Located in north Texas hill country, 7-R Ranch is an ideal getaway for its residents, most of whom are retired professionals seeking an escape from urban/suburban life. About 1.5 hours from the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area and 45 minutes from a grocery store, the community is set in an area of mesas and canyons, with oak, ash, cedar and juniper, and tall grasses. Residents enjoy birds and other wildlife and can raise horses. It's quiet out there, with truly beautiful sunsets.
While it sounds idyllic, it also presents concerns for residents and the local fire department in regards to wildfire. I spoke with Rick Best, the community's resident leader, to learn more about their efforts to address their wildfire risk and why they are participating in the Sites of Excellence Pilot Program.
How did 7-R Ranch get started with its wildfire risk reduction efforts?
Part of the motivation for our community to take action was a wildfire experienced by a nearby, similar community. Seeing what they went through and an evacuation alert for 7-R really got our attention. Our community has 400 lots that range from 1-10 acres, with approximately 130 houses built. We had concerns from the hilly terrain and local vegetation, some of the homes within the ranch are built at the top of wooded canyons, and there are lots with absentee landowners. With the encouragement of our fire chief, 7-R Ranch joined the Firewise USA® program in late 2017 and we have had lots of support from our community members and our developer. We've taken a lot of the obvious risk reductions steps in the home ignition zone and feel like we're in pretty good shape.
Why did you decide to participate in the pilot and what are your goals?
Our state forestry representative approached us about the pilot and we said, "why not?" While we've made a lot of progress in 7-R Ranch, the pilot provides us with the opportunity to evaluate our community as a whole to identify our weak areas and where we need to focus our efforts. We're partnering with our local fire department and Texas A&M Forest Service to do individual home assessments. We want to better understand the threats from the canyons - look at the homes and their setbacks from the edge, and what work has been done in the home ignition zone. The Sites of Excellence program gives us an opportunity to systematically assess each home and communicate the results to each homeowner. I believe it will help us get to the next level of participation in our community.
With this opportunity, we are also in a unique situation to have an impact on a neighboring community that participates in Firewise USA®. We share a committee and are working with our Texas Forest Service partners on a similar pilot with them to increase their engagement in risk reduction actions.
What are some of the challenges in your community?
Some of the challenges we face here are related to the terrain and vegetation - navigating steep slopes, disposing of debris. We also have absentee landowners, who may not be aware of the risk from wildfires or don't have the time or resources to put towards mitigation at this time. Through a targeted approach we hope to make an impact on some of these. As lots are converted to homes, there will be opportunities to engage those new residents and we should see the threat from unmanaged lots go down.
I want to thank Rick for sharing the story of his community and look forward to seeing how they progress over the next year and a half. This is the first in a series of blogs introducing our Sites of Excellence Pilot Sites. Stay tuned for our next blog featuring Virginia.
What will it take for you and your neighbors to take action? Visit Firewise.org more to learn more about how to organize your community and steps towards increasing your chances of withstanding a wildfire.
Images courtesy 7-R Ranch and Texas A&M Forest Service