Letter: Program helps neighbors avoid wildfire

Editor,

As a longtime Whidbey Island resident, I became curious about the concept of Firewise in 2019 having learned about increased risks of wildfire, given years of accumulated fallen branches and combustible materials in and around our neighborhood.

Not only has Firewise become an annual effort where spring workdays address these wildfire potentials, but it’s been rewarding to do yard and garden cleanup after winter months, take care of our beautiful environment here and work with neighbors in a collaboration that has enriched our sense of community.

A significant aspect I’d like to highlight is that there is amazing support from local agencies for this: Whidbey Island Conservation District and North Whidbey Fire and Rescue. Additionally, the state Department of Natural Resources Firefighters have gone above and beyond with firefighter crew members coming to work and engage with our neighborhood the past five years. These firefighters work to remove accumulated winter windfall and reduce potential ladder fuels for defensible space around homes.

Through state DNR, my neighborhood applied for a $4,000 micro-grant which offers reimbursement for costs of renting a commercial chipper, purchases of wildfire defense mesh for house vents, gravel for paths, work gloves, tarps and other items.

This state DNR micro-grant opportunity is promised to continue next year — neighborhoods and HOAs can apply. Whidbey Island Conservation District can be contacted to learn more about this and the benefits of becoming Firewise for your own home and neighborhood.

My personal hope is that more Whidbey Island residents become aware of the generous work and funding available for their neighborhoods. As wildfire risks in Western Washington are becoming greater, this is a great opportunity for residents to collaborate with Whidbey Island Conservation District, our fire districts up and down the island and the Department of Natural Resources firefighters. As a program, Firewise work is non-regulatory and non-reporting, both which are important to note.

I am enthusiastic and grateful to be able to comment on this. It’s not only been rewarding to take care of our home environment adjacent to forest lands here, but it’s been fun working together with the agencies that support our life and property as well as enriching the spirit of community with neighbors.

Teri Jo Summer Reiger

Coupeville