Women and Wildfire Home Defense

Wildfire Home Hazards Assessment workshop

On a warm morning in August, several local community members from Ramah, New Mexico gathered at the Old El Morro School Art Gallery for a workshop on Women and Wildfire Home Defense. This beautiful area near the Cibola National Forest in western New Mexico is home to a small artists community, beautiful mountain vistas, and fire adapted ecosystems. Some of the women that showed up included a local restaurant owner, artists, and a local volunteer fire fighter. The goal of this workshop was to provide tools and resources to the local community about how to protect their properties and businesses from wildfire. The participants were engrossed in the presentations throughout the day, which spoke to the amount of risk that local community members live with season to season in this area.

Esme Cadiente and Kendal Martel from the Forest Stewards guild kicked off the day with a presentation on conducting wildfire risk assessments on property. The Forest Stewards Guild provided the Wildfire Home Hazard Assessment Handbook, a helpful resource for landowners who are assessing their property. The presentation included understanding the range of ignition zones, being able to identify site hazards that may not always seem intuitive, and finally, discussing steps that can be taken to reduce wildfire risk around homes. The conversations afterward were key, as folks started discussing all these risk reduction steps in the context of their own spaces. It was beautiful to see action plans and connections and partnerships form so seamlessly among these neighbors.

After the presentation, the whole group took the opportunity to walk around nearby businesses including a local favorite, The Ancient Way Café. In addition to fantastic views and tasty food, this property also provides RV hookups and cabins for travelers. It can sometimes be easy to disregard the risk that one branch of a nearby juniper tree overhanging a cabin can make, or even pine needles that have collected near the lattice of a porch. Thankfully, these small but significant risk reduction methods can make all the difference in the event of a wildfire. It is so important for local people to get together and walk around the spaces they see everyday as they discuss wildfire risk reduction. This workshop helped this community view their built environments in a different light, as well as offer local knowledge and context.

The group showed infectious enthusiasm about not only taking steps for risk reduction on their own properties, but also working with others to spread this helpful information. This workshop demonstrated how important it is to engage and foster early adopters and community leaders who will disseminate these tools and resources to others in their communities.

Ramah is about two hours west of Albuquerque. Across the West, rural communities and fire must coexist in a rapidly changing climate. Grassroots approaches like these are deeply important for wildfire preparedness. This toolbox of resources and actions is one more step toward providing communities with security and knowledge needed to protect their families, homes, and livelihood from uncharacteristic wildfire in the face of climate change.