Whether you are a fire department or a Firewise Community, one key to being successful is creating and maintaining ongoing collaborative efforts. Working together not only creates a wonderful synergy but fosters the growth and successful implementation of creative “out of the box” solutions to wildfire-related issues. Many ideas and success stories were shared last week at the New Mexico 2016 Wildland Urban Interface Summit, the theme of which was “Re-energize Community Fire Response.”
While wildfires burned in New Mexico, state and community leaders were that much more motivated to share and learn about prevention and mitigation tools and tactics. Hank Blackwell, the keynote speaker and an instructor for NFPA’s Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone seminar, shared a concept he called, “Buy One Get One Free.” It focused on marrying your message of wildfire prevention with other messaging that proper home maintenance can provide, like pest reduction as well as more protection from crime because of the sense of community that being Firewise builds.
Various agencies and nonprofit organizations shared about effectively organized youth programs that not only completed great on the ground projects but also fostered the development of youth through both sound education and training opportunities, which enabled them to obtain employment in forestry and fire fields after participating in the programs.
Finally, we attended a field trip in the Greater Wind Canyon Firewise Community at a number of homes. The tour showed the importance of the community working effectively with land management agencies, the state, US Forest Service and local fire departments to make changes to their structures and the landscape immediately surrounding the home. One homeowner shared how they had little resources and no money available to them, so they started with work at the home itself then completed work concentrically working out slowly away from the home. Over time the work they completed became a beautifully hardened home that also provided habitat for wildlife not seen before!
The summit was a great opportunity to meet people involved in wildfire prevention from all walks of life, such as politicians, fire fighters, researchers, social media experts, teachers and residents. It was a wonderful chance to learn about incredibly innovative efforts and creative ways to finance projects through partnerships. For more information about the summit contact, Joy Esparsen with the New Mexico Association of Counties at firstname.lastname@example.org and for information about how your community can become Firewise visit the NFPA’s Firewise website.