Island Park Sustainable Fire Community Wildfire Awareness Days
Authors: Liz Davy
Island Park, Idaho is a small town with big wildfire challenges.
Our local FAC collaborative, the Island Park Sustainable Fire Community, has an Outreach and Education Committee that oversees the group’s work to raise awareness about wildfire risk and the need for homeowners in particular, to take steps to protect their homes and be ready to evacuate.
For the second year in a row IPSFC has hired two outreach representatives to spend their summers going door-to-door in Island Park neighborhoods. Susan and Bronwyn are talking to homeowners about wildfire and opportunities to get help with fuel reduction, and they are also listening – hearing homeowners’ concerns and collecting information about why residents choose to mitigate… or not. Although it’s still early, this year they have been pleasantly surprised by the number of homeowners they’ve encountered who have worked on creating defensible space.
IPSFC recently hosted another successful Wildfire Awareness Week. Plans for this year included informational booths and games for kids, and two educational talks.
We started July 22 by co-hosting bear and fire awareness booths with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition to appeal to the wildlife community. That night we had an insect and disease talk during which we discussed how insects and disease contribute to landscape fire in our vegetation communities.
The main opportunity for engagement took place during the weekend when many part-time homeowners were visiting. We had wildfire-themed games for children: a balloon dart game where they had to hit the red balloons to suppress the fire or green balloons to do fuels reduction; Smokey Bear bean bag toss; and painting a nature mural. Smokey Bear made several appearances and stole the show; one young boy brought Smokey fresh huckleberry pie! Smokey and the games drew the kids in and offered opportunities for us to talk fuels reduction, fire preparedness and evacuation with their parents.
The USDA Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management were present to explain their fuels reduction projects. Each brought firefighters and fire engines. Island Park Volunteer Fire Department came as well with their big structure fire engines. The big toys enticed all ages of children and adults to sound off the sirens and spray water. I think we recruited some future firefighters.
IPSFC views these types of activities as a way to get the word out about our organization and our projects, but also to convince folks to participate. These types of events provide us opportunities to interact one-on-one with homeowners who would not usually contact us. We talked with several hundred people and several handfuls signed up for free evaluations and slash pick-up days. All in all, it was a HUGE success.