Orleans Wins Grand Prize in Firewise Challenge

From left: Project Coordinator for the Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council, Chris Root; Orleans Volunteer Fire Department Board member, Penny Eckert; Humboldt County Fifth District Supervisor, Ryan Sundberg; and Humboldt County Planner and Fire Safe Council facilitator, Cybelle Immitt./TRT File Photo


Orleans, California has been awarded a grand prize in the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 1,000 Safer Places:  The Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program Challenge.

Orleans together with four other communities in Arkansas, Washington, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are receiving a grand prize of $5,000 to be used for mitigation activities like chipping brush, and similar activities to reduce wildfire hazards.

The Challenge, a yearlong campaign that began in January 2013, is a way to encourage residents across the country to take steps to combat the threat of wildfire and reduce the damage fire can cause to homes and property.

Preparedness for wildfire is needed now more than ever. The U.S. has more than 72,000 communities at risk from wildfire. During 2012, more than nine million acres burned, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the third highest annual total since 1960, when records were first kept. With continued increased drought conditions, excess fuel on forest floors and high temperatures predicted for 2014, the risk of wildfire continues to increase for many communities across the country.

“When an intense human-caused fire roared through Orleans in July of 2013, some properties were ready and some were not, but great work by firefighters saved most of the town.  Now our town is more aware than ever of the critical importance of taking responsibility for clearing vegetation and making our properties more resistant to the next wildfire event.” Penny Eckert, Firewise Board member

Five additional communities in Virginia, Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee, and Maine will receive a runner-up prize of $900 to use on safety gear, tools or mitigation projects.

Orleans has been an official recognized Firewise community since 2012, joining many other communities nationwide that have been recognized since the program’s inception in 2002.

Working through the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), state forestry agencies support the Firewise Communities/USA recognition effort. The Orleans/Somes Bar Fire Safe Council and the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department worked with the Humboldt County Planning Department and CAL FIRE to conduct its wildfire hazard assessment and develop a plan to address safety concerns. Residents are now working together to implement the plan.

“I am very excited for Orleans and really believe that this recognition and award is well deserved. I am hopeful that this recognition of the good work in Orleans will inspire other Humboldt county communities to become Firewise,” Cybelle Immitt of the Humboldt County Planning Department, said.

Details about the Firewise Challenge and the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program can be found on the Firewise website.

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