While this time of year may have many thinking about the value of their tax dollars, the Firewise program staff are thinking about the value of volunteers. Every April, the Independent Sector website publishes a new annual estimate of the value of a volunteer hour. The new rate is $22.55, based on 2013 data.
The success of local Firewise Communities/USA efforts can be measured in many ways, but often the most important contributions are made by local volunteers. For communities working on Firewise activities in 2014, it’s important to remember that the time spent by volunteers in making your community safer from wildfire represents an invaluable quantity that can greatly aid your application (or renewal) for recognition status. While it’s important to track expenses and record grant funding, it is the measure of human effort put in by your volunteers that will help you demonstrate the minimum investment of at least $2 per resident that will vastly help in reaping recognition rewards.
The investment criteria is the one thing in the Firewise program that seems to worry most communities when they get started. The good news is, thanks to the valuation of volunteer time, it is very easy to meet the $2 per capita requirement, even without major grants for wildfire mitigation.
Now that you know what your volunteer hours are worth, you can use this information to track investment for different activities. For example, for a Firewise Day, keep a count of how many people are volunteering and for how many hours during that event. The time spent by volunteers to organize, set up, and clean up later also counts. If you have residents who have agreed to do work on their own property at a certain period, you can ask them to estimate their hours and may also count that time for each person doing the work.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly local volunteer efforts add up. For example, 12 volunteers putting in just 4 hours of their time at a single event each year represents more than $1,000 of investment in Firewise work – enough to meet the minimum investment for a community of 500 residents. Forms to help you track volunteer time and services are available on the Firewise Communities/USA web page at www.firewise.org/usa.
By truly “valuing” your volunteers, you will be better able to achieve recognition or renewal status. And by recognizing the value of your volunteers, whether through a special event or presentation of awards, you’ll go a long way toward assuring momentum for your ongoing Firewise efforts. Check out www.independentsector.org/volunteer_time for more details on how the volunteer hour value is determined and used.
The National Strategy: The Final Phase of the Development of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy policy document was released late last week. This effort represents the culmination of a collaborative effort by Federal, state, local and tribal governments, non-governmental partners and public stakeholders. This report provides the strategic direction necessary to achieve the vision for the next century – To safely and effectively extinguish fire when needed; use fire where allowable; manage our natural resources; and as a Nation, live with wildland fire.
This policy document includes a set of guidelines that address the following priorities:
Priority # 1: Safe and effective response to wildfires including enhanced wildfire response preparedness with emphasis on both structural protection and wildfire prevention to maximize the effectiveness of initial response.
Priority # 2: Vegetation and fuels management through design and prioritization. Including the increased use of wildland fire to meet resource management objectives and expanding methods to improve forest and rangeland resiliency.
Priority #3: Homeowner and community engagement to take proactive measures prior to a wildfire event.
Priority #4: Utilizing programs tailored to local needs which seek to prevent human-caused ignitions.
Beyond these general guidelines, four national maps have been developed to help with strategic prioritization of effort across the nation. Throughout the rest of the week, I plan to explore these spatial tools and their relevance to the above listed priorities.
The Firewise Communities Map has been updated with the latest active Firewise Communities  and Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network pilot sites . Ready, Set, Go! data will be made available within the next couple of weeks.
Please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-984-7449) if you are having difficulty finding your community, or if your community location needs to be adjusted. Visit this webpage to learn more about how to use this map.
During a special ceremony held on December 3, 2013, the Firewise committee of Kohala by the Sea (KBTS), a homeowners association, on the Big Island of Hawaii received a crystal recognition award for maintaining their Firewise Communities/USA recognition status for 10 years. In 2013, only 34 communities were able to earn this esteemed honor. Denise Laitinen, the Firewise Communities Coordinator for Hawaii, presented the award to the proud and well-deserving members of the KBTS.
To read more about the KBTS and their award, read the full story in the 2014 spring edition of the Firewise How-To Newsletter!
Between 2007 and 2011, an average of 49,300 fires involving people playing with fire were reported to U.S. municipal fire departments per year, according to NFPA’s latest “Playing with Fire” report. Most of these fires were started by children, and caused annual averages of 80 civilian deaths, 860 civilian injuries, and $235 million in property damage.
What is striking for those of us in the wildfire safety industry, and according to the report, is, of the total number of these fires, 11 percent began outside and in places like tunnels, bridges, vacant lots, etc., and were started by older children and teenagers. It’s important to consider that most wildland fires begin from lightning strikes or human error. With hotter temperatures predicted this year, along with increased dried vegetation and high winds, wildfires can ignite at anytime, anywhere.
Keep yourself, your family and your community safer from wildfire this season. Read the full report and find fact sheets and safety tips on NFPA’s website. There are many great resources you can use to help start discussions with your children about the importance of fire safety.
Additional information about how families can work together to reduce their wildfire risk can be found on the Firewise website. Find interactive modules, games and quizzes everyone can participate in.
The community of Jester Estates, located in Austin, TX, was recently recognized for becoming a Firewise Community in 2013. Nick Harrison, Firewise Coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service made the presentation. The community was provided with the NFPA Firewise Communities Plaque, Firewise street signs and a framed Texas Firewise flag during their Annual Homeowners Association meeting in February, members of the Firewise Committee and the Austin Fire Department Wildfire Division staff and residents were in attendance.
Image: Jester Estates Firewise Rocognition Ceremony with members of their Firewise Committee, the Austin Fire Department Wildfire Division, and Texas A&M Forest Service.
The recognition ceremony was also held during Jester Estates Annual Weeklong “30-feet for Fire Safety – 2014” event. This event is designed to get homeowners involved in protecting their home from wildfire. In order to participate (and get their yard waste picked up during this special event) residents must register their property and get a Wildfire Preparedness Assessment Completed. Of the 900 homes in Jester Estates, the Firewise Committee has performed HIZ Assessments on over 150 homes.
Jester Estates has held two community cleanup events in the past year, including this event, resulting in the removal of over 100 tons of defensible space slash. Several articles have been included in the neighborhood newsletter chronicling their community’s Firewise program since it began over a year ago.
Jester Estates has plans to participate in the Austin Firewise Alliance and is also supporting the May 3rd Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Workshop that is currently being planned in support of existing and potential Firewise Communities in the area.
According to Jeff Shapiro, Firewise Chair, “Jester is a wonderful community that is surrounded by the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, which adds tremendous beauty to our neighborhood and which our residents greatly value.” By becoming a Firewise community, we have acknowledged that:
“Becoming Firewise has also given us a unique and personal partnership with the City of Austin, and particularly the Austin Fire Department (AFD), the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS), and the agencies responsible for protecting the Balcones preserve”, commented Mr. Shapiro.
Harry Evans, Chief of Staff, Austin Fire Department stated, “It is an honor to work with you (Jeff Shapiro and the Jester Estates Firewise Committee). Because of your leadership, you have set the standard. Jester is complicated because of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and habitat, in addition to the vegetation and terrain. You have shown that in spite of all those challenges, a balance can be achieved to keep the environment and habitat, healthy and at the same time make your homes more ignition resistant. Well done sir… “
“It was really great to have you all in attendance this evening. Jester’s partnership with AFD and TFS is greatly valued by me personally and by the neighborhood as a whole. Celebrations don’t mean much unless there’s a group of friends to share it with, and having you all there made this a very memorable and special event,” said Jeff Shapiro, Jester Estates Firewise Chair.
Nick Harrison, (TFS) agrees, “Jester Estates has embraced the Firewise concept and has brought together a dynamic group to form its Firewise Committee and has rallied their residents to get involved to protect their homes and their community and also built cooperative partnerships with the preserve and wildland fire agencies.”
Story provided courtesy of Nick Harrison, Firewise Coordinator, Texas A&M Forest Service.
Over the past five weeks, I watched as entries for the nationwide Wildfire Community Preparedness Day project funding awards grew to represent twenty five states ranging from Florida to Alaska. Each project entry had the potential to become a recipient of $500 to be used for a preparedness related activity implemented on May 3, 2014 - with funding generously provided by State Farm.
Every single project submission had its own distinct merits and each would make a significant contribution in reducing the wildfire risk in their respective communities. The diverse range and scope of entries made the selection process extremely difficult and trying to narrow it down to only twenty was daunting.
Winning project recipients come from 15 states and cover an extremely wide range of demographics, community sizes and wildland/urban interface descriptions.
If I can please get a drum roll, let me say that on behalf of NFPA and State Farm, I am honored to share with you the 2014 Wildfire Preparedness Day funding award recipients: Fallbrook, CA; Quincy, CA; Valley Center, CA; Durango, CO; Chickamauga, GA; Kamuela, HI; Manhattan, KS; Nye, MT; Newcomerstown, OH; Brent, OK; Grants Pass, OR; La Pine, OR; North Myrtle Beach, SC; Tallassee, TN; Austin TX; Georgetown, TX; Etlan, VA; Castle Valley, UT; Ronald, WA and Spokane, WA.
Huge congratulations to them all!
The nationwide grassroots efforts being coordinated for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day demonstrates the efforts thousands of communities are committed to making in reducing their wildfire risk, the impacts of a recent wildfire, or advancing preparedness efforts.
Posted by Cathy Prudhomme on 04/01/2014 at 10:55 AM in California, Colorado, Community Action, Contests, Fire Adapted Communities, Firewise, Georgia, Homeowner Association, Mitigation, Montana, NFPA, Oregon, Success Stories, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wildfire Hazards, Wildland Urban Interface | Permalink | Comments (0)
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For many of us, April marks the start of the spring cleaning season and we all know what that means: swap out woolens and gloves for linens and t-shirts; clean out closets and store the skates and skis in the basement and make room in the garage for the rake and garden tools.
For the next few months, why not include some wildfire safety activities in your spring cleaning repetoire. Did you know that many of the simple tasks you'll do around your home in preparation for the warm months ahead, can also help keep your home safer from wildfire?
Consider the following:
* CLEARING leaves and other vegetative debris from roofs, gutters, porches and decks helps prevent embers from igniting your home.
* KEEPING your lawn hydrated and maintained reduces fire intensity. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
* SCREENING in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh prevents debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
NFPA has a number of helpful, easy tasks you and your family can undertake now and throughout the spring. Download our newest wildfire safety tips sheet and Firewise toolkit for the tips above and more, and start working on those projects today. Feeling ambitious? Our tips for creating more defensible space around your property is the perfect starting point for all that you need to accomplish. Check them all out!
And don't forget, the warm weather means we'll be spending more time outside. Take a moment to talk to you neighbors about how you can all work together to reduce wildfire risk in your neighborhood. The Firewise Communities Program website has plenty of resources, tools and materials to help you get started.
Once you've engaged your neighbors, reach out to others in your community. Learn how everyone plays a role in creating a safer and more fire adapted place to live. Firefighters and other first responders, planners, builders, landscapers and even community leaders all have a responsibility for helping protect their area. You can learn more about how to start a dialogue with members of your community by visiting the Fire Adapted Communities website.
If you're like me, I know you can't wait to finally get outside and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer. So take advantage of the warm, sunny weather to awaken your spirits, and at the same time, help keep you and your family wildfire safe!
Posted by LisaMarie Sinatra on 04/01/2014 at 10:00 AM in Community Action, Environment, Fire Adapted Communities, Firewise, Homeowner Association, Mitigation, NFPA, Weather and Predictive Services, Wildfire Hazards, wildland firefighter, Wildland Urban Interface | Permalink | Comments (0)
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