fire-adapted

As Dry Summer Season Nears, A Community is Working to Prevent Wildfires

Team Rubicon volunteers out in full force to help create a firebreak. Credit: Hawaii News Now

Team Rubicon volunteers out in full force to help create a firebreak. Credit: Hawaii News Now

As a very fitting tribute to Memorial Day, a collaboration of people including military veterans from Team Rubicon, an international veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life, came out in full force to create a large firebreak around Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove. The Firewise Community (the first ever on Oahu as of 2018!) of agricultural and residential lots in Hawaii Kai, has been working with HWMO for a couple of years now in an effort to create a more wildfire resilient community.

This weekend, as part of Wildfire Preparedness Day, we are seeing what it means to be fire-adapted: everyone playing a role to reduce wildfire risk. The Firewise committee consisting of local residents and farmers, Aloha Aina O Kamilo Nui, and Livable Hawaii Kai Hui organized the work days; Team Rubicon volunteers are knocking back fire fuels; neighboring landowners provided access to the land and green waste hauling services; residents are feeding volunteers; and HWMO provided a hazard assessment, continual guidance through the Firewise Communities process, and a $2,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service. We are so grateful to everyone who is helping out to make Kamilonui - Mariner’s Cove a model for community-driven wildfire protection on Oahu and for the rest of the Hawaiian Islands!

From the Source:

This Memorial Day weekend, hard-working volunteers are helping out homeowners worried about the threat of wildfires. They started creating a new firebreak on Saturday near Mariner’s Cove.

With the help of a hazard assessment from the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, the community came up with an action plan.

With moderate drought conditions across the state, wildfire experts are concerned about this summer.

“During those El Nino periods, we actually see significant increases in wildfire ignitions, but also in the amount of area that burns so we’re defintiely very worried this summer,” said Pablo Beimler, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization’s community outreach coordinator.

“It’s like black and white, like a swarm of bees come in here and sort of take over, start in five different spots and just continue on down. It’s really amazing,” said homeowner Dick Johnson.

Fueling the Fire: Trump Thinks Logging Will Stop the Burning in California. It won't.

“On the left is the Camp Fire in Big Bend, California, and on the right the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California.” - Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images and David McNew/Getty Images

“On the left is the Camp Fire in Big Bend, California, and on the right the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California.” - Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images and David McNew/Getty Images

One of the most renowned wildland fire experts, Stephen J. Pyne, offers more than his two cents of why the California fires are as extreme as they are…and it is not because California has not removed enough trees.

From the Source:

Where fires are crashing into towns, the real fuel is the built environment. Aerial photos of savaged suburbs tend to show incinerated structures and still-standing trees. The vegetation is adapted to fire; the houses aren’t. Once multiple structures begin to burn, the local fire services are overwhelmed and the fire spreads from building to building. This is the kind of urban conflagration Americans thought they had banished in the early 20th century. It’s like watching measles or polio return. Clearly, the critical reforms must target our houses and towns and revaccinate them against today’s fire threats. The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise program shows how to harden houses and create defensible space without nuking the scene into asphalt or dirt.

Too often, whether we’re talking about politics or fire management, the discussion ends up in absolutes. We leave the land to nature, we strip it, or we convert it to built landscapes. We have either the wild or the wrecked. In fact, there are lots of options available, and they will work best as cocktails. There is a place for prescribed burning, for prescribed grazing, for prescribed thinning (a kind of woody weeding), for prescribed chipping and masticating by machines, for greenbelting—crafting swathes of low-fuel land use like recreational parks or even golf courses—and, in select sites, for prescribed logging. Most treatments should concentrate where people and high-value assets are at risk—exurbs, suburbs, municipal watersheds. Elsewhere, in wildlands, some kind of managed fire will likely prove the most usable means, and in the West, hybrid practices—half suppression, half prescribed burn—are becoming common.

A Warming Planet Could Trigger More Intense Wildfire Season in Hawaii

Credit: National Park Service

Credit: National Park Service

Over the last several years, HWMO has prioritized adaptive measures such as Firewise Communities and strategic, cross-boundary vegetation management planning to ready areas for the rapidly changing conditions causing more and larger wildfires in Hawaii. The gravity of the situation is real with climate change, but there is so much we can do in our own communities to prepare for wildfires and other climate hazards. Learn how by visiting our Take Action page and the Wildfire Lookout! page.

Check out this excellent article with some of our close partners, including Dr. Clay Trauernicht and Michael Walker, who were interviewed and data that HWMO was instrumental in laying the groundwork for — the statewide wildfire history database we produced with our fire agency partners. Although sobering, it is great to see this data put to use for a better understanding of how climate change affects Hawaii locally.


From the Source:

In Hawaii, wildfires generally ignite during the dry season, typically between May and November, when it's hotter, drier and windier outside.

But models show that the drier leeward areas, where fires are more frequent, will see even less rainfall as a result of climate change, exacerbating drought conditions and expanding the length of Hawaii's dry season.

That means more favorable conditions for brush fires to ignite.

And non-native grasslands and shrubs — which cover nearly a fourth of Hawaii's total land area — are highly adapted to fire, meaning they thrive when they burn and come back really quickly, researchers say. And the drier it is, the harder it is for forests to recover in those spots.

Hotter days could spell longer-lasting brush fires, meaning more hours for firefighters and greater potential for damage to infrastructure.

And it's only going to get hotter. A regional NOAA report estimates that in Hawaii, temperatures are expected to rise by 4 to 5 degrees by 2085 — under a worst case emission scenario.

"If you have hotter days, the conditions that are going to promote your most active fires — like the hottest, windiest conditions — have the potential to last longer for hours within a span of a day," Trauernicht said, pointing to the Makaha fire that continued burning in the early evening, when temperatures are normally dropping and humidity levels usually go up.

Why Some Communities Recover Better After Natural Disasters

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

HWMO believes strongly in the importance of working together as a pathway for communities to become more resilient in the face of growing wildfires in Hawaii and the Western Pacific. We use national frameworks such as Firewise Communities, Fire Adapted Communities, ReadySetGo!, and Western Cohesive Strategy and apply them at the local level to bring neighbors together.

The science is there to back this up, too! A research team from Northeastern University has found that post-disaster anxiety from recent climate-related disasters was reduced solely because of social ties. "Individuals who had more friends, neighbors, and relatives nearby did far better than more isolated people," said Dr. Daniel Aldrich, professor and director of the Security and Resilience Program at Northeastern.

From the Source:

"TG: How can people become more resilient?
DA: To become more resilient, my team and I have put together a package of policies that we're encouraging neighborhoods and communities around the world (e.g. Wellington, NZ, Cambridge, MA, San Francisco, CA, etc.) to try out. These include strengthening ties with neighbors, holding regular community events, engaging citizens in every planning and zoning event possible, creating local communities, and building spaces that encourage social interaction."

Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and World Renewal Ceremonies into Fire Adaptation: An Indigenous Stewardship Model

"Shown in this image is a California-hazel-stem basket holding tanoak acorns that were collected from the 2015 Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) burn area. Also shown is a Karuk woman’s “work” basket cap and an acorn cooking paddle made of Pacific maple. These are a few of the resources used by Karuk women to gather and prepare acorn soup. This burn reduced acorn pests, cleared out surface and ladder fuels to improved acorn gathering, and maintained the tanoak cavity at the base of this older tree. Cavities like this are important habitat for animals that hunt small game that eat acorns. "  Credit: Frank Lake, USDA Forest Service and Karuk Tribe.

"Shown in this image is a California-hazel-stem basket holding tanoak acorns that were collected from the 2015 Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) burn area. Also shown is a Karuk woman’s “work” basket cap and an acorn cooking paddle made of Pacific maple. These are a few of the resources used by Karuk women to gather and prepare acorn soup. This burn reduced acorn pests, cleared out surface and ladder fuels to improved acorn gathering, and maintained the tanoak cavity at the base of this older tree. Cavities like this are important habitat for animals that hunt small game that eat acorns. "

Credit: Frank Lake, USDA Forest Service and Karuk Tribe.

In Hawaii, traditional ecological knowledge plays a critical role in the path forward towards more resilient and vibrant landscapes and communities. For example, restoring native dryland plants that are culturally significant along watersheds and even around your own home, helps to also reduce fire threats and impacts to our communities, lands, and waters. Hawaii is not alone in integrating traditional ecological knowledge with fire adaptation, there are many other great examples globally, including in the mainland U.S.:

From the Source: 

"The Karuk Tribe’s Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and belief systems are constructed and preserved in the form of stories, practices, performances and ongoing interactions with the natural world. Among such rituals include our World Renewal Ceremonies, which the Karuk Tribe has practiced since time immemorial. These ceremonies have been passed down for millennia, and are a key part of our local communities’ social fabric. They link human practices like fishing, hunting and gathering to responsibility. They also ceremonially align our culture with ecosystem process and function. In our worldview, cultural resources have a life, as do the people using them. Each life deserves consideration when planning projects, including fire adaptation projects."

The Power of Insurance Incentives to Promote Fire Adapted Communities

"Where wildfire meets homes, the fire suppression response may protect homes but distort the full cost of insuring the homes from wildfires. Waldo Canyon Fire, Colorado Springs, CO, 2012." Credit: USFS

"Where wildfire meets homes, the fire suppression response may protect homes but distort the full cost of insuring the homes from wildfires. Waldo Canyon Fire, Colorado Springs, CO, 2012." Credit: USFS

HWMO is exploring creative ways to motivate people and communities to action. One technique that some states are using is the power of the economic incentives. Check out this article written by a friend of the organization, Mr. Rob Galbraith, Director of Property Underwriting at USAA. We have opened discussions with the Division of Insurance and some companies such as USAA to offer insurance reduction rates for Firewise Communities. 

From the Source:

"I have attended several community meetings — co-presenting with local fire departments to encourage homeowners to take proactive steps to mitigate their exposure to the threat of loss from wildland fire. And the impact of combining intangible benefits (e.g., life safety, avoidance of property and financial loss) with tangible benefits (e.g., discount on homeowners insurance, recognition as a Firewise community through signage) can be a powerful motivator."

"Requirements by insurance carriers for property owners to take steps to mitigate their exposure to property losses from wildland fire can be a powerful motivator — when those requirements adhere to scientifically-based principles. Government entities may have similar levers in the form of citations, fines, fees, tax withholdings, etc. when property owners are not in accordance with local regulations and ordinances, but these generally are not as impactful as an insurance carrier’s refusal to continue coverage.

However, at times the requirements from insurance carriers can be counter-productive as they impose unreasonable or unnecessary burdens on homeowners. For example, a carrier may require 100 feet of clear cutting to create defensible space around the home, but the property line to the adjacent parcel may be within 100 ft. Removing vegetation may also run afoul of local ordinances on the size and types of trees that may be cut down. Finally, these requirements from carriers may not be performed reasonably in the amount of time given and may give the homeowner misleading direction on the prioritization of mitigation actions, namely starting 0-5 feet from the structure and moving outward over time."

Haleakala Seeks Volunteers for Pine Pulling Project

Three non-native pine species (Monterey pine, Mexican weeping pine, and maritime pine) are highly invasive. PC: Haleakalā NP.

Three non-native pine species (Monterey pine, Mexican weeping pine, and maritime pine) are highly invasive. PC: Haleakalā NP.

Great volunteer event this Saturday, July 15, to help reduce the fire threat at Haleakala National Park. 

From the Source:

"Three non-native pine species (Monterey pine, Mexican weeping pine, and maritime pine) are highly invasive. Rangers say they displace endemic and endangered species, change soil chemistry, and increase the potential for wildfire in habitats not adapted to fire. Park staff, partners, and volunteers periodically pull young pines to keep them from spreading throughout the park."

Wildfires Are Essential: The Forest Service Embraces a Tribal Tradition

"Rony Reed, a Karuk tribal member, participates in a burn at Bacon Flat in Orleans, California. Photo by Stormy Staats / Klamath Salmon Media Collaborativemaker."

"Rony Reed, a Karuk tribal member, participates in a burn at Bacon Flat in Orleans, California. Photo by Stormy Staats / Klamath Salmon Media Collaborativemaker."

This was a really interesting read that highlights Karuk and their use of community-based prescribed burning as part of a larger cultural and ecological renaissance and to change the narrative on certain misconceptions about their relationship to fire. The article also highlights how the merging of science and culture are essential, especially in the face of climate change.

From the Source:

"This marks the third year the Karuk have helped run and organize the community burning program, a joint venture between the tribe and several groups, including a local watershed council and the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, which uses the burn as part of its own national training program in controlled burning. For the Karuk, the program marks a historic turn from years of being labeled as arsonists for lighting the fires that belief says they are required to perform. It’s also a tribute to the fact that controlled or prescribed burning is becoming in vogue among scientific and resource management circles. The Karuk hope their young fire program will be the start of a sustainable, community-based effort leading to a cultural and ecological revival for the tribe."

Advancing FAC in Hawaii: Increasing Awareness, Thinking Both Short and Long Term and...Goats?

Click to Read the Blog Post

Click to Read the Blog Post

In 2015, we began working with several communities statewide on grassroots-level community wildfire protection efforts, primarily through Firewise’s communities recognition program. Only a few years later, we’re happy to say that our communities are seeing some great success! Find out how HWMO and its partners are working with communities to advance Fire Adapted Community goals in the latest highlight on the FAC Learning Network blog.

From the Source:

"These recommendations have already encouraged Firewise committees to start thinking outside of the box. For example, two years ago, Waikoloa Village received a fuels reduction grant from the USDA Forest Service. The village used the funds to hire a goat-grazing contractor to reduce flammable vegetation on vacant lots. As phase two of the project, the community will be installing permanent fence posts to allow for more regular grazing. Eventually, they may transform these lots into a multi-use area where goats continue to graze and the community also grows citrus trees.

These communities are also engaging residents through outreach. A few months ago, the Launiupoko Firewise committee sent over 300 copies of ReadySetGo! Wildland Fire Action Guides to residents. This spring, they will be hiring a contractor to remove flammable vegetation along an established bike path. Kahikinui, a small homestead in one of the most remote areas on Maui, worked tirelessly last year to engage neighboring large landowners and various agencies in their Firewise efforts. Their persistence and creativity led to a collaborative fuels mitigation project that received funding from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and a local wind farm."

Fire Adaptation Strategies from Across the Nation: My Travels in 2016

Great to see such amazing work happening across the nation -- we are so grateful to be a part of this movement towards Fire Adapted Communities. Mahalo to USAA's Rob Galbraith and Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network for the feature and encouraging support.  

From the Source:

"Finally, I had the unique opportunity to spend a day with Pablo Beimler and the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO) on the Big Island in September. Pablo’s previous blog post captures much of what he shared with me, but I left so inspired by what HWMO has been able to accomplish with such a unique landscape (where fire is not a natural part of the ecology), being so remote from others and with limited resources. Their can-do spirit, willingness to innovate and strong sense of motivation and engagement has remained with me and inspires me to continue our work at USAA to further collaborate and support FAC Net members and affiliate members in their efforts."

When Spark Meets Sprawl: Building in Wildlands Increases Fire Risk

Sand Fire. (Credit - Center for Investigative Reporting)

An incredibly thorough and comprehensive Center for Investigative multimedia article with many facts, figures, maps, images, and soundbites that is definitely worth checking out! This is the article to read if you want to learn more about the current state of the "Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI)" and the continuing risks developing into the wildlands presents for communities and our natural resources.

From the Source:

"Nationally, more than a third of new homes built since 2000 are in WUI areas. What has happened, wildfire historian Stephen J. Pyne wrote in 2008, is that we’re “leaving natural growth alone and then stuffing the openings with combustible structures.”

“Stephen J. Pyne, the wildfire historian, said that unless there’s coherent and coordinated policy that looks at development and forest management, these problems will be difficult to solve.

‘Otherwise, you’re just in the whack-a-mole mode and you’re not going to win,’ Pyne said. ‘In cities, every fire you put out is a problem solved. In wildlands, every fire you put out is a problem put off.’”

Completing the (Fire) Cycle of Information Sharing

HWMO is working with its Pacific partners to bring national wildfire preparedness programs to the local level. Photo Credit: HWMO

Check out Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network's feature on HWMO released today, written by Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler.

Excited to see the hard work of HWMO and its Pacific partners showcased on the national stage!

Mahalo Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network for the opportunity to share our lessons learned.

From the Source:

"Living in the most remote island chain in the world with over 2,500 miles of Pacific Ocean separating us from the continental U.S. (a.k.a. “the mainland”), it is only fitting that Hawai‘i has a unique set of traits and challenges that can sometimes make one feel isolated from the rest of the world. However, the era of modern networking capabilities is helping shed light on the commonalities we share, while still honoring the differences that make us unique."

"Starting in 2013, HWMO collaborated with the IAFC Ready, Set, Go! program to produce a Hawaii-version of the Wildland Fire Action Guide. IAFC graciously printed 10,000 copies for HWMO and county fire departments to distribute. Replacing photos and references to conifer forests, shake roof homes, and other mainland- WUI features, HWMO integrated Hawai’i-specific photos and information and added an introductory section about wildfire in Hawai’i’. Since incorporating the new guide into our fire preparedness workshops and outreach booths, we’ve noticed a spike in interest from residents and even visitors about the Ready, Set, Go! program. Whether learning how to prevent embers from collecting under the lanai (patio) or browsing the visual list of recommended Firewise native plants, residents have taken the RSG! guides into their own hands. Launiupoko Firewise Committee in West Mauʻi plans to send more than 350 guides to residents as their first ever Firewise event."

PHOTOS: Kanehoa Community Clears the Way to Being 'Firewise'

Credit: HWMO

We cannot be any happier to see the great work the Kanehoa Firewise Committee and residents have put in to reduce the wildfire threat in their area. The second Firewise Community in Hawaii is well on their way to retaining that title for this year and beyond!

From the Source:

"Members of the Kanehoa community spent their Saturday making their community safer against the threat of wildfires.

The Hawai’i Wildfire Management’s Wildfire Prep Day provided communities across the island, state, and nation to participate in a day of preparation in honor of Wildfire Preparedness Month.

In total, two dozen Kanehoa community members joined in to remove an entire large dumpster with haole koa, also known as ekoa. The plant is known to be highly flammable and has the potential to create embers that can spark new fires, both near and far away."

"'All of us at Hawai’i Wildfire Management Organization are very proud of the work the Kanehoa community has contributed towards reducing the wildfire threat in their area and we hope more communities will follow their lead,' Pablo Akira Beimler, HWMO Community Outreach Coordinator, said in an e-mail.

Beimler says the efforts greatly reduced the wildfire threat by ensuring the roads can act as a fuel break to slow the spread of wildfire."

Sequoias and Historic Stump in Path of California Wildfire

" Sequoia trees in Grant Grove are charred in Kings Canyon National Park, California, on September 12, 2015." Credit: National Geographic

"Sequoia trees in Grant Grove are charred in Kings Canyon National Park, California, on September 12, 2015." Credit: National Geographic

Thick, fire-resistant bark and a massive canopy can protect trees from wildfires, most notably: giant sequoias. Native trees like koa can also use their canopies to their advantage by shading out fire-loving undergrowth, reducing the amount of fuel for a fire. Unfortunately, most native plants in Hawaii do not regenerate well after a wildfire, unlike sequoias. Our fire ecosystems in Hawaii can differ vastly from the mainland, but some things hold true for all.

From the Source:

"'They are a fire-dependent species that are well adapted to survive burns,' says Nichols. 'In fact, fire helps them get the next generation of sequoias started.' That’s because fire encourages the trees to drop their cones en masse. The blaze knocks out competition from other plants and provides a great shot of fertilizer in the form of ash. (Learn more about sequoias and fire.)'

Sequoias have fibrous, fire-resistant bark that can grow up to two-feet thick, insulating them from damage, says Stephen C. Sillett, a Humboldt State University ecologist who has received grants from the National Geographic Society to study the giants in Sequoia National Park. The trees’ massive size and canopy also help cut down on undergrowth around them, which reduces fuel for fires."

Lake Tahoe Program Pays Cash for Grass to Conserve Precious Water

"The South Tahoe Public Utility District is working to help homeowners convert their thirsty lawns to drought-friendly landscaping with the district’s turf buy-back program." Credit - EarthJustice

"The South Tahoe Public Utility District is working to help homeowners convert their thirsty lawns to drought-friendly landscaping with the district’s turf buy-back program." Credit - EarthJustice

This innovative, incentive-based approach to conserve water has many benefits, one of which is to protect homes from wildfires by incentivizing Firewise landscaping. Firewise gardening in Hawaii has many of the same benefits including conservation of water, which is especially critical for the parched leeward sides of the islands.

From the Source:

"Another resident-favorite conservation initiative is the district’s turf buy-back program. The idea is simple: grass requires lots of water and fertilizer to keep it green, and grass that dries out and turns California “golden” is ripe for fire. Why not try drought-friendly plants instead? Rangel visits customers’ homes to photograph and measure the lawn they want to convert and to help them apply for the rebate. She says demand for turf rebates this year is higher than it’s ever been."

"Jennifer Cressy of the Tahoe Resource Conservation District has advised many local families thinking of making the switch from grass to something greener. She says about half of homes in South Lake Tahoe are second homes, and out-of-town owners are especially excited about “zero-scaping,”—creating a landscape you never need to water. But a truly Tahoe-friendly yard must also include 5 to 30 feet of “defensible space” around the outside of the house that are free of debris so firefighters have a chance to save the building from a blaze."

Ready, Set, Go! - Department Spotlight - HWMO

Our national partner, Ready, Set, Go! covered HWMO's Wildfire Preparedness Program in their first ever "Department Spotlight" as part of their national newsletter. 

From the Source: 

"A Ready, Set, Go (RSG) member since June 2011, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO) is a support organization dedicated to sharing the wildland fire preparedness message through workshops in collaboration with their community partners: schools, community centers, and their local, state and federal fire-response agencies.

The workshops offered by HWMO and their partners are viewed as a two-step process: an initial workshop and a follow-up workshop."

"'Holding these workshops has been a great way to not only spread the RSG message but to get our organization's name out into the public. Through these workshops, we've forged new partnerships with local entities and community members that will translate into future on-the-ground projects. We've also used these workshops as a way to attract residents to our local CWPP update meetings that we've held after the workshops.'"

Above: Series of Ready, Set, Go! Wildfire Preparedness Workshops put on by HWMO.

Above: Series of Ready, Set, Go! Wildfire Preparedness Workshops put on by HWMO.

Burn, Baby, Burn - If We Say So

From the Source: 

"What strategy might evolve for the Western wildlands?

The old fire exclusion paradigm had clarity—a bogus simplicity, but one easily communicated and measured. What has emerged to replace it can seem muddled and tricky to explain. The reality is that fire suppression remains dominant nationally, though it has acquired a lighter hand in the backcountry and a heavier one near exurbs. The other reality is that every wildland fire put out is a fire put off. Fire agencies now face a phalanx of changes that are powering conflagrations—not only the legacy of stockpiled fuels but also climate change, invasive species, a fractal exurban sprawl, and political gridlock. With no single cause, there is no single solution. Fire officers look instead for pragmatic responses, adapted to particular circumstances."

"Critics dismiss the outcome as a muddle, but others put a positive spin on it, arguing that it’s more of a mashup. They point out that the country does not have a fire problem: It has many fire problems, all of which require different approaches. In the public lands of the West, the options are few. Fire officers will have to manage their lands with the fires they get, not the ones they would like. In many wildlands they will work with fires that start from any source and “box” them in according to natural or built features that allow easier control. They will then burn out from those perimeters and fire out the interiors. This approach, officially known as “confine and contain,” unofficially as “box and burn,” is likely to become the primary strategy for managing fires in the West. This video demonstrates how a hybrid approach, including “box and burn,” was applied to the recent Slide fire outside Sedona, Arizona."

"So expect plenty of fires this season. Expect burns that make 1977’s 178,000-acre Marble Cone fire seem unexceptional. Expect critics to harp on wishy-washy policies and a lack of airtankers. Hope that we don’t see communities blown away or crews burned over. Then get used to it. It’s what the future of fire in the West will look like."

Above: "A wildfire threatens homes in San Marcos, California, on May 15, 2014. The blazes come amid record temperatures in the state, where the annual wildfire season typically starts much later in the year." Credit: Jorge Cruz/AFP/Getty Images

Above: "A wildfire threatens homes in San Marcos, California, on May 15, 2014. The blazes come amid record temperatures in the state, where the annual wildfire season typically starts much later in the year." Credit: Jorge Cruz/AFP/Getty Images

Mitigating Against Wildfire is More Than Cutting Down Trees (VIDEO)

Hardening your home is just as important as creating defensible space around it. This article covers some good things to consider when you make changes to your home and landscape in an effort to mitigate wildfire risk. The devil is in the details.

From the Source: 

"When you think about mitigation to protect against wildfire, the first thing that might come to mind is cutting down trees.
But for those who live in areas prone to fire, how you landscape around your home can play an important role in keeping the structure safe.

'When we look at a home for mitigation, we also consider part of the structure of the home, meaning is it hardened against fire,' said Scott MacDonald, a lieutenant with the Black Forest Fire Department.

Hardening your home means checking everything from the chimney, which needs a well-made spark arrester, so you don’t start a fire, to the roof and siding. Textures like stucco can help protect against the flames.

We all love the look and smell of mulch, but something as simple as a flower bed could put your home at higher risk to fire.

Placing a 5-foot border of rock between the house and flowerbeds can offer an added layer of protection for keeping flames at bay.

When planting, consider things like the type of vegetation and its placement. Low-level, well-spaced plants provide less fuel for a fire.

Keeping flowerbeds away from windows will keep the heat away if a fire breaks out. The intense heat could actually cause the glass to shatter, allowing flames a quick and easy way inside."

Above: "The placement and materials used in a flowerbed can make a big difference in your home’s vulnerability to wildfire." Credit: CBS Denver

Above: "The placement and materials used in a flowerbed can make a big difference in your home’s vulnerability to wildfire." Credit: CBS Denver

Slide Fire: Forest Restoration Helped Crews Hold the Line

This is why we focus a lot of our efforts on fuels management projects such as fuelbreak creation. The fuelbreak in Waikoloa allowed fire crews to gain access and set up a solid fire line to defend Waikoloa Village from the state's largest wildfire, which occurred in 2005. We are continuing to experiment with living fuelbreaks as a way to integrate restoration goals with fuel mitigation goals.

Prevention and pre-suppression measures are key to reducing the threat of wildfires to our communities and natural resources!

From the Source: 

"Officials said a forest restoration project in Coconino National Forest has been key to maintaining a line around the Slide Fire and is a reason why pre-evacuation notices for two subdivisions near Flagstaff are set to be lifted at noon on Monday. 

An approximately 100,000 acre donut of restored forest surrounds Flagstaff, said Dick Fleishman, public information officer for the Slide Fire. It is designed to minimize risks of fire in the city.

'The reason we were able to hold this line is because of this treatment area,' Bill Morse, public information officer for the Slide Fire, said. 'Now we're getting much more comfortable about lifting the pre-evacuation.'

...The Four Forest Restoration Initiative will lead to fire-adapted ecosystems that include fuels reduction, forest health, and wildlife and plant diversity, according to its website.

'Think of this as going to a doctor,' Fleishman said. 'This is prevention.'"

Above: Screen-capture from AzCentral. 

Above: Screen-capture from AzCentral. 

An Appeal to California's Fire Agencies

Creating defensible space around your home is not enough. Reducing structural flammability is just as important and the two need to go hand in hand in order to reduce your wildfire risk. 

From the Source: 

"Local, state, and federal fire agencies are urged to expand their fire education efforts. Currently, the primary, and sometimes the only message citizens hear is to clear native vegetation (“brush”) from around their homes. While creating defensible space is a critical component of fire risk reduction, it fails to address the main reason homes burn – embers landing on flammable materials in, on, or around the home, igniting the most dangerous concentration of fuel available, the house itself.

Fire risk reduction education must emphasize BOTH how to reduce home flammability and how to create defensible space. As seen in the photo below, many homeowners have complied with defensible space regulations only to see their homes burn in a wildfire.

Educational materials and public announcements must make clear that without addressing the entire fire risk reduction equation, your home has a greater chance of burning in a wildfire. This includes creating defensible space AND retrofitting flammable portions of homes such as,
- the replacement of wood shake roofing and siding
- installation of ember resistant attic vents
- roof/under eave low-flow exterior sprinklers
- removal of flammable landscaping plants such as Mexican fan palms and low-growing acacia
- removal of leaf litter from gutters and roofing
- removal of flammable materials near the home such as wood stacks, trash cans, wooden fences, etc." 

Above: "The New Message. The photo above shows two homes with extensive defensible space and proper vegetation management that burned during the May 14, 2014, Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, California. Addressing the entire fire risk reduction equation is essential." 

Above: "The New Message. The photo above shows two homes with extensive defensible space and proper vegetation management that burned during the May 14, 2014, Poinsettia Fire in Carlsbad, California. Addressing the entire fire risk reduction equation is essential."