Firewise communities are designated to ensure protection against wildfires, and they’re more important than ever in drought years with huge fuel loads and diminished firefighting resources.
“It’s kind of scary right now with all the wildfires because it’s just so dry,” said Mary Hayenga with the Mountain Plains 2 subdivision homeowner’s association. “Our goal is to make sure everyone has taken the necessary steps to protect their property from wildfire.” Hayenga heads up Firewise efforts in her neighborhood in Spearfish, South Dakota, and the Black Hills Pioneer reports that residents recently received a Firewise award for 10 years of participation in the program.
“If we can save one home,” she said,, “it’s worth the effort, because all we keep hearing is that it’s not a matter of if … it’s a matter of when.”
The Firewise Communities Program encourages local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters, and others in reducing the risk wildfires in their area. The program through the National Fire Protection Association is co-sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.
Hayenga said that after the Maitland Road and Jasper wildfires 12 years ago, the subdivision’s residents formed a wildfire committee to encourage homeowners to reduce fuel loading on their properties. They also made efforts reduce dead wood by fighting the pine beetle, which before this year’s flight had infested more than 144,000 acres of national forest lands. In 2002, the committee formed a Firewise plan and conducted tours of area homes to assess the situation. Hayenga said homeowners have been enthusiastic about reducing fuels on their property or have hired loggers to handle the task.