October 26, 2012 ― The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise® Communities Program today reached a milestone in announcing the 800th community to earn recognition as a Firewise Communities/USA® site. Vansant Mobile Home Park #2 in Cullman County, Alabama, is the latest neighborhood to take action to improve residents’ safety from threats posed by brush, grass and forest fires. And it’s the first to showcase the efforts of a state forestry staffer whose commitment included her own investment in mitigation work on her property.
Coleen Vansant, Alabama’s liaison to the national Firewise program and a public information manager with the Alabama Forestry Commission, inherited the mobile home park from her father. This small residential community in north-central Alabama abuts timber company land, and vegetation had begun to encroach on its boundaries. Vansant recalled the creative solution she found to getting the mitigation work done – and helping a resident stay in his home.
“I had a resident who was behind on his rent,” said Vansant. “He wanted to work off his debt, and I knew we had a potential fire problem if the area around these properties was allowed to accumulate more fuel in the form of vegetation. He did a great job of clearing out the dead material and trimming back live plants so that they wouldn’t pose a hazard to homes in the park.”
The work of this resident and others represented more than the minimum equivalent of $2 per capita annual investment required for Firewise recognition. The park also hosted a Firewise/Fire Prevention Day on the Park’s grounds.
Initiated in 2002 with 12 pilot neighborhoods, the national Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program now boasts active member communities in 40 states, as well as a participation retention rate of 80 percent over the past decade. The program, aimed at homeowners, encourages local solutions for safety by encouraging residents to take individual responsibility for preparing their homes from the risk of wildfire. Such preparedness actions include removing brush and debris from their yards, cleaning up neighborhood common areas and disposing of green waste.
“Our volunteer Firewise Communities/USA program helps communities get started and find direction for their wildfire safety efforts,” said Michele Steinberg, manager of the NFPA Firewise Communities Program. “The process provides people with real steps they can use to reduce potential damage.”
According to Steinberg, taking steps to reduce the risk of damage from fire also helps people feel safer in their environment and in their homes, and provides an important opportunity for neighbors to help neighbors toward a common safety goal.
In addition to Vansant Mobile Home Park #2, more than 65 new Firewise communities have been added in the past year nationwide. Find a complete list of Firewise recognized communities and their success stories on our website.
A Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program checklist is also available to download and takes homeowners step-by-step through the recognition process. A separate online Firewise tips checklist provides simple yet effective steps homeowners can take around their home now to help minimize damage and loss from the future threat of wildfire.
The Firewise Communities Program encourages local solutions for safety by involving homeowners in taking individual responsibility for preparing their homes from the risk of wildfire. Firewise is one element of the Fire Adapted Communities initiative – a national effort that engages homeowners, firefighters, civic leaders and land managers to reduce wildfire risk in communities throughout the United States. The Firewise Communities Program and the Fire Adapted Communities initiative are sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association and USDA Forest Service.
About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. Visit NFPA’s website at www.nfpa.org for more information.
Media Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275