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VerandahVerandah is a community in progress - a Firewise community in development. The long process for recognition for Verandah began on October 26, 2000. On that date, representatives from Bonita Bay Group, the parent company of the development, attended a regional Florida Firewise workshop in Port Charlotte. Information gathered at the one-day workshop so impressed the developers that they made the decision to incorporate what they had learned when they constructed Verandah. They wanted to show that communities could, in fact, be designed and built to withstand wildfires - and have great environmental and economic appeal as well.

VerandahVerandah is a 1,456-acre master-planned community along a 1.75-mile stretch of the Orange River. It is located ten minutes from downtown Fort Myers in northeastern Lee County, just south of the Caloosahatchee River. Nearly 70 percent of the community will be open space, with 480 acres of common areas, golf course and parks, 416 acres of wetland preserve and lakes, 84 acres of upland preserves and a buffer along the river to maintain the unique character of the riverfront.

VerandahAt the beginning of the project, the Florida Division of Forestry Fire Risk Assessment System identified the area where Verandah is located as one of its highest levels of concern. A site-specific wildfire risk assessment conducted at that time using the Wildfire Hazard Assessment Guide for Florida Homeowners (WHAGFH) produced a score of 98. Thus, Verandah was placed in the "high hazard" level. Risk factors inherent to developments in the immediate area of Verandah included:

  • Narrow one lane roadways without all weather surface
  • Dead end roads
  • Narrow winding driveways
  • Use of flammable construction materials, especially wood siding or vinyl covered chip board
  • Elevated wooden structures
  • Enclosed spaces with little or no defensible space
  • No system of pressurized hydrants

 Based on this assessment, the Verandah planning group decided to incorporate the following standards into the development:

  1. Two means of ingress and egress to the community
  2. Road width of 25', plus 5 feet of additional shoulder
  3. Roads of concrete or blacktop. Grades are non-existent
  4. Fire service access turnarounds with radii larger than 50'
  5. Street signs at least 4" and made of non-combustible material
  6. Placement of the golf course as a buffer to the residential areas
  7. Nature trails incorporated as fuel breaks
  8. Institution of a program of regular fuel mitigation
  9. Required defensible space around homes of 30 - 70'
  10. Class A roofs required
  11. Use of predominately non-combustible building materials
  12. Installation of fire hydrants with a pressurized source exceeding 500 gpm less that 1,000' apart
  13. Available indoor sprinkler systems
  14. Underground utilities

VerandahThe results of Verandah's planning reduced its WHAGFH score to 35, moving the community into the "low hazard" level.

In addition to the above construction modifications, Verandah plans to offer education to prospective homeowners on the use of Firewise vegetation around their homes. Education will also incorporate information about fuel reduction efforts in the area, including the use of prescribed fire in adjacent properties. This will be part of an on-going program with the Florida Division of Forestry.

Already Verandah has 30 families living in the community. Shortly, the homeowners association will take over the Firewise Board's planning function and continue the Firewise Community commitment. A homeowners meeting featuring on Firewise education is planned for the spring of 2004.