NFPA announces 2009 Firewise Leadership Awards honoring local efforts to reduce wildfire loss

Published on November 6, 2009
Winners Hail from Texas, Washington, Arkansas, Alaska, North Carolina, Montana and Idaho

November 6, 2009, Quincy, Mass. – The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) today announced the 2009 Firewise Leadership Award winners for outstanding efforts to reduce the loss of lives, property, and resources from wildfires. The awards recognize the most significant local efforts in forwarding the mission of NFPA’s National Firewise Communities Program, which encourages a collective approach to creating communities resistant to wildfire damage and destruction in wildland/urban interfaces, areas where homes are built close to or within forested areas.

“The people and programs being honored this year are responsible for saving lives and property all across the country,” said Firewise Communities Program Director Michele Steinberg. “Citizens are better protected, and they and their property are more prepared to survive a wildfire due to our winners’ proactive actions and guidance.”

The following recipients of NFPA’s Firewise Leadership Awards were selected based on their impact at local, state-wide, and regional levels. Among the winners’ achievements include efforts encouraging homeowners to Firewise their properties, researching to better predict fire size and spread, educating children about wildfire safety and enhancing emergency response coordination.

Regional winners, whose activities impact several states, include:

Idaho State Fire Plan Working Group
Elk City-based Framing Our Community teamed with Idaho state and federal management agencies to develop and distribute a video to help homeowners, planners, builders, fire managers and others to learn to prepare for wildfires and protect property. The video showcased how in 2007 homes in Deer Creek survived an intense wildfire due to their Firewise preparation. The interagency team involved includes Idaho Department of Lands, Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security, Nez Perce Tribe, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Clearwater Resource Conservation & Development Council, Idaho Fire Chief’s Association, and the Governor of Idaho, C.L. Otter, among others.

William Swope, NW Regional Resource Conservation & Development
Swope, with nearly 40 years fighting wildfires, was instrumental in the creation of new Firewise communities in Montana, as well as the development of the Whitefish Community Wildfire Protection Plan. He is being commended for his dedication to protecting the country’s forests and homeowners living in the wildland/urban interface.

State level winners include:

Arkansas Forestry Commission
In order to augment state-wide knowledge of Firewise safety principles, the Arkansas Forestry Commission trained local volunteer fire departments to perform Firewise risk assessments and ensure communities would stay involved.  Local volunteer fire departments were taught how to go into their communities and advise homeowners about changes they should make to prepare for wildland fires.  The firefighters also now work with other local leaders to develop custom wildfire protection plans. 

Karen Ridenour, Texas Forest Service
Ridenour is being recognized for her work in fire research and modeling related to the field testing of a California company’s products including fire-resistant paints and vent screens designed to sustain the heat and ember intrusion from wildland fire. She is working on a Fire Plain Mapping process that will enable fire and emergency service managers to better predict where and when a fire will occur. And, her work with local Bastrop High School has led to the GPS coordinates for all the fire hydrants in the city.

Local level winners include:

Cathi Kramer, Horseshoe Lake (Alaska) Firewise Community
Kramer serves as a catalyst for local Firewise awareness.  Her first achievement was developing the first Firewise community in the state of Alaska. Today, she collaborates successfully with fire departments and local government to grow Firewise awareness and shares what she learns with residents across Matanuska Susitna Borough, Alaska.

Robert Low, San Juan County (Washington) Fire Marshal
Low has guided the transformation of the San Juan Island Fire Department’s Firewise efforts to include partners and volunteers from across the county. His leadership has helped form a team of volunteers who serve as experts across many different areas. Due to his efforts, children at summer youth camps learned the principles of fire safety, more than 100 home evaluations were conducted, and 25 community meetings took place that resulted in new Firewise neighborhoods.

Michael Hardison, North Carolina Division of Forest Resources
Hardison demonstrated his commitment to community and fire safety by working with residents of River Run Plantation and St. James to develop wildfire action plans to mitigate hazards, including the removal of downed timber and a solution for the lack of adequate emergency exits in this very fire prone area. River Run’s success lead to their community becoming North Carolina’s first Firewise community, and St. James worked with Hardison to become North Carolina’s second Firewise community. His commitment to educating the residents of North Carolina is evident as he continually travels the state to spread the word.

Communities and residents interested in learning more about the Firewise Communities program may visit

About Firewise
The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Communities program encourages local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters, and others in the effort to protect people and property from the risk of wildfire. The program is co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.

 Subscribe to NFPA RSS news feeds

Media contact: Lorraine Carli,, +1 617 984-7275
Program contact: Michele Steinberg,, +1 617 984-7487