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Offering you Fire Adaptation Ideas Outside the Box

Resident Mitigation: Living Better with Fire Starts at Home

We know a lot about how structures burn, what their vulnerabilities are and what we can do to improve their chances of withstanding a fire. From simple fixes like making sure your vents and screening are the right size and in good repair, to bigger structural issues like choosing the most fire-resistant deck construction and roofing material, there are many maintenance and construction options to improve the fire-resistance of your home.

In addition to buildings, there are a number of actions residents should take to reduce flammable vegetation and other material near structures. Most of us have heard the classic advice “clean your gutters,” but did you know your doormat and patio furniture could be the “receptive fuel bed” that catches your house on fire in an ember storm? The zone between 0-30 feet around your house is the most critical to your home’s survival during a wildfire. 

Lots of folks working in community-scale fire adaptation rightly focus a great deal of energy and time on building relationships with residents and supporting their actions. If you are a FAC practitioner, make sure you are using the best social science to guide your resident outreach. Don’t make the common mistake of misidentifying the issue as an information deficit one.

Notice that we deliberately use the word resident, rather than homeowner. That’s because everyone in our communities matters. Whether you own, rent, or have another living situation, fire preparedness is a relevant issue. 

May is Wildfire Awareness month. We hope this issue of the FAC Circular helps you go beyond awareness to support resident action in your community!

Rooting for you,

FAC Net Staff

Want to share a story or resource with FAC Net? Have feedback on this newsletter or our weekly blog? We’d love to hear from you.

Lieutenant Tim Weaver from the Rapid City Fire Department in South Dakota has spent his career serving his community. He will be retiring at the end of this month but his work and legacy will have a lasting impact. Tim's focus on mitigation such as home assessments and neighborhood planning pre-development are models in the region for what it takes to act before the fire. One of Tim's projects is the Veterans Wildfire Mitigation Team he helped to form.

Read more about this incredible work in Tim's blog post.
Ashley Downing is the Executive Director of the Wildfire Adapted Partnership (WAP) in Durango, CO. The WAP's neighborhood ambassador program is a great model of resident mitigation. “We have a network of about 135 ambassadors who represent high-risk communities,” said Downing. “They work to motivate neighbors to actively mitigate risk, plan for evacuations and tackle other ways to manage fire.”

Learn more about this innovative approach in Ashley's Blog.
"To have the greatest impact, homeowners should start by addressing the most vulnerable areas of the home and then continue with additional improvements paired with ongoing maintenance and debris removal. Meanwhile, wildfire risk must also be addressed across the neighborhood and across the community. We all must work together to drive down wildfire risk."

Our interview with research engineer Daniel Gorham from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety shares loads of information and resources on how to prepare your home, property and community for wildfire. 
"Volunteers who lead wildfire preparedness in their neighborhoods and beyond by any name can provide great benefits. A wealth of knowledge, skill, tools, and social capacity exists within most neighborhoods, official or not, and Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) neighborhoods are at a critical scale to work within to improve fire outcomes." 

Rebecca Samulski shares the impact stories of neighborhood and resident mitigation efforts from across the country. 
"Hindsight and distance are great tools. I now believe my bigger mistake was in not assessing the homeowners’ attitudes and offering them options that resonated with those attitudes. As a risk reduction specialist, I’m not responsible for changing the attitudes of others. I am responsible for changing awareness about issues so that audiences can change their attitudes if they are so inclined. Learning happens within the learner."

Einar Jensen shares the lessons learned in an attempt to engage a community in wildfire mitigation efforts and the pivot that they did to bring about success. 
Even small actions can have a big impact on fire outcomes for your home, family and community. Whether you have 10 minutes or 10 hours to dedicate to wildfire preparedness, use that time to increase your safety, strengthen community resilience and improve fire outcomes. Not sure where to start? Review this list of project ideas!
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In ten years, the fire ceremonies on Offield Mountain will be restored,

And people will see that we made the wild in fire,

In ten years, an interconnected series of well planned fuelbreaks,

Will allow us to share the inherent risk of managed wildfire and prescribed fire,

Everyone will know there is no solution that does not include fire on the land,

In ten years, Californians will think about fire like Floridians,

Prescribed fire will still be more fun but about as stressful as mowing the lawn,

We will realize as a society that we can’t bomb fire off the landscape,

That we can suppress it from doing what it has always done,

Clear away the skeletons to make room for new life,

Ten years from now, we will manage landscapes for processes not species,

And what seems like conflicts and tradeoffs will be revealed as the balance,

The balance of life on the land,

Ten years from now, or perhaps a hundred, we will learn to live with fire,

Because the lessons will keep coming,

Eventually every one of us will have lost a piece of what we love,

And will choose the uncertainty of embracing fire, even while it burns us,

To the fear of living with a fiery grim reaper in the canyon below,

In ten years, or perhaps a hundred,

We will have a shared vision of the fire and the forest we are managing towards,

Based on thousands of years of fire knowledge,

Based on the best fire science our human brains can muster,

Women will be in leadership roles in the fire world,

Because we will understand that as givers of life,

They have a keener sense of fire in balance,

In ten years, creeks that have been dry for decades will flow again,

Salmon will turn gravels that have long been out of reach,

The fruits of the land will be sweeter, the deer and elk fatter,

We will remember what it means to be stewards of place,

To give back what is owed to the land that feeds us.

-Will Harling

In an effort to expand the boundary of the possible, every month we’ll bring you visions of a better fire future. Want to share your vision? Contact us! 


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