In Washington, forest fires are not uncommon in the central and eastern parts of the state but they can be a cause for concern west of the Cascades, as well.
With its close proximity to a forest, the Trilogy at Redmond Ridge community is one of those areas of concern. In an effort to be proactive about the fire risks to their neighborhood, residents have been putting in the work to protect their homes. They have recently been recognized for their efforts by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise Communities USA/Recognition program, which according to its website, started in 2002 and empowers residents to “work together in reducing their wildfire risk.”
The community received the recognition award at a ceremony on Aug. 26 that included Trilogy board president Bill Garing, King County staff forester Kristi McClelland and residents, as well as staff from the Redmond, Duvall and Woodinville fire departments and fire and rescue crews.
“I take it as a great honor,” John Weber, a Trilogy resident and the community’s Firewise project manager, said about receiving the award.
In order to be recognized by Firewise, communities must go through a five-step process: Obtain a wildfire risk assessment from their state forestry agency or fire department; form a board or committee and create an action plan based on the assessment; conduct a Firewise Day event; invest a minimum of $2 per capita in local Firewise actions for the year and submit an application to their state Firewise liaison.
Mike Kennedy, Trilogy resident and co-chair for the community’s forest stewardship committee, said it took about two years of work for them to get everything in order before submitting the application.
“It was a long process,” he said.
Kennedy added that their community action plan was the first in King County.
He said they first learned about the Firewise program following a training session he and others attended as forest stewards. He said it was something they were interested in participating in but weren’t sure if King County would allow them to do it. About a month later when he had to turn in a permit application, Kennedy learned the county would allow it as a staff member from the county’s permitting office suggested Trilogy apply for the program.
To obtain the risk assessment and create the action plan, Weber said they worked closely with county staff, including McClelland and Linda Vane with the county’s forestry program.
When it came to the financial investment, Weber said communities are also allowed to match the $2 per capita requirement with volunteer hours.
“We have met that in spades,” he said.
In the last year, Weber said the Trilogy community met that as residents attended town hall meetings regarding wildfire safety, administered projects and attended work parties to clear combustible forest debris.
“What we’re trying to do is remove excess fuel,” Kennedy said.
Volunteers at work parties also removed low tree branches for the same reason, he added.
Weber said Trilogy holds 2-3 work parties a month in the spring, summer and fall and will supplement more work parties as needed. He said in their community of about 3,000 residents, they have a core group of about 75 people who regularly use the area’s trails and really care about the forest. Weber said this group is called the Friends of the Forest. And of the roughly 75 friends, they have about 8-15 people attend the work parties each time.
In addition to volunteers putting in the time, Weber said they also have a lot of donated equipment to work with such as chainsaws and mowers. While the residents do a lot of the work, he said for some of the bigger and more involved work, they will hire a construction crew or hire equipment such as a wood chipper.
Weber added that Trilogy has been awarded a couple grants from the state and county, totaling $3,500, which they will use to help defray some of the costs of upcoming Firewise-related projects and activities.
In being recognized as a Firewise community, Weber said Trilogy received two signs to put at each entrance of the community. And to maintain that status, they must go through the application process each year, although a lot of the work such as the action plan is already done.
“Now we have to make sure we continue it into the future,” Weber said of the community staying Firewise.