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Networking event generates lessons for practitioners

Blog Post created by cathyprudhomme Employee on Dec 11, 2014

Project Wildfire blog - Dec 2014
Photo courtesy of Alison Green (Project Wildfire)

A recent networking day hosted by Project Wildfire (the community organization in Deschutes County, OR that facilitates, educates, disseminates and maximizes community efforts toward effective fire planning and mitigation) connected Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) practitioners in a forum focused on a peer exchange opportunity.

The meeting was the first of its kind in the area and was aimed at building the local network and focused specifically on Firewise Communities/USA program participants; a similar meeting design could be applied to a broader FAC event in any community. Project Wildfire and their partners designed the meeting around a series of guiding questions that allowed participants to share their successes and challenges; building relationships and trust. Check out some of the insights FAC practitioners shared and consider how you might apply these lessons in your efforts.

When asked about how to encourage residents to take action, participants offered the following:

  • Don’t give up - be persistent and consistent with your message
  • Be the model and set the standard in your neighborhood
  • Illustrate a fire-ready home and remind people that mitigation work is an on-going process
  • Organize property assessments and consider utilizing agency partners, such as a local fire chief/marshal, to bolster credibility and add increased validity to your effort
  • Host social events for neighborhoods to connect residents around shared values
  • Work with your local HOA, or other governing body, to incorporate appropriate fire mitigation standards into Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) or local codes

Participants shared memorable turning points when they began making progress toward their Firewise goals:

  • Area wildfires can motivate people to action—being ready with FAC messages after a fire can help get the word out and support community needs
  • Field tours offer some of the best learning opportunities
  • Organizing a neighborhood walk-through can help establish a shared understanding of baseline conditions
  • Grant programs can subsidize the cost of treatments and jumpstart implementation in a neighborhood
  • Funding assistance may take the form of chipper days, individual grants and cost-share programs or disposal fee reductions

Creative outreach activities shared by participants included:

  • Provide welcome packets to new residents (both homeowners and renters) that include fire history, community resources and local contractor contacts
  • Work to incorporate your FAC messages into the local public service announcements
  • Be introspective - recognize what motivates you to take action and capture that in a story 

Participants reflected on how they could inspire action in the future:

  • Incorporate these three steps when working with volunteers: train, utilize and recognize!
  • Be realistic
  • FAC requires a long-term sustained effort
  • You will never be done, but you can make progress together
  • This is not just about my home or property; this is about all of us

These lessons and many more were shared by participants at the first Firewise networking day in Deschutes County. To learn more about the event, or for advice on hosting your own networking day, contact Alison Green at projectwildfire.pw@gmail.com.

Our thanks to Michelle Medley-Daniel for submitting her article to the Fire Break Blog.  Michelle is a member of the FAC Network Coordinating Team. 

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