Photo Credit: WA FAC Learning Network members, staff and steering committee gather for a group photo in Wenatchee, WA. Photo by Emily Troisi

I was fortunate to spend five days in Washington last week for two events. The first was the second annual Washington FAC Learning Network (WAFAC) workshop in Wenatchee. The second was the Leavenworth FAC Net learning exchange. (Stay tuned for a blog featuring lessons learned from the exchange soon.)

We spent the first morning learning about what everyone had been up to during the past year as well as getting to know some new members. Presentations touched on a variety of FAC tactics, including community work days, developing educational brochures, and community wildfire liaison programs in fire departments. When asked about one highlight from the workshop this year, Annie Schmidt (a WAFAC staff member) responded, “We had communities that have been on board for a year – meaning that they were more at ease, and more familiar with FAC and each other. They also helped us onboard the new communities.”

The second day was jam-packed with panels, hot topic discussions and skill-building sessions. The great thing about a state network that is a little different from our national network is that members can talk about common issues across a few different scales, including the state policy level. A panel of policy experts explained what the political arena is looking like in Washington for this next year. The WAFAC Steering Committee talked about what their various organizations could do for members within the state. “The Steering Committee and partners were actively looking for ways to support and engage with members.  Through their work, new resources were brought to the table, funding sources identified for upcoming trainings, and grant resources provided,” said Annie.

The hot topics session gave communities an opportunity to congregate around topic areas they were interested in, such as training, prescribed fire, collaboration and WUI codes. In the afternoon members attended skill-building sessions designed to help them use the various systems the Network employs to support and connect its members (Podio, webinars and the Network’s blog).

(Photos above from the hot topics session. Credit: Emily Troisi)

The third day gave communities the opportunity to begin crafting work plans for the year. The beauty of small group discussion and making time to learn about what others are doing is the opportunity to tap into new connections. It gave members the chance to enhance their work plans and cultivate relationships so they have people to call when they encounter challenges moving forward.

Workshop organizers accomplished what they set out to do: lay the groundwork for wildland-urban interface communities across the state to learn from and support one another during the upcoming wildfire season and beyond.

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