According to a recent "Sunday Spotlight" article in The Santa Fe New Mexican, Santa Fe has yet to see a wildfire penetrate its city limits, but many forest experts in New Mexico think it's only a matter of time. From January through March of this year, New Mexico has seen 132 fires, more than twice the number that ignited in the same period last year. One of the bigger contributing factors, say fire officials, is the grassland fuel that has built up due to a wet year with lush vegetation and an early fire season.
Enter Krys Nystrom, a former volunteer firefighter and member of The Santa Fe County Fire Department's Wildland Division, who is working on ways to address this challenge by helping homeowners better prepare for wildfire. As a participant in a workshop last December for the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, Nystrom brainstormed with others about how to make the best use of limited government resources to complete restoration projects. It was then she also realized there was a lack of attention and resources dedicated to protecting homes on private lands. At the crux of it all, Nystrom never realized just how many communities were at high risk for wildfire.
So she founded the Wildfire Network, which aims to educate homeowners on how to protect their private lands and their homes from the risk of fires, and help keep firefighters safer on the job. In the course of her volunteer work, Nystrom says she has seen too many homes needlessly burn down in a wildfire, and that too many firefighters risk their lives to save structures. But there are things residents can do to help. Trimming trees and clearing brush is just the start.
In June at NFPA's Conference & Expo, Nystrom will share her experience, her knowledge and her passion for helping communities in Santa Fe address their wildfire risk. She will also talk about her plans to get more children and young adults involved in community projects like working with tools and cutting down brush in what she sees as a critical gap in private land management.
Read the full article, "Former firefighter launches nonprofit to help protect homes," in The Santa Fe New Mexican, and if you plan to attend the Conference, check out Nystrom's session, which promises to be informative and inspiring. Her session, titled "A Firewise Curriculum to Spark Learning" will be held on Wednesday, June 15 at 8:00 AM.
Photo: Krys Nystrom. Courtesy of Luis Sanchez Saturno/The New Mexican