High Prairie Fire Safety: Firewise Communities Program

Gwen Berry

Perhaps you’ve seen Firewise brochures with diagrams showing how far out from your house to have a green space, what kinds of vegetation to plant, and other things you can do to make your home safer from wildfire. Firewise is a national program that teaches residents about the hazards of wildfire, and how they can put simple, smart practices into play around their homes.

But working with individual property owners is only part of the program. The program’s full name, “Firewise Communities Program,” reflects the larger focus of the program, to encourage neighbors to work together to help prepare for and reduce the risk of home destruction due to wildfires. They know that our individual safety can be unavoidably linked to how prepared our neighbors are. Everyone is safer if the effort is community-wide.

To support communities in making that coordinated effort, Firewise has developed a series of steps that move a community through the process of assessing wildfire risk, creating a community-wide action plan that guides their residential risk reduction activities, engaging and encouraging neighbors to become active participants in building a safer place to live, and enacting the plan. As the community proceeds through the steps, it can apply for recognition as an official Firewise Community.

There are many benefits attached to being a Firewise Community, including increased access to funding and assistance, as well as increased support by county and state entities for risk-reduction activities.

Here are the five steps, and High Prairie’s progress through them:

Step 1: “Obtain a wildfire risk assessment as a written document from your state forestry agency or fire department.” 

– In 2013, Lyle Fire Chief Scott Brewer did a risk assessment on all the residential properties on High Prairie (as well as Lyle).

Step 2: “Form a board or committee, and create an action plan based on the assessment.” 

– A High Prairie Firewise Committee has been formed, and the committee is developing an action plan.

Step 3: “Conduct a ‘Firewise Day’ event.” 

– No plans for this yet.

Step 4: “Invest a minimum of $2 per capita in local Firewise actions for the year.” 

– High Prairie gets credit for all volunteer hours put in on Firewise activities, so this is already on its way to being paid.

Step 5: “Submit an application to your state Firewise liaison.” 

– The Firewise Committee is tasked with submitting that application.

The Firewise Committee’s members recognize the risks of living in an area historically known for destructive wildfires and are working to organize the community’s wildfire safety actions, both in risk reduction and emergency response. For more specific information on actions being anticipated, read the accompanying article by committee member James Day.

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