Editor’s note: FAC Net, one of the four networks that make up the Fire Networks, offers small micro-grants each year to FAC Net members. Other networks within the partnership offer similar structures to support their member-led work. Recipients of FAC Net opportunity funds over the years have included Fire Departments, HOAs, Fire Safe Councils, non-profits, county agencies and more.
For the last several years, FAC Net has offered small opportunity grants to help organizations doing important work span gaps in funding to push projects over the line and make important impacts in their communities. This year was no exception to this effort, and we saw seven great projects funded and completed during 2023. Grantees were able to leverage additional funds, staff time, and in-kind donations on a variety of projects. FAC Net supported seven projects in three states (California, Utah, and Washington). The various projects engaged 648 people, and 692 homes and 19.3 acres were treated. The projects leveraged a total of 702 volunteer hours. Wow! What a year. Read on for updates from each project and a bit of inspiration for more projects in 2024!
Santa Cruz Fire Safe Council Brush Brigade
Santa Cruz Fire Safe Council lead Sherry Heaney worked with FAC Net to support their “Brush Brigade project.” This program provided a volunteer opportunity for local high school students to help elderly residents create defensible space around their homes. Benefits of the program stretched into education beyond merely providing services, as Sherry noted: “As we limbed trees, raked leaves and loaded the debris to be disposed of, we were able to educate the residents about defensible space and home hardening. In addition we were able to educate residents and our high school volunteers about community resources such as the Resource Conservation Districts free chipping program, FireSafe Council of Santa Cruz, and FireWise.” The project also received glowing coverage from the Santa Cruz Local, with lots more detail and stories behind the project.
Mt Adams Resource Stewards
The Mt. Adams Resource Stewards (MARS) in southern Washington furthered their wildfire fuels mitigation projects. This opportunity fund directly supported efforts in standing up the newly formed Mt. Adams Prescribed Burn Association. Their new cache of materials was debuted “during a 3-day ‘Learn & Burn’ workshop in May, during which ~30 participants (private landowners and environmental NGO representatives) gathered to learn about prescribed fire and conduct a 25-acre burn on the Mt. Adams Community Forest,” says MARS project coordinator Sarah Allaben. “The purchased equipment (line packs, helmets, drip torches, fuel cans) was essential for our burn operations, and the notion of a shared stock of equipment was exciting for private land managers who want to burn but would not be able to access/afford this equipment on their own. We have garnered 40+ sign-ups for our PBA mailing list, and have since been further adding to our equipment cache. This investment in equipment associated with a collaborative burning model is helping make prescribed fire an accessible, all-lands wildfire mitigation technique in our region.”
MARS staff and volunteers came together for the first gathering of the Mt Adams Prescribed Burn Association, using equipment purchased with an opportunity grant from FAC Net. Photo credit: MARS.
Provo Fire and Rescue
Provo Fire and Rescue provided a structure assessment class for 25 people from many different fire departments around Northern Utah. Within their own service area, Provo Fire and Rescue has since completed 14 property assessments with plans for many more in 2024. The impact of this training extends well beyond their service area, as other departments will be employing the knowledge gained at this training as well. Provo Fire and Rescue also distributed door hangers to 82 homes, advertising a community chipping program. Program coordinator Jeanie Atherton shares about the program’s impact: “In simple terms, if you build it, they will come. I learned that it was the exact thing they were looking for when I got out and started talking with the community about our structure assessment and chipping programs. Most homeowners want to create defensible space around their homes but need help knowing where to start. Offering structure assessments and information about our community chipping program helped many residents leap into action.”
Santa Clara FireSafe Council
The Santa Clara FireSafe Council was able to combine FAC Net support with funds from PG&E, the city of Saratoga, Saratoga Fire, and the local County Fire District to stabilize and grow a long-standing chipping program in their area. As project coordinator Amanda Brenner-Cannon shares: “We have a successful defensible space chipping program that is increasingly more difficult to find funding for. Last spring, Northern California was hit hard with rainstorms to the effect a state of emergency was declared. Our WUI residents in the Santa Cruz Mountains were hit especially hard as the storms created a lot of debris that had them concerned about future fire hazards as well as affecting critical escape routes. Residents immediately turned to our already underfunded chipping program for support. With this funding, we were able to increase capacity and answer more phone calls and emails (hundreds) so we could listen to the needs of the residents we serve. While we were not able to help everyone and chip everything during the regular spring chipping events, we were able to work with partners to secure funding for an extra fall chipping program that we just announced to the public.”
Tollgate Canyon Fire Safety Committee
Tollgate Canyon is a remote, rural community outside Park City, Utah characterized by beautiful, steep, densely wooded mountains and winding roads. This system of roads could be quite confusing even to residents trying to evacuate under stressful, smoky conditions. To address this issue, the Tollgate Canyon Fire Safety Committee designed, created, and placed evacuation signage throughout the entire community. As is the hope with these types of funds, project coordinator Mariana Mavor spoke to the gap-spanning effect of this opportunity: “Given our limited funds, this would have not been a priority project. This funding allowed this project to be put on the front burner.”
Mountain Rim Fire Safe Council
The Mountain Rim Fire Safe Council (MRFSC) works to help the Inland Empire area around Running Springs, California mitigate risks and prepare for wildfire. As part of this work, the MRFSC publishes the “Living with Wildfire” magazine twice annually. This year, the organization was able to afford translation services to publish the magazine in Spanish as well as English, thanks to FAC Net funds. As project coordinator Laura Dyberg shares: “MRFSC has never had funds to provide a Spanish translation of its preparedness & prevention magazine, so this is a new avenue of community service for our organization. Being able to offer a bilingual version of Living with Wildfire will enhance MRFSC’s outreach to the growing Spanish-only or bi-lingual population in the primary area it serves, ensuring fire prevention and preparedness messages are reaching more elements of the community, thereby making fire resiliency for the whole mountain more likely.”
Whatcom County Fire District
The Whatcom County Fire District in WA state used FAC Net funds to execute a chipping day, helping 18 homes in the Lummi Island Scenic Estates Community Club mitigate ladder fuels on their properties. Project coordinator Michael Lish shares that “the reduction of fuels has a huge impact in our District annually, and the partnership and cooperation with our community is essential to future success. This project added another fuels reduction opportunity that would not have been possible.”
Many thanks to all of the contributors to this post for their hard work and dedication to their FAC strategy. We look forward to more stories of work happening on the ground to advance these strategies and inspire others looking to do the same in their communities!