Smokey Bear in space

Smokey Bear on ISS

Smokey Bear on the International Space Station. Photo by NASA.

Last year when NASA astronaut Joe Acaba flew aboard the International Space Station he took along a Smokey Bear action figure. In this video Mr. Acaba talks about observing wildfires from space and the importance of preventing human-caused wildfires.

As of noon MDT October 19 the video has only been viewed 378 times since it was uploaded over four months ago. Let’s see if we can improve that number by clicking on the play button above.

And speaking of Smokey Bear videos, the 30-second PSA below was just uploaded to YouTube four days ago — October 15, 2013. Be the first on your block to view it.

I think the above fire prevention video is very good — better than most. It actually has a call to action that the typical viewer can understand, implement, and which could produce positive results. When a billboard or video simply says “Prevent Forest Fires”, or “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” without providing a suggestion as to HOW, the effectiveness can be questioned.


Betty White, honorary Forest Ranger

Betty White, yes, THAT Betty White, the actress, is featured in a new fire prevention video fulfilling one of her duties as an honorary Forest Ranger. She worked with the California fire prevention agencies to create One Less Spark, One Less Wildfire.

Ms. White was designated an honorary Forest Ranger in 2010. She said in interviews that she wanted to be a forest ranger as a little girl, but that women were not allowed to do that then.

Betty White honorary Forest Ranger

Betty White (center, obviously) and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell (left), November 9, 2010


New wildfire prevention and mitigation campaign

wildfire prevention

These images are examples of a new wildfire prevention and mitigation campaign that is rolling out. One objective is for multiple agencies to speak with one voice, directing the public to existing websites. I believe the concept is that agencies can edit them to add links and information applicable to their situation.

wildfire mitigation

These comprise the “flag” version. (Did you notice the “flag”?) There may be other editions coming out later.

The picture is pretty. Maybe that feature will attract enough attention that viewers will actually read and comprehend the text content.

If these are used as simple images, rather than a web page with dynamic embedded links, I hope they use very short web addresses. No one wants to try to retype an address that has 50+ weird characters.


Virginia DOF employee earns Bronze Smokey award

A 34-year veteran of the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has earned the Bronze Smokey Bear Award.

Paul Reier and Bronze Smokey

Paul Reier and Bronze Smokey

Toano resident Paul Reier, a forestry technician who protects and serves the counties of Charles City, Hanover, Henrico, James City, King & Queen, King William and New Kent, was nominated for the “energy, dedication, and commitment” he demonstrated in countless Smokey Bear education programs.

“Paul works tirelessly, even after hours, to ensure Smokey is at numerous fairs, special events, baseball games and schools. He partners with everyone from local nursing homes to the local rescue organizations and fire departments,” said Fred Turck, VDOF’s assistant director of resource protection. “Paul always finds new ways to get Smokey Bear involved in community events and is proactive in his efforts.”

State Forester of Virginia Carl E. Garrison III said, “I’m so glad to see Paul’s extraordinary efforts being recognized on a national level. He has been a leader in wildfire prevention and education efforts for many years, and he’s so very good at making sure Smokey Bear’s message (“Only You Can Prevent Wildfires”) is understood by children of all ages. His work has been an important part of our goal to reduce the number of wildfires casued by human activity. Paul Reier is most deserving of this Bronze Smokey award, and I congratulate him on his achievement.”

The Bronze Smokey Bear Award is the highest honor given for wildfire service on the state level, and is reserved for people or organizations that provide sustained, outstanding service in wildfire prevention. The award is sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Advertising Council.


Lessons learned about survival of structures during Waldo Canyon Fire

Lessons Learned from Waldo Canyon Fire

Lessons Learned from Waldo Canyon Fire, cover. Click to enlarge

The Fire Adapted Communities Coalition has prepared an excellent report titled “Lessons Learned from Waldo Canyon”. Written by representatives from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, U.S. Forest Service, International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the NFPA, it documents factors that affected the destruction or survival of structures during the Waldo Canyon Fire, a fire that destroyed 346 Colorado Springs homes in June of 2012. This document, along with the Texas report, “Common Denominators of Home Destruction”, could be very useful resources for communities and home owners that desire to mitigate potential damage before wildfires threaten their wildland-urban interface.

Often you will see media reports using words like “random” or “miracle” to describe how some homes are burned while others survive a wildfire that burns into a community. It is neither — it is science — and fuel reduction, building materials, screening off vents, plugging holes between roof tiles, a lack of combustible decks, the actions your neighbor takes or does not take, and many other factors. And did I mention fuel reduction?

While the city of Colorado Springs and their fire department has received criticism for their lack of operational preparedness and training for wildfires, as well as their actions during the Waldo Canyon Fire, this report indicates the city had a program that resulted in some positive outcomes related to fuel mitigation and home owner education about how to reduce the chances of structures burning during a wildfire event.

Here is a sample of some of the conclusions identified in the report:

Observations on building design and materials improvements and maintenance could have reduced losses:

  • Ember ignition via ignition of combustible materials on, in or near the home was confirmed by the surveys. This reaffirms the serious risk posed by ember ignitions to properties during wildfires. This reinforces the importance of maintaining an effective defensible space and regularly removing debris from areas on and near the home.
  • Home-to-home fire spread was again a major issue, as with prior post-fire field investigations. When it occurred, it was dependent on at least one wildland fire-to-home ignition and then home spacing and slope / terrain. Home-to-home fire spread was attributed to a relatively large number of home losses in this survey.
  • Wildland fire-to-home ignition was influenced by location of home on slope and fuels treatment(s) or lack of on the slope leading to the home.
  • A building can be hardened with noncombustible materials, for example, but it is also necessary to incorporate appropriate construction details, which will help ensure that the protections offered by those materials is not by-passed.
  • Individual homeowners must take responsibility for fortifying their property against wildfire damage by taking appropriate measures to incorporate noncombustible building materials and construction details.

Observations on the role of fuels management and landscape vegetation and features:

  • Past fuel treatments by mastication in heavy, continuous, mature Gambel oak retained multi-season effectiveness for reducing wildfire spread. Two- and three-year-old oak treatments did not carry fire. Oak leaves were scorched, but did not typically burn.
  • Hardened landscape barriers such as noncombustible retaining walls, paths and gravel borders were effective in stopping fire in lighter fuel types.
  • Pruning and thinning of ladder fuels in Gambel oak clumps, as a Firewise practice by homeowners, appeared to be effective in keeping fire on the ground and reducing crown fire potential.
  • Firewise landscape plants, primarily deciduous trees and shrubs, were scorched but did not burn when exposed to heat from adjacent crowning fuels.
  • Landscaping fencing contributed to fire spread from adjacent native areas to structures. Split rail and cedar privacy fencing both led fire to structures.

The video below is very well done.

More information on Wildfire Today about the Waldo Canyon Fire.