Thursday, June 9, 2016

County Commissioners Share and Learn about Fire Adapted Communities at NACo's WIR Meeting

Clockwise from top left: Chief Willy Watsabaugh, Jackson Hole Fire & EMS; Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester;  Jim Matson, County Commissioner, Kane County, Utah;  Mark Peck, County Commissioner, Lincoln County, Montana; Sue Stewart, Director of Fire & Aviation, US Forest Service Region 4.  Photo: Kate Lighthall

Not surprisingly, wildfire is a pretty persuasive magnet to bring county commissioners together. The WRSC partnered with NACo's Western Interstate Region (WIR) to bring together a panel of federal, state and local partners to learn about and share their experiences around working together to create fire adapted communities.  The panel was part of the annual meeting for the WIR in Jackson, Wyoming May 25th - 28th.

Panelists included: Sue Stewart, Director of Fire & Aviation, US Forest Service, Region 4; Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester; Jim Matson, County Commissioner, Kane County Utah; Mark Peck, County Commissioner, Lincoln County, Montana; and Fire Chief Willy Watsabaugh, Jackson Hole Fire & EMS.

Each shared individual experiences working across jurisdictional boundaries and engaging communities to help their communities become more fire adapted.  The large audience of county commissioners had a great deal to contribute to the conversation as well.  The interactive dialogue was broad and included discussion about the Cohesive Strategy itself; how fire adapted communities are leading to subsequent successes in landscape resiliency, and a safer, more effective wildfire response; codes and ordinances, what commissioners can do to help their communities learn to live with wildfire; planning for development in the wildland-urban interface; communications with publics; engaging stakeholders at all levels; building comprehensive CWPPs; funding sources for mitigation such as FEMA; and most importantly, building and maintaining cross boundary relationships. 

The takeaway from the interaction was the need for an ongoing dialogue among county commissioners and supervisors about wildland fire issues and related topics.  Every fire occurs in a county and often county commissioners take the heat when smoke is in the air.  The WRSC will be working closely with the WIR and state associations of counties to support these conversations.  Stay tuned!





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