NFPA Conference & Expo attendees heard from Paul Summerfelt this morning about a unique and wildly successful campaign to get Flagstaff, Arizona, residents to support a municipal bond for watershed protection and wildfire mitigation.
Chief Summerfelt, the Wildland Fire Management Officer for the Flagstaff Fire Department, described the process of developing a bond question for voter approval that essentially extended and repurposed an existing municipal bond that was about to expire. Flagstaff's long history of wildfires, the local awareness of risk, and the value that citizens place on the forest surroundings all had a part in helping to convince voters that funding thinning and fire management on federal lands surrounding the city would be a good idea. Chief Summerfelt also noted that the issue of protecting watersheds goes to the heart of everyone in the community, since water is precious in the West and affects everyone, not just those who might live next to the forest.
Amazingly to many, 74% of city voters gave the nod to continued taxes - to the tune of a $10 million dollar bond - to support efforts to mitigate wildfire risks, reduce flooding and protect the watershed. To date, Flagstaff has met numerous milestones, treated 1,000 acres, and attracted more than $2 million in additional funding from other entities. This effort has gained recognition and reward through the Wildfire Mitigation Innovation Award and a recent grant rewarding innovation for disaster preparation.