The inaugural community participants in the Firewise Communities/USA recognition program were recognized in late 2016, for their successes in implementing the program’s volunteer grassroots local risk reduction model over the past 15 years. In 2002, Firewise was launched as a program that provided an opportunity for residents to work collaboratively with state forestry agencies and fire departments to reduce wildfire risks and increase their overall preparedness for future wildfires. Today, there’s nearly 1,400 communities in 42 states, participating in the recognition program.
The following “founding” communities in seven states, celebrated their 15-year milestone of active participation as a Firewise Communities/USA site. Each has garnered significant achievements that contribute in making their community a safer place to live. Those communities include:
- Timber Ridge in Prescott, Arizona
- Genesee Foundation in Golden, Colorado
- Perry Park in Larkspur, Colorado
- Wedgefield in Orlando, Florida
- Wilderness Ranch in Boise, Idaho
- Greater Eastern Jemez WUI Corridor in Jemez Springs, New Mexico
- Emigration Canyon in Salt Lake City, Utah
- Sundance in Provo Canyon, Utah
- River Bluff Ranch in Spokane, Washington
Residents living in those nine communities are trailblazers, they recognized how the proactive impacts of their collective actions can help prevent wildfire damage and they came together to work on projects that reduced their wildfire risk. These initial participants, have been an extraordinary group and through their early adoption of risk reduction actions they’ve served as role models for other communities to take on similar projects.
Examples of their pioneering efforts include:
- Adjacent to the Prescott National Forest, the neighborhood of Timber Ridge, Arizona, has worked tirelessly to help prevent wildfire damage, including implementing pine needle cleanups, home inspections and lot-thinning. In May of 2002, a wildfire burned right up to the city’s perimeter, yet no homes were lost.
- Sundance, Utah, located in the Provo Canyon, implemented a fire forum of national, state and local fire experts as well as homeowners. They also instituted a safety advisory council to implement fire mitigation activities. Among these, Sundance created educational materials for homeowners, conducted spring and fall clean-out days, established an early-warning phone tree, and installed emergency sirens.
- River Bluff Ranch in North Spokane, Washington was designed with Firewise in mind. Work over the years has included the removal of storm-damaged trees and other hazardous fire fuels. They’ve conducted an evaluation and enhanced forest roads and firebreaks, and created water storage and safety plans. Significant evacuation routes, underground facilities and codes for roofing, defensible space and vegetation maintenance have also been part of the design.