Fire Adapted Com­mu­ni­ties

Catron Courier - - News - By Sher Brown

I’ve been talk­ing for months about this year’s wild­fire po­ten­tial. You’ve prob­a­bly heard the news of the Sig­nal Fire, ten miles north of Sil­ver City. At the time of this writ­ing, it’s 5740 acres and only 25% con­tained. I’ve heard some peo­ple say, “Yeah well, that’s in the Gila—doesn’t have any­thing to do with us.” I beg to dif­fer. In Ca­tron County, we’ve al­ready had thir­teen wild­fires this year—all of them, in­clud­ing the Sig­nal Fire, hu­man caused. Granted, they were small fires, but it goes to show just how volatile the fu­els are this year. It’s not if, but when a wild­fire will threaten your com­mu­nity. A wild­fire is still a threat, even if it’s miles away. Trav­el­ing em­bers can ig­nite roofs, decks, fences, mulch, wood piles, and any­thing else flammable around your home. Fires are part of the nat­u­ral ecol­ogy, and liv­ing ad­ja­cent to the wilder­ness means liv­ing with a con­stant threat of fires.

En­ter Fire Adapted Com­mu­ni­ties. The con­cept of fireadapted com­mu­ni­ties (FACs) holds that, with proper prepa­ra­tion, com­mu­ni­ties can with­stand the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of a wild­land fire, re­duc­ing loss of life and prop­erty. Res­i­dents of any neigh­bor­hood are con­nected by their wild­fire risk. If one home is in­ad­e­quately pre­pared, the en­tire neigh­bor­hood is at risk. Every­one’s safety is im­pacted, in­clud­ing fire­fight­ers and other emer­gency re­spon­ders. A FAC is a com­mu­nity of in­formed and pre­pared cit­i­zens work­ing to­gether to re­duce that risk.

Va­ca­tion homes pose another area of risk. Your com­mu­nity may have a large pop­u­la­tion of sea­sonal res­i­dents, ab­sen­tee own­ers, hunters, and back coun­try campers. These “part-time” res­i­dents may not be fa­mil­iar with the lo­cal fire threat and may have mis­con­cep­tions about fire re­sponse ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Many peo­ple move to a wild­land ur­ban in­ter­face, bring­ing with them the same fire pro­tec­tion ex­pec­ta­tions they had when liv­ing in ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties. Fire­fight­ers can’t al­ways pro­tect ev­ery home from wild­fire—es­pe­cially if you haven’t done your part to pre­pare. There are three threats to your home dur­ing a wild­fire: wind­borne em­bers, ra­di­ant heat, and di­rect flame con­tact (em­bers be­ing the most im­por­tant). When con­sid­er­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of your home to wild­fire, you need to eval­u­ate and ad­dress all three ex­po­sures. You need to thor­oughly un­der­stand home ig­ni­tion zone, de­fen­si­ble space, and how to “har­den” your home.

If you are un­cer­tain what to do, con­tact your lo­cal fire de­part­ment for a home as­sess­ment.

And yet, the con­cept of FACs is not just about de­fen­si­ble space. It’s also about build­ing a re­la­tion­ship with your lo­cal emer­gency re­spon­ders be­fore the fire starts. It’s about know­ing what to ex­pect from those emer­gency re­spon­ders when the fire does come. It’s about un­der­stand­ing what the en­vi­ron­ment was like be­fore over­graz­ing, devel­op­ment, and the in­tro­duc­tion of non-in­dige­nous veg­e­ta­tion changed that en­vi­ron­ment. And it’s about hav­ing a pre­pared­ness plan for your fam­ily and un­der­stand­ing what evac­u­a­tion means to you and your com­mu­nity.

For more in­for­ma­tion on how your com­mu­nity can be­come a FAC, go to usfa.fema.gov and en­ter Your Role in Fire Adapted Com­mu­ni­ties in the search field. To find out how your com­mu­nity projects might be funded through var­i­ous grants, visit nwcg.gov and click on Wild­land Fire Grants. The list keeps chang­ing, so check fre­quently. Use the Wild­fire Home As­sess­ment & Check­list to con­duct a risk as­sess­ment on your prop­erty.

Of­ten, com­mu­ni­ties can ac­cess fund­ing though mit­i­ga­tion plan­ning by their State

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