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Pisgah Forest Farms

Pisgah Forest FarmsPisgah Forest Farms / Estates is a 450-acre community located on Black Knob Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountain range. It is located in Transylvania County in the southwestern part of the state about 20 miles southwest of Asheville, North Carolina. Our mountain is heavily wooded with pine and broadleaf trees and many plant species (some quite rare) but mostly mountain laurel and rhododendron. Our community is home to black bear, deer, wolves, fox, coyote and about every other common form of wildlife.

Pisgah Forest FarmsThe first of our 59 homes was constructed in 1974 and we add one or two homes a year. The one and only (narrow) road into our neighborhood has many tributaries, switchbacks, and a 1500-foot elevation change as it travels two miles up the mountain. This road would not accommodate a fire crew response team and a neighborhood evacuation simultaneously, so we created an emergency exit. We did this by bulldozing a single-lane road through the forest to the back of a community on the other side of the mountain.

We began our journey to becoming a Firewise Community on January 31, 2006 in a community meeting with our local fire officials and North Carolina Division of Forest Resources (NCDFR) rangers. The presentations we received were so persuasive that our homeowners made immediate improvements to their properties.  These steps included removal of pine straw from around the house and the removal of non-fire resistant vegetation and ladder fuels within 30 feet of their homes.

Pisgah Forest FarmsIt was only a few days after that meeting that the Pisgah Forest Farms Property Owners Association (PFFPOA) Board of Directors appointed a Firewise task force to investigate entering into the Firewise Communities/USA process. The benefits of doing so became so apparent that a Firewise Fire Prevention committee was formed. Within months it was designated a standing committee and in 2007 the committee was given a budget. This committee is composed of five residents, the local NCDFR rangers, the district Fire Marshall and the Little River Fire Department Chief.

Pisgah Forest FarmsAfter working with NCDFR rangers to do a community assessment and a property assessment for each of the 57 homes we had in 2006, we learned that we were at significant risk for property loss – and even loss of life due to forest fire. Mitigating part of this risk is going to be extremely difficult due to the fact that many of the homes are built on steeply wooded sloops. Living on the side of a mountain we also have to balance fuel load reduction with erosion risks.

We improved the emergency exit road and replaced the rusted lock (that had one key) with two locks that could be unlocked by NCDFR rangers, the fire department and ten community residents. We also developed a ‘calling tree’ to notify of an evacuation - which was quickly replaced by the Reverse 911 program.

Pisgah Forest FarmsTo facilitate emergency response, we have replaced all of our wooden street signs with reflective metal signs and each residence now has its street address at the curb. We are in the process of developing an evacuation plan for all residents to safely leave the mountain in an emergency.

So far in 2007 we have already held seven Firewise Community Action Days and have expended over 500 person hours to reduce our exposure to forest fire property loss. These activities included the collection of sticks and limbs from around homes and common areas. We then rented a chipper to reduce close to 100 cubic yards of debris to mulch. Lastly we removed dry leaves from along all our roadways to reduce the risk of fire due to smoker carelessness or defective catalytic converter-caused fires.