Pat Durland, Faith Berry and I are currently participating in the 2012 Interagency Wildland Fire Prevention, Education and Mitigation Conference that is happening in Pala, California. The annual conference has been in existence for the past 20-25 years. This year the conference was organized by Soledad Holguin of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and was attended by more than 100 people. Jim Nanamkin (BIA Pacific Fire Prevention Officer) and two other Native American representatives opened the conference with a ceremonial blessing, which was a very special cultural experience for me, having been raised in South Africa.
The purpose of the conference was to inform wildland fire professionals on many interdisciplinary topics related to wildland fire. Guest speakers from as far afield as Idaho, Oregon and Northern California presented topics that included Fire Department Youth Educational Tours, Camp Smokey, Team teaching, Ready-Set-Go, Cultural Diversity and Cultural Fire Uses.
There was keen interest in Pat’s one day Home Ignition Zone course. Interestingly, out of the 37 participants in the course, more than 15 were from the insurance industry. During the course of Pats’ presentation I had the opportunity to present information on our National Firewise program and give the audience an update on some of the happenings in NFPA. During lunch time, both Pat and I were interviewed by J. Harry Jones of the San Diego Union Tribune. Jay’s article was published in yesterday's newspaper. Margaret Grayson, Executive Director of the California Fire Safe Council was so excited about the article that she read the newspaper clipping to the conference participants! Additionally, Faith made a presentation on how to develop a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). During the course of Faith’s presentation she was able to communicate the differences between a HIZ assessment, community wildland risk assessment and CWPP.
During the course of this event we have been approached by several Fire Safe Council members, insurance professionals and wildland fire professionals seeking to learn more about Firewise Communities/USA. Many connections were established and several ideas formulated. It has been a very productive week here in sunny Pala, California.