Topic: Wildfire

A facilitator listening to a group

Outthink Wildfire summit works to build a bridge between barriers to wildfire mitigation and strategies to overcome them

As the past several years have shown, the mounting wildfire crisis in the U.S. presents a significant danger to people, homes, and communities, particularly those in wildfire urban interface (WUI) settings. While we know what’s needed to measurable reduce these risks, putting them into action requires buy-in and support from individual property-owners, communities, and policymakers at each level of government. Therein lies the challenge. Motivating these audiences to do their part isn’t always easy. But to truly increase safety from wildfire, we need to identify viable pathways to better combat the growing wildfire problem and put those measures into action. As a next step toward that end, NFPA hosting its first Outthink Wildfire™ summit last week in Sacramento, CA. NFPA launched Outthink Wildfire last year as a major policy initiative to stem the tide of wildfire-caused human and property losses through significant changes at all levels of government. Outthink Wildfire is about how we build, where we build, and bringing policymakers, fire service and the public together to solve the problem. The summit focused on developing a set of recommendations for the built environment, primarily tackling ways to get existing homes better protected from wildfire. Representatives from nearly 40 organizations were invited to share their input, insights, and recommendations, and to help create a template for effectively reducing wildfire risks in WUI communities. While space for this event was limited, it serves as a launchpad for many more individuals and organizations to participate going forward so that we can collectively move the needle on wildfire mitigation. Outthink Wildfire participants (in alphabetical order) American Property Casualty Insurance Association Brian Meacham Associates Build Strong America CAL FIRE California Association of REALTORS® California Building Industry Association California Building Standards Commission California Fire Safe Council California Fire Science Consortium/Cal Poly San Luis Obispo California Governor's Office City of Austin (TX) Fire Department Colorado Div. of Fire Prevention & Control Colorado Wildfire Partners Desert Research Institute Fire Marshals Association of Colorado U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) Insurance Information Institute International Code Council Munich Reinsurance America, Inc. National Association of State Fire Marshals National Disability Rights Network National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) National Volunteer Fire Council National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) NorCal Fire Prevention Officers Oregon Building Codes Division, Dept Consumer & Business Svcs Oregon Fire Marshals Association Oregon State Fire Marshals Office Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) Foundation Sonoma County (CA) Fire Prevention & Hazardous Materials Div. Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment U.S. Fire Administration UL Fire Safety Research Institute USDA Forest Service Western Fire Chiefs Association Wildland Fire Leadership Council A full report on the summit and next steps will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, a tremendous thank you to the 50-plus representatives who attended the summit this week. The enthusiasm and commitment displayed reinforces my hope and belief that we will truly be able to meet the ultimate Outthink Wildfire goal of eliminating wildfire hazards in 30 years. I also look forward to hearing from all the wildfire safety advocates and officials who were not at the summit but would like to get actively involved in the Outthink Wildfire initiative. It takes buy-in and engagement from all of us to make holistic, impactful wildfire mitigation a reality.
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.
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
House

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.
1 2 3 4 ... 52

Latest Articles