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Alapine Village

Alapine Village, ALIt all started when several residents of Alapine Village heard that there was to be a presentation on fire safety for people living in areas vulnerable to forest wildfires. Our community in the woods of Northeast Alabama had been vulnerable in the past when neighbors burning nearby had let their fires get out of control. We had experienced firsthand the sensation of breathing air thick with smoke and seen the efforts of foresters on bulldozers while they cleared a path through the woods to help keep the fire from crossing onto our property and damaging our homes. One of our residents was a volunteer firefighter and first responder. Mary Alice had experienced being first on the scene to an encroaching forest fire where she had watered a threatened home with a garden hose while waiting for more help.

So any news that there was help in reducing the vulnerability of our homes and landscapes to wildfire got our attention. Several women attended the presentation and returned to tell us that there was help available not only in the form of education, but actual practical help if any of us wanted to participate in the program they had learned about.

Alapine Village, ALIn 2009 a group of foresters from Alabama arrived to make a presentation and help those of us who were interested fill out applications for the $1,000 Hazard Mitigation Grants that were then available. Six of us did and after learning more and working hard on each of our homes & yards we were enthusiastic converts and wanted to learn what more we could do to protect our community.

We asked our neighbors to come to a meeting and Cherokee County Foresters presented information on a community-wide grant. With their help as well as Cleburn County Foresters and some regional and state forestry agents, residents of Alapine completed a wildfire hazard assessment and prepared a Community Wildfire Protection Plan – An Action Plan for Wildfire Mitigation. We were eager to do what we could to implement the plan and increase the chance that homes & structures would be protected if wildfire occurs.

Along with completing a community assessment, creating a plan, and forming a board we submitted a Firewise Communities USA® Application. We held our community Firewise Day and spent the required $2.00 per resident on our Firewise Project.

Alapine Village, ALOn Thursday May 6, 2010 Michele Steinberg, National Support Manager of the Firewise USA program, visited Alapine to recognize Alapine as the 4th community in Alabama to join Firewise Communities USA® and the only one in Northern Alabama at that time.

We were awarded a $10,000 Grant from the Alabama Forestry Commission using funds from the USFS State and Private Forestry Redesign Grant. We had addressed our safety concerns, been awarded a generous Grant, and now it was time for residents to work together to implement the plan and reduce the vulnerability of our homes & landscapes to wildfire.

During an eight month period, the Alapine Firewise Board met for a total of 207 volunteer hours to manage the Grant money and create & monitor the priority list which included:

  • Installation of 1.88 miles of firebreaks around the perimeter of our 108 acres.
  • Installation of firebreaks between lots, if the lot owners requested.
  • Removal of branches and trees inhibiting road access for fire-fighting vehicles.
  • Removal of downed trees and tree trash.
  • Expansion of pull-offs and end-of-road turnarounds.
  • Creation of a 2nd (Emergency) exit to access the main road involving:
    • Obtaining a Permanent Firelane Easement from a neighbor
    • Surveying and clearing the Easement.
    • Installing a culvert and chert to stabilize the Easement.
  • Installation of reflective, two-sided, non-combustible:
    • Street signs indicating dead-end roads.
    • Lot number directional signs at each intersection.
    • Exit signs at each intersection.
    • Lot number signs at each developed lot.

In addition to the Grant money, Alapine residents & volunteers donated over $15,000 worth of volunteer hours and tools & equipment. More residents did hazard mitigation work and spent almost $1,200 to create or upgrade defensible space on individual lots.

The result of all this hard work has been the visible change to our landscape as well as a new consciousness of what it takes to stay safe in the woods. We have been able to maintain our designation as a Firewise Communities USA® member by continuing to volunteer time to meet as the Firewise Board, conducting an Education Day for residents each year, and maintaining the Firebreaks through leaf removal in the fall & bush hogging in the spring. We also have to deal with a few fallen trees on those Firebreaks each year, but it reminds us that being ever vigilant keeps us safe.

Our thanks go out to the Foresters from Alabama who have educated, guided, & supported us, especially the Cherokee County Foresters, and to the entire Firewise Community USA® staff.

Barbara Lieu
October 13, 2013