SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities (Tahoe Network) continues to educate and empower Tahoe residents in its second year of operation. The omnipresence of wildfire in California and Nevada has led to a general awareness of wildfire risk, but knowledge of fire behavior is less widespread. Helping people understand embers – how they ignite materials which can lead to home destruction, and how to prevent such events, is a priority for the program.
Embers are the greatest catalyst to home ignition during wildfire. They can be lofted to the sky and travel miles from the front of a fire, igniting the plants, debris, and trees they land on. These fuel sources can spread fire to homes if not managed properly. Managing the defensible space on properties out to 100 feet is one way to reduce your risk to embers. Because many properties in Tahoe don’t typically extend 100 feet out from a house, talking to your neighbors about defensible space is imperative. The Tahoe Network seeks to connect neighbors and bring defensible space to the community level, creating neighborhood-wide defensible space and wildfire preparedness.
“Even with the best efforts of fire resources; numerous homes are lost within the wildland urban interface due to catastrophic wildfire,” –Michael Schwartz, North Tahoe Fire Protection District Fire Chief “Having defensible space should be a priority for homeowners and renters for several reasons. Defensible space not only keeps your home safe from wildfire, but also your neighbor’s home safe. Additionally, defensible space is significant for the protection of firefighters defending your home.”
Involved Tahoe residents are a key component to the success of the Tahoe Network. All residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin are encouraged to step up, become leaders, and help prepare their neighborhoods for wildfire. Neighborhood leaders work with community coordinators and fire district personnel, sharing information with neighbors about ember vulnerabilities and defensible space, hosting workshops, and celebrating the work being done. Empowering Tahoe residents to stand with confidence in the face of wildland fire is one of the fundamental outcomes of the program.
The Tahoe Network has myriad landscaping resources to help you incorporate defensible space into your property, as well as vetted lists of contractors who can do the work. Additionally, local fire protection districts provide free defensible space evaluations and chipping services. Please contact your local fire protection district or our community coordinator for more information.
The Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities program is part of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, and aims to raise wildfire awareness and empower residents to take action to reduce their wildfire risk. For more information on Fire Adapted Communities and how you can help protect your home and community from wildfire, please contact our community coordinator at: firstname.lastname@example.org 530.543.1501 ext. 114
Five Ways to Keep Fire on the Agenda – by Dr. Elwood Miller, Coordinator for the Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities
A Fire Adapted Community is one where the people have totally prepared themselves and the place they call home for surviving the inevitable presence of wildfire. To achieve this state of preparation, people need to change the way they think about their vulnerability as well as that of their house and the landscape where they live. They need to include the presence of fire as part of the community culture. Changing the culture of a community requires exposure to information that presents an alternate way of thinking about and picturing the surroundings and the structure, as well as personal behavior. Providing this information is not a “one and done” event but rather a well-planned communication scheme that involves routine and frequent delivery of the message. It means putting fire on the agenda; every agenda available.
In the fall of 2014 twenty seven successful community leaders were interviewed to learn from their experience and identify the methods they employed to keep fire on the agenda in their community. The top five approaches used to change the culture of their community are listed below in rank order of importance:
- Defensible space inspections of the house and landscape. This was consistently reported as the most effective educational tool available.
- Distribution of high quality, professionally prepared material such as that available from the Living With Fire Program and the local fire department. Having this material available at all times and at all community gatherings was an important component of keeping fire on the agenda.
- Personal contact through door-to-door campaigns. No means of communication is more important or effective than personal contact and face-to-face conversation.
- Presentations by respected fire professionals. Taking advantage of every available opportunity to have fire service professionals speak directly to members of the community brings credibility to the fire message. Their involvement also builds trust and creates a strong partnership that reinforces the shift in the community’s culture and enhances efforts to be prepared. Opportunities for presentations may be readily available or may have to be planned as neighborhood get-togethers.
- Routine and frequent distribution of notices, reminders, personal letters, news articles, personal stories, newsletters, and photographs. While all of this takes time and commitment, it is an effective way to keep people reminded that fire is a part of the culture and preparation for its occurrence is critical for the survival of the entire community. The utilization of social media can be very effective in keeping the message alive.
Whether you use one or all of these methods, the most important first step in adapting a community for fire is to create a fire culture. Using these methods will put fire on the agenda and greatly advance the mission of survival.
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