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.
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
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.
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