Topic: Wildfire

Wildfire with houses in the forefromt

Time Is Running Out! Apply for Your Community Wildfire Defense Grant Today.

With tens of thousands of communities in the United States located in wildfire-prone areas, there is an urgent need to invest in mitigation measures that will reduce the risk to people and homes. Responding to this, last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act established a $500 million Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) program to help local governments and other groups plan and implement mitigation projects. After several months developing guidelines and eligibility rules for the program, the US Forest Service has opened up the grant application process. Communities with high or very high wildfire hazard potential, those that have been impacted by a severe disaster, and those that are low-income are especially encouraged to apply. Information on the application process, award size, timing, match requirements, and other basics can be found on the Forest Service’s website. One key thing to know is that applicants will need to ground their proposed projects in their Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs). Communities without a CWPP, or those with a CWPP over 10 years old, can use the grants to develop these plans. In addition to this planning process to assess the scope of the wildfire hazard and prioritize mitigation actions, the grants can be used to build other fundamentals, like sound land-use and building practices, a skilled workforce, and an educated public. Grants can be used to support implementation and enforcement for wildfire-related codes and standards including NFPA 1140, Standard for Wildland Fire Protection, to train and certify public officials and others in the community on mitigating wildfire hazards, and to educate the public through programs like Firewise USA®. Large-scale projects, like clearing fuel breaks and defensible space on private and public land, are eligible, too. But developing the foundational tools for mitigation ensures prevention and preparedness are part of the community fabric. The deadline to apply for the CWDG is October 7. However, communities that miss out this year will have an opportunity next year, as the program is set to run for five years. The Infrastructure Act provided a valuable down payment to help lower wildfire risk for millions of homes with significant exposure. Now, it will be up to communities to sustain it. Learn more about the grant program—and download a fact sheet on how the grant money can be used to invest in NFPA resources—at nfpa.org/wildfire.

Now Accepting Nominations for the 2023 Wildfire Mitigation Awards

Established in 2014, the national Wildfire Mitigation Awards program recognizes outstanding work and significant program impact in wildfire preparedness and mitigation. By honoring the achievements of awardees, the program sponsors seek to increase public recognition and awareness of the value of wildfire mitigation efforts. The Wildfire Mitigation Awards are jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®), and the USDA Forest Service. The program includes three awards: (1) the National Wildfire Mitigation Award, (2) the National Mitigation Hero Award, and (3) the Wildfire Mitigation Legacy Award. Effective community fire adaptation efforts can take many shapes. Creating a local mitigation coalition, implementing community wildfire protection plans, conducting community-wide assessments, promoting defensible space and home hardening, treating for hazardous fuels, and engaging fire departments and building code officials to reduce wildfire risk are ALL great examples of wildfire mitigation work. You can submit a nomination and view the nomination guidelines and selection criteria here on NASF’s website. All nominations for the 2023 Wildfire Mitigation Awards must adhere to these criteria and be submitted to this online form by Friday, November 11, 2022. To meet past Wildfire Mitigation Awardees, go to stateforesters.org/mitigation. Have questions? Please contact Meghan Marklewitz at meghan@iafc.org or (703) 896-4839. Photo: Winners of the 2022 National Wildfire Mitigation Awards (WMAs). From left: Schelly Olson, Chris Colburn (and Mike Mathis), Jonathan Riley, Danny Blevins, Paul Cada, and The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (Amanda Milici).
A stormy sky

September is National Preparedness Month: Is Your Community Ready to Respond to a Severe Weather Event or Emergency?

While the warmer months of the year signal a time when we can indulge in vacations, beach days, and outdoor activities, the summer and fall are also when hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires, and other potential natural disasters make their impressive mark across many areas of the United States, often disrupting the rhythm of our daily lives. According to the National Hurricane Center, four systems are currently forming in the Atlantic: Hurricane Earl, expected to impact Bermuda in the coming days, Hurricane Danielle, and two tropical waves. Recent heavy rainfall in Rhode Island, Georgia, and Indiana caused deadly flash floods and thousands of power outages. Out West, excessive heat warnings and heat advisories are in effect across California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona, prompting red flag warnings and the potential for more extreme fire behavior. Hurricane season began June 1 and ends in late November, but according to the National Weather Service, most storms peak in mid-September and October. And it’s not just hurricanes or wildfires that make the news; the Plains and Great Lakes regions often start their battle with freezing conditions and snowfall during the fall months, too. Ready, a national public service campaign, has earmarked September as National Preparedness Month and urges those of us tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and related hazards, to work together, help educate, and empower the public to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate emergencies before they become tragedies. The theme for this year’s campaign, “A Lasting Legacy,” reminds us that the life we’ve built is worth protecting. Preparing and planning ahead of disasters help keep families safe during emergencies and long after an event has passed. NFPA® has a wealth of information to help guide building owners and facility managers, first responders, health care facility managers, electrical professionals, and public educators, as they prepare ahead of weather events in their area and work closely with communities to develop emergency plans. These resources are free and can be easily shared. For facility managers and business owners: For answers to bigger emergency planning challenges and questions, NFPA 1600®, Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management, is a vital guide for the development, implementation, assessment, and maintenance of disaster/emergency management and continuity of operations programs. Business owners can also utilize the NFPA Emergency Preparedness Checklist, which helps people identify where to focus their emergency preparedness efforts. With the peak of hurricane and wildfire seasons upon us, government agencies and aid organizations may need to shelter potentially thousands of storm and fire evacuees. A recent episode of the NFPA Podcast, Disaster Planning During a Pandemic, introduces two emergency management experts who share lessons learned from responding to past incidents during the pandemic, including several new strategies that will likely remain in place long after the pandemic is over. For first responders: First responders face many hazards when working with vehicles that have been submerged in water, particularly with hybrid or electrical vehicles. The Submerged Hybrid/Electrical Vehicle Bulletin from NFPA breaks down the safety issues to help keep first responders safe when working in flooded areas. A free toolkit is also available for first responders, which provides the information and resources needed to help local residents prepare ahead of weather events. For electrical professionals: Electrical professionals are often tasked with equipment maintenance for electrical, electronic, and communication systems and equipment found in multifamily residential complexes, industrial plants, and commercial buildings to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries. The NFPA Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist builds off recommendations in Chapter 32 of the 2019 edition of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, and provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster. For health care providers: New criteria require health care providers to have extensive plans in place for numerous types of events including hurricanes as part of an emergency preparedness rule passed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in November 2017. Requirements for emergency and backup power supplies as well as consideration of other logistical needs for long-duration events are an important part of the rule. Find information that can help medical providers with their emergency preparedness needs. In September 2019, an NFPA white paper was introduced to help health care facilities meet the requirements of the CMS emergency preparedness rule. For the public: A fact sheet and related information provide residents and businesses with easy wildfire risk reduction steps they can do around their homes and buildings to make them safer from wildfire and blowing embers. An escape plan activity sheet helps families prepare and practice an escape plan in case of a fire in the home. An emergency supplies kit checklist provides a list of items a family may need in case of an evacuation due to an emergency weather event. A tip sheet provides the facts and steps homeowners can take to safely use portable generators in the event homes lose power after a storm. With so much severe weather happening across the country, the time to start preparing communities is now. Make Preparedness Month the jump start you need to put plans in place. For these and other related information sources, visit the NFPA emergency preparedness webpage.

Firewise USA renewal season is almost here!

A critical component of the Firewise USA® program is annual commitment to wildfire safety and risk reduction action. Every year participating communities across the country host educational outreach events and organize their residents to complete activities around on their homes and in their home ignition zones (HIZ).  This annual work  improves the overall condition of homes and properties, increasing the odds of withstanding a wildfire.   In 2022, renewal applications are due Friday, November 18, and can be started now. Resident leaders should logon to the Firewise USA portal to start the process. Completing the application by the due date will keep your community In Good Standing for 2023 and ensure you are included in any reporting that NFPA does. Need some inspiration on what to tell us? Here are some highlights from 2021: Educational outreach  Two members of our Firewise Committee were trained by MOFD as Firewise Safety Ambassadors. Using this training we performed walks with individual neighbors to identify opportunities to improve the wildfire readiness of their properties. Completed review of approximately 20 properties between May and July of 2021. - Greater Monte Vista, CA. Monthly FW Committee Meetings to discuss FW activities and participation by residents throughout the year. Monthly Firewise news articles were published in the MTS Newsletter. - Myrtle Trace South, SC. Vegetation removal Program wide over 2,000 vegetation removal events were reported for over 2.5 million cubic years. Example - River Bluff Ranch, WA Removed vegetation Prescribed burning Notes: Several residents did their own DNR permit burning Recycled/reused vegetation Notes: Several residents rented chippers to recycle the vegetation they removed. Many of River Bluff Ranch residents did individual Firewise mitigation work on their personal properties this year. Trees and brush removed, bark replaced with river rock, and plants replaced with fire resistant plants. Total vegetation removed (as able to report): 32 Cubic Yards Risk reduction investment Ever community is required to meet an investment of 1 hour of work per home or the monetary equivalent, so 8 homes would equal 8 hours.  Most participants far exceed this and report a combination of hours worked and money spent.  In 2021 new and renewing sites reported over 2 million hours worked and over $134 million spent. The commitment of residents across the country to wildfire risk reduction is truly astounding and I can't wait to read about what they did in 2022! Visit the portal today to start your community's renewal and tell us how amazing you are.

Lessons learned on wildfire communication and community initiatives

Isabeau Ottolini is a PhD candidate from the Open University of Catalonia (Spain) and the European project, PyroLife. She is researching Community-based Wildfire Communication, and has recently done her research stay at NFPA’s Wildfire Division. In this blogpost, she takes us along her visit across the USA, and shares lessons learnt on communicating about wildfires. Recently NFPA hosted me for a research stay to allow me to learn first-hand about community initiatives on wildfires, and specifically NFPA’s communication activities in the USA. I started my journey in California, with Bethany Hannah - founder of The Smokey Generation and the American Wildfire Experience. Together, we visited recent wildfire sites such as the 2021 Caldor Fire and the KNP Complex Fire; met the Division Chief of Prescribed Fire and Fuels at Yosemite National Park to learn how prescribed wildfire is used in one of USA’s most emblematic national parks; and observed the impact of the recent wildfires in the Sequoia National Park. At the IAWF Fire & Climate Conference in Pasadena, Bethany and I also presented together on Fire Stories: a case for Community-based Communication. Creating viewscapes across Yosemite with the help of prescribed burns. Photo: Isabeau Ottolini   In Colorado, Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan and Aron Anderson from NFPA’s Wildfire Division took me on field visits to Boulder and Colorado Springs. We visited the Sites of Excellence site, Red Rock Ranch, as well as diverse other Firewise and Wildfire Partners communities, to learn which wildfire prevention and mitigation activities are happening at the community level. We also visited diverse areas affected by wildfires in the past 30 years (from the Berry Fire in 1989, the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, to the most recent Marshall Fire), to learn how ecosystems and communities are impacted and recovering after wildfire disaster. Lastly, I had the great opportunity to present her research at the NFPA C&E in Boston. Here I shared Lessons from the US and Europe on Wildfire Communication with Communities at Risk. During my last days in the US, I partook in the day-to-day of the NFPA office, and together with Michele Steinberg visited a recent wildfire-affected area in the Blue Hills as well as the Six Ponds Firewise community in Plymouth. Lessons learned On my visit, I crossed the USA from west to east, observing very different fire landscapes and being inspired by many great community-based wildfire initiatives – including Firewise, the Sites of Excellence, Fire Adapted Communities, and Wildfire Partners – that make wildfire mitigation and prevention possible on the community level. Here are four lessons on how to communicate about wildfires and support community-based wildfire initiatives. There are no silver bullets nor quick fixes to prevent and mitigate wildfires. Wildfire communication needs to be adapted to local contexts, and this requires actively engaging with communities, listening to them, and reading the room. For instance, if a community has just lost homes to a wildfire, it is likely not the best time to talk about good fire. As wildfire communicators, we need to meet people where they are at. Take the time to first learn about their needs, knowledge, and interests, and then jointly develop wildfire actions that are most feasible, relevant and rewarding for each community. Sharing responsibility: the wildfire issue is too big to be addressed only by certain groups, like the fire service or public administrations. Experience shows that community-led initiatives can achieve so much in mitigating and preventing wildfire disasters, so it is crucial to involve and empower them to take action. In addition, recognizing and celebrating community achievements helps maintain motivation, such as by making visible their efforts (e.g. by putting up Firewise signs, sharing success stories in the media, etc.) as well as providing support (e.g. how to get grants for fuel reduction efforts). Lastly, it is essential to build trust and mutually beneficial relationships between communities, fire departments, public administrations, etc. Especially in informal settings, people can genuinely listen to each other, understand each other's challenges, find ways to help one other, and build great collaborations. Because at the end of the day it is all about building this human connection and working together on creating a more hopeful wildfire future.
People putting debris in the chipper

“Sites of Excellence” Pilot Program and Report Highlight Challenges, Best Practices, and Recommendations for Firewise USA Sites

In 2019, NFPA began working with seven active Firewise USA® sites in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, challenging them to improve their resilience to wildfire. These efforts formed the basis of a two-year pilot program, “Sites of Excellence,” designed to increase participation in active wildfire risk reduction through a more focused approach. Over the course of the two years, the communities concentrated on these goals: To have 100 percent participation of homes within the designated pilot boundary (sites were able to self-identify up to 100 co-located homes in each pilot site). To complete identified mitigation tasks within 30 feet of every home, based on recommendations from individual assessments. At the end of the two years communities reported higher levels of engagement and interest in the Firewise program and wildfire mitigation efforts, and helped prove that community wildfire resilience is achievable. It was challenging work, but according to Michele Steinberg, NFPA wildfire division director, the program underscored the true power and impact of Firewise communities working together to reduce their collective risk to wildfire. A free report and interactive story map are now available. Each provides a view into the challenges, successes, and best practices discovered during the pilot. The findings will be used to help direct future Firewise program changes as well as inform policy that can support increased implementation of risk reduction practices in communities facing wildfire threats to life and property. Download the free report and take some time to navigate through the story map to learn more about the communities and their work. We hope the lessons learned in the program can help enhance your own community’s wildfire risk reduction efforts.
1 2 ... 52

Latest Articles