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Coolfront Mountainside Association

Coolfront Mountainside AssociationCoolfont Mountainside Association (CMA) is a small community located near the town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. The community has been in existence since 1969, and is nearly 400 acres in size. The area is primarily a seasonal and weekend retreat, but several of the homeowners reside year-round.

The Berkeley Springs area of West Virginia is a two-hour drive from major metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. It is best known for its warm mineral springs and is famous for being the country’s first ‘spa’, frequented by Native Americans long before the first European settlers appeared. This part of West Virginia is rich in history and natural beauty, and draws thousands of visitors each year.

Coolfront MountainsideThe CMA is situated at the bottom of a slope near Sir Johns Run of the Potomac River. Nestled on the eastern side of Cacapon Mountain, the topography rises from almost flat to a slope of approximately 30 percent. Elevation within the community ranges between 800 and 1,200 feet above sea level.

Vegetative cover throughout the community is primarily eastern hardwood forest, with eastern hemlock, some spruce, and occasional varieties of pine scattered throughout. A wildfire would primarily be spread through CMA by fine fuels such as hardwood leaf litter, pine needles and dead grasses. Both the flash fuels and the topography are a hazard to the homes in the community because they can support fast-moving fires that may damage property before suppression forces can arrive.

Coolfront Mountainside AssociationThe fire department that services CMA is located five miles away in Berkeley Springs, and consists solely of volunteers. This is an excellent and well-equipped department, but the firefighters usually have other employment during normal business hours. This could result in a delayed response to a wildfire in the community. That fact, along with the realization that many of the homeowners are not present each day, led the community leaders to explore ways of making their homes more able to withstand a wildfire.

The president of the homeowners association attended a local Firewise workshop held in July 2003, and learned more about mitigation practices and the assistance offered by the West Virginia Division of Forestry. Through the Firewise West Virginia program, Division personnel conducted assessments on the homes in the community and prepared a report. The CMA Board of Directors reviewed and accepted the report, created a Firewise Board and began plans for their first community Firewise Day.

Coolfront Mountainside AssociationThe Firewise Day was held in November 2003. On this day, the community officially adopted its Firewise Plan and began implementation. Over 30 people attended the event, including representatives from the Berkeley Springs VFD and the West Virginia Division of Forestry. The Division of Forestry presented the fire department with a new Stihl leaf blower to recognize the department’s interest in Firewise and the community. Fire department members spent the rest of the afternoon checking the community’s road system for suitable access for large fire apparatus.

Coolfront Mountainside AssociationAfter presentations and refreshments, community members returned to their homes to begin mitigation efforts for the fall season. These included removing leaf piles and firewood stacks around homes, cleaning gutters and other measures to improve their defensible space.

The homeowners of Coolfont Mountainside Association are proud to be the first recognized Firewise Communities/USA site in West Virginia. The community has provided online access to their Wildfire Hazard Assessment Report and Firewise Plan on their website, as well as links to the national Firewise and West Virginia Division of Forestry websites. They are already making plans for their 2005 Firewise Day, and hope their example will encourage other communities to become Firewise.

(Note – all pictures source WV Division of Forestry, “WVDOF”, unless otherwise noted)