FiredUP! for Firewise

As one of the 200 finalists in State Farm Neighborhood Assist, we have a chance at winning a $25,000 grant to incorporate wildfire education in schools to connect fitness, forest related career paths, and local communities. Please help us initiate this program in our schools!

The grant application consisted of three questions: 

How much does your cause focus on an unmet need in this community?

The proposed FiredUp! for Firewise program, featuring three four week after school-based sessions for 6-8 grade students employs a multi-pronged approach that incorporates fire ecology and fire migration content modified from the Fireworks Curriculum (2016) with physical fitness and nutrition education utilizing the basic concepts and practices from Firefit (2016). The final week of each four-week cycle includes field trips to local Firewise New Mexico communities and those newly certified communities to perform needed mitigation activities that students learned (Reinhartz and Nystrom, 2016). 

The ultimate goal of FiredUp! for Firewise is to contribute to New Mexico’s educational mission of preparing middle school students to be healthy productive citizens by learning more about local issues related to NM ecosystems within the broader context of the southwest, thereby bringing relevance to their studies.  By learning about the role of fire in nature and its relationship to different ecosystems and how communities become more fire adapted, promoting wellness can improve their overall health, opening career paths connected to fire and forestry. The program materials will be modified to meet the NM and district educational and Common Core standards.

A team consisting of students and educators (local school teachers and administrators), environmental scientists, science educators, forest rangers, ecologists, community and business leaders, and firefighters collaborated in designing the intervention program, and will recruit and participate in implementing it. 

Topics such as fire triangles, fire safety near homes in the WUI (wildland urban interface), fuel moisture and size, vertical fire spread, role of fire managers, study of tree species and their fire history by examining their tree rings will be explored through the use of hands-on experiences in classrooms and the outdoors.  Studying these and other fire related topics coupled with engaging students in a variety of Firefit activities, reaps not only the benefits of promoting a healthy life style, but also cognitive functions including thinking, reasoning, remembering, and imagining along with increasing perception skills and attention spans (Kravitz, 2009).

Pairing physical activities and information on eating healthy while learning about NM wildland flora, fauna, and the nature of fire provides a winning combination for students that can lead to a life long commitment to fitness and careers that require individuals who are physically fit. Students performing forest related tasks provide insight into jobs and careers in the great outdoors.  The after school program offers a policy solution for addressing obesity and wellness of middle school students as they learn about the role of fire and its impact on ecosystems in New Mexico, community mitigation practices, and related careers.  It is anticipated that participants in the program will be followed as they move into high school.

Why do you feel the $25,000 would address the unmet need?

FiredUp! for Firewise, a year long pilot program consisting of three four week after school sessions for students in grades 6-8 was developed by community and parent stakeholders. It incorporates wildfire ecology content from the Fireworks Curriculum, a USFS sponsored program focusing on wildfire, integrated with physical fitness and nutritional education. Sessions include three weeks of indoor/outdoor learning presented by a team of local professionals using supplies, materials, and science tools stored in trunks. The final week of each 4 week cycle is dedicated to students utilizing their newly learned skills designing and implementing a mitigation project at a local NM Firewise community. Funding will be used to provide backpacks of safety equipment, tree study materials, orienteering and record keeping supplies, hiring of mitigation sawyer, and haul truck for slash removal, and professional instructor time. 

An epidemiologic study conducted by Van Cleave, Gortmaker, and Perrin (2010) shows that 1 out of 4 young people in the US, or 15-18 million, age 17 and younger suffer from chronic health conditions including obesity. Results from a study by Rideout, Foehr, and Roberts (2010) revealed that youth from 8-18 spend 7.5 hours in front of a screen (e.g., TV, video grams, computer). And only one in five homes are within a half-mile of a park (US Department of Health, 2010).

For teens interested in pursuing outdoor-wildland and forest related careers, being obese inhibits them from carrying out essential duties they need to perform. Today, 25.8 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, more than 75 percent with hypertension, and 33 percent of cancer has been linked or attributed to obesity (Health Effects of Obesity).  In addition, wildland firefighters have experienced a fatality rate of 21.9% due to heart attacks (Wildland Firefighter Fatalities in the United state: 1990-2006, NWCG 2007).  An ongoing National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study of firefighter fatalities indicates that most heart attack victims had multiple coronary risks (hypertension, high cholesterol,  smoking, being overweight and inactivity), all of which stem from lifestyle choices. Inactive individuals are more than 50 times as likely to experience a heart problem during exertion as those that are active. Unhealthy wildland fighters can interrupt fire operations and can endanger entire crews.  Additionally, overwork injuries occurring early in the fire season due to the lack of year round physical fitness programs also disrupt a crew’s readiness and ability to perform.

How much of a lasting impact on this community would the proposal have?

The FiredUp! will engage students in service learning opportunities that will enhance their academic success that will result in: 1) increasing graduation rates, 2) applying what they learned in real world contexts, 3) connecting them with local fire and forest professionals to learn about career options, and 4) enhancing their decision making and leadership skills to address significant community needs. Firewise communities will benefit from participating in this program by achieving community goals, breathing new life into community projects, and enhancing relationships with youth. The overall mission of this program is to promote a lifetime of healthy behavior, preparing students to pursue wildfire and forest related careers.  The pilot program will become a sustainable ongoing program by increasing wildfire awareness and creating a positive message for Firewise recognition through the involvement of community youth and by gaining the support of local businesses and nonprofits.

To engage young people in the physical activity they need to strengthen muscles and bones, increase endurance and flexibility, and maintain a healthy weight, the proposed after school program attempts to encourage them to be more active which according to numerous studies also has a positive correlation with improved academic performance resulting in increased attention spans and better classroom behavior (Active Living Research, 2009). Across the US, it is a mixed bag regarding the degree to which states require physical education during the school day.  For example, 74.5 percent of the states require students to take physical education from elementary through school, while 28 states allow for exemptions and waivers and others allow students to take physical education online (Loopholes Stalling Progress). 

The proposed program provides a context and purpose for becoming physically fit that many of the other after school programs lacked.  Connecting physical activity and nutrition while learning about fire and its implications on natural and human ecosystems and connecting those studies to those who fight fires and other outdoor careers.  In this context, becoming physical fitness and studying about the principles of fire and related careers becomes a means to an end and not just an end. 



Our Mission

Wildfire Network works in pursuit of community wildfire resiliency by working with young adults and communities to promote firefighter safety, job development and youth mentorship. Through wildland fire and land management training, we employ and mentor at-risk youth in forest health, wildfire mitigation and safe firefighting techniques. We educate K-12 youth about natural fire processes within their environment and provide aid to communities with wildfire risk reduction and property stewardship.

Wildfire Network believes the cornerstone of community wildfire resiliency is education in adaptive management techniques on and around private property.

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We are a nonprofit 501(c3) based in Edgewood, NM

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