When a person approaches you and wants to talk to you about a program that can make you home safer against wildland fire, you are interested and listen, until they start talking about getting together with neighbors and documenting hours and filling out an application. Then it seems like a lot of work and something you don’t have time for.
Everyone is busy nowadays and is leery about taking on more projects. We already spend our weekends working around the house cutting grass, weeding the landscaping around the house, watering flowers and bushes, raking leaves or pine needles, all kinds of chores to make our house look nice….wait…all of those chores are part of being Firewise! Maybe Firewise isn’t so difficult after all.
Minnesota has had one recognized community, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, since the Firewise program began, until now. Itasca County has been using Firewise practices for several years without being recognized as a Firewise Community/USA community. The county wrote their Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) 5 years ago and organized their Firewise Board to oversee projects within the community. They were doing almost all of the requirements for being recognized except for making application.
After working with Bill Brink, Itasca County Firewise Coordinator, for about 6 months, Minnesota has their second recognized community. Suomi Area made application in July and received their recognition in August. Bill contacted several of the fire departments and other area communities within the county after getting his first recognized community under his belt and will be submitting 12-15 more applications this year.
Bill thought that the application would be too difficult and time consuming to become recognized. When I was able to show him that they were already doing 4 of the 5 requirements to be recognized, he was excited. I provided Bill examples of other communities supporting paperwork and when he saw those examples he said, “This is what we are already doing. We keep track of our volunteer hours and put them in an annual report that we submit to our county leaders.” The Itasca County Board of Directors has supported the efforts of the Itasca County Firewise Committee since they started.
So, is it really easier to become recognized as a Firewise Community in Minnesota? No, not any easier than anywhere else in the United States. Itasca County just happened to be doing Firewise principles without making application for many years. With a little information and guidance, the county is buzzing about Firewise. Itasca County is one of five counties in Minnesota that have been following Firewise practices without being recognized, until now. I look for big things to happen in Minnesota in the next year. Guess you’ll have to keep posted to our blogs to see what happens next.
If you feel that your community falls into the same category as Itasca County, contact your State Firewise Liaison or Regional Firewise Advisor for assistance. These can be found at www.firewise.org.