FireWise of Southwest Colorado provides education, planning and implementation support to residents across a five-county region. We manage a unique Neighborhood Ambassador Program which is the backbone of our organization. Volunteer ambassadors lead by example and serve as catalysts within their neighborhoods, encouraging their neighbors to become more aware, active and prepared for wildfires. Ambassadors receive training, support, ongoing education, access to wildfire information experts, and notice of grant opportunities to help their high-wildfire-risk neighborhoods become more fire adapted. In 2017, FireWise is supporting about 140 Ambassadors.
FireWise offers planning support in the form of Community Assessments and Community Wildfire Protection Plans and we also offer several incentive programs (Kickstart, Chipper Rebate, Cost-Share Program) to help residents with both mitigation work and the disposal of slash.
We offer a wide variety of workshops and tours to help residents better understand both the impacts of fire and how they can reduce those impacts. We bring our many partners together twice a year to share information and discuss regional issues.
In 2015, we started a collaborative group — the Dolores Watershed and Resilient Forest Collaborative (DWaRF) in Montezuma County that is looking at ways to protect water quality in McPhee Reservoir through forest restoration in the Upper Dolores watershed.
Our organization consists of several, mostly part-time staff: an Executive Director, Assistant Director/DWARF Coordinator, Coordinators in La Plata, Archuleta, and Montezuma Counties, and an Administrative Coordinator.
Dolores Watershed and Resilient Forest Collaborative
Stakeholders interested in the protection of the Upper Dolores River watershed have been meeting since August 2015 to assess wildfire risks to the watershed and to determine a course to accelerate forestry practices and projects that protect or restore watershed health. FireWise is facilitating the dialogue with partners, who include the USFS, BLM, CSFS, Dolores Water Conservancy District, county and town governments, timber industry representatives, Dolores Fire Protection District, San Juan Citizens Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Mountain Studies Institute, and the Colorado Third Congressional District as well as a number of retired foresters and hydrologists in the area.
Biomass Working Group
A regional working group came out of regional wildfire collaborative meetings, with the acknowledgment that there is not always an outlet for the biomass removed during fuel reduction projects, and building the forest product industry will improve the economics of some forest treatments. The group commissioned a biomass study in 2015 to weigh a variety of potential biomass opportunities with an understanding of current harvesting and processing capacities. FireWise is facilitating the initial efforts with participants including the USFS, CSFS, Mountain Studies Institute, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Southwest Colorado Conservation Corps, and Southern Ute BIA.
Fire Adapted Colorado
FireWise, and our (now retired) Executive Director, Pam Wilson, was a founding member of Fire Adapted Colorado (FACO), a state-wide network that got its start in Aug. 2014. The idea for FACO came out of the FAC LN Workshop that happened in Colorado Springs in 2014. Several Colorado participants at the Workshop felt there was a need to bring some cohesiveness to the many fire adaptation efforts happening across the state. Pam served as the Chair until her retirement in Dec. 2017, and remains an active Board member in her retirement.
FACO is governed by a 7-member Board of Directors and in Sept. 2017 just hired its first part-time Network Coordinator, Nicole Reese.
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