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.
Our program offers two levels of service on wildfire preparedness.
Our Firewise Communities Program offering is currently "on pause" as we look to secure additional funding for this level of service. If you are individual property owner interested in a Firewise assessment for your home, or if you have a specific question that can easily be answered by our staff via email or phone, contact Kelsi Mottet at (360) 678-4708 extension 4000 or via direct email at kelsi[at]whidbeycd.org.
“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.
WESTERN WA WILDFIRE RESOURCES
Wildfires in Western Washington:
Landscaping Your Property with
King 5 News "Scorched Earth"
This 1-hour video recently released by King 5 news examines how climate change and old forest management practices are impacting wildfires now – and how new practices may lead us out.
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What to Expect When Requesting Assistance from the Whidbey Island Conservation District
- Our services are free and voluntary, so lots of folks love to work with us, and we look forward to working with you!
- We have 2 staff who assist with satisfying client requests
- We assist requests in the order that they are received
- Please allow for 2 weeks for an initial reply
- General info requests take approximately 1 month to respond to
- New site visit requests to properties are on a 6-month waitlist currently
- Farm, animal, and waste management plans are on a 1-year waitlist currently
- Here is a list of directories and/or organizations which may be able to respond to your request sooner. We can not recommend private sector professionals as a government entity, so have included directories housed by other entities that are populated by the professionals themselves:
- Agriculture & Forestry Professionals Directory via USDA - https://nrcs-sites.secure.force.com/FindaTSP
- Forester & Silvicultural Contractors Directory via WSU Extension - https://bit.ly/3xT2eVJ
- Arborists Directory Pacific NW International Society of Arboriculture - https://bit.ly/37S8YJ6
- Online Learning Module for Understanding Wildfire Threat to Homes - https://bit.ly/3AOeCID
- Environmental Consultants Directory for Wetlands & Wildlife - https://bit.ly/2VZHY7J
- Landscaping / Gardening Consultation with WSU Master Gardener Hotline - https://bit.ly/3CUTodZ
- Island County Noxious Weed Program Coordinator Consultation - https://bit.ly/2VXnHQe
- Construction / Land Development Contractors Directory via SICBA - https://www.sicba.org/list/