A FAC practitioner and his focus on partnerships and collaboration is resulting in wildfire mitigation projects and more in Boise, Idaho. Credit: Katie Gibble, Boise Fire Department

Topic: Collaboration Communications / Outreach Defensible space / Firewise Wildfire risk assessment Type: Interview

From Collaboration to Mitigation: A Day in the Life with Jerry McAdams

Authors: Jerry McAdams

Editor’s note: This post is the first blog in a new FAC Net blog series entitled, “A Day in the Life of a FAC Practitioner.” The series is meant to showcase the diversity of the FAC practice by profiling individual practitioners. If you are interested in participating, please email allison[at]thewatershedcenter[dot]com.

Name-tag that reads, "Hi, my name is Jerry McAdams, Wildfire Mitigation Coordinator, Boise Fire Department. 16+ years w/ Boise Fire Department | 5+ years working on FAC"

What led to you to working on FAC issues?

In 2008, Boise had a significant wildfire and lost many structures and a person’s life. Subsequently, my job duties shifted from those of a typical fire inspector to those of a full-time wildfire mitigation coordinator with ancillary duties as a fire investigator.  

When you get to work on Monday morning, who might you see?

Boise’s Wildfire Mitigation Team met today – participants included our foothills and open space senior manager (Sara Arkle), our restoration specialist (Martha Brabec), a Parks Department planner (Jennifer Tomlinson) and me. Much of our discussion was based on a recent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grant for local fuel mitigation work. The BLM grant performance period is five years, with $92,000 as initial funding and an undetermined amount of additional funding to be awarded after that.

A recreation trail that is now more open due to the thinning of previously dense vegetation.

A partnership between the City of Boise Wildfire Mitigation Team and the Southwest Idaho Resource Conservation and Development Council supported a thinning project in a recreational area near downtown Boise. Credit: Katie Gibble, Boise Fire Department

At the meeting, we discussed the scope of fuel mitigation work proposed in our application and examined how to best utilize and stretch the corresponding funds moving forward. Some of the work to be completed under this grant involves thinning projects, neighborhood chipping, slope mowing, seeding and herbicide application.

Our team also discussed my upcoming Firewise presentation at the Idaho Horticulture Expo, as well as the future Wildland-Urban Interface Conference and an Association of Fire Ecology conference.

We then reviewed our new Citizen Fuel Management Policy, which we plan to roll out this year. It provides citizens, businesses, homeowners’ associations (HOAs) and neighborhood associations (NAs) with the ability to apply for free mitigation permits when the property they want to work on abuts the City of Boise’s managed open spaces. Later this spring, we will host a meeting with officers from all of the involved HOAs and NAs to discuss FAC principles and to solicit their input on the implementation of the new policy. Our hope is that these associations will partner with us to spread the word about the Ada County FAC website.

After the meeting, I sought out an updated list of HOAs from a local title company. I also found an updated NA list and shared that with the other members of our Wildfire Mitigation Team.

Jerry delivering a PowerPoint presentation

Jerry presenting at the Annual Idaho Horticulture Expo. Credit: Brett Van Paepeghem, Idaho Firewise

Later on, I met with the Boise fire marshal, Chief Gervais, to discuss upcoming workshops where either he or I are attending, planning and/or presenting. Those workshops include the 5th Annual Southwest Idaho Wildfire Mitigation Forum, the FAC Net Workshop, the WUI Conference, as well as the International Association of Wildland Fire’s National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy Workshop. We also discussed the possibility of our department’s attendance at an upcoming local International Wildland-Urban Interface Code® training session. Lastly, we discussed the Western State Fire Manager’s grant that we’re working on through the Idaho Department of Lands.

Are you working on any projects that involve a large group of partners?

I sit on the Southwest Idaho Wildfire Mitigation Forum steering committee with individuals from several other organizations. The committee actually had a meeting scheduled for today, but it had to be postponed.

The steering committee is comprised of the Idaho Firewise executive director, the Idaho Firewise South Idaho project manager, the BLM state fire mitigation and education specialist, the Idaho Department of Lands fire prevention and education program specialist and me. The format for this year’s forum will be totally different and will focus less on education and networking and more on brainstorming and creating collaborative work plans for the coming year. We’re pretty excited about trying out this new approach.

The Boise Fire Department is also currently working on renewing a five-year wildfire mitigation memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Boise District BLM, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Ada County, the City of Eagle and the City of Boise. This new MOU will likely include other relevant government partners as well. We just finished editing and commenting on the document.

This is a brief sampling of some of the work that we are currently doing and the many partners that are involved, all while there is more than a foot of snow on the ground.

What types of “hats” do you wear on the job?

Hat #1: Fire Investigating. We normally have three fire investigators, but one has a broken leg (dang ice), so those duties are shared between two of us for at least six weeks.

Hat #2: WUI/FAC. I spend quite a bit of time doing grant and project management, as well as writing reports and proposals. I also assess homes in the WUI, write community assessments for Firewise and attend HOA and NA meetings to pitch FAC concepts. I collaborate with several associations on FAC related issues (e.g., International Association of Wildland Fire, International Association of Fire Chiefs, FAC Net, etc.).

When you get back to your desk, what unexpected thing has come up that needs your attention?

My Parks Department colleagues asked for a financial report of the FAC-related work that our Wildfire Mitigation Team has been involved in over the last several years. They needed this report in order to request future city funding for fuel mitigation and restoration projects.

Work is over; another long but fulfilling day behind you. What’s next?

It’s now tax season, and my wife is a tax accountant, so I have to pick up the slack at home and cook, clean, manage the kids and dogs, etc. Football season is sadly coming to a close — go Steelers! On the brighter side, I am really looking forward to celebrating a 20th anniversary with my beautiful wife, Dana, in Hawaii this June.

Jerry holding a fish he just caught.

Jerry taking a much needed fishing break. Credit: Ron Johnson, Boise Fire Department

Any closing remarks?

I know that the intent of this article is geared toward the individual FAC practitioner and what we do on a daily basis. With that in mind, I feel like I’ve said “I” way too much. For closing remarks, I’d say that it’s much better to get outside of one’s self and focus on the “we,” the collaborative partnerships that we have and the great people that we get to work with on a regular basis (including all of the fine FAC Net folks).

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