We've all seen the devastating impact wildfires can have. The recent fires in southern California in particular have served to embed the issue firmly in many peoples' minds.
But with more people moving into rural areas, the potential for property loss -- or worse -- is increasing. Although there is never any guarantee that a homeowner can ever do enough to avoid a fire, there are concrete steps to take to reduce the hazard.
In Trout Lake, a small group of individuals have taken strong measures to help the community sharply reduce its potential for a serious fire, and their leadership has been stellar.
By aggressively going after grant funding, this "grassroots" group launched a $60,000 pilot project in 2007 that started with Yellow Brick Road south of Trout Lake. In the summer, crews worked to sharply reduce the amount of brush and undergrowth close to the road -- fuels that could contribute to a fast-spreading fire. The "before" and "after" images of these fire-prone areas are compelling.
Yet the group did not stop there. They have secured a $180,000 National Fire Plan grant that will go toward creating shaded fuel breaks all around the Trout Lake community. Next year, at least 12 miles of roads around Trout Lake will get the treatment from brush removal crews. And some of the money will be used to help individual property owners create "defensible space" around their homes, and to improve access for emergency vehicles on roads that often have overhanging vegetation.
The key organizational players behind this effort are the Northwest Service Academy, the Trout Lake Fire Department, and the Trout Lake Community Council. Other assistance has come from the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Forest Service.
This effort is a showcase of what can happen when dedicated and determined individuals work together for an important goal. The efforts of a handful of people -- Greg Page, Steve Koenig, Jim Wells, Tim Dearden, Joseph Esteves, Carter Davis, and Tim Webster -- may end up savings some residents' homes, or even their lives.
This is a great project, and we highly appreciate the efforts of all the individuals and agencies involved.