Wildfire Preparedness Whidbey-Style
When it comes to wildfire, do you think of Whidbey Island? Most would venture east of the mountains, but with growing awareness of the effects that drought-prone summer seasons play in wildfire ignition potential on Whidbey Island, Whidbey Island Conservation District, Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue District, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the Washington State Conservation Commission came together in July 2016 to create Central Whidbey's first-ever Firewise® Program. As of spring 2017, Firewise has expanded to be available to all Whidbey Island residents, with support from North Whidbey Fire & Rescue District, South Whidbey Fire & EMS, and additional partners, including Island County's Department of Emergency Management and Central Whidbey Areas Park: Washington State Parks.
The Whidbey Island Firewise Program offers residents and communities the collaborative and combined agency expertise of staff who cover forest health and stewardship, structure and wildland fire protection, and facilitation and community building. Collaboration and partnerships are at the root of building community resilience to wildfire - because fire doesn't know property boundaries, and we all can be affected by it, so we must learn to adapt to it. On the local Whidbey level, this kind of collaboration and partnership is seen in our great partnerships with fire agency staff both local and regional. Whether it’s agencies and organizations working together or neighbors working with other neighbors, wildfire adaptation is most successful when approached collaboratively. Everyone has a role to play in wildfire adaptation.
Since 2002, Firewise has been a nationally-recognized outreach and education program that empowers residents to work collaboratively and take proactive steps to protect their homes from wildfire. Its resources and recommendations are tailored to Whidbey Island's unique climate and geography, as well as the individual homes and communities that request its services.
Interested in Becoming Wildfire Prepared?
WICD, in partnership with our local and regional fire agency partners, offers two levels of service. One is the individual homeowner and landowner level, in where we can provide free, one-hour Firewise Home Assessment visits that look at the exterior, landscaped, and greater wildland / forest portions of your property and discuss with you ways you can proactive address your wildfire hazard. These site visits are educational in nature and leave you with resources that will complement the in-person suggestions provided by our planners and agency partners. The second level of service is the community-level support we can provide for communities who are interested in pursuing the Firewise USA program with Whidbey's unique climate and culture tailored and ind mind. Firewise USA provides the foundation by offering a proven successful model and a nationally-recognized set of steps that can be taken by members of a community to encourage community-wide collaboration in proactively addressing wildfire risk and preparedness. We help provide a shoulder of support throughout this whole process, and can set-up a meeting with you and your neighbors to explain this support and the Firewise USA community steps in person.
If you are interested in either of these levels of support, homeowner or community-level, request assistance by clicking the "Request Assessment or Community Support" button below and filling out and submitting the form, and we'll be in touch with you shortly.
King 5 News Visits Whidbey Firewise
Glenn Farley visited a Community Wildfire Preparedness Day event taking place on April 7, 2021 with partners and community members at Pondilla Estates in central Whidbey. The work this community is doing is part of a long-term, five-year plan on wildfire preparedness that has been carefully researched and thought through, soliciting feedback from agency partners and neighbors, to balance their goals of wildfire preparedness, forest health, structure protection, and wildlife habitat. Check out the video below to hear a bite sized snapshot of this larger community effort.
Wildfire Webinars for Western WA
Wildfire in Western Washington - A Different Animal
Learn from Daniel Donato, Ashley Blazina, Matt Provencher, and Sean Alexander, Washington State Department of Natural Resources staff, in this extensive webinar about western Washington's unique wildfire regimes and ways to prepare your properties with this in mind. This webinar was presented by Washington State University Extension Forestry in June 2020.
Wildfire-Resistant Landscaping with Ciscoe Morris
Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer and star of King 5's "Gardening with Ciscoe," sits down with Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and DNR Community Wildfire Preparedness Coordinator Ashley Blazina to have fun and talk about different landscaping strategies to turn your home into a defensible space.
Developing a Successful Community Wildfire
Interested in developing a community wildfire preparedness program within your agency, municipality, or organization? This webinar, presented to a national audience through the National Association of Conservation District's Urban and Community Webinar series, features WICD's Kelsi Mottet and her partners, and can help get you started!
Wildfires in Western
Have you ever wondered why there's all this talk about wildfire in Western Washington, and it doesn't quite make sense? Have no fear! Washington Dept. of Natural Resources Stewardship Forester, Matthew Provencher, writes a compelling piece explaining the importance of the intersection of forest health and wildfire preparedness, and how western Washington residents can successfully address the challenges our landscapes on the "west side" see today by linking these two together and being proactive.
Read the article by clicking here.
“My sense is that this has shown how many hands can work together, and that taking care of where we live generates connection among neighbors. Firewise embraces action steps for safety and prevention, while fostering an increased appreciation for the beauty of where we live.”
-Teri Jo Summer Reiger, Coupeville
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wildfire risk on Whidbey
Why Wildfire on
Wildfire risk is closer than you might think. Fuels, prevailing winds, and topography are the key factors in determining a home’s ignitability during a wildfire incident. On the west side of Whidbey, communities tucked within forested areas along the dry, bluff zones that receive prevailing west winds in summer are more at risk. Through Firewise, homeowners can take proactive steps to understand the science behind home ignitability, and techniques to create defensible space in their home ignition zones.
Did you know that Central Whidbey, specifically, is more at risk because it receives significantly less precipitation than on north and south Whidbey Island? In the dry summer months of June - September, drier, fine fuels coupled with westerly winds and steep slopes increase the hazard of wildfire risk to rural residents. Those who live in forested communities near the bluff north or south of this rain shadow zone can still benefit to learn about Firewise, even though their risk may be less.
Firewise is designed to educate and empower homeowners about the science behind wildfire, and equip them with the tools to take proactive steps to reduce their risk through home assessments and site visits with tailored recommendations from resource specialists, community presentations from local fire experts, a rich print & digital resource library for both adults and kids, and ongoing support by local professionals at the Whidbey Island Conservation District.
the science behind home ignition
Fuels Are What Matter
When it comes to wildfire risk, it is not a geographical location, but a set of conditions that determine the home’s ignition potential in any community. Wildfire behavior is influenced by three main factors: topography (lie of the land), weather (wind speed, relative humidity and ambient temperature) and fuel (vegetation and man-made structures). In the event of extreme wildfire behavior, extreme weather conditions are normally present, like extended drought, high winds, low humidity and high temperatures, coupled with excess fuel build up including the accumulation of live and dead vegetation material. Additionally, the area’s topography influences the fire’s intensity and rate of spread.
OF THESE THREE FACTORS, "FUEL" IS THE ONLY ONE WE CAN INFLUENCE.
Debris like dead leaves and pine needles left on decks, in gutters and strewn across lawns can ignite from embers. Ladder fuels present a hazard for homes located next to maintained contiguous forest. Fire moving along the ground’s surface can “ladder” into shrubs and low hanging tree limbs to create longer flames and more heat. If your home has flammable features or vulnerable openings, it can also serve as fuel for the fire, and become part of a disastrous chain of ignitions to other surrounding homes and structures.
firewise resources for homeowners
Be sure to check out the following Firewise™ publications below that will help equip you to have a more Firewise™ home and landscape.
My Home IGNITION ZONE
According to fire science research and case studies, it’s not where a home is located that necessarily determines ignition risk, but the landscape around it, often referred to as the “home ignition zone.” The home ignition zone is defined as the home and its immediate surroundings up to 100 feet. Below is a visual with great tips and tricks to help reduce the threat of wildfire around YOUR home ignition zone. These tips are tailored to Whidbey Island's unique geography and climate.
Learn about the science behind wildfire from Jack D. Cohen, Research Physical Scientist, United States Forest Service by watching the following video. No one has done more to define the wildland-urban interface problem and empower homeowners to reduce their risk of wildfire than Jack Cohen. His post-fire field examinations and laboratory-based research on fire dynamics led to the concept of the home ignition zone, a phrase he coined.
Adapting the Land: A Whidbey Family's Story in
Landowner Spotlight: The Kirkconnell Family of South Whidbey
Check out the story of the Kirkconnell family as they learn about and adapt their 5-acre forested property for promoting its health and wildfire resilience. Click here to read this article, originally published in the May 2020 Whidbey Weekly as part of Washington's Wildfire Awareness Month and our monthly Make A Difference Column.
The Pondilla Estates community in the North Whidbey Fire & Rescue District (NWIFR) in north Coupeville was recognized in August 2020 by the National Fire Protection Association as a Firewise USA site, and Island County's third nationally recognized community! Since March of 2019, the community has worked with WICD, NWFR, the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources, and the Washington State Parks to accomplish the five steps to become a nationally recognized site, including hosting a Community Wildfire Preparedness Day on June 23rd, 2020 in which 84 cubic yards of ladder fuels were removed through pruning and tree thinning on two community properties. This small community of over 30 homes and 60 residents is excited to continue to inspire wildfire preparedness many years into the future. Check out their local recognition on page 10 of the Whidbey Weekly October 8th, 2020 newspaper.
Whidbey Island Campers Haven in the Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue District (CWIFR) in north Coupeville was recognized in November 2019 by the National Fire Protection Association as an official Firewise USA site, and Island County's second nationally recognized community! Since September of 2018, the community has worked with WICD, CWIFR, and the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources to accomplish the five steps to become a nationally recognized site. Now, their community of over 60 campers are more wildfire prepared and aware than ever, thanks to the efforts led by Joy Page and the Whidbey Island Campers Haven board and members. Check out their local recognition on page 10 of the Whidbey Weekly October 8, 2020 newspaper.
Meet Sierra Country Club
The Sierra Country Club community in the North Whidbey Fire & Rescue District in north Coupeville are the original pioneers of Whidbey Island's Firewise Program. They achieved their official recognition in May of 2018, after hosting a Community Wildfire Preparedness Day event that brought together over 30 residents who spent over 60 hours of volunteer time removing 1,380 pounds of potentially ignitable fuels from trees and shrubs on community property. Each subsequent year since their community remains in Good Standing as a Firewise USA site through regular outreach to their over 400 residents in 200+ homes on wildfire preparedness tips and resources, including a Firewise webpage for their HOA, newsletter and email tips, and pairing their wildfire preparedness efforts with the community's Emergency Response Committee.
NW Washington Fire Adapted