Firewise & Wildfire Preparedness,
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.
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. Of the over 1,200 recognized Firewise communities today, Washington state took the lead in new communities joining in 2016! There is no better time than now to learn about and prepare homes and properties from the threat of wildfire.
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.
Get in touch with us by clicking the button below to request a free 30-minute Firewise Home Assessment for your property, or if you're interested in having your community become a Firewise USA™ nationally recognized community and would like to learn more how we can support you in pursuing that.
Collaboration and partnerships are at the root of building community resilience to wildfire. 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.
In February of 2020, Whidbey Island Conservation District participated in a region-wide effort to unite wildfire practitioners throughout Northwestern Washington, in an effort to build relationships and develop ideas for a cohesive wildfire outreach and education strategy. Known as the Northwest Washington Fire Adapted Communities Workshop, this event is the first of many that will bring together fire districts, tribes, conservation districts, DNR wildfire experts, and more to share resources that will benefit the public in western Washington.
To learn more about how WICD has participated in this effort, click here or on the image above.
For Our Agency Partners & Interested
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!
Click a Tab Below for More Resources:
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.
Local Firewise USA Highlights
Whidbey Island Campers Haven in the Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue District in north Coupeville was recently recognized by the National Fire Protection Association as a Firewise USA site, and Island County's second nationally recognized community! Since September of 2018, the community had worked with WICD, CWIFR, and the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources to accomplish the five steps to become a nationally recognized site. Now, they 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.
Learn About Pondilla Estates'
Check out the article linked below published in the Whidbey Weekly in late July that recounts a great endeavor put on by the Pondilla Estates Community in the North Whidbey Fire & Rescue for their Community Wildfire Preparedness Day. This was in partnership between WICD, North Whidbey Fire & Rescue, WA Dept. of Natural Resources, and the Washington State Parks.
Article: Whidbey Island Firewise Program Unites Neighbors, Local and Regional Fire Professionals in Collaborative Community Wildfire Preparedness Day