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County wildfire plan in works
Georgia Forestry, local fire departments to work together
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Georgia Forestry and Bryan County fire authorities met recently to discuss preparing and implementing a community wildfire protection plan to help reduce the amount of combustible material that feeds the fires when they break out.

In a Feb. 11 meeting at Station 7 on Hwy. 204, Ty Hayman, chief ranger for Georgia Forestry in the Chatham and North Bryan area told representatives from each Bryan County fire station that now is the perfect time to put the plan together since now is the time most people do their outside burning.

"We're here for input and development of the plan, and to talk about getting the community involved in fire protection," he said.

The Feds are asking for the CWPPs to be put in place, nationwide, according to Willard Fell, a Georgia Forestry, CWPP specialist out of Statesboro who has helped about 20 different counties near the Florida line with their plans.

"The Forestry Commission received a grant last year to develop and implement the plan. Florida has done it on a community basis, we will do it on a county basis," Fell said.

He said the Forestry is at a risk of having funds cut, if the plan is not put in place.

The plan will require the cooperation of local and state government agencies consulting with federal agencies and other interested parties, like the community, Fell said, and will involve fire chiefs, fire captains and the local and state authorities, like the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Part of the plan would include noting areas in the county and around homes at particular risk of feeding a wildfire if one started, prioritizing those areas and treating them, through community education and preventative measures like controlled burning and homeowner education about how to reduce the ignitability of homes, he said.

"Some homes are made more flammable by propane tanks, problems with the roof, and wood stacked around the home," he said.

"Reducing the risk for fire in these areas will reduce the fuel a wildfire has to feed on, and help the firefighters get it out that much quicker," Fell said.

"Each fire department district will complete a plan - Ellabell, Black Creek, Pembroke, Richmond Hill - and they will be prioritized by district," Fell said.

He said once the plans were together, a community meeting would be held to present the plan to the public.

Richmond Hill Fire Chief Vernon Rushing said it would be a good idea to get builders involved and thought one problem would be annexed land that's not developed yet because it holds grasses, trees and other flammable items that act as fuel in a fire.

Hayman said education is a critical part of the plan.

"Homeowners need to know if they take the steps to reduce the flammability of their homes, it could save their home in the event of a wildfire."

The group will meet again in March to compare each district plan and begin a comprehensive plan.

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