Editor’s note: the Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (WAFAC) is a wealth of fire resilience information for both Washington State residents and a national audience alike. In this blog, staff members from WAFAC share some resources they gleaned from a recent mentorship program for emerging leaders in FAC work.

Wildfire work can be tough and rewarding all at the same time. There’s no greater way to support the journey to stronger and more resilient communities than through mentorship.

Sharing approaches to community fire adaptation is a powerful tool that can help others get started, facilitate the efficient adoption of practices, and refine and improve existing strategies. Mentorship is a vital function of the Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (WAFAC). 

During 2023, WAFAC staff piloted a new mentorship initiative referred to as Member Connections. This program was designed to foster growth and pave the way for new, creative ventures for community fire adaptation leaders. Each mentorship group developed a unique working relationship and to address and learn about topics they coalesced around. With each mentorship opportunity, WAFAC members or their partners shared their learnings and about their programs in virtual sessions with FAC practitioners from around the state.

We have compiled a round-up of resources that resulted from these efforts. 

Climate and Wildfire

As communities dive deeper into the challenges of adapting to a changing wildfire landscape, the understanding and integration of climate into their discussions and planning has been increasingly emerging. If you are interested in how some agencies and organizations are attempting the implementation of policies and programs the following sessions and resources may interest you. 

Integrating Wildfire into Climate Resilience Plans

  • Climate and Wildfire Webinar  – Lisa Naas Cook, The Columbia River Gorge Commission, and Nick Cusick, Pierce County Conservation District, shared how climate and wildfire emerged as areas of concern; and how each of their respective organizations facilitated community dialogue to help inform and prioritize climate and wildfire planning priorities and address concerns raised by the communities they serve.
Smoke is an annual occurrence in Washington.  WAFAC is working with air quality experts to create resources to better prepare communities for wildfires.  Selah, Washington / Photo: Kara Karboski, Washington Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Air Quality, Smoke, and Smoke-Ready Communities

  • Air Quality and Smoke Ready Webinar Dr. Liz Walker, a public health professional, shared several strategies for smoke readiness, including building a foundation of air quality literacy and some low-cost interventions to reduce exposure. 
  • Smoke Ready Communities Resource Guide – Provides links to air quality tracking tools (Washington), HEPA filter resource guide, DIY box fan filter webinar, and smoke and prescribed fire resources.
  • Smoke-Ready Learning Series and Facilitation Resources – A three-part online video series for residents that describes how smoke can impact health, where to find air quality updates, and recommendations to stay safe.  Includes complimentary facilitator’s workshop guide and presentation template.  In English and Spanish.  

Coordinating Local FAC Efforts

Organizing and working directly with communities on their fire adaptation goals looks very different depending on the resources and capacity of those involved. Below is a collection of sessions highlighting topics such as FAC group structure, volunteer organization and management, targeting the needs of specific populations, and how to manage resources and individual needs equitably. 

Learning Across Boundaries with FAC Groups

FAC Coordinating Groups Virtual Discussion – WAFAC visits with Fire Adapted Trout Lake (FACT) and Harstine Island Fire Adapted Community (HIFACT) to learn how and why their collaborative efforts started and their successes and challenges in establishing local FAC coordinating groups.

Neighbors work together to reduce wildfire risk by removing vegetation in their neighborhoods. Photo: Dan Holman, Flowery Trail Community Association.

Volunteer and Neighborhood Coordination 

  • Fire Adapted Community (FAC) Ambassador Programs WebinarRebecca Samulski, Executive Director of Fire Adapted Colorado, introduces the FAC Ambassador Program and discusses considerations and the enabling conditions for developing this type of program.  
  • FAC in Rural Communities Webinar – Foster Creek Conservation District and Okanogan Conservation District serve rural areas with unique landscapes and communities. Nate Schmidt and Eli Loftis shared their experiences working in rural areas, including the benefits, challenges, and forward-thinking solutions.
  • Multiplying FAC Efforts with Volunteers Resource Guide – Describes the benefits of engaging volunteers, tips and funding ideas for volunteer coordination capacity, and ideas for sustaining and managing volunteers.
  • WAFAC’s Neighborhood Coordinator Webpage – Includes links to resource guides, webinars, and information about the Map Your Neighborhood program, used to determine assets in your community using a neighborhood approach.

Accessibility and Equity 

  • Equity and the Heal Act Panel Discussion – Ashley Blazina, WA Department of Natural Resources, shared about the intent of the HEAL Act, how it is currently being integrated into the State’s process and systems, and the potential changes communities will be seeing (i.e., how will it impact how resources are distributed, requirements for contracting, etc.).   Kathryn Hiem, Fire Adapted Methow Valley (FAMV), joins the discussion to share how one community in the Methow Valley has integrated equity into their wildfire mitigation practices and their steps toward ensuring that those who need assistance for wildfire mitigation are prioritized.  
  • Equitable Mitigation Program Resources – Provides links to FAMV’s Equitable Mitigation Program Report and Toolkit.  These tools can serve as a template or model for others to develop equitable wildfire mitigation strategies. 
  • Building an Equitable Mitigation Program in the Methow Valley Blog Post – Kathryn Heim, FAMV, shares hard truths and lessons learned throughout her journey of developing an equitable mitigation program.  

Prescribed Fire

Finding solutions for adding capacity to burn on private lands has been a hot topic for those working in prescribed fire and increasingly for communities that want to implement more fire in their place. Folks from Washington share how they are working locally to educate, recruit, and train people to use prescribed fire as a tool.

Mt. Adams Resource Stewards hosted their first ‘Learn and Burn’ event in 2023.  Approximately 30 participants, including 12 high schoolers, took part in classroom learning and hands-on burning and completed 25 acres in one day!  /  Photo: Kara Karboski, Washington Resource Conservation and Development Council.

Learning to Burn Together

Post-Fire Recovery

As most people working in or affected by wildfire know, the post-fire recovery phase is the longest and most complicated to navigate. Communities are seeing the need and benefits of pre-planning for these eventualities. Here are some resources and approaches for supporting recovery efforts..

  • Pre-disaster Planning Webinar – Quinn Butler Zack Gifford of the Washington State Department of Emergency Management hosted a member session about Pre-Disaster Recovery Plans. They highlighted why they are important, how they can be used, and what resources are available to help communities write these plans.
  • Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning Resource Guide – This quick guide provides an overview of the benefits of pre-planning, the phases of the recovery continuum, pre-disaster planning best practices, and additional resources.
  • Developing a Community Organization Active in DisasterWAFAC members Carlene Anders, the Executive Director of the Disaster Leadership Team, and Quinn Butler, Deputy Human Services Program Supervisor for the Washington State Department of Emergency Management, share the benefits of forming a Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) and their relationship with long-term recovery groups.
  • Creating a Community Organization Active (COAD) in Disaster Resource Guide – This resource guide provides suggestions for who should be involved in a COAD, the capacity needed to coordinate COADs, and links to additional resources. 
Okanogan County Long Term Recovery coordinates volunteers to rebuild homes lost during wildfires.  /  Photo:  Okanogan County Long Term Recovery.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to be part of these sessions and contributed to these resources. 


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