In preparation for an upcoming Fire Adapted Communities Workshop, I was asked to prepare a short presentation on what drives me to do this job. The answer really gelled for me after attending the annual Falls Creek Ranch FireWise Day recently.
It’s the people and the sense of “community” that comes about as residents start working together on a common goal, which in this case, is wildfire preparedness.
I often compare our role at FireWise of Southwest Colorado to that of a gardener – we “plant the seed,” nurture it through the germination process, and then stand back and watch it grow and blossom. Sometimes, we have to stake the plant to offer support so it doesn’t fall over.
Over the past seven years, I have witnessed a huge attitude transformation in Falls Creeks Ranch, Vallecito, Enchanted Forest Estates, Loma Linda and so many other communities. Former tree-huggers have turned into strong proponents of reducing hazardous fuels and creating a more resilient and healthy forest. Most importantly, they are working with their neighbors to accomplish their goals.
At Falls Creek in particular, it has been fun to watch over the years how each of their different committees – firewise, roads, weeds, common property, water and beautification – are coming together and everyone contributes something to the FireWise effort. The pride they take in their community is an awesome thing to witness.
Being evacuated is something that we always believe, or at least hope, won’t happen to us, but Loma Linda residents felt they should prepare their residents – you know, just in case. Last fall, the HOA partnered with Pagosa Fire and the Sheriff’s Department on a mock emergency evacuation exercise. Not only did residents learn how an evacuation would happen, but emergency responders got to practice notifying residents and directing them to safety.
At the 85-home Deer Valley Estates, defensible space has been created on all but three lots. They hope to reach 100 percent this summer.
All these communities have undertaken different actions with different approaches but their end goal is the same – protecting homes and lives and learning to live with wildfire.
Like so many things, the goal of preparing to live with wildfire is a process. FireWise has worked with many of these communities for four to six years, and their numerous actions are finally culminating into significant accomplishments. These accomplishments, the resulting community pride and the gratitude from residents are what give me those warm fuzzies that keep me coming back day after day for more.
On May 7, residents across the nation will be undertaking actions to help reduce their or their communities’ wildfire risk in celebration of Community Wildfire Preparedness Day. Be a good steward and good neighbor and start working to help protect your home and this larger community that means so much to all who live and play here – now.
Pam Wilson is executive director for FireWise of Southwest Colorado and can be reached at 385-8909 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The San Juan Mountains Associations serves as the fiscal agent for FireWise.