildfire challenges. The program is part of the association’s virtual 125th Anniversary Conference Series, which launched last May, replacing the traditional in-person 2021 NFPA Conference & Expo. The upcoming wildfire program represents the last of the year-long series. “Outthink Wildfire: Identifying Solutions to End Community Loss” will cover a wide range of topics, including strategies to better educate the public about real vs. perceived risk to wildfire; data and research that debunk common myths about wildfire; policy changes needed in specific states to strengthen wildfire readiness; and the importance of adequate insurance coverage for homeowners and the resilience of communities as a whole. Attendees can tune in live to earn up to five credit hours (0.5 CEU) and earn an additional five credit hours on-demand for a total of 10 credit hours (1.0 CEU). Alternatively, the content can all be viewed on-demand for a total of 10 credit hours (1.0 CEU). All programs will be available on-demand for up to a year starting on June 22. The full session list with descriptions of each is now available, and registration to attend the event is open. Sign up today!
Woman and man doing yard work

New 10-Year Strategy from the U.S. Forest Service to Tackle Wildfire Hazardous Fuel Issue

On January 18, the federal government announced plans to seriously tackle the hazardous fuels that feed that nation’s wildfire crisis. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has long acknowledged the problem created by the dead trees, overgrown undergrowth and brush left by decades of vigorous wildfire suppression, bark beetle infestations and neglect. But, it has been routinely stymied by the lack of resources to address the problem at its true scale—hundreds of millions of acres. On January 18, Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, along with Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Moore, announced the federal government’s intention to treat 50 million acres1 over the next ten years and have a plan in place for maintaining that work going forward. Years of research from the USFS and others have mapped out large areas of land, known as firesheds, where wildfire ignition would likely expose communities to risk. Through this research, land managers now have a better understanding of how to prioritize and target landscape treatments to get the most risk reduction possible from the smallest footprint of treatment area. The plan released yesterday noted the USFS will use this science to guide its actions, starting with high-risk areas in California, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon. The hazardous conditions of the nation’s forests and grasslands is a major factor in the extreme wildfire conditions on display over the past several years. NFPA’s Outthink Wildfire initiative has called for a significant increase in the federal government’s response to these hazardous conditions through prescribed fire and mechanical thinning. With the funds provided through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the USFS has nearly $3 billion directly for fuel treatments to kickstart their 10-year initiative. However, as acknowledged in the strategy document released yesterday, this initiative will require policymakers to solve ongoing funding issues, build the sizable workforce necessary to carry this out, and coordinate large projects across multiple jurisdictions—all long-standing challenges. After successive years of punishing wildfires, the Forest Service’s public acknowledgement of the need to greatly increase the scale of fuel reduction, and its commitment to treating 50 million acres of wildfire risk over the next 10 years, is a breakthrough. The impact of it though will depend on the appetite to solve the long-standing implementation barriers like funding and workforce, that currently stand in the way of the hoped for “paradigm shift” in land management. However, with strong advocacy and continued stakeholder engagement, progress on these hard issues can be gained. Treating the hazardous fuel conditions that enable destructive wildfires is critical. However, it is not the only action needed to solve the problem. Science points to a future with more wildfire, even as land management policies seek to mitigate the worst possible outcomes. To live safely in this future, communities must embrace risk reduction policies—codes, retrofits, education, and strong support for their fire departments. Without similarly lofty goals for each of these needs, the end of community destruction by wildfires will remain out of reach. 1 20 million acres of National Fire Land and 30 million acres of other federal, tribal, state, and private lands.
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