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Wildland/Urban Interface Working Team (WUIWT)

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WUI Working Team Meeting Minutes
Portland, OR
May 6-7, 2008

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Members Attending:

Alan Dozier, Chair
Jim Absher, USFS Research (alt for Pam Jakes)
Jane Arteaga, BLM (alt for Kelly Hawk)
Jim Erickson, ITC/NWCG Liaison to WT
Maris Gabliks, NJ Forest Fire Service
Mark Gray, WA DNR
Pam Leschak, USFS
Will May, IAFC
Sam Scranton, BIA
Jim Smalley, NFPA
Barbara Kennedy, USFS/BLM, meeting manager

WUI Working Team Members not present

Kim Zaragis, CA OES (excused)


Lou Ballard, USFS/NWCG representative
Steven Weiss, DHS Science & Technology Directorate, Infrastructure & Geophysical Division
Randall Griffin, DHS Science & Technology Directorate, Infrastructure & Geophysical Division
Kate Sabourin, Sanborn Maps

Tuesday 6 May 08

1. Introductions and agenda review
2. NWCG Reorganization
3. Reports from committees/task groups
4. Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment and Communities at Risk
5. Department of Homeland Security Research and Development
6. Firewise Program Briefing

Wednesday 7 May08

7. 2009 WT Meeting Schedule
8. NWCG Task: Sheltering in Place
9. NWCG Task: WUI Definition
10. Election of next WUIWT Chair and Vice Chair
11. Carryover/New items

Item 1. Introductions and Agenda Review

The meeting was convened at 0855 by Chair Alan Dozier with introductions from those present. Minutes of past meeting were reviewed and approved with the change that Jim Erickson should be included in the “not present” list. Barbara Kennedy was asked by Dozier to review past minutes to identify items for this meeting that might have been missed.

Item 2. NWCG Reorganization
Alan Dozier briefly reviewed the NWCG meeting in January that involved the WT chairs and introduced Jim Erickson and Lou Ballard (interim branch coordinator under the new NWCG organizational scheme) to present the information contained in the Powerpoint handout (Attached).

The re-organization of NWCG is really about its ability to track a multitude of projects and focus on the core issues facing fire management. The re-organization is dynamic and will continue to evolve over the next 18 months. The target date for full implementation to be complete is October 2009. A timeline is included in the handout.

Alan reminded the group that in prior years, the WUI WT has been supported by the Firewise program to focus on Firewise Communities and will now need funding from NWCG to do its work as Firewise becomes a subset of the new WUI sub-committee or however it works out.

This summer NWCG will charter the committees and sub-groups. Summer of 2008 and 2009 will see the re-chartering of the Committees and Subcommittees and task teams, defining branch positions, and hiring personnel to fill those positions. Permanent committee chairs will be appointed during this time. The current WUIWT will fall under the Fuels and WUI Committee, as likely a subcommittee.

Questions were considered about education and communications among the components of the new system. The Branch Coordinators will serve as the liaison for each of the committees under their supervision.

Will the membership of the new committees, as re-chartered, reflect the membership of the NWCG (i.e., NGOs will not be included as members). Answer: We’re not sure that we need multiple agency people to sit on committees (i.e., two from DOI, or two from BIS, etc.). We recognize that partners are important but no one knows what the membership will be. (NOTE: NASF is an NGO, but represented by only the NASF Fire Director, Dan Smith.) NWCG will endorse each committee’s membership and approve the representatives.

Some questions were asked about the relationship of the current WT and the Fuel Management/WUI Mitigation Committee - which group is on top, in control? Are they equal? Will the WUI part report to the fuels? Answer: The name of the committee is the “theme” of the committee. Who will actually sit on the committee is yet to be determined. There might be two major subcommittees, one for each area (Fuels and WUI). No one knows at this time. Alan stated that the WT will have the opportunity to select our own members and write our own charter.

Currently, four main groups are under this committee – NFAEB Fuels Committee, BAER, WUIWT, and Fire Use WT. Alan explained how the groupings were done at the January meeting of the NWCG. He pointed to a document entitled “Fire Program Management: Breakout Group” dated January 29-31, 2008.

What should we be prepared to do and expect as the process unfolds? As we go forward, the WT will be doing more work for NWCG and with other committees and sub-committees, with new members and a new charter and a budget for the team. Alan asked for a group discussion on the WUI Working Team’s evolving role and what to do with Firewise under reorganization. The items I listed below are the results of a group discussion on topics and ideas for discussion in the future.

WUIWT discussion notes:

    1. More involvement with NWCG\
    2. New charter – we will write it
    3. Develop a budget
    4. Meet with Fuels Group frequently – influence mitigation/social/education
    5. Be at the table
    6. May need to reconcile how to operate the Firewise program (September agenda item)
    7. Meet with NWCG more often
    8. May have big role in deciding the “right acres”
    9. Must maintain education aspect – community focus
    10. NWCG Tasks
    11. Need to involve local decision makers (government) – ordinances and policies
    12. Clarify NFPA/Working Team/Individual agencies’ roles and responsibilities
    13. Document effectiveness
    14. Are there different ways to effectively accomplish our business?
    15. How to work with those who manage the National Fire Prevention teams.

Item 3. Reports from committees/task groups

A. Communications Committee – Report is covered in Firewise review (Item 6)

B. Firewise Mitigation Teams pilot testing - Pam Leschak. Attachment 3B. Concerns were expressed about the 2007 deployment of the teams, who was on the teams, the pre-deployment interagency communications, and so on. Pam reminded the WT that this was a Forest Service test to explore the viability of the concept and not a Firewise project task. Smalley restated that the role of Firewise is not evaluate the quality of a request for materials but simply to supply materials on request in needed (reasonable) quantities. The pilot test will continue this fire season with limited deployments. Team members will include the ones from last year (GA Forestry Commission) and from Alachua County FL (Will May’s fire department). Pam and Alan will review the activities of the 2007 test and the 2008 plans with the NWCG next week.

Item 4. Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment and Communities at Risk
Alan requested a presentation from Sanborn Maps about the Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment and Communities at Risk mapping project as background information for the NWCG task on the definition of WUI. Kate Sabourin from the Portland OR office of Sanborn Maps provided a detailed review of the mapping project and answered a number of questions. Attachment 4.

Item 5. Department of Homeland Security Research and Development
Randall Griffin and Steve Weiss reviewed one particular program of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate/Geophysical Division known as the SAFE (Secure Against Fire and Embers) Initiative.

Three elements or components being developed for incident management: equipment R&D and prototype development, and simulation training, common operating situation awareness. Funding is provided to mature technology that can be used by fire agencies, innovated capabilities, and future capabilities. In addition, the kinds of equipment and capabilities that are being developed include 3D tracking of fire fighters in structures, physiological monitoring of individual fire fighters, and lightweight SCBAs.

Steve Weiss reviewed the SAFE program that exploring existing technologies that can be rolled out with little effort and/modification and applied to wildfires. NIST, USFS labs, universities, associations, fire agencies, and others were contacted to see what kind of technologies. Found 225 technologies were found and classified as fire tech, capability gaps (structure protection technologies, situational awareness), affordable code upgrades, fuel management technologies, erosion mitigation technologies. Test facilities exist so there is no need for DHS to create one, at this time. Noteworthy items found included a multi-level technology analysis gap in situational awareness technologies and technology prioritization. The classified project report is in draft form but will be posted on the DHS website in its declassified future. No attachment.

Item 6. Firewise Program Briefing
Since the most recent information has already been distributed to the team through the 1st quarter report, a quick review was presented by Jim Smalley. In addition, he described the upcoming Backyards & Beyond conference, distributed conference brochures, related the interest shown in the conference from Australia, South Africa, and the UK as well as the Netherlands (speakers and/or representatives from these countries are expected to attend). Information has been sent to fire officials in Germany at their request, following a presentation made in Portugal at the CTIF (European Forest Fire Committee), and request for information and a meeting with fire officials in Canada has been received.

The communications plan for the program is going extremely well as he reviewed the highlights of the recent PSA and B-roll distribution. Attachment 6.

Item 7. Future Working team Meetings and locations.
This item was moved up due to available time.

Future meetings (specific meeting locations to be determined)

16-18 September 08 - Tucson AZ
27-29 January 09 - Boise ID
12-13 May 09 - Atlanta GA
22-24 September 09 - Quincy MA (@ NFPA)

At 1700, Alan recessed the meeting till 0830 on Wednesday, 7 May 08.

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Alan Dozier re-convened the meeting at 0825 on Thursday, 8 May 08.

Item 8. NWCG Task: Sheltering in Place
At 0830, Alan convened the meeting and introduced NWCG Task: Sheltering in Place task from NWCG. Alan designated Jim Smalley to brief the WT on what we have done and what information we have to use in answering the task.

Smalley reviewed the 30+ documents on the DVD-ROM and, at the request of Alan to outline an approach suggested , first, that the issue be rephrased as “Alternatives to Evacuation from WUI Fires.” The concept of alternatives to evacuation is a well-known life safety issue in fire protection engineering and design. To use shelter in place suggests that there is only two choices – either evacuate or stay – where there are numerous other options open to fire/emergency officials to protect lives. The policy from Australia is not nation-wide. The AFAC document is based on New South Wales practices. AU has been presenting education programs to prepare residents for the emotional experience of staying in their homes. Experience in the US basically comes from evacuations from the 1991 Oakland fire, the 2003 San Diego fires, and Hurricane Rita that resulted in over 150 deaths (total).

Second, Smalley suggested that the WT document should reflect similar documents from the2004 Emerging Issues in Wildland Fire from the NFPA Wildland Fire Management Section and the AFAC document encouraging

Third, Smalley suggested the paper or product should provide the issues, the facts, and decision guidelines for local agencies, based on established decision models in fire protection/life safety. Suggested documents to review include NFPA 1141, NFPA 550, the video documentation and the other 30+ documents on the DVD-ROM set.

The issue is really a local decision. Since there is no state (known) that authorizes law enforcement or emergency personnel to force residents from their homes, the decision has to be based on a mutual social contract that given the presence of Firewise homes, Firewise Communities preparation/mitigation, the preparedness of the resident(s) to be active A suggested role of government agencies is also to be included.

Conference call with Sara McCaffrey (USFS Research) and Bodie Shaw (Deputy Director, BIA) was held. Both reviewed their experiences in Australia as part of study group exchange programs. Sara supported the rephrasing of the paper to reflect more than one option and Bodie offered the assistance of Alan Goodwin (Australia) to assist in developing the WT document.

Alan appointed a task group to explore the issue with instructions to develop a plan of action to draft a document for local use. The task group appointed includes:

Jim Smalley, NFPA, TG leader Will May, IAFC
Phyllis Krietz, USFA Mark Gray, WA DNR
Sara McCaffrey, USFS Research Bodie Shaw, BIA
Alan Goodwin, Victoria AU

The Task Group is to present an outline of the plan to develop a position statement at the WT September meeting in Tucson. Sara and Sue Stewart and Alan Goodwin will be attending the meeting. The WT is to review the plan and decide whether to move ahead, depending on the final tasking from NWCG.

Item 9. NWCG Task: Evaluate the WUI Definition
Alan Dozier introduced the second NWCG Task to evaluate the WUI Definition by distributing a number of materials. These materials included his draft of a reply to NWCG (not included here because of several changes that were suggested by the Team. See other attachment for this item.

After discussion by the team and review of several options, the Team agreed by majority vote to have Alan revise the draft to reflect the suggested changes. Also, due to the extent and nature of the changes (including the selection of the NWCG definition as the one supported by the team) that Alan present it to the Fuels group and the other fire leaders to whom he spoke prior to the draft before it is considered complete. Alan stated that he would do that, but the deadline for NWCG is next week in Oklahoma City. IF the Fuels group or anyone else had difficulty with the WUWT reply, he would correct it before he presents it to NWCG and distribute it to the WT as their statement soon afterward.

Item 10. Election of next WUIWT Chair and Vice Chair
Nominations were made for both offices and Will May (IAFC) was elected as Chair and Pam Leschak as Vice Chair for 2008-2010 term. All understood that, based on the decision by the NWCG to appoint permanent Chairs and re-charter the WT, these positions might be abbreviated. A memo will be prepared from Alan to NWCG for approval of Chief May as the new WT Chair.

Item 11. Leftover items
Items leftover and items added for future consideration were considered as added to the May agenda. These items were:

    1. Proposed national legislation known as the FLAME Act (HR 5541). Pam Leschak led a brief review of the legislation and what it might mean for the agencies. For example, is the term “Fire Ready Community” another program like Firewise or is it just a term to describe the condition of communities after Firewise concepts have been implemented? Smalley sad that he has given congressional staff briefings in reference to this proposed legislation and the Fire-Safe Communities Act on the value of Firewise and assessment based on ignition potential, the Firewise Communities/USA program, and the benefits of encouraging and rewarding mitigation by residents and communities.
    2. Insurance Companies protecting insured properties prior to and during wildland fire events. Pam Leschak briefed the group on the actions of the Chubb Insurance Group regarding their pre-fire HIZ assessments and mitigation recommendations for homeowners whose home homes they insure. They also hire and deploy fire crews and engines to protect the homes during encroaching wildfires. (Note that Chubb typically insures very high valued property, in excess of several million dollars.) AIG did a similar thing last year in Idaho. Jim Smalley pointed out that their actions are exactly what the Firewise program is intended to do – encourage the transfer of some of the responsibility (and associated expenses) from the public sector to the private sector. So far, the private sector has been represented by homeowner actions and real (and/or in-kind) financial contributions related to the USA Recognition Program (nearly $25 million over 6 years), but Chubb’s actions take it a step further. The company, with its own funds from premiums, is providing pre-fire home ignition zone assessments and mitigation recommendations and fire crews at no cost to the local, federal, or state fire agencies, contributing to the reduction in private property loss (interface homes) and, due to the mitigation measures taken before the fire by the homeowner/insured, they are more effective in their efforts. Jim Erickson suggested that Chubb be considered for a National Firewise Leadership Award. Leschak said she would consider nominating them.
    3. WT Strategic Plan Review/Revision. There was some discussion regarding the need to update the 2005-09 strategic plan. Smalley pointed out that next year, NFPA and USFS have to re-new the 5 year cooperative agreement for Firewise and that the existing strategic plan relates mostly to the Firewise program. WT members were encouraged by Alan Dozier to look at the elements of the strategic plan that relate to WT business, and staff will look at the timing of the strategic plan revision in conjunction with the 2009 work plan and the cooperative agreement.
    4. 2010 Firewise Backyards & Beyond Conference – By the September meeting, the NFPA staff should have several options and a recommendation for the 2010 location.

Items for the September meeting include:

    1. Proposed national legislation known as the FLAME Act (HR 5541).
    2. Insurance Companies protecting insured properties prior to and during wildland fire events.
    3. WT Strategic Plan Review
    4. 2010 Firewise Backyards & Beyond Conference
    5. How will the Firewise program relate to the WUIWT in its new incarnation in the future?
    6. NWCG re-organization updates
    7. Outline of a plan to develop a white paper on alternatives to evacuation.
    8. Coronation of Will May as new chair

Meeting was adjourned at 1445.

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