Cd’A neighborhoods honored for wildfire risk reduction efforts

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Courtesy photo Pictured from left: Gene Foster, Fernan Hill Firewise chair; Fire Inspector Bobby Gonder, Cd’A Fire Department; Mayor Steve Widmyer; Jim Miller, Armstrong Park Firewise chair; and Katie Kosanke, urban forester, City of Coeur d’Alene.

Efforts to reduce the vulnerability of homes and landscapes to wildfire recently earned two Coeur d’Alene neighborhoods national recognition.

The Armstrong Park neighborhood, which is south of Fernan Lake and east of Interstate 90, and the Fernan Hill area, just east of Coeur d’Alene, have been named Firewise USA sites by the National Fire Protection Association.

The recognition was announced in a news release from Firewise, a nationwide program that provides formal recognition to communities acting to protect people and properties from the risk of wildfire in the wildland/urban interface.

Idaho Department of Lands Fire Bureau Chief JT Wensman congratulated the residents of these neighborhoods and the city departments that helped them reach this achievement. He noted the many homes lost to recent wildland fires in the western U.S.

“One of the best ways to prevent a catastrophic wildfire event from consuming homes or entire neighborhoods is for homeowners and communities to work toward making their property and the community more resilient to wildland fires,” Wensman said in the news release. “The Firewise community recognition shows that these communities have been proactive in taking fire prevention measures at a grassroots level.”

Coeur d’Alene Fire Department and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department staff worked with interested citizens in these wildland urban interface areas to complete a community wildfire hazard assessment and developed an action plan that will guide their efforts to reduce risks to the residents and their homes.

Implementation of the plan has begun and will continue as part of the program’s annual renewal requirements.

In addition, two community Fire Preparedness events were held in the spring and many property owners participated in reducing fuels on their properties such as removing ladder fuels, cleaning pine needles from the ground and gutters along the eaves of their homes and developing an emergency evacuation plan.

Citizen volunteers Jim Miller of Armstrong Park, and Gene Foster from the Fernan Hill area, were instrumental in the completion of the first year of the program.

“This award is a great testament to the partnership and ‘can do’ attitude the residents of the city possess,” said Coeur d’Alene Fire Chief Kenny Gabriel.

Gabriel said his department has been working with the Armstrong Park and Fernan Hill Area homeowners associations for many years in an attempt to minimize the threat of catastrophic fire happening in those areas, and the Firewise distinction was earned through hard work by Coeur d’Alene’s city departments and the homeowners.

“We also know that the efforts do not end here,” Gabriel said.

He said his agency will continue to work with the property owners, city departments, Idaho Department of Lands and U.S. Forest Service to maintain these areas’ status as Firewise communities and make their neighborhoods as safe as possible from wildland threats.

Gabriel said, “The HOAs and all residents should be very proud of this.”

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