Roland Gaskins, Senior Ranger Baker County lays backing fire. Photo Credit: FFS

Topic: Communications / Outreach Fuels treatment / Prescribed fire Meetings / Events Planning Preparedness Resilience Type: Essay

Snapshots of FAC-Building in Baker County, Florida

Author: Doc Bloodworth, Florida Forest Service

The dozen or so organizations that make up the Baker County FAC Collaborative have been working together for 11 years. This post summarizes some highlights from the past two years and also offers a preview of our priorities for 2016.

Planning

  • In 2014-2015, pilot community partners and a Local Mitigation Strategy work group updated the 2012 Baker County CWPP. Update sessions provided an opportunity to incorporate Fire Adapted Communities concepts, wildfire protection policy and code recommendations for inclusion in the County Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations, and products of the new Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal and Communities-at-Risk Editor Mapping Application. To substantiate this action, the LMS Committee appended the Updated Baker County CWPP to the LMS in 2015.
  • An update of the 2006 Taylor Community CWPP has been recommended for 2016.
Wildland Fuel Management
  • In 2015 a joint prescribed fire operation with aerial ignition took place on 4,800 acres of contiguous state and federal forest lands in Baker County. This was an excellent display of state/federal cooperation and an opportunity for the training of future wildland fire managers and firefighters.
  • From January through May 2016 the following burns are planned in Baker County:
    • 33,000 acres of prescribed fire in the Osceola National Forest;
    • 200 acres in the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge;
    • 8,000 acres in John Bethea State Forest; and
    • 20,000 acres and 500 pile burns on additional public and private land for agriculture, land clearing and silviculture.
  • To foster the resilience of our forests and communities to wildfire, partners will continue to engage landowners and land managers in joint field days, workshops and demonstrations of wildfire hazard mitigation. Typical cooperators include the Longleaf Alliance, the Okefenokee/Osceola Local Implementation Team, the North Florida Prescribed Council, the Southern Group of State Foresters and the Southern Fire Exchange.
Community Outreach and Engagement
  • Continuing outreach actions will engage residents, provide risk assessments, host tours of successful defensible space and mitigation projects and otherwise promote fire adapted communities in the county. The new Baker County FAC/Firewise Coordinator guides these efforts.
  • We had a booth at the 2015 Baker County Fair that featured models of two homes: one labeled Fire Risk; the other Fire Wise. They were hand crafted by a community volunteer. Over 9 days and amounting to 60 person-hours, volunteers and rangers from the Florida Forest Service and the USDA Forest Service engaged fair-goers at the booth. An estimated 3,800 adults and children had a look at our Firewise models and left with Firewise, Florida Open Burning and Ready, Set, Go! brochures. The kids, of course, received ample Smokey trinkets and toys.
  • The Baker County Fire Department has joined the Ready, Set, Go! program. The fire department will partner with law enforcement to engage residents and businesses to deliver fire adapted communities messages. The Core Working Group will be providing support to implement this program.
  • The Core Working Group will continue training members of the Baker County Veterans Council to assist in and lead Firewise home assessments for county residents in Community Protection Zones identified in the Baker County CWPP.
  • In support of the Taylor Firewise Community USA, actions are expected to engage residents in programs and activities that go beyond Firewise and incorporate additional FAC concepts. This will include facilitating clean-up and chipper days as well as annual maintenance of the 11-mile, 25-foot to 30-foot-wide fire control line around the Taylor community.
  • Efforts will continue to support the recognition of three new Firewise Communities in Community Protection Zones identified in the Baker County CWPP by the end of 2016.

Florida Forest Service Contact: Ronda.Sutphen[at]freshfromflorida.com
www.FreshFromFlorida.com

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