Friday, May 24, 2024

Stewardship Coalition educates locals on wildfire preparedness

As part of the Fire Science Program at Cascade High School, students train to help with fire management and prevention.  Many students in this program go on to fight wildland fires as a career or summer job.
As part of the Fire Science Program at Cascade High School, students train to help with fire management and prevention. Many students in this program go on to fight wildland fires as a career or summer job.
COURTESY OF EMILY SANCHEZ
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LEAVENWORTH - Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition (CWSC) is a local program that is dedicated to raising awareness in the Leavenworth community of fire danger. The Leavenworth and Lake Wenatchee areas are the most at risk for wildfire desalination in Washington state and this group is committed to informing locals of how to best mitigate those risks.

CWSC Spring Town Hall was hosted at the Snowy Owl Theater at the Sleeping Lady Resort on Thursday, May 2. This informative event provided Leavenworth residents with insights gleaned from experienced firefighters on the front lines in Paradise, California. It also included many local groups that are actively trying to help Leavenworth be more fire-wise.

Winton Manufacturing shared about its role as the local composting plant that takes compost from local places like Cascade High School. They turn the compost into soil, which is sold locally. Composted soil is very fire-resistant. For more information, visit www.wintonmfg.com

The Forest Service and Department of Agriculture shared about their completion of prescribed burns around the community to clean up hazardous fuels on the forest floor. They also shared about their Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project in Plain. This project is an aquatic and terrestrial restoration project in the Plain area that is focused on “restoring forest health, reduc[ing] wildfire risk, improv[ing] wildlife habitat, and improv[ing] watershed function on a landscape scale.” For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov

Cascadia Conservation District is a local grant-funded organization. They shared their work, informing people about how to be fire-wise in their local community and on their properties. For more information, visit https://cascadiacd.org

Chelan County Natural Resources repairs areas around streams to help them become fire-resistant. They shared information about their conservation project to add wood back into the river to bring the water levels up. This allows water to run into surrounding areas, making them more fire-resistant and helping them bounce back in case they do burn. For more information, visit https://www.co.chelan.wa.us/natural-resources

Trout Unlimited shared about their mission to catch and relocate beavers from private properties to Forest Service land. Beavers are especially important for the area where they live: they build dams that create water pools, allowing water to reach the surrounding soil and create a lush environment. The water in the area helps prevent fire from spreading further. For more information, visit https://www.tu.org

Lake Wenatchee Fire and Rescue shared information on their chipping program. This program chips fuel on public and private property, reducing potentially fire-fueling materials. Additionally, they shared about many programs to help inform the local communities of the fire risk. Recently, they received a grant to install five new evacuation sirens in the Lake Wenatchee area. For more information, visit https://www.lwfr.org

Cascadia Prescribed Burn Association shared about their work helping private landowners perform prescribed burns on their properties to keep potential wildfire fuel to a minimum. They also gave information on their many student fire learning projects; they are dedicated to informing the next generation about fire risk and safety. For more information, visit https://www.cascadiapba.org

Washington State Department of Natural Resources shared about reimbursing private landowners for performing prescribed burns on their property. Many private lands are adjacent to forest service land; the Washington State Department of Natural Resources wants to keep private land from burning along with Forest Service land. For more information, visit https://www.dnr.wa.gov

The Chelan County Fire Department shared information on their responsibility for suppressing fires when they start in the Leavenworth area. The fire department has seven full-time and two seasonal firefighters. They have done many projects with large-scale fire mapping to inform homeowners if their homes are at risk of fire danger. For more information, visit http://www.chelanfd3.org

The CWSC had a keynote guest speaker, Sean Norman. Norman is an expert in wildfire management, having worked to suppress the Paradise Fire (Camp Fire) in northern California in 2018. The Camp Fire was one of the biggest wildfires recorded in California’s history, taking 85 lives and injuring thousands.

Norman was one of the captains working on the fire, and he shared many personal stories of the event and many ways the fire was “different.” 

“There are only about three to four days a year where the three things for a devastating fire align. This was one of those days,” said Norman.

The “three things” Norman expanded on are weather, topography, and fuel. When all these aspects are in line, there is the base for a devastating fire.

Norman explained that Paradise has terribly similar topography, weather, and fuel to the Leavenworth area. Paradise had three evacuation routes, and the people in the area were very aware and ready when a fire started. Norman talked about how the people of Butte County had exercised the evacuation plans they had in place many times before the Camp Fire. However, all evacuation routes were compromised.

The point of Norman’s keynote speech was to inform the people of the Leavenworth and Upper Valley area that they could never be too prepared for wildfires.

“A plan is worth nothing, but planning is worth everything,” said Norman.

When people have a well-thought-out plan for responding to a wildfire in a timely manner, they create a Fire-Adaptive Community—a community that has a plan and can bounce back when a fire strikes.

The CWSC is committed to helping the Leavenworth community become as fire-adapted as possible in hopes of preventing something like Paradise from happening here.

A variety of experts who attended the event gave their advice on how to be Fire Wise. Norman suggested having plans with your family: meeting places, evacuation routes, and to-go bags.

Also, being informed about the local fire activity and weather can help residents get a head start when a fire becomes hazardous.

He also suggested a number of questions families should pose when creating their plan: “What do we need to take in an evacuation? Do we have a car? Does that car work and run correctly? Do we have pets that do not like to be caught? These are all things to think about when you see or smell smoke.”

Norman advocated for the PACE model (primary plan, alternative plan, critical plan, and emergency plan). A primary plan is the first plan a family will take in case of fire. The alternative plan is for when the primary plan fails or is compromised. The critical plan is for when both other plans are compromised. The emergency plan is for when all else fails.

Many other things can be done to prepare for wildfire, especially on local properties.  The Washington State Department of Natural Resources recommends that residents clear any extremely flammable debris, like pinecones, pine needles, and dead leaves, within fifty feet of their home.

Some good places to look for more information about how to plan for a wildfire are https://wildfireready.dnr.wa.gov/ and https://www.iafc.org/topics-and-tools/resources/resource/ready-set-go-program

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