For second year, community teams with Department of Natural Resources to expand Wildfire Ready Neighbors program to high-risk areas
CHELAN – Residents, community leaders, forest health experts, regional fire districts, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) joined in Chelan’s Union Valley today to kick off this year’s Wildfire Ready Neighbors program that provides homeowners, renters, and small forest landowners the resources and tools to help protect themselves from wildfires.
The program – a collaboration between the Chelan community and DNR – takes a localized approach to proactive action plans. Last year, Chelan was the first county to launch this successful program. During the six-week pilot, 545 Chelan residents signed up for Wildfire Ready Neighbors and received custom plans to prepare their homes and properties ahead of wildfire season, exceeding program goals by 22%. Now in its second year, the program is building on that momentum by expanding to other high-risk communities in Chelan.
“Wildfires don’t see property lines, and people with homes in areas at high risk of wildfires are only as strong as their weakest link,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “It’s why neighbors who live in places like Chelan know they must band together to ready themselves, their homes, and their forests against wildfires. This is an act of deep care for your neighbor and communities like Union Valley are showing us the power of building community resilience.”
Through the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program, people can access experts and resources that help them understand how to reduce risk on their property through actions they can take into their own hands. This includes trimming back brush, cleaning roofs and gutters, and removing debris like leafy piles. When every property in a neighborhood takes these steps, their individual homes create a large area that is less susceptible to wildfires.
Wildfire Ready Neighbors will also expand to communities in Spokane and Yakima in May. In all three communities, the program:
- Drives people to assess risks and take action to make their properties more wildfire ready;
- Raises awareness and interest in receiving a free wildfire ready home visit or forest health consultation;
- Builds understanding of local/state resources and contractors available to assist with risk reduction activities;
- Grows and deepens community relationships and partnerships around issues of wildfire and resiliency; and,
- Creates a model for replicable future wildfire preparedness and resiliency programs that can be utilized by community partners in addition to their own existing programs or efforts.
Renters, homeowners, and private landowners – even if they do not live on their property full time – are eligible to participate. DNR and community leaders encourage participation now before the summer brings hot and dry conditions that create higher risks for wildfire. This past season, firefighters battled 1,872 fires across Washington – the second-most wildfires in record state history. More than 1.5 million acres have burned over the past two seasons.
“Communities need to understand how wildfires work and have an understanding of the surroundings by their homes,” said Johnny Synder, Union Valley Community Captain. “The education of knowing fires’ behavior and how they travel is important. Wildfire Ready Neighbors teaches you that and what can do to reduce the risk.”
To join Wildfire Ready Neighbors and get a free customized plan, community members simply sign up at www.wildfireready.com. At no cost, residents can also request a consultation where a wildfire expert will visit their property and develop a detailed action plan for wildfire preparedness. The plan includes steps they can take immediately and information about local resources and contractors to help get them started.
OTHER KEY DATES
Spokane launch: May 10
Yakima launch: May 12
More pictures and video can be found at https://deptofnaturalresources.box.com/s/wevfga3pn8emahpuflpdokqpskbsshth
NOTE: Commissioner Franz tested positive for COVID over the weekend, so she was unable to attend. Allen Lebovitz, Wildland Fire Liaison for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stepped in to speak for her.
Background on Allen Lebovitz:
Allen’s role as Wildland Fire Liaison is to build, nurture and grow relationships with communities around Washington and strengthen communication and coordination as he shares information and exchanges perspectives on how to best shape the state’s response to wildfires.
Before his current role, Allen was previously working for the agency as an aquatic habitat restoration manager, a field position that saw him implementing river restoration projects across Washington. An interest in wildland fire ecology spurred him to experience it on the front lines as a DNR wildland firefighter.
Before his time with DNR, he worked as a forester and ecologist in the private and nonprofit sectors, and ran his own timber and logging company. He graduated from Northwestern with a Bachelor of Science degree and earned a Masters in Environmental Studies from Yale.