Gayle Ehlman of Ryderwood, Washington sent us this account of her community’s 2012 Firewise activities. A dedicated recognized site since 2010, this group really knows how to work together to get the job done!
According to Gayle, this is their third year doing a Firewise project and with each passing year, she says, they gather more volunteers, more interest and more understanding of how to think “Firewise.” She says that they find having several Firewise sponsored events keeps the thoughts and ideas churning.
“Our town is four blocks wide and six blocks long, and home to 400 senior citizens, surrounded by forested hills. It is a chore to trim and clear our yards and remove combustible dimensional lumber, but with the Firewise program, we are getting better and it gets easier, each year. We have the support of our local volunteer fire department, and of Siera Pacific, which owns the wooded hills surrounding our
little valley as well as the support of our local school district. And all of this is accomplished by "the old folks at the end of the road!"
Here’s more of what Gayle told us …
The anual Ryderwood Firewise clean-up day was held on October 13th. We rented three dumpsters, to hold vines, dimensional lumber and other non chippable material for the week of Oct. 9-16th. They were dumped three times during the week and on our Firewise Clean up day, we also amassed 16 large trash bags to add to the flammable material taken out of town.
Along with five senior student volunteers from Castle Rock High School, we welcomed Sheri Nelson from Siera Pacific and three volunteers from Seattle to help us out. One of those is a certified arborist, who along with Sheri did tree trimming in yards where the trees hung onto fences and homes. Our fire chief from Cowlitz/Lewis Fire District 20 and some of his crew helped us out with man- and woman- power and tools. Siera Pacific donated work gloves for all of our volunteers. We went house to house for those who had requested us to help with trimming bushes, trees and raking dry leaves and grass from their homes. We worked on 16 buildings, this year with many others doing their own trimming on that weekend.
Our Ryderwood Women's Club members also stepped up to the kitchen chores and fed the volunteers a chili lunch, provided hot coffee and hot cocoa with donated cookies and pasta salads at our town park for a definitely well-deserved break during our wet, cold day.
On October 22nd, our town board, with financial assistance from Firewise, provided a pick-up and chipper service to rid the town of bush and tree trimmings. As we worked, we piled our branches at alleyways and the chipper service with a Firewise volunteer went through town and picked up and chipped trimmings.
During the month of June, Firewise sponsored a Coffee Stop on I-5, for a week. Our town volunteers manned the cookie and coffee concession for 12 hrs each day through the week, gathering over $900 for our project.
In April, our town park got a good clearing out by volunteers. When the vines, branches and junk were piled up, the resulting piles of dry leaves, old picnic table parts and branches were a problem, (and) that the town board asked for Firewise help to get rid of it. We were able to find a local man with a dump truck, who removed all the debris to the county landfill, for only the cost of his fuel, 'for Firewise'. We also held a fire extinguisher demo after our August Ryderwood Women's Club meeting and provided new fire extinguishers at our cost for sale. We sold out of the 10 that we'd purchased on that day as well as showing many folks how to use their existing fire extinguishers.
So you see, all it takes is a little creativity and a lot of Firewise spirit to get started with your own wildfire mitigation activities. Just ask Gayle!
Want to start organizing your own Firewise board and involve your community in the recognition process? Check out our website. And don’t forget to share your stories with us! We really want to hear from you. Your success is our success!