Topic: Wildfire

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National Public Radio interview features Jack Cohen speaking on embers as culprits when homes ignite during wildfires

A short NPR interview aired today that included perspectives on home destruction during wildland fires. A Colorado firefighter who experienced the loss of his own home during the Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder in 2010, was a first-hand witness to the power of embers to take down a home. Dr. Jack Cohen, a preeminent fire scientist recently retired from the US Forest Service, spoke to his own years of research on the home destruction phenomenon, particularly his home destruction assessment as part of the Fourmile Canyon Fire Findings published by the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.​ For nearly three decades, Cohen's research findings have belied what we see on the screen. As firefighter Rodrigo Moraga observes in the interview, "In Wildfires, Big Flames Attract Attention, But Watch Out For The Embers," the big wall of flames is what catches our attention on television, but it is not usually the culprit in home destruction. Rather, as Cohen points out, because firefighting resources are stretched thin and embers are igniting homes ahead of the flames through wind and spot fires, nobody is on the scene when the small ignitions start - and hours later, homes are destroyed. For more about what you can do now to protect your home from flames and embers before a fire ever starts, visit www.firewise.org. To bring top wildfire experts to your region to train you to spot home ignition hazards and assist residents with sound wildfire safety advice, visit our page on NFPA Home Ignition Zone training.
_90733334_034520854 photo credit EPA Aug16

Portugal feels the brunt of Europe's wildfire season

As California faces a growing fire season with the current Blue Cut fire and others, so too does the similar climate regions of Europe.  The challenge for Europe though is that they're all occurring in the same place. An article in today's Portugal News Online reported that the 289,113 acres (117,000 hectares) lost to wildfire in Portugal this year accounts for 53.4% of all burnt area in Europe. Portugal's current wildfire loss is trending at four times their annual average between 2008 and 2015 due to an exceptionally dry winter and spring. Over 176 wildfires in central and southern Portugal since early August have built up this level of loss.  Fires last week on the Portuguese island of Madeira off the northwest African coast forced the evacuation of thousands around the capital of Funchal.  That fire also claimed the lives of three elderly residents who died in their home when it caught fire. A video by the BBC from last week shows the size of the fires burning on the Portuguese mainland.  The Portuguese government activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to receive support. Fire Departments in the UK have also lent equipment and other support to their Portuguese counterparts.   90% of fire departments in Portugal are volunteer. We often say that wildfires are not just a “western states issue” in the United States.  The recent fires in Portugal show again that with similar climate issues, drought, home development, residential preparedness efforts, and fire department response challenges, the threat of wildfire is truly a global challenge for us all to meet. Photo Credits: Flames around Funchal, BBC.com, pulled 18 August 16 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37030217 Portugal Map, BBC.com, pulled 18 August 16, Madeira wildfires: Three dead as flames reach Funchal - BBC News We want to hear from you! It's easy to comment on posts: just look for the log in link above to log in or register for your free account on Xchange. Xchange is more than a blog; it's an online community that connects you with peers worldwide and directly with NFPA staff. Get involved today!
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Predictive services shows significant changes for the southeastern U.S.

The National Interagency Fire Center, (NIFC), has released its latest Predictive Services product giving us an idea on what the seasonal outlook is for wildfire potential. Covering August through November, the report's findings are somewhat expected until we get into October/November for the Southeastern U.S. August is pretty much as expected with above normal potential for most of California, southern Idaho, Montana, western Wyoming and the Great Basin.  As we move into September, those northern areas will transition back towards normal potential while southern California will remain high and central southern Texas will climb towards above normal. However, October and November will see almost the entire southeast and much of the eastern seaboard all the way to New Jersey climb to above normal due to increased drought conditions.  Southern California will remain high withexpected Santa Ana wind conditions.  For the full report see here.​ Much of this change will be driven by a waning El Nino as we transition towards La Nina conditions into next year.  Gary Wood, Southeast Regional Coordinator for the National Cohesive Wildland Strategy says that drier conditions in fall are not unusual for the Southeast, but are increased as La Nina conditions develop. For specific predictive information on the southeast, see here. Most of central and southern Florida will be at normal potential during this time, however, some reports of central Florida having twice the number of brush fires this July and August may counter what the prediction is currently calling for. (see article here).​ So, while most areas of the nation will start to see fire potential decrease, the Southeast may be in for an interesting fall season.
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Chile provides wildfire lessons to NFPA

A trip was successful when you find it nearly impossible to describe all that was learned in 400 words and four pictures. So, I shot past the word count and added a fifth to share the Wildland Fire Division's visit to Chile this past March. NFPA went to expand its knowledge of wildfire operations in a new environment and to see how these communities are bringing their experience to preparedness planning. Not surprisingly, there were both similarities and new factors not familiar to the American experience that help us better craft our role in wildfire safety advocacy. NFPA was also fortunate to spend time with those making a difference in Chile and to build relationships for the future. Chile's experience with wildfire provides lessons from time spent around the capitol, Santiago, and in the central region around Concepción and Chillán. About a quarter of Chile's land is forested but the majority is privately owned, with nearly half of that utilized for commercial forestry operations for timber export to the world market. The visit exposed us to their developing WUI and existing intermix that would be at home in Colorado or Tennessee. Where state and federal forest management often influence our U.S. experience, multi-national forestry plantation companies play a larger role in Chile's land management. These homogeneous tree stands are on 12-24 year growth cycles and command a different focus in fire discussion. In many places, communities are next to, or within, these managed lands. These corporations are also involved in providing the fire operations and community outreach on their lands. In Chile, nearly 80% of fires are arson caused. This makes public fire prevention education, forestry understanding, and community engagement programs a major emphasis for the national forestry agency, CONAF (Corporación Nacional Forestal), in the schools and in developing communities in each of its regions. Climate change is also altering their wildfire experience. Lightning storm activity and number of days over 86 Fahrenheit have increased over 2010-2015, while annual September-March rainy season accumulation has fallen. Similar to us, their “fire season” gets longer. With population growth, developing areas are now dryer and more at risk than before. In Concepción, we visited communities developed by the state for affordable housing goals that are on former plantation lands. This interface brings challenges to design and new resident understanding of the fire threat. The visit began with our partners from South Africa who are bringing their wildland firefighter training efforts to new areas. Working on Fire – Chile, operating with the commercial forestry company, ARAUCO, trains over 1,500 wildland firefighters annually that respond to over 2200 fires each seasonally. Special emphasis is focused on personnel actions both in training and in deployment.  This provides tremendous operational “near-miss” research, leading to a strong culture of safety and injury prevention in the field. At week's end, the visit brought us back to Santiago to see first-hand, community workshop outreach achieved by CONAF's Communities Preparing for Wildfire (Comunidad Preparada Frente a los Incendios Forestales). This expanding program presents fire education and steps residents can take to increase preparedness and community engagement. As we continue to build beneficial relationships, trips like this to Chile help us see how Firewise Principles and NFPA's wildfire safety advocacy can become part of this truly global effort.
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Firewise in South Africa making a world of difference to residents at risk

Wildfire is a global issue and Firewise is playing its part around the world by enabling residents to make a difference, wherever they live. In early February, NFPA had the great privilege to meet with its wildfire partner in South Africa, the Kishugu Non-Profit Company (NPC), and others in fire and emergency services in Cape Town to learn from them about their experiences with wildfire and how NFPA can be a part of their preparedness outreach. Since 2006, Kishugu NPC has worked with NFPA in adopting the Firewise Community model to help at-risk residents with wildfire educational materials and empowering community action. South Africa has 11 official languages and socio-economic hurdles that make such positive outreach all the more valuable.  Kishugu NPC, implements the South African Government's Working on Fire Programme, utilizing Firewise as a job creation public benefit.   Each Firewise Community has a committee that delivers neighbor-to-neighbor educational outreach, risk assessments, mitigation project work, and even evacuation response as trusted voices in their community.  Working on Fire also trains and employs wildland firefighters across South Africa for response efforts, while building their fire professional abilities.While there, NFPA attended a beneficial meeting hosted by the Western Cape Government Disaster Management staff which highlighted the common wildfire issue and challenges we all face to public perception and education.NFPA visited with Chief Fire Officer Ian Schnetler, City of Cape Town Fire & Rescue, to learn about the department's experience with wildland fire response across the Cape region and its work with residents on WUI fire understanding.  NFPA also spent time with Chief Director Colin Deiner, of the Western Cape Government Disaster Management and Fire & Rescue Service, to learn about their fire public education and preparedness efforts with populations at risk.  NFPA's Learn Not To Burn and other initiatives have been used by them for fire safety messaging to school children.  Out in the field, we were honored to visit the Kishugu - South Africa Firewise Community of Goedverwacht, north of Cape Town, and applaud their Firewise board members who received fire training certification from their regional Fire Protection Association.  Goedverwacht, like many others, utilize a Firewise Garden to explain less fire-prone succulent plant use around structures.  NFPA also spent time visiting with the Firewise Community of Sir Lowry's Pass east of Cape Town (committee pictured above) to learn from their experiences in community outreach. We look forward to the work ahead with Kishugu NPC and all those addressing wildfire risks in South Africa.  Opportunities like these provide NFPA great learning experience in the field and illustrate where we can positively work with international partners to provide influence to the truly global conversation on fire safety. 
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