A Look at the Firewise Program

February 20, 2017 Community, MCA Programs, Safety0

Chipper Days 2016 was successful—and not as overwhelming as our 2015 event with 117 piles that took 10 days to chip. Again, we didn’t know what to expect. Due to limited funding, we limited the number of participants to 100 and the size of piles to 4’x8’ without a larger co-pay. I’m guessing that decades of fuels were removed by many people in 2015, so less remained. Or perhaps fewer people could prepare their piles, due to the record-breaking 10” of rain in October. Or maybe the $20 co-pay deterred more people from registering.

“Your community is amazingly beautiful, being immerse in the forest. As the weather gets drier each year, I’d hate for the surrounding risk factors to go up and the community not be readily defensible.” – Jarret Griesemer, Forestry Project Coordinator with King Conservation District (KCD)

In any case, 54 homeowners registered to participate in Chipper Days. We pruned dead branches from trees and shrubs, limbed up according to Firewise principles, removed fuels from the ground, and hauled these branches to curbside. Debbie Bartlett took registrations. Lisa Lux organized the addresses into a “flow map” and assigned “flow numbers” to each resident, who posted them on their piles. We hired a professional chipper crew from Olson’s Outdoor Improvements to chip all of these branches from October 31st to November 3rd. Wood chips were donated to our park, or delivered to registrants who requested them.

In order for Mirrormont to continue to qualify as an official Firewise Community/USA, which makes us eligible for grant funding, we must hold a Firewise event each year and devote at least $2 per capita to local Firewise actions, which can include time we spend pruning, removing debris, and cleaning our roof.

In 2016, we held three Firewise events: a Firewise Pruning Workshop, our Street Address Signpost Program, and Chipper Days.

I started applying for a competitive DNR grant for Chipper Days 2017, but discovered that the project must be completed by May 2017. So we will skip Chipper Days in 2017, and I will apply for the grant in November for Chipper Days 2018, to be scheduled in March 2018 if we receive funding.

Then, I gave a tour of Mirrormont to Jarret Griesemer, Forestry Project Coordinator with King Conservation District (KCD), to consider possible Firewise projects for 2017. He was impressed with the amount of fuel reduction we have done in many areas, and cited SE 146th St as one of the highest hazard areas because it is on a steep slope facing Tiger Mt State Forest, especially on the east side of the street where many lots are vacant.

Jarret recommended a community project/block party to haul debris from these lots and chip it, since a fire on Tiger Mt State Forest could rapidly sweep up the hill and endanger all of Mirrormont. KCD has some grant funds available for a Winter or Spring chipping project. In addition, KCD would like to provide individual home assessments in areas along the edge of the community near slopes, where the risk of wildfire spread is the greatest (146th, 255th, end of 266th, and sections of 154th, 156th and 158th extending toward Tiger Mt Rd).

Thanks go to everyone who helped make our wildland-urban interface safer.