Each year homes and wildlands across Michigan are threatened by wildfire. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) was awarded funds through a USDA Forest Service grant to assist at-risk communities in mitigating wildland fire hazards. In 2008, grants were awarded to Baraga, Chippewa, Lake, Luce, and Newaygo counties to develop a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Those communities had three years in which to complete their proposed activities. In late 2011, the MDNR announced that funding via the USDA Forest Service was again available for additional communities interested in creating their own CWPP. The work proposed by applicants in this new round of funding must be complete by August 2014.
These plans are generally developed by local government with assistance from state and federal agencies and other interested parties. Plans can take a variety of forms and may be as simple or complex as necessary. The minimum requirements include that the CWPP be collaboratively developed, identifying and prioritizing areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments on both federal and non-federal lands. The plan must contain recommendations for types and methods of treatment that, if completed, would reduce the risk to the community. Measures that homeowners and communities can take to reduce the ignitability of structures throughout the area must also be addressed by the plan.
Below are examples of completed plans that communities may find helpful as they develop plans of their own.
Another option for communities who want to be pro-active about their wildfire risk is to explore becoming a Firewise model community via the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program. Currently, there are 791 recognized sites in 40 states across the nation.
Ausable River Estates, a subdivision near St. Helen located only a few miles from the 2010 Meridian wildfire, is the first, and to date, only Michigan community to achieve this status. A special ceremony was held at the St. Helen’s fire department in April 2011 recognizing the community for their pro-active efforts following the devastation they witnessed nearby during the Meridian wildfire.
A Firewise model community is typically a subdivision in which residents have recognized that wildfire is a significant risk to their homes, property and safety and subsequently have made the effort to enact changes that will reduce or prevent the impact of a wildfire. To qualify as a Firewise Communities/USA Recognition site, a community must complete a community assessment and creat an action plan, form a Firewise Board, hold an annual Firewise Day event and invest a minimum of $2 per capita in a local Firewise project. Volunteer hours, equipment use, time contributed by agency fire staff and grant funding can all be included in this annual $2 per capita investment.
Contact Dennis McClure, district Firewise educator housed at the Montmorency County MSU Extension office , for more information about the process Ausable River Estates undertook to achieve their Firewise Communities/USA Recognition staus. You can also visit the national Firewise website for additonal information about how your community can become a Firewise Communities/USA Recognition site.