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Offering you Fire Adaptation Ideas Outside the Box

Partnerships & Community Engagement

Partnerships and community engagement are cornerstones of fire adaptation and the focus of this month’s FAC Circular!  A crucial part of creating fire adapted communities is the principle that it is not up to any one organization or individual to “do it all.” Fire adaptation requires all of us to work together, engaging with partners and our whole community in inclusive and meaningful ways. FAC Net members working on the FAC framework are partnering with local businesses, public health professionals, non-profits, schools and more to help coordinate and collaborate to get good work done on the ground. 

True community engagement is about more than information delivery and communication. Active engagement requires us to listen deeply and to learn as much as we teach. We, as practitioners, researchers and other professionals engaged in wildfire, cannot be extractive in how we approach community members and partners. We must be supportive of a variety of lived experiences, cultural differences, language, physical access needs and more. Resources like these toolkits created by the Washington State Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network help communities get a jump-start on wildfire preparation in an inclusive and accessible way. 

Working with community members to further wildfire mitigation and adaptation can take many different forms. The Neighborhood Ambassador approach developed and shared by Wildfire Adapted Partnership is one example of how FAC Net members are engaged in deep and meaningful partnerships with communities. 

Our approaches to community engagement must be as diverse as our communities themselves. Adopting a singular approach inevitably excludes too many members of our communities. As we move forward in this work, we should ask ourselves not how we go farther faster but instead how we go further together.

Together with you, 
The 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.

Amanda Milici is the Fire Adapted Communities Program Coordinator for the Tahoe Resource Conservation District.  Amanda is one of the voices behind the Tahoe Living With Fire e-Newsletter and website. Amanda is a driven community organizer who is focused on helping her neighbors in the Lake Tahoe basin learn to live better with fire. Recently Amanda realized a hole in the education and resources her program was offering its community - renters were left out. There was heaps of information aimed at those who owned property but nothing specifically for those who rent. Being a renter herself she felt this audience was in need of resources so she set out to engage the renter community through focus groups, what she learned was above and beyond anything she could have expected. 

Learn more about this effort in her recent blog post.

Nani Barretto and Elizabeth Pickett are the co-Executive Directors of Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization. Elizabeth and Nani work with partners across the state and Pacific region to implement wildfire mitigation, planning, and education projects and have been network members for three years. From Elizabeth's own words, "through her time at HWMO, she has witnessed how important collaboration and inclusive processes are on all projects, and believes such a coordinated and respectful approach is the pathway to wildfire readiness and resilience in Hawaii." Nani and Elizabeth do everything with community and partnership in mind and their work with HWMO truly embodies the concept that everyone has a role to play and that the community is the heart of the work.

Read about a few people who influenced HWMO and who embodied the spirit of collaboration here.
"Seek out a partnership with an organization that shares mutual goals and you may find the solution to your outreach effort easier to accomplish than you first imagined. Past NJ Fire Safety Council Board member John Cowie used to say, “'every successful effort begins with a relationship, but that effort cannot be sustained without a partnership.'” 

Read Bill Brash's awesome story about a powerful partnership with Sustainable Jersey which has 81% of New Jersey municipalities participating in their certificate program. 
"...the concept of non-fire-oriented community members, like church leaders, initiating a wildfire response tactic that was then implemented by non-fire professionals (out-of-the-area farmers) is nothing short of unique and is certainly a story worth sharing.

Talk about community engagement - in 1988 a group of church leaders engaged with local farmers and their irrigation sprinklers to create a 'a wall of water' that inevitably saved an American landmark. 
"Participants learnt together about how fire can be used to protect their assets as well as to promote biodiversity. They learnt how they could take real steps to be better prepared for the next bushfire. Perhaps even more powerfully, participating in Hotspots made people feel more connected to each other and to the local landscape."

Zoe D'Arcy from New South Wales Emergency Service in Australia shares about the strength of a local partnership program, called Hotspots Fire Project that focuses on training landholders and managers with skills and knowledge in fire management. 
Community Asset Mapping Series is a multi-step process for helping communities adapt to wildfire. The 7-part process creates sustainable local momentum for wildfire adaptation. The first part of the series is performing a situation assessment.
FAC Neighborhood Ambassador Approach empowers local residents to be catalysts for wildlife adaptation in their communities. This guide delves into how to get started with setting up an ambassador program, how to recruit, support and celebrate. 

“Throughout the spring and early summer, our conversations started to bear fruit. More and more often, we shared significant moments when we caught a hopeful glimpse of a resilient, collaborative fire future. We found further community strengths — and challenges — as well. My favorite memories of the process are when something important shifted.

  • The dominant narrative that prescribed fire was impossible changed during a learning exchange.
  • A group of young adults showed up at the meeting of a group that had been previously sustained by a handful of old-timers and retirees.
  • An inholder decided to pursue prescribed fire on her land on behalf of her neighbors and the wider community.
  • A ranger and a tribal elder ended their first meeting by affirming mutual interest amid their cultural differences.
  • A grazing permittee sketched a map locating potential burn projects that neighboring inholders had discussed.
  • A couple of times, fire professionals’ imaginations “clicked on” and ideas started to flow regarding how to involve their fellow community members in new ways.”

- By Jana Carp from Seeking and Finding Community Capacity for Wildfire Resilience

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


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