Leavenworth, WA, makes splash at their first Wildfire Community Preparedness Day 

2015 Wildfire Preparedness Day Logo

by Nicole Esan, NFPA Public Affairs Intern 

In order to highlight the need for both defensible space and emergency preparedness within the Leavenworth, WA community, the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition (CWSC) purchased materials and prepared "go kits" for distribution during the week of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day (May 2); their first Prep Day as a recognized Firewise Community. The group used their $500 State Farm funding award to help pay for the materials. They were one of 65 projects selected to receive the funding.

At each activity during the week-long series of events, the CWSC gave out “go bags”, labeled with an emergency kit checklist on the front, and contents, such as glow sticks, work gloves, water, and N95 respirator masks to motivate residents to start filling their ‘go bag’.  Over 250 bags were given away to those who signed the pledge to fill the bag and take steps to prepare for wildfire. 

“As we began to think about integrating workshops into the fire adapted communities concept and reflecting on the Carlton Complex fire’s recovery efforts (over 320 structures were lost - more than in any other previous Washington wildfire), we wanted to change how we connected people to wildfire.  We wanted to infuse the role of fire and wildfire preparedness into individual interests,” said assistant director of the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition, Hilary Lundgren. “Our goal was to integrate elements of human resiliency into each event to inspire individuals to connect to the landscape and take action.”

Wildfire Prep Day in Leavenworth, WAThe CWSC, overseen by a steering committee of dedicated volunteers, partnered with more than 30 entities (businesses, nonprofit organizations, governmental entities, and the Methow community) to organize a week of activities focused on how we, as humans relate to fire in our daily culture: art, music, gardening, home, recreation, economics.  The events and workshops preceding Prep Day provided opportunities for residents to learn Firewise landscaping techniques and plant selection; how to assess your home for wildfire risk; tips and tools for home hardening; and resources for business continuity planning. 

Several events were centered on the human spirit – an appreciation night for wildland firefighters and the resiliency and recovery of those who were severely impacted by the Carlton Complex Fire.  A local Leavenworth business also featured 20 pieces of wildfire inspired art, curated by the Confluence Gallery and Art Center. The art represented the artist’s response to the catastrophic wildfires in the Methow Valley during the summer of 2014. The artists also presented narratives that spoke to the power of wildfire and its aftereffects on both nature and the communities they live in. 

The objective of all of the CWSC events and "go kit" activities was to motivate the Leavenworth community to prepare their home and landscapes for wildfire on Prep Day, where the CWSC facilitated a free community chipping day for all residents at the Chelan County Peshastin-Dryden Transfer Station.  In addition to free chipping, a “science of wildfire walk” on Prep Day provided an opportunity for participants to discover what drives fire severity and the role of fire in a landscape adapted with and without wildfire. 

“For us, we want to create a difference in the way we look at wildfire in this community,” said Director, Annie Schmidt. “We want preparedness to be the norm because fire is normal. Fire is natural here. This comes very close to the core of our mission. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t make a splash.”