Washington workshop highlights importance of Firewise for private property owners

Blog Post created by laurenbackstrom Employee on Apr 16, 2012

Picture 061

Jenny Hinderman and Suzanne Wade Workshop Cadre and representing Conservation Districts

Picture 062
Matt Eberlein of DNR handing out Workshop certificates to his team

Picture 063
Debbie Robinson of DNR handing out Workshop certificates to her team

During the month of April I was delighted to be invited to be one of the cadre of a very professional 2-day Firewise Workshop held at Campbell’s Resort in Chelan, Washington.  The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with Debbie Robinson at the lead hosted the event with some financial assistance using a Western States Fire Managers Grant.  About 40 attended the workshop representing homeowners, state and county agencies, fire chiefs and fire marshals, private tree companies, fire safety coalitions and conservation districts. 

Koshare Eagle, DNR Southeast Regional Manager welcomed the group on Monday morning with one of the local Kittitas County Commissioners, Alan Crankovich; which told the attendee’s that he has seen firsthand what Firewise principals have accomplished by keeping unwanted arson fires at check and from spreading to homes.  Alan said, “I am sold on Firewise since the first time I saw the program in 2001”. Alan spoke about two of his close friends that he has engaged with about Firewise.  One friend is in great support of Firewise because he wants a park-like setting around his home, where Alan’s other friend’s view is 180 degrees from that type of landscape, which wants the densely covered wilderness look.  Alan said to his two friends, “It is your personal responsibility to get involved with Firewise!”

Others that gave presentations were Guy Gifford, Debbie Robinson, Steve Harris, Matt Eberlein, all representing DNR, with Suzanne Wade and Jenny Hinderman representing Conservation Districts.  The workshop was based on why we as private property owners need Firewise and why we need to get involved now.  The cadre broke out into four teams using an ArcView projected computer program to show a community in a wildland urban interface (WUI) area with only one entrance to the community with various types of ground vegetation and trees, in addition to combustible construction materials of the homes.  Each group decided whether to evaluate just one property or the entire community using the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 299.  NFPA Standard 299 was recently replaced with NFPA Standard 1144, but once DNR created their educational curriculums and the cost of printing home evaluation forms for an entire state were made commitment years ago, so it takes time and funding to make the change.  The four groups the following day gave their reports on how their team evaluated the home(s) using an NFPA 299 scoring matrix in addition to what their team recommendation would be to the property owners.

The second day finished up with Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) information, and I presented on the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program to a cadre of speakers about project funding and grant ideas for their local communities.  As one of the local fire chief’s summed it up, “if we lose one house from wildfire it affects a family, if we lose and entire neighborhood, it affects us all”.  So now is the time; this weekend, this month, this spring, to take action.  The best time to do Firewise is before the fire starts! Visit the Firewise website to help you get on your way!

-Gary Marshall