Jun 02, 2016
Contributing to a Fire Adapted Future in Flagstaff: Firewise Landscaping Contest Awards
Author: Lee Ann Beery
It was a warm, sunny spring morning in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona when judges grabbed their clipboards and headed out for a day of evaluating entries in the Firewise Landscaping Contest sponsored by the Greater Flagstaff Forests Partnership (GFFP).
The Firewise Landscaping Contest started several years ago as an effort to encourage property owners to prepare for wildfire. It’s a fun and creative project aimed at accomplishing the goals of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. The contest encourages the public to take wildfire risk reduction actions, and reinforces for homeowners the fact that fire adapted landscapes can be both practical and beautiful.
The contest started small in the first year with donated and free promotional items such as, reusable shopping bags, low flow showerheads and florescent light bulbs. However, the event has grown and community excitement and engagement have increased significantly. A total of $1,000 in prize money was awarded to this year’s top contestants.
The contest was publicized in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations and the GFFP Harvesting Methods and Firewise Preparedness Open House events. Having multiple educational events within a short timeframe was effective in garnering attention and support.
Judging took place the week following Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. The judges were volunteers from the Bear Jaw Interagency Fire & Fuels Crew, Highlands Fire Department, City of Flagstaff Fire Department, Arizona State Forestry and the Master Gardeners Program of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. Collectively, the judges had knowledge and experience with Firewise landscaping techniques, home ignition zone principles, structure protection and the use of drought-tolerant and native plant species.
Contestants were rated from poor to excellent in multiple categories, including: roofing materials, vent screening, tree pruning, ladder fuel removal, vegetation spacing, removal of dead leaf/needle litter and debris, proximity of firewood and other flammable materials to the home, attachments to the home (such as fences) and overall aesthetic appeal.
The event culminated in a well-attended awards luncheon and ceremony on May 18.
City, county, university, state, federal and non-governmental entity representatives gathered to recognize the participating community members and congratulate them on their important work increasing both community wildfire resilience and firefighter safety.
GFFP plans to sponsor the contest again next year as part of a suite of projects designed to help northern Arizona communities live with wildland fire.