FireWise of Southwest Colorado recently announced that the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad was named as one of nine 2018 Wildfire Mitigation Award winners during the Feb. 28 International Association of Fire Chiefs Wildland-Urban Interface Conference in Reno, Nevada.
Wildlife Mitigation Awards were created in 2014 to recognize individuals and organizations committed to wildfire mitigation for displaying outstanding innovation and leadership. Award sponsors publicly honor these efforts to increase awareness and show the value of effective wildfire mitigation practices in local communities. FireWise will hold a local awards ceremony during its March 20 Fire Council meeting.
“The 2018 Wildfire Mitigation awardees are valued partners of the nation’s state foresters and the agencies they lead, serving as key members in the nationwide effort to ensure safer and more rapid response to wildfire year-round,” said George Geissler, Oklahoma forester and president of the National Association of State Foresters. “I commend the awardees for their wildfire preparedness efforts which contribute to saving lives, protecting thousands of homes and strengthening our communities.”
According to a news release, FireWise nominated the railroad for the multifaceted approach it uses to reduce wildfire risk in the area. Since 2002, when the 70,000-acre Missionary Ridge Fire shut down the train for weeks, the railroad has taken a wide range of wildfire precautions – crews were trained to monitor for fires and haul water to suppress them before they spread, and a helicopter was even added to the mix to hover over the route in June and July when fire danger is at its highest.
For the past three years, the railroad has hired Southwest Conservation Corps to conduct fuel reduction operations along 160 acres of land near the tracks. An additional fuels-reduction project was conducted north of Durango along County Road 200, which gives access to four small communities and the Rockwood train station.
“We feel the railroad’s efforts truly exemplify how everyone has a role to play in creating fire-adapted communities,” said FireWise executive director Ashley Downing. “We are impressed by their unique approaches and the many partners they work with in their efforts.”
The railroad also contributes to the community approach to wildfire preparedness, with events such as FireWise Day at Falls Creek Ranch, which featured a helicopter, and its Christmas Tree Train, which allows train passengers to cut down a Christmas tree, usually a white fir, at the Cascade Wye junction to help thin the density of the forest in that area.
“Wildland fire is more destructive and costly than ever before,” said Chief Thomas Jenkins, International Association of Fire Chiefs president and chairman of the board. “That’s why, on behalf of the IAFC, I’m especially proud to congratulate this year’s National Wildfire Mitigation Award winners for their outstanding leadership and contributions to wildland fire risk reduction in their communities.”
The Wildfire Mitigation Awards are sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Forest Service.
For more information, visit www.stateforesters.org/mitigation.