megan.fitzgerald-mcgowan

Taking on Excellence: Washington

Blog Post created by megan.fitzgerald-mcgowan Employee on Sep 9, 2019

Flowery trail community members standing with their 2016 Wildfire Community Preparedness Day sign

 

Set near the base of 49° North Mountain Resort, Flowery Trail is an ideal getaway for ski enthusiasts and lovers of the great outdoors.  A little over an hour north of Spokane, WA, the community is set in a forest of Lodgepole and other pines.  The location and terrain allow for recreation year round, with skiing in the winter to mountain biking and hiking in the spring and summer.  

While it sounds like the perfect destination to me, there are concerns for residents and local fire officials in regards to wildfire.  Dan Holman, the community’s resident leader, filled me in on the efforts the Flowery Trail Community Association (FTCA) has taken over the years and why they are participating in the Sites of Excellence Pilot Program.

Tell me a little about your community and its journey in wildfire risk reduction.  

In 1972, construction on the ski area was completed.  To help bring in people and revenue, they laid out a community of 100 lots.  The ski area is part of US Forest Service land, but the community was built on state land, with a 100 year land lease with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  (From other conversations I’ve had with Dan, this presents an issue because the residents don’t own the trees.  They have to work with DNR to get permission to remove any large/merchantable timber.   They have had some success in purchasing plats in order to harvest timber and are in talk to complete a land swap.)

This area has a history of fire, with a large one 1910 resulting in a regrowth of Lodgepole pine – which is where we live.  Our community is located in an area of “no man’s land” for fire protection – we don’t fall under a fire district or state response for a home fire.  We have been in a 20+ year discussion with the local city to be included in their protection plan, installing water tanks and hydrants at their request.  Five years ago our proposal was accepted, homeowners are now able get insurance up here.

Our community has recognized the danger of wildfire up here.   Part of our annual dues support our wildfire risk  Flowery trail work day, community members feeding a chipperreduction efforts and we have an annual fuel reduction push in the spring.  Over the years, working with the state, we’ve been able to thin and remove on plats that pose a risk – 34 trucks with trees, we have 10 slash piles the size of houses to remove/burn when appropriate.

Now our efforts are focusing more on the homes and the 0-5 foot space – spreading gravel around home.  We have lot of engagement from our residents and have made excellent progress

What are your goals in the pilot?

We are using the pilot as a way to emphasize the importance of work being 0-5 foot zone.  We have spent a lot of time and effort clearing away trees and brush, this is the next step.  We also see it as a way to get buy-in from the last of the holdouts who haven’t wanted to participate in the cleanup days.

Participating in the pilot also can help provide leverage, showing our commitment.  The Flowery Trail Community Association is working on a land-swap with Washington DNR.   Due to the land lease situation, there hasn’t been any building in the last 15-20 years.

What are some challenges you have faced or think you might face and how do you propose to overcome them?

With the long history of work in our community, a lot of progress has been made.  We did have some resistance at the beginning.  With the help of community pressure/neighbor shaming, maybe of the attitudes have changed.  One thing FTCA implemented that has helped get more people interested is a $100 credit towards annual dues for a full day of volunteer service.  

Flowery trail work day potluck

What else would you like to share?

This type of work takes time.  Use the resources you have and just keep moving forward.

A big thank you to Dan and the Flowery Trail community for sharing their wildfire preparedness journey.   They have been in the game for a long time but it goes to show that the work doesn’t end, rather it just changes in terms of what level and type of work is needed.  Join us in October when we learn more about wildfire preparedness efforts in Wisconsin.

Is your community ready to take the next step in wildfire risk reduction?  Visit Firewise.org to learn more about how to organize your neighbors and get started.

Photo credit: all photos provided by Dan Holman, Flowery Trail resident leader

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