A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present a 2 day Firewise Principles workshop to a bunch of fire professionals and community leaders at the Wildland Fire Training and Conference Center at the McClellan Business Park in Sacramento California. During the course of the second day I had the privilege to learn about an interesting program that was born in California almost a quarter of a century ago. The Volunteers In Prevention (VIP) program of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is an efficient fire prevention and loss reduction education force that serves the state at a local level.
According to Pete Padelford, the VIP Coordinator for the community of Blue Lake Springs located in Arnold, California there are essentially five areas where community volunteers can participate in the following activities:
- Fire and Life Safety Education
- Public Information Education
- Wildland Occupant Firesafe Program
- Red Flag, Holiday, and Arson Patrols
Pete took on the role of CAL FIRE VIP Coordinator in February 2011, at the time the program had lost some momentum. Pete being a successful business man in his previous life, made the necessary changes to bring the program back to the successful side. Pete’s community in particular has really focused on item #3, Wildland Occupant Firesafe Program to great effect. This effort is a collaboration between Blue Lake Springs Homeowners Association, CAL FIRE and the Ebbetts Pass Fire District. It was exciting to learn about all the good work Pete and his cadre of volunteers are doing to make his community more fire safe (firewise). This successful inspection program is based on the CA Public Resources Code 4291 and addresses properties with homes or other structures, and an Ebbetts Pass Fire District Fire Ordinance that addresses unimproved lots. The initial impetus behind the inspections is one of awareness and education. If, after appropriate inspection and notification without tangible modification and homeowner compliance, an enforcement officer from CAL FIRE is called in. According to the Nancy Longmore of CAL FIRE, the VIP program is a critical component in reaching out to the community and has helped reduced agency (State) costs and at the same time is achieving the desired outcome of a more fire safe (firewise) community. It all starts with education and awareness.
Pete's VIP Keys to Success
This past weekend, Pete and his volunteers planned and implemented their first Firewise Day and hope to become eligible for Firewise recognition in the coming months. Based on the energy and efforts of the Pete and his VIP team I am confident the Blue Lake Springs community will one day be a recognized Firewise Communities/USA® site.