Cook County Firewise –
Saving Lives and Properties from Wildfire
COOK COUNTY, MINNESOTA - May 17, 2019 (LSN) Firewise is a national program, adopted by Minnesota and Cook County. Firewise encourages local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters, and others in the effort to protect people and property from wildfire risks. Locally, Cook County has developed a successful and active Firewise Committee and mitigation program.
Cook County’s Firewise Coordinator is Todd Armbruster, the program is supervised by the Emergency Management Department, and is led by an active committee of community stakeholders including: County Commissioners, the Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Management, the Auditor’s office, Volunteer Fire Departments, the MN DNR, the US Forest Service, Grand Portage Lake Superior Band of Chippewa and citizen representatives. Firewise is primarily funded by several federal and state grants.
Firewise Opportunities for Property Owners to Protect Against Wildfire
This year, Firewise property assessments will be completed in the Hovland District and several fuels reduction projects and workshops are planned along with the popular Demo Days, Brush Pick-Ups and outreach events across the county. Firewise grants are available for mid-Trail property owners again this year. The hazardous fuels reduction grant is available for one more year. This grant pays contractors to remove balsam fir trees less than 6 inches in diameter at no cost to the property owner. Brush pick-ups can be arranged as a group by home-owners associations. The association will be responsible for selecting a pick-up date, promoting the project within their association, and providing a list of addresses who wish to participate in the brush pick-up. There are multiple Firewise brush disposal sites available for property owners to access anytime across the County, which can be found online in the mapping section of the County’s website.
Firewise Actions Equal Risk Reduction
Firewise is on the rise and growing in Cook County. Property owners are excited about grant programs and are willing to do their part to participate. As one person gets involved, they encourage neighbors to do the same. Most homeowners have received Firewise information and had a Firewise assessment conducted on their property, but there is still more to do. Homeowners are actively involved in planning for fuel reduction on their properties and are learning about forest ecology. They attend homeowner association meetings and meet with contractors/Firewise representatives to discuss projects. Several homeowner associations have taken steps to become a recognized Firewise site through the NFPA Firewise USA program – Cook County now has seven sites that have applied for recognition under the National Fire Prevention Association Firewise USA program. All these sites organize some type of outreach or mitigation activity each year. The program also contributes to community-building and citizen pride. Recognized Cook County Firewise sites include the following Lake/Homeowners Associations:
- Tait Lake
- Clara Lake
- West Bearskin Lake
- Hungry Jack Lake
- Voyagers Point
- South Greenwood
- Lake Road
- Caribou Lake
Interested citizens can join us for the Living with Fire event on Saturday, July 13, at the Cook County Community Center. This event will provide information on fire history, wildfire preparedness, prescribed burning, and mitigation actions property owners can take to protect their homes. There will be two field trip options in the afternoon and numerous vendors on hand that can assist with projects on your property. Prizes include a free chipper rental, extendable pole saw, bypass loppers, chainsaw sharpening and more.
The Cook County Firewise website has a wealth of information, resources, information on activities and videos on how to make your property Firewise. You can also review the extensive work done last year in the 2018 Action Report at www.cookcountyfirewise.org/
By: Valerie Marasco Eliasen, Director – Emergency Management & Public Information
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