CPRW restoration project with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers and area landowners at the Lazy D Ranch. Photo credit: Daniel Bowker, CPRW

Starting in 2019, FAC Net began offering an Opportunity Fund for affiliate members. We started the Opportunity Fund because we heard from affiliates that even a small award of $2,500 or less could help them push important projects “over the finish line.” The goal of the Opportunity Fund is to support strategic mitigation work in affiliate member communities. The fund’s pilot round (launched in late 2019) was impacted by COVID-19. Some of the awardees were able to adjust, some had to delay work and others had to pass with an eye toward future opportunity fund offerings. Despite these disruptions, we saw how impactful these small awards could be in the places where projects moved forward. 

We just completed a second round of funding, this time in collaboration with Fire Adapted Colorado’s (FACO) coordinator, Becca Samulski. Including FACO members as a focal area for this past round of the Opportunity Fund gave us another way to support and provide value to our state network partner and our many affiliate members in Colorado. This blog post shares just some of the awesome work of the national and state network members from the past two rounds of funding. From pile burning to evacuation road mitigation and post-fire recovery work within an important watershed, we are so impressed with the creativity and hard work of these organizations. Read on for some great impact stories and project recaps – from the awardee’s perspectives! 

“When we had planned the mitigation project, we had not realized that we were going to need a certified forester [to mark the trees] in order to qualify for grants. We also had to obtain permission from private landowners and needed to do surveying to establish clear property lines when we started to mark the trees. Thanks to FAC Net, we were able to hire foresters to mark the trees for the roadside fuel break, and were able to complete surveying work to establish the boundaries. This work helped us complete the full project on-time and on-budget.” 

Round 1 (2020) Participant

 

Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed (CPRW), Fort Collins, CO

from Daniel Bowker

“This funding came in at a time when CPRW’s funds available to perform this work were running low, and gave us the ability to support staff in this critical engagement work. We have since received multiple grants to continue the engagement and project development work, but without this Opportunity Fund grant, we would have run a deficit maintaining our level of engagement with affected community members during the critical early post-fire period.” 

Funding from this Opportunity Fund project had an immediate and measurable impact on communities in Larimer County impacted by the Cameron Peak Fire. The funding was perfectly timed for Coalition for Poudre River Watershed (CPRW) to provide outreach and engagement to affected community members, as the post-fire restoration process was really beginning to ramp up in the winter of 2021. As priority areas were identified in fire-affected areas of the watershed through erosion modeling, debris flow mapping, soil burn severity analysis, etc., CPRW was able to refine our outreach to those landowners in areas likely to be severely affected by the fire. The opportunity fund made all the difference in this project. At the point this funding came in, CPRW and the other fire restoration partners were in the midst of identifying and applying for grants to fund our post-fire work. The first impact this outreach and the ensuing site visits had was to give these fire-affected landowners someone to talk to, someone to come and visit their properties, listen to their concerns, and give them suggestions on techniques they could implement on their properties for erosion control. Second, these site visits have led to multiple on the ground projects, two of which have already been completed involving post-fire erosion control and reforestation, with more in process.

One thing that struck me from this project was that when people need help with wildfire mitigation, it is always with the expectation that a fire will eventually reach their properties someday, and they want to be prepared. In the post-fire environment, though, the need is no longer theoretical. Their properties are burned, they are seeing erosion already, and they need assistance now, not someday down the line. With this funding, CPRW was able to meet these landowners right when they had the greatest need, and help them find a way forward through a tough time in their lives.

Photo of a burned log with a sprouting tree with soil in a large bag and mountains in the distance

CPRW reforestation project with Trees, Water, People at the Modesitt’s property near Manhattan in Larimer County. Photo credit: Megan Maiolo-Heath

Pulaski County Office of Emergency Management, Pulaski, VA

from Brad Wright

This Opportunity Fund project allowed the Pulaski County Office of Emergency Management to prepare two 11-acre units for prescribed fire treatment in 2021 and initiated a 3-acre burn pile project in two different Firewise USA© sites that are ranked number one and two in at-risk communities as identified in our County Wildfire Mitigation Plan. 

The goal of the project was to help create defensible space in the most critical areas of the two Firewise USA© sites with additional fuels reduction projects planned. This funding allowed our office the ability to provide resources to assist the other stakeholders with these projects. This small opportunity fund engaged 48 people, 24 homes and 384 volunteer hours and made an impact in two of the most at-risk Firewise USA© sites in our County. One of the things that surprised me the most from this project was how much the community member’s embraced fire as a tool in their backyard. 

Forest Service firefighters working on prescribed fires in a forest

Photo Credits: Brad Wright, Pulaski County OEM

 

Elk Creek Fire Protection District, Conifer, CO

from Ben Yellin 

“The Opportunity Fund funding enabled us to allocate resources toward supporting our volunteer ambassadors. Our ambassadors are people who want to improve wildfire safety in their neighborhoods, and the ambassador program has provided them with tools, support and structure to do that. Most importantly, the program facilitates connections across communities, enabling ambassadors to learn from one another and share both frustrations and successes.”

Elk Creek Fire Protection District’s primary project objective was to stand up a Community Ambassador Program across the Elk Creek and Inter-Canyon fire districts. The volunteer ambassadors are links between the fire department and residents, and their main goal is to educate private landowners about fire risk and organize community fire mitigation activities. 

Since our March kickoff meeting, we have organized 20 ambassadors representing about 2,000 properties in 15 communities. We’ve facilitated a total of four two-hour training sessions covering community organizing, forestry, home hardening and defensible space. Since launching the program, our ambassadors have logged over 300 volunteer hours toward mitigating their communities. Some of the activities accomplished by our volunteers include organizing and running fire safety education events, creating and distributing new resident packets on fire mitigation, and designing and administering surveys on fire mitigation attitudes and activities. The ambassadors have also promoted fire department mitigation programs into their neighborhoods, resulting in an increased demand for the chipping program and home assessments.

A group of people stand outside a home looking at the roof and surrounding area

Wildland Captain John Mandl and Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Julia Kalish conduct a home assessment training for Community Ambassadors. The ambassadors can now promote the Wildfire Prepared home assessment program and help their homeowners get started on mitigation projects. Photo credit: Benjamin Yellin.

Platte Canyon Fire Protection District, Bailey, Colorado

from Shelby Edwards 

“This Opportunity Fund provided the necessary funding to allow Platte Canyon to focus and allocate its resources to complete this project as a top priority. Without this funding, actual implementation of this project would have been severely delayed, dragged out over a long period of time or never been completed at all.”

This project used the Opportunity Fund as a way to jump-start mitigation work by improving or creating shelter-in-place locations throughout neighborhoods in the Platte Canyon Fire Protection District. This specific project in the Burland Firewise USA© Community was identified as a top priority in the district’s 2020 Community Wildfire Protection Plan, and while efforts had been made in moving the work forward, there was a major gap of funding to actually get work completed. The FAC Net and FACO Opportunity Fund provided funding that allowed Platte Canyon to focus and allocate its resources to complete this project. 

The Platte Canyon Wildland Fire Module is active with multiple fuels projects and is constantly up against targets and deadlines with grants. Projects that have no secured funding often get pushed to the backburner. This funding ensured that this project–a potentially life-saving temporary area of refuge in the event of a catastrophic wildfire event–didn’t get pushed to the backburner. The collaboration with the local Burland Firewise USA© Community was fantastic and provided momentum for future projects. The project was also in a high-visibility area and the work completed seemed to have sparked a lot of community interest in wildfire mitigation and preparedness.

A huge win from this project was the collective support from all major partners and stakeholders; there was unanimous support to implement this project. Supporting organizations included the Park County Board of Commissioners, the Burland Little League association, the Burland Equestrian Park Organization and the Burland residents. For us, this Opportunity Fund award resulted in on-the-ground work being completed that was widely supported and appreciated.

 

Additional 2021 Opportunity Fund Awardees that we would like to recognize and thank for their hard work: 

A group of people in hard hats gather on a street overlooking a house

Firefighters performing home assessments in Hayes Cr, Missoula, MT. This was coordinated through targeted mailing outreach as a result of the 2021 Opportunity Fund. Photo credit: Max Rebholz

 

Thanks to all of the FAC Net Affiliate members and FACO members that submitted applications! Stay tuned for information about 2022 award opportunities. If you are interested in joining FAC Net as an affiliate member, apply here. If you are based in Colorado and would like to participate in Colorado-specific opportunities, please apply to FACO here.

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