The long nights of December (in the northern hemisphere at least) lend themselves to reflection and contemplation. This past weekend, I found myself flipping through my planner, looking back at how I’ve spent my time in 2019. I’ve spent a fair amount of it being inspired by the fire adaptation leaders I have the privilege of working with (that includes you, readers!). For that, I’m incredibly grateful. I’ve also spent a chunk of time navigating change: shifts in my partners’ and friends’ professional careers, time thinking about what I should do to actively change myself and my approach to this work, wondering if we can start thinking ahead more often, and in doing so, bring more creativity and possibility into our everyday.

This is the last blog post of the year, so it seems fitting (we are a learning network after all!) to spend a little time reflecting on 2019. What did we spend our time doing? Who did we meet, laugh with, learn from? What was valuable? Where did our efforts fail to meet expectations? What sparked our curiosity? Some disclaimers: this is not a comprehensive look at everything that happened in the wildfire space this year; it isn’t even a complete list of what FAC Net members have been working on. Rather, it’s a kind of scrapbook of the year. Things we heard, learned, and did together. I hope you enjoy looking back as much as I have.

How did we spend our time?

Enhancing community resilience through shared learning and action.

In just the first half of 2019, FAC Net members hosted 99 local or regional workshops, learning events and work days. These events—some of them implementation projects, others collaborative planning meetings—all shared a common goal: to strengthen and build relationships among community members. These relationships are at the heart of community resilience, and our ability to improve resilience relies on us investing in the quality of our relationships.

Expanding partnerships to extend your reach and impact.

You expanded the number of partners that are enrolled in, and contributing to, fire resilience in your communities. One of our network principles is “never do anything alone.” Another mantra: “don’t add to your plate, add a seat at the table.” Even with deliberate and high quality capacity building efforts, there are limits to what any one person or organization can do. That’s why we need high-functioning partnerships co-creating a vision for the future and taking coordinated action toward that vision. Changing our fire futures is going to take a movement and FAC Net members are building the momentum. In 2019, core members increased the number of local partners they are engaging by over 20%.

Creating resources and telling our stories to inspire others.

While we love learning directly from our peers, we also recognize the value of telling our stories to a larger audience. In 2019, FAC Net used our communication channels to share stories and resources:

Where did we see each other?

FAC Net members hosted dozens of local events in 2019. We also made the time to see each other in national and regional forums. Here are a few of the places we spent time together.

Seattle, Washington Engaging Diverse Community workshop Durango, CO and Jackson, WY for a FAC Ambassador Workshops (2 diff workshops) Missoula, MT, for the Fire Adapted Montana state network kick off meeting Reno, NV at the WUI conference In Ashland OR for the FAC Net Annual Workshop In Freehold, NJ part one of the New Jersey/Georgia Exchange Towns County, GA part two of the New Jersey/Georgia Exchange Broomfield, CO at the Natural Hazards Conference Spokane, WA at the WAFAC Annual Workshop in Durango CO, State Network Coordinator’s Workshop Bend, OR for the Pacific Northwest Learning Exchange Tucson, AZ at the 8th Fire Ecology and Management Congress

Graphic created by Jessica Sabine Brothers

What did we learn in our virtual spaces?

Conversations: “overheard” in our online Podio community:

As those of you who are FAC Net members know, our online community on Podio is a great place to connect with other practitioners. Here are a few of the ways members have been using the site to get peer assistance this year: “Does anyone have tips, ideas, advice or a model for…”

  • navigating permitting for an air curtain burner?
  • designing a burn table to demonstrate fire behavior to residents?
  • working with local public health officials to address smoke issues?
  • hosting a successful Firewise USA® recognition event?
  • home and property assessment forms, templates and approaches?
  • increasing Rx fire use in our community?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Not on Podio? Consider joining FAC Net to get access to these (and other) conversations about living better with fire. Podio is a great place for practitioners to get help from peers, but it is also a great place to share resources, tools and news. Model plans, research papers, PSAs, job announcements, videos, and templates are all posted frequently, in addition to questions and requests for peer assistance.

Meet me at the (virtual) café!

FAC Net also hosts webinars and learning groups to support on-going conversations and specific training. In 2019, we hosted 12 webinars and topical calls to help us deepen our understanding of themes like: engaging with unhoused populations in fire adaptation work, wood utilization, smoke management, strategic communications and unconscious bias. These learning opportunities are helping people add to their FAC approaches—building on the mitigation and resilience work that is the core of their focus.

My framework for 2019

I have three sticky notes on my whiteboard. They say:

How are we responding to opportunities, evolution and change?

How are we reducing risk and increasing resilience?

How are we sharing ownership and responsibility for fire?

I’ve returned to these questions when I’m not sure how to respond to a partner or a request, when I’ve been overwhelmed and needed to prioritize and when I’ve finished big projects. They’ve served as touchstones. As I turn my attention to 2020, I look forward to revisiting these questions—and adding to them.

Is your favorite memory from 2019 missing from this year in review? Add it by commenting below!

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