Each year between 8,000 and 10,000 wildfires occur in Michigan. These include forest fires, brush fires and grass fires that damage homes, property and public facilities. Michigan State University Extension has been actively engaged in providing wildfire prevention education since 2002 when former MSU Extension emergency management specialist Mark Hansen collaborated with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to pilot the Firewise Communities Program in southern Michigan.
As Mark was able to obtain additional funding through USDA Forest Service and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grants, Firewise programming was expanded to the Upper Peninsula, northern Lower Peninsula and select Lake Michigan shoreline counties in southwestern and central Michigan. Since 2002, MSU Extension has received more than $1 million in federal grants to support the Firewise program.
Though Mark officially retired from MSU Extension in December 2007, he agreed to remain as Firewise project director until June 30, 2011. At that time, Extension educator Elaine Bush assumed leadership duties for the statewide program in addition to providing Firewise educational programming in the northwest Lower Peninsula. Joining Elaine in providing Firewise programming are MSU Extension educators Mike Schira, Dave Andersen, Beth Clawson, Russ Kidd and Dennis McClure. Elaine, Dennis and Mike also applied to their respective counties for Title III funding that has provided each of them with a part-time staff person, greatly expanding their ability to provide local programming.
The Firewise Project continues to expand. Over the past year, the Firewise team has reached more than 6 million listeners, viewers, program participants and local decision makers in Extension programs and media efforts. You can learn more about Firewise by signing up for the online session being offered during Fall Extension Conference by Elaine Bush and Paul Kollmeyer, MDNR state Firewise liaison.
You can read about the national Firewise Communities Program here: http://www.firewise.org/ The staff in Agriculture and Natural Resources Technology Services recently redesigned the MSU Firewise website (http://firewise.msu.edu/). Continue to check the site for current information.