Apr 25, 2017 | By: Mal Meyer

Bemidji Selected For Wildfire Planning Assistance Program

The Bemidji area is one of 14 communities recently selected to participate in the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) program. In a press release, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said this will give the community professional assistance to reduce wildfire risks through improved land use planning.

The program is funded through the U.S. Forest Service and private foundations and provides communities with assistance to integrate wildfire mitigation into the development planning process.

“Bemidji has a strong fire prevention program and collaborative approach to emergency response,” said Dan Carroll, Department of Natural Resources fire prevention specialist in the northwest region who spearheaded the application process, in a statement. “I talked to individuals at the city, county and DNR in the Bemidji area, and all parties extended their support and interest in going forward with the application for CPAW.”

Through the program, established in 2015 by Headwaters Economics and Wildfire Planning International, the Bemidji area receives a consulting team of foresters, land use planners, economists and wildfire risk modelers. Over the next year, the team will work directly with the fire department, along with the joint planning board, and will get input from the DNR and other agencies and community organizations.

CPAW services are at no cost and Bemidji retains full authority to implement any recommendations provided. The team will assess community conditions and documents, draft and refine recommendations with stakeholders and present a final report in fall 2017.

“As fire chief for the Bemidji area I know that we will have wildfires affecting our community. The most effective way to minimize this wildfire impact is through progressive fire prevention efforts,” said David Hoefer, Bemidji fire chief, in a statement. “The CPAW program is a great example of collaboration between multiple agencies and will take our current fire prevention efforts to the next level.”

The DNR Forestry Division is assisting the CPAW team by providing data and input that will be used for the final report. On their first visit, the team toured the Bemidji area and visited with DNR forestry staff about fire history and the different fuel types found in the area. The DNR was also able to provide information on topics such as fire prevention, fire planning, fire suppression, aviation and weather tendencies in Minnesota.

“The tools that the CPAW program offer have the potential to reduce wildfire risk in areas that affect wildfire response for the Bemidji Fire Department and the DNR,” said Joe Rucinski, DNR fire team leader in Bemidji, in a statement. “We fully support these efforts.”

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