My colleague and fellow Florida wildfire mitigation specialist Melissa Yunas shared a great story with me this week about a "poster child" Firewise home and her meeting with the homeowner. Melissa was serving as a Public Information Officer on the Heather Fire in St. Lucie County, which affected 240 homes in 4 communities. In the extremely busy time following a major wildfire, Melissa was thrilled to find the owner of a home that survived - since she had pegged that home as a perfect Firewise example some time before.
"Days after a major wildfire, the information officer is extremely busy because they (1) want to reassure the community that FFS will still be here because the residents still see smoke and hot spots (2) must continue to do interviews because the media is extremely interested and they want their own “spin” on the story (3) want [to] document the incident for educating other communities at risk. The Heather Wildfire affected over 240 homes in 4 communities; I went to almost every home passing out educational flyers and talking to concerned homeowners.
Two days after the wildfire, I met up with a news crew who were out interviewing a homeowner whose house survived. I sat and patiently waited for them. I looked over at the homeowner doing the interview then looked over at the house. The house looked very familiar. It took me a second look to recognize the home was on the cover of our NEWSouth Florida Wildfire Landscaping Guide.
I immediately jumped out of the car and ran over to the news crew/homeowner. While the homeowner was interviewing with the news crew, I enthusiastically gave the homeowner a copy of the publication.
I explained to him that a year ago I drove through my high risk areas looking for the “perfect” Firewise home that would be a shining example for other homeowners. I took at least fifty pictures of different homes in different communities in six counties; his home was picture perfect. It had a beautiful well-maintained lawn that was fifty feet away from the dense woods and less flammable plants near the home.
You can’t image my excitement that the Firewise example on our NEW publication survived the 2nd largest wildfire in St. Lucie County (since 1990). This home received no damage. After the interview, the homeowner showed all his neighbors the publication of his home on the cover and now he wants to share his story with his entire community."
Watch Melissa's short interview with the homeowner about how he dealt with the fire and why he made his home Firewise.
Images: top, homeowner in front of his home with Florida Firewise landscaping guide (Melissa Yunas); center right, screen capture of Florida landscaping booklet; bottom, YouTube interview by Melissa Yunas on Florida Forest Service channel (FLForestService)