AUTHOR: Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan

HIZ three homes for blog

Seeing service to community in Florida

One of the things I enjoy most working with a program like Firewise USA™ is the opportunity to visit communities and see firsthand the actions they are taking to prepare and protect their homes from wildfire. In late September, the community of Nassau Oaks near Callahan, FL, kindly welcomed me as I attended their annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event. An active Firewise USA™ participant since 2008, this year has proved challenging for them to meet the annual recognition program requirements. Their Preparedness Day event was delayed once due to spring wildfires and narrowly escaped being cancelled by Hurricane Irma. In spite of all that, residents, volunteer fire fighters, Florida Forest Service staff, and a local tree service gathered on a Saturday morning with positive attitudes to see what they could accomplish. They spent hours cutting up downed trees, feeding the chipper, hacking down vegetation, and removing debris left by the hurricane. My favorite part of the day was when Scout Troop #364 from nearby Baldwin, FL, arrived to assist one homeowner's property. The resident has been a strong supporter of Firewise in Nassau Oaks but due to recent health concerns was unable to safely take action on his own property. Under his direction, the scouts gathered limbs, raked leaves and relocated debris to the side of the road where it would be picked up later by the county. These young men were polite and hardworking, exemplifying service to others. I owe a big thank you to the masterminds of the event, Annaleasa Winter with the Florida Forest Service and Craig Herr, the resident leader for Nassau Oaks and volunteer fire chief, for allowing me to be a part of the day. I applaud them, the community, and Florida Forest Service for their commitment to reducing wildfire risks and their dedicated support of Firewise.           Photo credit: NFPA
Fire Brigade Work Day Apr 15 2017 (7) (1)

Firefighter and community efforts make a difference in CA wildfire

 Members of Cascadel Woods Fire Brigade at April 15 work day - Carol Eggink When reading through annual Firewise USA renewals, you never know what you might find.  Typically we hear about community chipper days, educational booths, outreach efforts and larger scale vegetation removal projects.  This year, Cascadel Woods shared the day their community had to evacuate due to the fast moving Mission Fire.  Joining the Firewise USA recognition program in 2010, Cascadel Woods's residents have worked hard to reduce their risk from wildfire, and on September 3, 2017, those actions paid off: "On this day we were evacuated from the subdivision due to a fast fire moving up the mountain. It was the Mission Fire. The fire crossed our only road out and about 50 residents were trapped inside the subdivision. We have and maintain a shelter in place for just this type of event. There are four Fire Boxes with equipment in the subdivision and the equipment was laid out and made ready, just in case. As it turned out, the fire stopped at the entrance of our subdivision and the fire crews were able to maintain a clean line around our subdivision due to the fire preparedness we had accomplished over the year. Three homes just outside the subdivision were totally destroyed. We had a few spots were the fire crept onto a few properties which were butted up to the National Forest, but no major structures were lost. A small out building was lost next to the forest land. Not bad for our small community." – Carol Eggink View of Mission Fire smoke column from Cascadel Woods home prior to evacuation - Carol Eggink For more information about the risk reduction efforts of Cascadel Woods residents and the firefighter response, check out this article by Sierra News Online. Efforts from sites like Cascadel Woods make my heart soar.  Not only are they taking action to protect themselves, but their efforts assist responding firefighters.  As a former wildland firefighter, I can't tell you the number of times my crew and I looked at our assignment on a fire and wondered “what will we find when we get there?” When an individual homeowner or group of neighbors take the time to reduce the vegetation around their homes and properties it truly does make a difference.  Often, fire behavior is altered in a way that provides an opportunity for firefighters to engage the fire directly, in a safe manner. Cleared areas such as the meadow in the Cascadel Woods also provide a secure area for fire fighters to retreat to if needed.  Cascadel Woods is one of over 1400 recognized Firewise sites across the county working hard to reduce their risk from wildfire. Are you ready to take action? Check out the Firewise USA toolkit for tips on how to prepare. Have you submitted your Firewise USA 2017 renewal? Visit the new Firewise portal and let us know what you've been up to.

States prepare for solar eclipse and wildfire risk

On Monday August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross the United States, working its way from Oregon to South Carolina. This amazing experience is the event of the summer, with millions of observers expected to flock to the states in the total viewing path. While an awesome event to behold, there are those who wish the timing was different. August is peak fire season for much of the country and 2017 has already been a busy year. With the eclipse expecting to bring a large influx of visitors driving and camping into these areas, state and federal wildfire response agencies are gearing up for the worst. They are laying contingency plans for wildfire response and evacuations. Resources are being prepositioned and agencies are taking an “all hands on deck approach”. Some are even cancelling days off for fire staff. Visitors have an important role to play in preventing human caused wildfires during the eclipse. • If towing a trailer, make sure your chains are secure and not dragging. • Visit the website of your eclipse viewing destination to find out the burning rules and restrictions, permissions vary across public lands. • Don't assume you will be able to have a campfire. • The USFS has some excellent tips are preparedness regarding personal safety and wildfire. For those living in the path of the eclipse, we encourage you to prepare as well. Firewise USA® has easy tools to help you reduce your risk from wildfire, checkout the Firewise Tips Checklist for Homeowners. Most of all, enjoy a safe eclipse experience! Photo credit: NASA Downloadables | Total Solar Eclipse 2017 
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