Dolly B Chapman
The FIREWISE USA® program is a framework that a community can use to become more
resilient to wildfire. The Calpine Firewise Committee is writing up a 3 year plan so we can apply for FIREWISE USA® recognition. Calpine residents can fill out a survey at the post office to help develop the plan.
We all suffered the loss last summer as wildfires raged through our neighboring communities and forests. A pall of doom, heavy as the smoke, settled on our minds as we contemplated the helplessness of facing week after week of red flag fire weather in our little town of historic houses and pine trees. But Calpine's unelected Mayor, Cheri Sposito, said "I don't do helpless!" and she showed that she was busy coordinating help. One of the things she did was pull together a group of us to learn about the FIREWISE USA® program.
This program builds on the beautiful ethic that rural people hold: to do one's best and to help your neighbors.
The idea is for a community to set goals for homeowner education, home improvements, defensible space, and emergency preparedness. Once those goals are set, we mark our progress toward meeting them. The program makes us safer and confirms to everyone that we are working together to be safer. We acknowledge that every bit of Firewise work we do will help all of us, because we are all in this together. Participation is fun when you are meeting goals to help your community. And if you don't participate? The program is good for you, too, but you miss out on the fun.
We have seen in the last few years that wildfire can be devastating, even to those who have done their best to prepare for it. We know that old Mother Nature calls the shots no matter how hard we work. The town of Paradise had earned Firewise recognition and look what happened there. A person might say that our work is hopeless. But we aren't that person. I'm remembering another time I learned from the words of a wise woman: I was with Mary on her snowmobile pioneering a ski tour route for the fire department when we plunged through deep powder into a hole in a thicket of silver-tips on a steep sidehill. We radioed for help, then Mary summoned me to start digging. I made a funny face and she said, "We may be stuck but they aren't going to find us sitting on our butts." We dug and stomped and hacked and tugged and implausibly got the sled up onto a solid platform of snow. Our 'help' found us exhausted and laughing and proud that we had saved ourselves. Even if we hadn't saved ourselves, we would have known we were living our best lives and enjoying the process.
The National Fire Protection Association's website (NFPA.org) has a FIREWISE page and tells all about the Firewise program. There is a lot of good information on wildfire and lots of links to resources for learning more. The information is well organized and interesting. Pull yourself and your family up to a screen and look through it!
Check out our Facebook page Calpine Firewise Committee. Contact CalpineFirewise@yahoo.com .