Photo by Faith Berry of burned landscape behind Durango, Colorado area home
This is National Preparedness Month and we are all reminded to take steps to be prepared for an emergency. But with all the hype do preparedness efforts really make a difference, you may be asking yourself.
Working with communities to implement project work with Wildfire Community Preparedness Day this last year, I connected with a Firewise USA® site leader Paulette Church in Durango, Colorado who was actively helping her community be better prepared for their greatest risk of loss from wildfire. Their community had been impacted by a wildfire in 2002, and it spurred them to be better prepared in case it happened again. That fire in 2002 consumed over 70,000 acres and 56 homes in the region.
Their community worked on a number of projects including a fuels reduction Prep Day project this year, and as Paulette shared with me they went from having a 10% initial involvement by residents in the community to almost 90%. Their community was again impacted by a wildfire this year but this time their efforts really made a difference. I went with a crew to film their story and was awestruck by how close the fire came to homes throughout their community. Paulette shared that they had made the work activities to increase their preparedness, fun to garner more engagement and support from the neighbors to participate in fuels reduction activities and it worked! They did not lose one home to the fire this time around due to their efforts which made it easier and safer for firefighters to do their jobs!
Even the Inciweb (incident report) mentioned; “In Division A, south of the fire, line construction continues, and firefighters have connected a line from 550 northwest into the rock face above Hermosa. Last night, the fire pushed into areas with structures. Crews engaged in active firefighting. No structures were damaged or lost, and no firefighters were injured. The work that the community has done to make this area “Firewise” contributed a great deal to firefighters’ ability to defend these homes. The Falls Creek and Lower Hermosa areas are set with hoses, pumps and sprinklers, and are prepared for the possibility of further active firefighting.”
The lesson learned from this incredible story of a community’s survival is that good preparedness efforts completed with neighbors working together with local agency partners can make a difference. What will your story be? Learn more about how you can better prepare your home and neighborhood for wildfire, visit Firewise USA® today!