Firewise Neighborhood Ambassador Program celebrates fifth anniversary

In 2004, the Firewise Council of Southwest Colorado created a Neighborhood Ambassador Program to promote wildfire education and action. Ambassadors are volunteers who commit to educating and mobilizing their neighborhoods around wildfire safety and preparedness.

In simple terms, the program gets neighbors talking to neighbors. The messages they share focus on the neighborhood’s risk of wildfire and how to mitigate that risk. Other messages shared include emergency preparedness and the importance of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Ambassadors receive technical support from forestry and fire specialists with the Colorado State Forest Service, the San Juan Public Lands Center, and local fire departments — all of whom are partners with the Fire Council.

The program, which began with eleven ambassadors, now boasts 60 ambassadors representing 38 moderate- to high-risk subdivisions in Archuleta, La Plata and Montezuma counties. In 2008, these ambassadors donated more than 1,700 hours and their efforts were valued at $33,500.

Preparedness comes in many forms and ambassadors have found creative ways to share the message. Ambassadors have created e-mail and phone trees to share information, organized “chipper” days, helped new property owners mitigate their property, purchased a fire truck for their neighborhood, installed a community cistern to aid with firefighting efforts, modified HOA covenants, and so much more. In an area that ranks third highest in the state for wildfire danger according to the Colorado State Forest Service, no action is considered too small or insignificant.

Become a Neighborhood Ambassador today and help your community become more aware of the dangers of unwanted wildfire and what they can do to help protect homes, lives and property. May is Fire Prevention and Education Month in Southwest Colorado.

If you wish to become a neighborhood ambassador, please contact Program Director Pam Wilson at (970) 385-8909 or via e-mail at chamisa02@earthlink.net.

Information about the Firewise Council is available on the Web at www.southwestcoloradofires.org.