Last week, Tom Welle and I traveled from NFPA’s Wildfire Division field office in Denver to the Arkansas Forestry Commission office in Little Rock, Arkansas on a Firewise USA state visit, to learn more about why their state’s program has been so strongly embraced by stakeholders since 2003. Arkansas has led the 42 states participating in the program, with the most Firewise sites for many consecutive years, and we wanted that behind the curtain look at their formula for success.
During our two days there we had the privilege of meeting with both resident and fire department leaders and it didn’t take long to realize that a big part of their formula is strong relationships and trust - along with a very solid sense of
community that goes into generating risk reduction results.
The folks we met had us marveling time and time again, at their level of commitment and desire to make where they live a safer place for when wildfires happen. From state liaison Travis Haile and PIO Sheila Doughty, our hosts, to State Forester Joe Fox and the AR Forestry Commission staff – you all were amazing and gave us a renewed appreciation for the work you do in your great state.
Individual Firewise site and fire department leaders that we met with included Camp Albert Pike in Caddo Gap, Hot Springs Village, Bald Knob Fire Department, Holland Fire Department and the Vilonia Fire Department.
Arkansas currently has 166 active Firewise sites and over the past year they have invested more than $5.3 million dollars in risk reduction activities.
We also learned, Arkansans are known for their biscuits and chocolate gravy - and I’ll be back one day soon to give that the official Prudhomme taste test!