Community leaders share ideas for engaging their neighbors in fire adaptation. Photo courtesy Alison Green.

Topic: Communications / Outreach Defensible space / Firewise Type: Meeting / Event Success Story / Lessons Learned

Advice for FAC Practitioners from Firewise Networking Day in Oregon

Authors: Michelle Medley-Daniel

Project Wildfire recently hosted a Firewise Networking day aimed at connecting FAC practitioners in Central Oregon. This was the first meeting of its kind for the area, aimed at building the local network and creating a place for peer exchange. While this event was focused specifically on Firewise program participants, a similar meeting design could be applied to a broader FAC event in your community. Project Wildfire and their partners designed the meeting around a series of guiding questions that allowed participants to share successes and challenges, and built relationships and trust among their community. Check out some of the insights FAC practitioners shared and consider how you might apply these lessons to your FAC work.

When asked about how to encourage residents to take action, participants offered the following advice:

  • Don’t give up! Be persistent and consistent with your message.
  • Be the model and set the standard in your neighborhood. Illustrate a fire-ready home and remind people that mitigation work is on-going.
  • Organize property assessments and consider utilizing agency partners, such as a local fire chief, to bolster credibility and add to the validity of your effort.
  • Host social events for neighborhoods to connect people around their shared values.
  • Work with your local HOA, or other governing body, to incorporate appropriate fire mitigation standards into Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) or local codes.

Participants shared memorable turning points when they began making progress toward their Firewise goals:

  • Area wildfires can motivate people to action—being ready with FAC messages after a fire can help get the word out and support community needs.
  • Field tours offer some of the best learning opportunities. Organizing a neighborhood walk-through can help establish a shared understanding of baseline conditions.
  • Grant programs can subsidize the cost of treatments and jump-start implementation in a neighborhood. Funding assistance may take the form of chipper days, individual grants and cost-share programs or disposal fee reductions.

Creative outreach activities shared by participants included:

  • Provide welcome packets to new residents (both homeowners and renters) that include fire history, community resources lists and local contractor contacts.
  • Work to incorporate your FAC messages into a cooperator’s PSA.
  • Be introspective. Recognize what motivates you and capture that in a story. An authentic story will activate others.

Participants reflected on how they could inspire action in the future:

  • Remember these three steps when working with volunteers: train, utilize and recognize!
  • Be realistic. FAC requires a sustained effort over the long-term. You will never be done, but you can make progress together.
  • This is not just about my home or property; this is about all of us.

These lessons and many more were shared by participants at the first Firewise networking day in Deschutes County. To learn more about the event, or for advice on hosting your own networking day, contact Alison Green at projectwildfire.pw [at] gmail.com.

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