Eastlake High senior gets community’s attention to wildfire dangers; student & DNR combine forces to reduce risks

Luis Lopez
Luis Lopez conduct wildfire risk assessment of his community as part of his senior project. Photo: Janet Pearce/DNR

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After being offered a Firewise project, Luis Lopez realized that he had no idea what he was getting into when he asked DNR for a high school senior project.

Starting from square one, Luis had to learn how to conduct a fire risk assessment for homeowners. He first researched what ‘fire risk assessment’ means. Working fairly independently on this project, Luis completed online courses on wildfire prevention through the Firewise Communities Program. After receiving three certificates (Landscaping, Firefighter Safety, and Conducting a Community Assessment), Luis performed a fire risk assessment of his community on the Sammamish Plateau, an area where residences are encroaching on forestland.

Luis assessed his neighborhood for fuel buildup, which is trees, shrubs, grasses, and other vegetation that can allow fire to travel. Reducing or eliminating vegetation close to structures helps to create defensible space against a wildfire.

Each year, DNR reaches out to communities to create safety from wildfire. Students like Luis help the agency get the baseline information we need to assess wildfire risks.

“I really enjoyed the project because it was different from what others chose to do for their senior project, and it made me get involved with my community,” Luis says. “I also learned many things about how a wildfire acts in the wildland-urban interface.”

Luis’ project gives DNR information that helps predict where wildfires may spread. Thanks to Luis, more homeowners on the Sammamish Plateau are aware of what they need to do to prevent wildfire from spreading into their neighborhood and destroying their homes.

Upon completion of his high school senior project, Luis graduated and is now moving on to attend Bellevue Community College. He plans to attend a four-year university, but isn’t sure what his major will be yet. Who knows? He may decide to become a wildfire prevention specialist for DNR.

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