How do you eat an elephant?

Blog Post created by michelesteinberg Employee on Oct 23, 2012


Q. How do you eat an elephant?  A. One bite at a time. 

A silly riddle, but applicable to us who live in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI is pronounced woo-eee, and said with feeling).  Eating an elephant is a big job and best not done alone.  We each have our individual elephants to eat by mitigating our properties in our quest to become Firewise.  I can attest it is a long, arduous and often painful task that never seems to end.  And, just about the time I think I’m done, it’s time to start over again. 

I’ve had the privilege (and pleasure) of working with other communities over the years who recognized they had a wildfire problem and became Firewise Communities.  Let me share with you what I’ve learned:

First, “the Organized Bird Gets the Worm.”  So, get organized.  In this time of tight budgets and limited funding, it is no longer the early bird that gets the worm; it’s the organized bird.  EarlybirdTeam up with your local natural resource managers and fire department to assess your wildfire risks, followed by developing a plan of actionable items your community can accomplish.  This does several things for your community: 1) it lets others know your community has acknowledged its wildfire exposure and is ready to begin the journey on the path to becoming Firewise; 2) it allows local resources to economize on their limited time by the community taking on more of the role for education and community project planning; and 3) being organized empowers the community as a much stronger voice when requesting grant funding and getting the attention of abutting public land managers.

Second, “Eating an Elephant Takes a Village.”  OK, your pet elephant just died in the front yard. (Mine was pink!)  Once the grieving is over, how do we get it into the soup pot?  In our case, the elephant is the huge volume of fuel we need to remove from around our homes and communities.  The trees and brush we’ve cut are now a huge pile of slash in the front yard.  This is where thinking like a village comes into play.  Organizing chipping days, negotiating discount rates with mitigation contractors, or developing your own community based solutions to slash disposal are how we’re going to get this elephant in the pot.  Learn how over 800 other “villages” are eating their elephants as Firewise Communities by visiting www.firewise.org

Finally, “Show Me the Grant Money (maybe).”  The most common complaint I hear is, “We can’t do anything about the fire danger unless we get a grant.”  Not true.  It will just take longer to reduce the wildfire hazard.  But, it can and is being done across the nation as organized communities develop local solutions to solving their fuel (elephant) issues.  Also be aware, grantors are starting to ask: “Where’s your plan, are you organized, and what are you already doing?  What partnerships have you formed?”  Competition is fierce out there, so get going, and don’t give up.

In order to make our task of being Firewise easier, we must first, recognize that only one person can truly affect what happens on your property:you.  Then you can begin your quest for knowledge to learn how you can reduce your risks of wildfire loses.  You are not alone.  You and your neighbors are going through the same experiences.  Resolve to begin working together to solve both yours and your neighborhood’s wildfire risks.  The easiest way is to become a Firewise Community.  Learn about becoming a Firewise Community at www.firewise.org/usa

--Keith Worley

Note:  No elephants, birds or worms were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Public domain clip art courtesy CLKR.com