Putting Firewise to work in Washington

by Mike Beacom

Trilogy at Redmond Ridge, an active adult community of more than 1,500 homes, lies next to extensive forested areas in eastern King County, Washington. A group of Trilogy homeowners came together in 2015 with a goal of reducing the risk of wildfire to their homes and lives.

The National Fire Protection Association has recognized Trilogy as a Firewise Community/USA for 2016 and 2017. Firewise is a key component of Fire Adapted Communities – a collaborative approach that connects all those who play a role in wildfire education, planning, and action with comprehensive resources to help reduce risk.

Jarret Griesemer, King Conservation District’s Firewise project coordinator, and Linda Vane of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, visited the community in January and met with Trilogy Firewise project team leaders to assess relative wildfire risks in several areas. King Conservation District is using grant funds from the Washington State Conservation Commission to work with at least six communities by the end of June 2017 to implement projects that will reduce wildfire fuel loading.

After visiting several sites, Griesemer, Vane, and the Trilogy team agreed that a long strip of community-owned border along Trilogy’s west edge and adjoining the Redmond Watershed Preserve was the highest priority for action. A regional hiking trail cuts through the strip of land, which was thick with dead western hemlock trees and dead brush that could become fuel for wildfire.

Trilogy representatives worked with Griesemer to mark boundaries for subsequent removal of dead and dying trees and underbrush. Griesemer secured a portion of the grant funds and arranged for a tree removal contractor to cut and remove the bulk of the combustible material, which was then chipped and dumped in a central location. Some 250 bare-root plants of native, fire-resistant varieties purchased from King Conservation District have since been planted in the border strip that was cleared of dead trees, and a volunteer resident work party has been scheduled to spread the pile of wood chips on an area in need of compost.

“This project is an example of how residents of wildland urban interface (WUI) communities can work together with local government entities to reduce the risk of wildfire to homes and lives,” Griesemer said.

John Weber, co-chair of the Trilogy Forest Stewardship Committee, added, “The partnership efforts of King Conservation District and Trilogy have reduced the risk of a blaze sparked by lightning, a blown ember, or a cigarette dropped along the border trail from spreading into either Trilogy at Redmond Ridge to the east or the Redmond Watershed Preserve to the west.”

To learn more about Firewise, visit http://www.firewise.org.

To read more feature stories from Forestry Notes, follow Mike Beacom, NACD’s forestry specialist, here on NACD’s blog or subscribe to Forestry Notes by clicking here.

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