Wildland fire is a year-round reality that is setting records for the size, destruction, costs, and loss of lives and property. The RSG! Program seeks to make a difference in communities faced with wildland fire threats.
The RSG! Program did this when they played an important role for Falls Creek Ranch HOA during the 416 Fire. The area was in a severe drought with almost no precipitation all winter, and the Colorado State Forest Service had shared their concerns that a large fire could happen. This led the community to share information and resources, including the RSG! Go Bags and National Action Guides, on how residents could reduce the wildland fire risk on their property and prepare for a wildland fire. This preparation included having residents practice an evacuation followed by a debrief, where they discussed evacuating residents with special needs and family pets.
On June 9, 2018, the 416 Fire evacuated the community. At the meeting point, residents were concerned and worried, but calm and patient. Many said the practice evacuation, videos, RSG! Go bags, RSG! National Action Guides, and practice evacuation made them much more comfortable leaving their homes.
"The RSG booklet to plan an evacuation and the Go Bags, combined with videos showing evacuations under close fire conditions, motivated our residents to take responsibility for preparing their homes and being ready to go with plans made, including for pets. I was so proud of our 99 neighbors who evacuated calmly on short notice. In less than 2.5 hours, leaving homes with signs to show they were out and leaving garbage cans and other containers full of water around their homes for firefighters," stated Paulette Church, Falls Creek Ranch Firewise Ambassador.
The community's mitigation efforts provided time for firefighters to set up structure protection and the essential back burns that turned the fire away from town. No structures were lost, and no firefighters were injured in the 50,000+ acres of the fire.
The RSG! Program tenets help residents be Ready with preparedness understanding, be Set with situational awareness when fire threatens, and to Go, acting early when a fire starts. The Falls Creek Ranch HOA demonstrated the importance of the RSG! Program tenants in the 416 Fire.
The RSG! Program also offers direct assistance to fire departments through two grant programs. The RSG! Program Wildfire Mitigation Grants have resulted in 608 acres treated and risk reduction of 932 structures. The RSG! Program Community Fuels Reduction Projects supported mitigation projects, which has resulted in treating 416 acres and reducing risk to 1,169 structures.
Through RSG! Program Wildfire Mitigation Grants the Tri-County FireSafe Working Group (TCFSWG) partnered with the following volunteer fire departments: Baxendale, Montana City, Tri-Lakes, and Wolf Creek/Craig Fire Service Area on four separate roadside fuels reduction projects. Roadside fuels reduction was identified as a mitigation project priority for Helena departments due to the potential impact with evacuations for both residential and seasonal populations as well as considering firefighter safety.
One project site was tested by the 2019 North Hills Fire, which impacted the Tri-Lakes Fire Department project area on Snowdrift Road and Hauser Dam Road. The fuels reduction performed on Snowdrift Road provided firefighters with an area to anchor and burn from to hold the fire and contain it. The fuels reduction work along Hauser Dam Road helped to contain the fire and make the route safer for the evacuation of residents and the large campground in the area.
"The work that was performed by TCFSWG with the RSG grant from the IAFC was critical to the safety of firefighters and evacuees and provided a fire break to stop the fire from crossing into more populated areas," according to Bob Drake, Fire Chief, Tri-Lakes Fire Department.
RSG! Program members have reported over 178,278 hours of fuels reduction, over 561,135 cubic yards of vegetation removed and over 26,516 acres treated in conjunction with the program.
RSG! Program Resources
By joining the RSG! Program, you will have free access to various implementation guides, briefing documents, effective practices, presentation tools, customizable formats to localize the RSG message, and interaction with fellow RSG members.
The Ready, Set, Go! (RSG) Program is managed by the IAFC and seeks to develop and improve the dialogue between fire departments and the residents they serve.