Change After Tragedy: The Making of a Fire Adapted Community
The creation of the Ada Fire Adapted Community took place after significant wildfires impacted communities within Ada County in 2008 and 2009. These large wildfires opened the eyes of community members and community leaders to the real threat of wildfire.
On August 25, 2008, a grass fire ignited near the Oregon Trail area in southeast Boise. Fueled by invasive cheatgrass, dense sagebrush and 50 mph winds, the fire quickly spread uphill and ignited homes on the ridgeline. The house fires sparked an urban conflagration. Dense, flammable landscaping, roofing and household materials increased the vulnerability of homes to ember showers, spreading the fire to homes across the street and beyond. Ultimately, the Oregon Trail Fire destroyed 10 homes and damaged 11. Tragically, this fire also claimed the life of one resident that was trapped inside her home and could not escape.
The following summer, on July 28, 2009, lightning sparked a significant wildfire off of Highway 16 in the dry Ada County foothills. The fire burned 4,700 acres, damaged over 60 structures, completely destroyed four, and killed stock.
These wildfires were a wake up call to Ada County, and sparked the creation of the Ada Fire Adapted Community.
Community leaders representing government agencies, civic organizations, and homeowners’ associations have taken action to prevent future wildfire disasters within their communities and to become more resilient to the threat of wildfire by reducing future risk to residents, infrastructure, wildlife and the environment by form the Ada Fire Adapted Community.
As a result of collaboration between many different stakeholders, several ideas turned into action, including:
Adopting building and fire prevention codes specific to the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)
Creating a multi-agency wildfire mitigation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
Doubling the number of Firewise Communities in Ada County
Providing wildfire home assessment training to residents and neighborhood watch leaders
Becoming part of the nationwide FAC Learning Network
Most profoundly, Columbia Village, the neighborhood that was devastated by the Oregon Trail Fire, benefited from the efforts and collaboration of their community. In 2013, the Columbia Village Homeowners Association earned national recognition as a Firewise Community. The neighborhood represents an excellent example of a community taking a proactive approach to mitigate wildfire risk.
The Ada Fire Adapted Community continues to grow and develop. Our community has been designated a hub organization for the Fire Adapted Community Learning Network. We have a growing number of education and learning events that have been supported by a diverse portfolio of grants. We are proud to share what we have learned. Since initiating Ada Fire Adapted, we have:
Shared lessons learned from the Oregon Trail Fire as part of the IAWF International Wildland Fire Safety Summit and Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference
Shared experiences at the Boise/Austin Fire Department Learning Exchange. Both communities work hard to improve their ability to live in areas prone to wildfire.
Planted Firewise Gardens at the Eagle Sports Complex, Boise Fire Station #1 and Boise Fire Station #12, so that community members can gather ideas of what to plant to make their homes more resilient to wildfire.
With your help and support, we can continue to mitigate wildfire risk within the areas in which we live, work, and play.