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Becoming “Firewise Community” encouraged by local fire departments

By Rachael Plath, Good Morning Colorado Meteorologist/Reporter, r.plath@krdo.com
Published On: Jul 08 2013 08:31:07 PM CDT

Black Forest Fire/Rescue is encouraging communities becomes “Firewise.” This can be achieved through the Firewise program, which instructs homeowners how to protect their homes from wildfires.

The Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program provides homeowners with the tools they need to ensure they are protected from wildfires.

“Firewise is a program that helps us deal with those inherent risks of living with wildfire.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when wildfires come,” said Volunteer Lt. Scott MacDonald with Black Forest Fire/Rescue.

The program requires an expert to visit the individual properties, and assess the risks.

“We’ll come out and take a look at the risk, the structure of the home, the vulnerability of the structure, the vegetation and topography of the property,” said MacDonald.

MacDonald explained the program is hinged upon three main concepts: engineering for survivability, fuels and behavior modification.

Engineering for survivability includes criteria that will keep your home safe, like maintaining a 3-5-foot outline of the house in a non-combustible material. 

With respect to fuels, MacDonald made it clear that while mitigation includes cutting trees, this can be done in a healthy way that is good for the forest without depleting the forest.

“When we mitigate, we are not asking people to remove all of their trees.  We want to retain the aesthetics of living in the forest,” he said.

Behavior modification involves changing mindsets, and thinking in a Firewise fashion.

“We as people have a preconceived notion; I want to line in the forest, I’m not going to cut a tree.  Well, we can do this smart.  We can do it in a healthy way for the forest in a very safe way for mitigating wildfire risk,” said MacDonald.

To get started attaining the Firewise certification, contact your local fire station.  This can be determined by looking at your property taxes, and tracing what station your money is going toward.  You can also visit www.firewise.org/usa.

For Black Forest residents, click here for more information.

The program does require a minimum of $2 annually per capita in local Firewise Communities/USA efforts.  This can be achieved by a variety of means including volunteering, which earns $21.79 per hour that can be used to meet this requirement.

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