Edward Sylvester: Teaming up now, before the fire season | TheUnion.com
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Edward Sylvester: Teaming up now, before the fire season

“Oh no! Not another article on fire safety in the midst of winter,” you might say. “Why now? And what do social events have to do with fire safety?”

The Friends of Banner Mountain Board and Firewise Committee in Nevada City are looking to improve connectivity among neighbors for better fire season preparedness. Now is the right time, in the midst of winter and COVID-19, to get to know your neighbors — masked and socially distanced, of course. We think that neighborhoods with strong social bonds can better respond in an emergency such as a wildfire and evacuation.

We on the board and the committee want to encourage more neighborhood communication and socialization in a COVID-safe manner. There are great examples of where this has occurred.



In the past year, one neighborhood held spring and Halloween parades and birthday serenades — fully masked and socially distanced — to maintain contact with each other. During non-COVID years, they held holiday potlucks and summer picnics. These kinds of events provide regular connections among neighbors and offer an opportunity to welcome new neighbors and check in on those who might not reach out.

From a wildfire readiness standpoint, these neighborhoods have also done some great work. They have held defensible space advisory visits for the whole neighborhood, work days to help those unable to complete their defensible space work, and neighborhood Zoom calls and meetings (before COVID-19) to discuss the fire season outlook.




They held a table-top simulation to talk through an evacuation. They developed evacuation buddies, neighborhood directories, and contact systems through phone trees or Signal messaging systems. Working together, they have reduced the flammable fuels around their homes and developed stronger communication bonds so that when the fire hits, they can help each other get out alive.

Friends of Banner Mountain wants to generate greater neighborhood cohesion as a part of wildfire preparedness efforts, while recognizing that each neighborhood has its own way of doing that.

We have many volunteers who have stepped up to be neighborhood outreach leaders promoting Firewise information in their areas. But we are searching for additional folks who might want to take on that informal role in their neighborhood to encourage connections where they don’t yet exist.

And once we are all vaccinated and can meet again, those social interactions can grow even stronger. We are also looking for other examples of how neighborhoods have strengthened their neighbor-to-neighbor relationships.

If you are interested in building greater connectivity, we’d love your help. Perhaps you are just the right person to be the neighborhood outreach leader to help pull folks together or share your neighborhood story. Please contact us, Jeff Peach (jeff@bannermountain.org) or Ann Westling (ann@bannermountain.org) if you would like more information or to volunteer.

And like other Firewise communities (there are over 70 of them in Nevada County), we want to increase our outreach efforts so everyone can stay informed of happenings in our neighborhoods.

The Banner Mountain area has a newsletter. It is free or you can join for a $20 donation a year. If you are not on the mailing list and would like to be, see https://bannermountain.org.

We hope to double our membership this year, so that we can support each other during good times and in emergency situations. Fire preparedness is critical for your safety and can result in greater connections to your neighbors. Join us, won’t you?

Edward Sylvester is president of Friends of Banner Mountain in Nevada City.


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