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Make sure your car does not start a wildfire

Due to the extreme conditions in some areas such as low humidity in the vegetation, extended periods of drought, high temperatures and high winds, extreme caution should be paramount in everyday activities out of doors.  Driving a car is one of the activities we all enjoy during the summer season, especially as we travel for summer vacation time.  Make sure that your road trip is not the cause of a wildfire.  The Arizona Department of Transportation shared some tips: Avoid driving or parking your vehicle in tall grass. (Or any tall dry vegetation) Never throw a burning cigarette out of a vehicle. When pulling a trailer, attach safety chains securely; loose chains can drag on the pavement and cause sparks, igniting roadside fires. Look behind you before driving away from fire-sensitive locations, such as areas with tall grass or campsites, to check for signs of a developing fire. Observe “Red Flag” fire-weather warnings. These warnings are issued when weather conditions are conducive to the easy start and rapid spread of wildfires. Always use a spark arrestor on internal-combustion engines. You can also: Follow all public-use restrictions and access closures – It is important to check with local agencies about any closures before venturing off road. Be prepared – Carry a shovel and a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and OHV. Call 911 immediately if you see a roadside fire and give an accurate description of the size and location of the fire including mile marker information, the side of the road (are you traveling east, west etc.), the last exit you passed or nearest landmark. Image of car fire in Boise from the Bureau of Land Management Car Fires themselves can be a cause of wildfires.  A June 14th 2015 article in the Boise Weekly, Car Fire Sparks Wildfire Near Jump Creek, shared that; "Firefighters say a car fire—the third in one week—sparked a wildfire that has scorched more than 330 acres, eight miles south of Marsing."  Another article dated June 19th 2015 on the KCRA.com website, Roadside Truck Fire Sparks Wildfire Near Oakhurst, talked about a pickup truck that caused a fire near Oakhurst, California that burnt hundreds of acres.  Many times simple maintenance items overlooked can cause your car to catch fire.  The NFPA has some interesting statistics on car fires: U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 152,300 automobile fires per year in 2006-2010. These fires caused an average of 209 civilian deaths, 764 civilian injuries, and $536 million in direct property damage. Facts and Figures Automobile fires were involved in 10% of reported U.S. fires, 6% of U.S. fire deaths. On average, 17 automobile fires were reported per hour. These fires killed an average of four people every week. Mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in roughly two-thirds of the automobile fires. Collisions and overturns were factors in only 4% of highway vehicle fires, but these incidents accounted for three of every five (60%) automobile fire deaths. Only 2% of automobile fires began in fuel tanks or fuel lines, but these incidents caused 15% of the automobile fire death. You can take simple steps to prevent a car fire: • Have your car serviced regularly by a professionallytrained mechanic. If you spot leaks, your car is notrunning properly, get it checked. A well-maintainedcar is less likely to have a fire.• If you must transport gasoline, transport only a smallamount in a certified gas can that is sealed. Keep awindow open for ventilation.• Gas cans and propane cylinders should never betransported in the passenger compartment.• Never park a car where flammables, such as grass,are touching the catalytic converter.• Drive safely to avoid an accident. For more information about car fire safety download the NFPA's car fire safety pdf.  Enjoy your road trip wherever your travel plans take you and have a safe and memorable time.
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Desolation of the Black Dragon Fire (Heilongjiang)

During the month of May in 1987, one of the largest and most damaging wildfires on record globally, The Black Dragon Fire (Heilongjiang) in China reduced about 1/5th of Chinese coniferous forests by more than 3 million acres in the Heilongjiang Province to ash and burnt stumps and claimed at least 200 lives.  The fire started on May 6th on a hot dry day impacted by high winds in the Black Dragon River area of China. On the Russian side another 3 wildfires may have impacted up to 15 million acres. In Russia the river is called the Amur River.There is no record of a fire of this magnitude in the recorded history of 24 dynasties in China.  There was concern that the magnitude of the fire transformed continental climatic conditions contributing to the desertification of Northwest China.  According to recorded eye witness accounts of the fire in The Great Black Dragon Fire: A Chinese Inferno by Harrison E. Salisbury, the fire was like “a red sea wave. It sounded like an artillery barrage. It was the sound of terror. A tornado of fire.”  One young forester he quoted said; “Well, I guess you could say it sounded like the roar of a dragon.”  The cause of the fire was improper brush cutting by a newly hired inexperienced worker, though any spark would have started the fire with the lack of rain, heat and high winds in this area which had frequently experienced fires, though not of this magnitude.Image from the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Website from GFMC archivesA colleague of mine at NFPA, Wenting Wang, told me that as a child lessons learned from the fire were taught to her in school in China. She said, “However, the Chinese government had learnt a lesson from the fire. The new completed system was set up to recover the forest.  Increased land has been fenced off for forestation. The population in forest and timber area has been decentralized and reduced substantially after the fire. A big progress has been made in reforesting formerly cultivated land. The NFPP (Natural Forest Protective Project) was started in 1998. After the effort of 20 years, the ecosystem has been restored. “   She also told me that a memorial museum was built in 1988 to show the process of the fire and the progress people have been made after the fire. Image from Haiku DeckWe can all learn a lesson from this fire and others, to take care doing the right thing the right way and implementing Firewise principles to protect our properties and communities.  Wildfires can occur anywhere in the United States.  A colleague shared an article about the wildfire potential in Massachusetts and lessons learned from the Miles Standish State Forest  Fire 61 years ago this week.  We can take action that makes a difference. 
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Doing the right thing the right way to prevent sparking a wildfire

Now that summer is upon us, we all want to do our part to keep our homes and properties safer in the event of a wildfire but it is so important to act carefully, taking the necessary precautions not to be the cause of a wildfire while trying to do the right thing.  Operating equipment like chainsaws, lawn mowers, and tractors improperly can cause sparks that could ignite a wildfire. We need to act with care to make sure that we are doing the right thing the right way.  A CAL FIRE flyer stated that over 1,600 wildfires are caused in California alone using equipment the wrong way.  You don't want to be the cause of a wildfire by using a mower improperly, like the Golden Gates Estate fire in Florida, or the 22 million dollar Oregon wildfire. Picture submitted for Wildfire Prep Day activity by Debora Rice from North Fork, California Here are some important tractor use and mowing tips to help you do the right thing the right way: (Remember metal blades hitting rocks can spark a wildfire) Mow during the cool time of day generally while there is still dew on the ground, not during the day and especially not when the wind is blowing. Don't top off fuel tanks. Make sure spark arrestors are in proper working order and there is no carbon build up. Keep a shovel and water source or fire extinguisher close by at all times. When transporting tractors, mowers and recreational vehicles make sure that chains on the trailers are not hitting the pavement as you are driving, throwing sparks. Take special care when using mowers and tractors in dry grass that can easily ignite. Remove rocks and metal from the yard that could be hit by the mower and cause sparks. Keep a cell phone with you and dial 911 in the event of an emergency. The US Forest Service (with their One Less Spark One Less Wildfire Campaign) along with Betty White created a cute YouTube video that reinforces how you can be more careful as you act responsibly this year while you work and play outside.
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Highlights from the FAC Reference Guide: Collaboration and Outreach

We continue to promote the contents of the, “Guide to Fire Adapted Communities,” and the additional resources and expertise of the various Fire Adapted Community Coalition members.  The guide's “collaboration and outreach” section speaks to the importance of this in a Fire Adapted Community, creating a strong local team, and available tools for success.  The outreach role of fire departments in a Fire Adapted Community is key.  The International Association of Fire Chiefs' Ready, Set, Go! Program Manager Caitlin McGuire shared with me that, “A fire service members' voice is uniquely trusted, respected, and admired by the general public. The FAC fire preparedness message can save lives, and resonates to the community t hrough the voices of our fire service members.”  Caitlin went onto explain that, “Implementing FAC outreach into your department's educational plan is the simplest way to provide important information to the varied audiences within your community. Not only does this outreach enable you to engage with the residents you serve, but it can provide great relationship-building opportunities with other agencies, local officials, local businesses, and neighborhood associations.” The guide's outreach section provides both information and context on available tools for local success.  These include the IAFC's Ready, Set, Go! Program for fire department outreach; the National Volunteer Fire Council's Wildland Fire Assessment Program for the fire service; and NFPA's Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program for residents and community groups.  The section also provides a great collaboration and outreach case study of the Towns County, GA, Fire Adapted Communities effort.  Wildfire safety outreach materials for the fire service can also be obtained from the US Fire Administration.  Learn more about the role of collaboration and outreach in a Fire Adapted Community.  Please visit the resources page on Fireadapted.org to learn more or download the guide from here.
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Clearing a Path for People with Special Needs Clears a Path for Everyone

NFPA's Conference & Expo 2014, Las Vegas, NVDispatches from Mandalay – “Clearing a path for people with special needs clears a path for everyone,” was the message on Tuesday at NFPA C&E from Alan Fraser, Senior Building Code Specialist with NFPA.  In his well-attended session on emergency evacuation planning and the 20% of the population missed, Fraser explained to the audience that we must consider what evacuation means to us when we become disabled, and not if we become disabled.  Often referred to as, “people with access and functional needs,” Fraser explained that, in addition at-risk populations like children and the elderly, approximately 56 million Americans deal with speech, hearing, sight, mobility, or cognitive challenges that complicate their ability to receive and respond to evacuation calls.  In wildland fire, whether it be a half-acre leaf fire in a housing development, or a multi-thousand acre “media fire” out west, the risk to residents and resources remains the same.  The ability for all residents in a community to receive important information and have the ability to act upon it in a timely manner is important for their wellbeing, and that of public safety personnel moving into effected areas.  Fraser stressed that in the, “emergency evacuation cone of response” – which starts at the individual and builds out past the home and community, to jurisdiction and beyond depending upon the risk – the role that each resident can play and the requirements for necessary communication between levels and local actors must be identified and connected before an event occurs.  Fire Adapted Communities strongly promotes such interaction and dialogue between the various audiences that face the common threat of wildfire.  Learn more about the role you can play and the connections you can make with others in your greater community.    
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Want extra credit? New ISO rating schedule gives points for fire prevention and education

Fire departments around the country have eagerly awaited the most recent update to the Fire Suppression Rating Schedule (FSRS) developed by the Insurance Services Office. This system classifies communities according to performance in emergency communications, fire response and suppression and water supply, and has provided these ratings to insurers for more than 30 years. Insurance companies purchasing this data use it to develop underwriting practices – so improved ratings can lead to lower insurance premiums for homes and businesses in many instances.What's new with this long-awaited revision? First, ISO is referencing many more NFPA codes and standards than in the past. This means that as the NFPA documents are revised, the rating schedule will be revised – a great way to ensure that the ratings keep up with new technology and changing practices. Communities all over the US will also be happy to learn that for the first time, they can earn “extra credit” – up to 5.5 points – for demonstrating fire prevention, education and investigation programs. In other words, the ratings – and thus many insurance companies – will begin to account for fire mitigation programs in a quantifiable and creditable way.NFPA has developed a resource list of all the codes and standards referenced in ISO's rating schedule, along with a wealth of resources for fire departments and communities to consider when updating or initiating fire prevention and education programs. Check www.nfpa.org/iso for a list with links to each standard and much more on Firewise®, Learn Not to Burn®, Remembering When® and other fire prevention tools that might give your community a leg up on improving its fire safety ratings.
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