Washington neighborhood honored as Firewise USA® Site of Excellence

Through the help of community volunteers and a new Firewise USA® pilot program, one Washington state neighborhood is taking wildfire safety into their own hands.

Six years ago, the Flowery Trail neighborhood was recognized as a Firewise USA® Site. In 2019, Firewise USA® challenged the community to become a “Site of Excellence” through a new pilot program for 2019-2020.

To earn this designation, the neighborhood must complete recommended mitigation tasks within 30 feet of every home and have 100% participation within the community boundary. Flowery Trail is one of only seven Firewise USA® Sites nationwide challenged in the Site of Excellence pilot project.

Flowery Trail is also one of our state’s 13 members of the Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.

When the first structures were built in Flowery Trail back in 1976, the community was not built with fire resiliency in mind. Surrounded by steep slopes with overgrown wildfire fuel, reason for concern doubled when community members realized they weren’t included in a fire district.

The threat of fire dawned on Dan Holman, member of the Flowery Trail Neighborhood Association, when his neighbor’s cabin burnt to the ground in 1995. Holman says this was the wake up call that lead to community action. Since then, the community has taken the initiative to reduce the risk of wildfire around their homes through major and minor changes.

One of the main focuses of the Flowery Trail Neighborhood Association in recent years is work in the zones within five feet of homes. Last year, they provided neighborhood members with gravel to create a non-ignition zone around their homes. Eighty percent of homes in Flowery Trail now have this barrier.

Although DNR is there to lend a hand when needed, Guy Gifford, DNR Fire Prevention and Firewise USA® Coordinator, says the Flowery Trail neighborhood took the tools and ran with it, putting forth a great deal of personal time and money. Every spring, Flowery Trail holds a two-day work party with specific goals in mind.

Members from the Flowery Trail Neighborhood Association operate a wood chipper during a  work party.

Encouraging your neighbors to do physical volunteer work may seem daunting, but according to Holman, over half of the neighborhood happily suits up in their work clothes to help the cause. For the most part, the community members are on the same page. The response is 90% positive, he says.

This year, the neighborhood will hold an additional work party on Saturday, Sept. 28 to celebrate the Site of Excellence honor. They will be removing wildfire fuel in a steep area where an excavator couldn’t reach in a previous work party.

As for the future of Flowery Trail, Holman has big plans moving forward. He hopes they can add more safety features to their community, including an extra generator that would allow them to pump massive amounts of water in the case of a power outage due to wildfire. They’d also like to add a second deep well, more water storage, and clear brush on empty lots in and around the neighborhood.

You can learn more about the Firewise USA® Sites of Excellence pilot program here.