One of the best parts of my job is hearing about actions homeowners and communities throughout the nation are taking to reduce their wildfire risk. There’s a plethora of stories about champions in thousands of communities organizing neighbors to work together to further their impact and effectiveness at making their homes better able to survive a wildfire. Many of these folks tirelessly devote hundreds of hours over the course of many years, because they know wildfire is the natural hazard that they can most easily and cost efficiently mitigate.
They invest sweat equity into fuel reduction projects, encourage and mentor their neighbors, look for grants, coordinate work projects and activities. Often, these individuals work without any recognition or acknowledgement, and from what I’ve seen that’s ok with them, because living in an area where wildfires can and do happen was their choice, they’ve accepted the risk, and they’re diligently working on making it a place that has a chance of surviving a wildfire, while also reducing post-fire impacts.
These wildfire champions are concerned and involved residents making a difference, but I consider them much more, I consider them pre-event first responders. I suppose you’re asking, what the heck is she referring to, there's no such thing as a pre-event first responder? (The term first responder refers to fire fighters, law enforcement and medical personnel that are first to the scene of an emergency situation). Perhaps it's time to change that, and the professionals previously known as first responders, would be called second responders; since the true first responders are the everyday people working hard to reduce injuries, save lives (including those of our trained “first responders”) and property, long before a wildfire occurs.
To the laypeople coordinating and performing mitigation work, you are true community heroes, and in my book, important pre-event first responders!