One of the privilege's of managing the Firewise USA® program is the opportunity I have to connect with communities and hear their stories. My colleagues and I love to learn about how a sites get started on their wildfire journeys, what motivation moves the residents to do the work, the resources they use to meet their goals and objectives, etc. We also know that participants and interested communities want to connect and learn from each other, and are excited to facilitate that exchange through our blog. A big thank you to Jonathon Hartsell of Blue Ridge Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc. (BRRCD) and Samantha Greeno, Buck Mountain Firewise USA Coordinator for sharing the efforts of their community.
The largest subdivision in the county, Buck Mountain is a 3000+ acre development, with approximately 236 homes, and 351 unimproved tracts of land, with over 30+ miles of gravel and partially paved roads. In 2000, over 800 acres burned in the community which provided a wakeup call to potential wildfire risks. However the path to Firewise USA recognition took time. Buck Mountain achieved that status in 2017 and is one of thirty eight active sites in North Carolina and the only current participant in Wilkes County.
Successes and Lessons Learned
Fire mitigation on our mountain is an ongoing, challenging endeavor. Buck Mountain has a Firewise Committee, has held Firewise Fairs for our POA, created a SAFE Zone, a secondary Emergency Vehicle access road, a Helipad, and posted evacuation signage around the mountain.
If the attendance of our recent Firewise Fair is any indication, our POA seems to be starting to understand what a Firewise USA designation means, and that it is an ongoing process. For a community our size, I believe they are also starting to realize that community participation is an absolute necessity, in order to be successful. Buck Mountain Firewise awareness is impacting our own POA, and our hopes is that of surrounding communities, as well. We are fortunate enough to have a strong group of supporting partners (e.g. CFD, NCFS, BRRCD, Wilkes EM, etc.).
Completed Firewise Projects & Noteworthy Dates
*11/2017- Buck Mountain Property Owners Association (BMPOA) members attended NW Fire & Rescue College (S215: Fire Operations in the Wildland/Urban Interface)
*12/2017- Buck Mountain became a Firewise USA site
<p.*2017- Fire evacuation signage put in place throughout the community</p.
*2018- Deer Run Medical-Fire Access/Evacuation Road completed
*2018- Staghorn Road MM 4.5 Fire Evacuation Route completed
*3/2018- awarded the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Award ($500.00)
*5/2018- Firewise Fair with mock ATV rescue, and mock evacuation for BMPOA, Champion Fire Department (CFD), and Wilkes Rescue using new Evacuation road. Firewise packets with evacuation plan and map, and policies given out to BMPOA.
*8/2018- Buck Mountain awarded the NC Community Firewise Mitigation Grant (value $8,000.00). This grant was used for “Firewise Coupons” for members to help off-set the cost of fire mitigation around their home, 2-Chipping programs (fall/spring) for our members, tree removal at Safe Zone, canopy removal and trimming for emergency vehicles, widening of switchbacks on new emergency vehicle access road, and a community Firewise fair.
*11/2018- Helipad completed
*12/2018- Firewise FEDERAL personnel tour of Buck Mountain.
*Spring 2019- Blue Rock 12,000-gallon water tank installed.
*9/2019- Wildfire & Wildfire Mitigation Presentation to BMPOA by Justin Query & Mickie Parsons, North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS). This was a 3-hour presentation held in our club house, and 19 members attended. Awesome presentation!
*11/2019- Individual Home Assessment Training for BMPOA members, by Mickie Parsons & other NC Forestry personnel. Three POA members attended the training, hoping to help other POA members assess their homes.
*3/2020- Awarded the NC Forestry Fuels Chipping Program Grant (value $9,125.00). 18 homes participated in this chipping program. 73 piles of brush were removed and chipped.
*3/2020- Buck Mountain was awarded the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Award ($500.00). Our original event was to be held in May, but postponed due to COVID. We plan to hold an outdoor POA event at our Club House this fall, trimming bushes, raking leaves, and cleaning out gutters.
Visibility and Impact
The Buck Mountain Firewise USA committee presents the above projects to our POA and surrounding communities, via our POA website, POA newsletter, posting on information boards on Buck Mountain, posting in our local paper (Wilkes Journal Patriot), as well as local invitations to our Firewise Fair.
Our hope is that Buck Mountain will set an example, not only to our own POA, but to other communities, and inspire them to take the same responsibility, bringing awareness of wildfire danger and fire and fuel mitigation, to their communities.
We plan on making our Firewise projects ongoing, hoping more and more of our POA will participate, making for a safer place for us to live and play.
Project Coordinators, Partners and Cooperators
Coordinator: Samantha Greeno, Full-time Buck Mountain resident, past full-time firefighter/EMT
Finance & Contract matters: Dana Warren, Buck Mountain POA President
North Carolina Forest Service
Champion Fire Department
Wilkes County Emergency Management
Appalachian RC&D Fire Adapted Communities Coalition
While only in the program a few years, Buck Mountain appears to be all in. I asked Jonathan and Samantha what they attributed this success to. They both shared that having a passionate community leadership team and a great group of supporting partners is what made the difference in Buck Mountain moving forward, and that is the take away for me. Wildfire risk reduction efforts take time and people. It may take a while to build your team but once you have it, amazing things can be achieved.
Photos provided by Jonathan Hartsell
Is your community ready to take the next step in wildfire risk reduction? Visit Firewise.org to learn more about how to organize your neighbors and get started.
NFPA Network to stay up to date with the latest news and information on key wildfire issues. You can also follow me on twitter @meganfitz34 more wildfire-related topics.
As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA's response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.