Firewise Gardens can be a great way to show what wildfire preparedness looks like. In Part 1, Firewise’s How-To asked J.T. Wensman with the Wyoming State Forestry Division, about the value of this effort and its development at Curt Gowdy State Park, in Laramie. In Part 2, Firewise’s How-To continues asking about Firewise Garden promotion, signage, educational goals, and lessons learned.
Can you describe how the park and the garden around the main building help guide a visitor though the Firewise principles?
We tried to connect the park’s interpretative signs with Firewise’s Home Ignition Zone [HIZ] concept, and with Firewise plant and landscape material selection. That way, a person can read about the three zones within the HIZ and see examples of them at the same time. When a person reads about Zone 1 – within 30 feet of the home. There is an actual Firewise example the person is looking at theis much more than just a “zero-scaped” rockpile. There are interpretive signs that explain Firewise zoning as well.
How did you develop those and what was the messaging vision for them?
The signs were a great group effort. They were developed among the State Parks, the Laramie County Firewise Coordinator, and Wyoming State Forestry. We had several meetings where we came up with the concept and design ideas. Then we identified how many signs we would have, where they should go, and what information they should convey. Once we all agreed on design and content, personnel from the State Parks department created the signs.
What kind of promotion will be done for the Firewise Garden and who is involved with that?
This year, we were only able to do a small promotion. Due to timing and weather, plantings were postponed and rescheduled. We’re hoping to do a big unveiling next summer that will include State Parks, Wyoming Forestry, local volunteer fire departments, USFS, and BLM. We’re also looking into whether we can have Smokey Bear there as well.
What lessons did you gain from working with the master gardener group that other state Firewise liaisons and communities can learn from?
Think outside the box. There was the excellent group of people that were an incredibly helpful resource that I had never heard of. They not only know what will grow in the area, but could identify, drought tolerant, sun/shade species, animal-resistant plants. We gave them the concept and they were able to take it from there.
What do you hope Wyoming residents take away from the Firewise garden and bring back to their communities at risk?
The biggest thing is to spread awareness. I hope they will let their fellow residents know that it is their responsibility to help keep their homes safe from wildfire. And I hope they share that it truly is the little things that add up in the effort to save a home during a wildfire event. If a wildfire occurs, there may not be enough fire fighters to defend every house, so it’s important to get residents thinking: “Could my home survive a wildfire?” If the answer is “no,” they need to be aware of what they as homeowners can do about it. Sharing the information they’ve learned about Firewise plants and landscaping can help members of their community address this important question, so that the answer can be “yes.”
Read previous posts in the Firewise How-To blog series.