As part of my role as the Firewise advisor for the southern region, I wanted to produce a newsletter that was filled with great Firewise resources, information and success stories from communities all across my region that people could share and highlight.
This story from Martin County, Florida, is a great example of the kinds of mitigation activities folks can participate in around their home and in their neighborhood. It also shows that by sharing resources and working together, we can make a real difference in how we reduce our risk from wildfire:
Around 1:30 pm on July 9, 2012, a wildfire was reported off Savanna Road and Jensen Beach Blvd. Martin County Fire Rescue and the Florida Forest Service responded. The fire was located in the Savanna’s Preserve State Park.The fire grew to 30 acres.
Access was an issue due to fences, dead end streets, canals, marsh (wet areas) and topography (small incline- hill). There were 10 homes threatened off Savanna Road and 5 homes in the Sugar Hill Community.
One home stood out from the other homes being threatened. The home was down a narrow overgrown dirt road that opened up to a large two story wood-frame home that sat on stilts. This home was nestled between acres of undeveloped property and wetlands. After assessing the fire’s proximity to home (within 100 feet) Forest Area Supervisor Joe deBree and Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, Melissa Yunas from the Florida Forest Service talked to the homeowners. Joe told the homeowners that their nature trails saved their home. He told them that their nature trail served as a firebreak in reducing the fuel from continuously spreading towards their home. He also explained that their nature trail served as a point of access so firefighters could safely defend their home.
Assessing the ground for fire brands near the wood frame home, the majority of the firebrands landed in the gravel/rock beds beneath and around their home thus extinguishing themselves. The homeowners also thinned out the vegetation around their home. All this preparation was deliberate and saved their home. Joe asked the couple where did they learn how to protect their home like this? The couple said about a year and half ago they attend a Firewise Presentation held by the Florida Forest Service. They remember Melissa’s presentation and carried that Firewise message home.
Joe and Melissa continued to point out areas that they could improve upon the future. Examples included: (1) extending their green lawn (2) replacing the pine needle mulch with thicker bark or rocks (3) trimming the dead palm fronds away from the home (4) thinning out the vegetation at entry way. The next day Joe received a phone call from the homeowner and she told Joe that she hired someone to make those changes.
Personal Note from Melissa: Being a Firewise Advocate since 2004, it felt amazing to hear that I could make a difference in this world by spreading the Firewise message. In some small way I empowered these homeowners with knowledge to make small changes. That feeling is priceless.
Melissa Yunas, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist ,Okeechobee District