Earlier in July, Lopez Island Fire and EMS, the Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Group and local land managers hosted a conversation about fire with 70 Lopezians. The purpose of the gathering was to start a collaborative initiative to address risks, challenges and tools, working with the community to address the needs as expressed by the community. Personal invitations were mailed to every landowner adjacent to public lands. The evening’s presenters, coordinators, helpers and facilitators were Lopez Island Fire Chief J. Havner; Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Group Coordinator Carolyn McGown; Lopez’s San Juan County Land Bank Steward Amanda Wedow; Department of Natural Resources Wildland Firefighting experts Rich Dodd and David Way; San Juan County Fire Marshall RJ Myers; Lopez Community Trails Network Mike Moore; Firewise San Juan County Coordinator Ron Garner; and the San Juan Islands National Monument team Rosie Sumner, Nick Teague and Marcia deChadenedes.
The evening’s meeting started out by breaking the audience into neighborhoods, and folks were able to consider the needs for their areas. Everyone was then invited to share their fears and issues about fire. Everyone had a chance to voice their concerns, and neighborhood by neighborhood reflected on their fire-related vulnerabilities. Havner led off with two main concerns: poor driveway access to peoples’ property (firetrucks need 12 feet by 12 feet to pass) and lack of financial resources, equipment and training for firefighters. All shared concerns fell into roughly five categories: personal property safety; fuel loads on private and public lands; lack of education and awareness; lack of infrastructure; and access for firefighting (maps, street names, driveways passable and water caches).
While reflecting on the number of commonly shared concerns, neighborhoods then brainstormed solutions and shared them with the audience. Workshops to train homeowners on tree trimming; burn piles and chipping; establishing Neighborhood Firewise programs; regular newspaper articles; signs and pamphlets to help people understand local laws and Firewise precautions; tax breaks for healthy thinned forests; and appointing a Lopez Fire Czar to coordinate the initiative all were some of the terrific solutions generated by those in attendance. While too numerous to list here, readers are invited to find the published notes on Lopezrocks.org or from any of the aforementioned hosts of the event.
Among the action items of note:
• Tune to KLOI radio 102.9 FM and KLOI.org for disaster preparedness and news of firefighting efforts.
• The Lopez Fire Department will be circulating information on Lopezrocks.org.
• The BLM, San Juan Islands National Monument will offer a red card training to the community in the fall to certify woodland firefighters.
• Training from Nathan Donnelly and Nick Teague for the Lopez Island Conservation Corps, LICC, youth program in fire prevention efforts.
• Local commitment to host a neighborhood party to organize readiness, and a commitment to do a neighborhood assessment of fire danger.
• The Neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Group will be bringing a Firewise rep to the island in October. For neighborhoods interested in the program, please contact Carolyn to receive a notification of meeting time and location.