Baker County's new Firewise Coordinator (second from the right) serving joint duty with Firewise's Sparky and USDA Forest Service Rangers at the Baker County Fair. Credit: Florida Forest Service

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

Baker County (Florida) Hires First Ever Firewise Coordinator

Author: Doc Bloodworth

Anderson and some of her new agency partners posing for a photograph.

Baker County’s newly hired Firewise Coordinator (center) with USDA Forest Service staff, Florida Forest Service staff and the Baker County Fire Chief. Credit: Florida Forest Service

The Florida Forest Service is happy to announce Tanya Anderson as its new Firewise Coordinator. This position is a first for any Florida county and is an important one at that. As a Baker County native and a volunteer firefighter with seven years of experience, Anderson will be mitigating the risk of wildfire, particularly through strategic outreach and partnership development.

Anderson aims to both increase the awareness of wildfire risks and to grow the Fire Adapted Community (FAC) initiatives, including Firewise, throughout the county. There are currently two Firewise Communities in the county, Taylor and Margaretta. Baker County also has a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, last updated in 2015. Anderson is applying a strategic approach to leveraging these efforts to better prepare all of Baker County’s residents.

According to the Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (SouthWRAP), 75 percent of Baker County lives in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). SouthWRAP also generates risk reports that indicate areas that are particularly vulnerable to both direct fire and ember exposure. Anderson will use this information to ensure that mitigation actions within the county will be assessment driven.

A map of Cuyler displaying its varying levels of wildfire risk.

This map displays a wildland-urban interface (WUI) risk layer in and around Cuyler, a community in Baker County. Look for the red and yellow and you’ll quickly see why Cuyler is a Primary WUI Community Protection Zone. Anderson is working with communities like these to foster FAC efforts. Credit: Screenshot from Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal

Her outreach in the county, especially in strategic WUI areas, aims to engage residents, assess hazards and highlight successful defensible space and mitigation projects, all while promoting Baker County’s FAC efforts, including Firewise and Ready, Set, Go! initiatives.

Though this project is primarily implemented by the Baker County Pilot Community, partners are training members of the Baker County Veterans Council Macclenny Florida to assist in Firewise assessments. Eight local veterans have completed the Firewise Communities USA online course, Conducting a Community Assessment in the WUI: Beginning the Firewise Process. Following final participant orientation, assessments are slated to begin in early 2017. This approach is meant to compliment Anderson’s efforts and empower county residents to take action in the mitigation of their community’s wildfire risk.

Anderson has had a tremendously productive first few months on the job. With an emphasis on outreach and partnerships, some of her accomplishments include:

  • Meeting with board members of the Taylor and Margaretta Firewise Communities to plan future events and work days;

    Anderson standing next to a Firewise banner

    Anderson is Firewise! Credit: Florida Forest Service

  • Attending a meeting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Georgia office regarding cross-boundary implementation of Firewise and Ready, Set, Go! in bordering counties and towns, some of which are across state lines;
  • Reviewing Florida Fire Prevention Week materials and presentations with an elementary school principal;
  • Assisting a local pastor in a pitch to the WUI community of Cuyler regarding Firewise; and
  • Staffing an interagency Firewise and Wildfire Prevention booth at County Fair.

Goals and Objectives

With all of those achievements already under way, Anderson will lead Baker County in reaching several goals and objectives for the year ahead. Specific goals like qualifying at least one Firewise Community, creating more community risk assessment maps and hosting community outreach meetings are coupled with Anderson’s plans to provide education and other technical assistance to local agencies, residents and community groups. She will also interact with private and public landowners and other partners of the Baker County Fire Department and Baker County Fire Adapted Communities Core Working Group. Baker County is delighted to have a Firewise Coordinator and looks forward to all that she will help the region accomplish.

Author’s Note:

The funding for this part-time contract position came from Title III of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. Special thanks to several FAC Net partners for sharing the job description. 

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