Kirkwood receives recognition as a Firewise community

Submitted to the Tribune
Kirkwood as seen from the Caldor Fire’s edge on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune
The Caldor Fire came within a mile of the Kirkwood community.
Provided/Anne-Flore Dwyer

KIRKWOOD, Calif. — The community of Kirkwood has been recognized as an official Firewise Community by the National Fire Protection Association.

A press release on Monday from the Kirkwood Firewise group said the NFPA acknowledged the community has a valid plan in place — through education and fire fuel reduction efforts — to improve fire safety and preparedness in the event of another wildfire.

This past summer and early fall, Kirkwood was one of the many communities threatened by the massive Caldor Fire. Though surrounded by volcanic rock and granite, the ski resort and its residential community were in imminent danger. Flames could be seen from the valley and were, at times, less than a mile away. Residents were evacuated and the crew of the Kirkwood Volunteer Fire Department stayed back to help fight the blaze.

Eventually the Caldor Fire came so close to Kirkwood that both air and ground firefighting teams from around the western states, including Cal Fire, the USDA Forest Service, and many others, were deployed to assist.

“Thanks to the efforts of the firefighters and the favor of Mother Nature, not a single home was burned,” the release said. “But it was a close call.”

In reaction, a group of Kirkwood residents rolled up their sleeves and began the work of applying for Firewise status with the help of several stakeholders including the Amador Fire Safe Council, Vail Resorts, Kirkwood Meadows Public Utility District, Cal Fire, the Eldorado National Forest and the Amador Ranger District.

“The Caldor Fire was a wake up call for all of us,” said Kirkwood Public Utilities District Board Member Peter Dornbrook. “It exposed Kirkwood’s vulnerability to a new generation of aggressive wildfires. It is going to require a community-wide effort to protect our homes. Firewise has developed a formula to get the job done. I urge everyone to participate in this Firewise program in any way that you can.”

NFPA is a nonprofit whose mission is to help save lives and reduce loss with information, knowledge, and passion. NFPA offers codes and standards, public education, outreach and advocacy, training, research, and publication. These efforts include the National Firewise USA recognition program, which provides a collaborative framework to help neighbors in a geographic area get organized, find direction, and take action to increase the ignition resistance of their homes and community and to reduce wildfire risks at the local level. Any community that meets a set of voluntary criteria on an annual basis and retains an “In Good Standing Status” may identify itself as being a Firewise site.

Initiated in 2002 with 12 pilot neighborhoods, the national Firewise USA recognition program now has nearly 1,000 active member communities in 40 states.

“While California has held the highest amount of Firewise communities nationwide for quite some time, we are proud to say the state now has set a new record with 500 Firewise USA recognized communities in California,” said Chief Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director and chief of Cal Fire, Office of the State Fire Marshal’s Community Wildfire Preparedness and Mitigation division.

Source: Kirkwood Firewise

Caldor Fire flames were visible at Kirkwood.
Provided/Anne-Flore Dwyer

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