Earlier this month, FAC Net members and their communities increased their wildfire resilience by participating in National Community Wildfire Preparedness Day. Credit: Pam Wilson, FireWise of Southwest Colorado

Topic: Defensible space / Firewise Fuels treatment / Prescribed fire Preparedness Type: Success Story / Lessons Learned

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day 2017: What Happened?

Authors: Allison Jolley

May 6th marked the 4th annual National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day (Prep Day). The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a primary catalyst of this event each year; through State Farm, they provide $500 grants for community events throughout the country. This year, NFPA received over 400 applications and was able to fund 151 of them. Awardees spanned 37 states. Additional communities hosted events for the day, the week and even the month surrounding May 6th.  Here are some highlights regarding our members’ Prep Day accomplishments.

Residential Mitigation

Two FAC Net members, Project Wildfire (Oregon) and Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP, Colorado) focused their efforts on offering disposal services for hazardous fuels. Central Oregon experienced wet weather during their effort, known as FireFree. Nonetheless, residents brought in almost 2,600 dump trucks(!) full of hazardous fuels. FireFree spanned multiple weekends throughout the spring and will include opportunities into June.

A parking lot full of trucks, woody debris and community members at work.

Oregon: Community members unloading their hazardous fuels. Credit: Alison Green, Project Wildfire

CUSP opened its three slash sites for the season on Prep Day. Thus far, they have served 135 patrons, who have spent about 700 hours of their own time collecting and transporting slash. They’ve processed over 215 tons of material, which they estimate represents 30-70 acres worth of fuel reduction. Jonathan Bruno has an impressive way of estimating that acreage, so definitely contact him if calculating a metric like that would be helpful for your work.

Living With Fire’s program representatives assisted community leaders in coordinating and conducting events in Lakeview and River Mount Park, Nevada.  In Lakeview, a subdivision of Carson City, community leader Marie Bresch reported that 18 homes took advantage of the Free Fuels Pick-Up Day supported by the Carson City Fire Department, NFPA and State Farm. With the help of the Carson City Community Emergency Response Team and Fire Department, almost 9,000 pounds of hazardous fuels were removed from residential areas.

Volunteers loading material into a trailer

Nevada: Volunteers and homeowners loading vegetation into the Carson City Fire Department trailer. Credit: Sonya Sistare, Living with Fire

Also in Nevada, the River Mount Park Fire Adapted Community had a representative from the Nevada Division of Forestry perform five residential defensible space inspections, and homeowners removed two trailer’s worth of elm trees and other wildfire fuels.

Sagebrush pile burning

Washington: Sagebrush pile burning on Prep Day. Credit: Jon Riley, Chelan County Fire District 1

In Washington, Chelan County Fire District 1 coordinated the creation of about 60 piles of sagebrush over the past few months. In honor Prep Day, the Fire District burned the piles as an interagency training exercise with their mutual aid partners.

As part of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection project, Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership (GFFP, Arizona) completed a large mitigation project during the week surrounding Prep Day. The project was a collaborative effort between GFFP, Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management and the City of Flagstaff. They mitigated a square mile within the wildland-urban interface, right up to backyard fences.  The project area contains sensitive archeology sites, so the equipment operators used GPS-enabled tablets, installed in the equipment itself, to ensure their protection.  The project area experienced multiple ignitions last year, which threatened the surrounding neighborhoods. The mitigation they accomplished should help protect that community for decades to come. The harvesting equipment also made a brief appearance at GFFP’s Harvesting Methods and Wildfire Preparedness Open House, their Prep Day public outreach event.

FireWise of Southwest Colorado reported 14 events within the week surrounding Prep Day. Several of those events included noteworthy mitigation accomplishments, and many communities completed thinning along roadsides and in common spaces. One community spent three weeks collecting slash and then burned it in an air curtain burner the week surrounding Prep Day.

Youth Making a Difference

Youth pushing a wheelbarrow full of woody debris.

Oregon: Youth clearing slash from their school’s nature trail. Credit: Bess Ballentine, Discover Your Forest

Project Wildfire also helped secure a grant for a sixth-grade classroom for supplies to clear downed trees and overgrown shrubs along their school’s nature trail. The event was hosted by Discover Your Forest.

TREX Lends a Hand

FireWise of Southwest Colorado also worked with Jeremy Bailey to arrange for some of the participants of a nearby Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) to assist with community mitigation efforts. Weather challenges limited the availability of the TREX participants on May 6, but on May 13, TREX provided 15 firefighters to two different projects. In addition to the mitigation accomplishments, their Neighborhood Ambassadors witnessed the value and importance of partnerships firsthand, and they really enjoyed learning from the international TREX team.

W-U-I Checkpoints

A variety of outreach efforts took place took place in southwest Colorado, the most unique of which were “W-U-I checkpoint” stations. A fire adapted communities spin on D-U-I checkpoints, FireWise of Southwest Colorado’s Archuleta chapter worked with the Pagosa Fire Department to coordinate parked fire engines at the entrances of two different neighborhoods. At these “checkpoints,” Fire Department personnel and FAC Neighborhood Ambassadors provided information to each passing vehicle about wildfire risk and mitigation opportunities.

Colorado: FireWise of Southwest Colorado’s Neighborhood Ambassadors performing a “W-U-I” checkpoint at a neighborhood entrance. Credit: Al Myatt, FireWise of Southwest Colorado

Estimating conservatively, Firewise of Southwest Colorado reports their region’s Prep Day efforts involved 1,750 volunteer hours, 60 acres treated and 200 residents reached.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Additional members’ events, including those hosted by Austin Fire Department, Wildfire Division (Texas) and Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, connected fire managers to the public on Prep Day. Check out NFPA’s Prep Day webpage for more highlights!

3 thoughts on “Wildfire Community Preparedness Day 2017: What Happened?”

  1. Mary Huffman says:

    Wow! Congrats to all of the communities. You are making a difference!

  2. Allison, thank you for this wonderful overview of all the great things inspired by Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. The Day is meant to be a rallying point, a concept, and an encouragement for folks to come together. The people in FAC networks, Firewise communities, Living With Fire regions, Fire Safe Councils and more are the ones who really make it live. Grateful to all those folks who have embraced wildfire safety concepts and are walking the talk!

  3. Faith Berry says:

    Thank you all for making a difference where you live. It is always so inspiring to see how much each community can accomplish in one day, especially as they work together with diverse groups where they live to reduce their risk of loss. Thank you, Allison, for sharing these incredible stories about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day accomplishments.

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