Nation’s leading wildfire management groups name 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Awardees

The four co-sponsors of the national Wildfire Mitigation Awards have named the individuals and organizations chosen to receive honors this year in recognition of their exemplary commitment to community wildfire risk reduction.

WASHINGTON—The Wildfire Mitigation Awards committee has named the six individuals and organizations chosen to receive 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Awards. This year’s recipients have earned the highest commendation for innovation and leadership in wildfire mitigation. They are:

Paul Cada

Vail Fire and Emergency Services | Vail, Colorado

As the Wildland Program Administrator for the Town of Vail’s Fire and Emergency Services, Paul Cada has led fuels reduction projects on over 250 acres and completed wildfire risk assessments on every property in Vail. Paul’s Fire Adapted Vail program earned his town Fire Adapted Community status, and more recently, his social media campaign “Vail Wildfire Ready” resulted in 88 new resident registrations with the Vail Fire Community Connect program and a 100% increase in registrations for the county-wide emergency notification program “EC Alert.” Thanks to Paul’s tireless community outreach efforts, he has inspired awareness not only among permanent residents of Vail, but also among vacation homeowners and thousands of annual visitors.

William “Danny” Blevins

Kentucky Division of Forestry | Morehead, Kentucky

William “Danny” Blevins is well known in eastern Kentucky for promoting wildfire preparedness and mitigation. A volunteer firefighter, fire and rescue instructor, and regional director for the Kentucky Firefighters Association, Danny was instrumental in the development of the Kentucky Fire Commission’s Wildland Firefighter Awareness program, which is now a required course for all Kentucky firefighters. Through his work with the Northeast Rowan County Fire Council (NRCFC), Danny helped Lake Lewman become one of the first Firewise USA communities in the state. Additionally, in 2014, a Triplett Creek Watershed mitigation project co-developed by NRCFC was chosen to receive grant funding by the USDA Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership. Ultimately, the project accomplished wildfire risk assessments on 1,000 homes within the watershed’s wildland-urban interface. In 2018, Danny teamed up with the Kentucky Division of Forestry to plan Kentucky’s first Wildfire Preparedness Day celebration, an event that garnered more than 500 attendees.

Jonathan Riley

Chelan Fire District 1 | Wenatchee, Washington

In the last five years serving as the Chelan Fire District’s first Community Wildfire Liaison, Jon Riley has cultivated the district’s Community Wildfire Program and expanded its role within the community by offering virtual and in-person information sessions, securing grant funding, utilizing new mitigation tools for home assessments, implementing seasonal fuels reduction projects, and partnering with local organizations. Jon forged one such partnership with the non-profit CAFÉ in order to host bilingual presentations on wildfire mitigation for underserved Spanish-speaking community members. He also helped to train CAFÉ staff in providing wildfire risk assessments. Jon’s out-of-the-box thinking—which most recently brought goats to Wenatchee for hazardous fuels reduction—has inspired others, both regionally and nationally, to take action to protect their communities.

Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team

Lake Tahoe Basin, Nevada and California

The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT)—comprised of 21 federal, state, local, tribal, and non-profit entities—was formed after the Angora Fire of 2007 to tackle wildfire prevention, fuels reduction, and community preparedness in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Since 2008, TFFT has treated 65,000 acres in the Basin’s wildland-urban interface (WUI) for hazardous fuels. Those efforts paid off during the 2021 Caldor Fire. Without them, the fire would have caused massive destruction to homes and businesses in Meyers and South Lake Tahoe, killed firefighters and residents, and burned thousands of additional acres of forestland. TFFT is now the primary coordinator of wildfire mitigation work in the Basin. TFFT has helped 59 Basin communities become Firewise USA recognized and, through its “Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities” effort, hosted events and workshops that have reached over 18,000 people in-person and another 3,800 people through social media.

Mike Mathis and Chris Colburn

Florida Forest Service  | Southport and Tallahassee, Florida

The work of Mike Mathis and Chris Colburn is a shining example of how to quickly mitigate wildfire risk following natural disasters. In October 2018, a Category 5 hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle, leaving 72 million tons of trees broken or uprooted and prime for burning. The Florida Forest Service tasked Mathis and Colburn with developing a plan to address wildfire risk imposed by Hurricane Michael. They hit the ground running, forming emergency strike teams that cleared 574 miles of forest debris on 314 private properties across eight counties. Both Mathis and Colburn were displaced by the storm like so many Floridians, but they continued to work tirelessly, inspiring county administrators to develop wildfire mitigation plans and landowners to participate in wildfire risk property assessments and clearing projects. They helped over 500 residents receive prescribed burn training, held prescribed burn classes for the public, and waged a wildfire prevention campaign to educate residents about dangerous fuel loading. Mathis and Colburn were also instrumental in getting Timber Recovery Block Grant relief to affected forestland owners.

Schelly Olson

Grand Fire Protection District 1  | Granby, Colorado

Schelly Olson, the Assistant Chief of Administration and Community Risk Reduction for the Grand Fire Protection District, founded the all-volunteer Grand County Wildfire Council (GCWC) in 2015 to establish crucial partnerships across local, regional, state, and federal boundaries. The GCWC has since held 26 free chipping service events with over 999 participants, developed a fuels reduction cost-share program that treated over 1,000 acres of private land, created and sold reflective signs that first responders use to navigate smoke-filled properties, and helped several HOAs identify water supplies for wildfire response. With Schelly’s expertise and initiative, her organizations have implemented wildfire mitigation programs across the entirety of Grand County, an area of 1,870 square miles with 15,000 residents.

The Wildfire Mitigation Awards program was established in 2014 by the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the USDA Forest Service to help demonstrate the tremendous societal value wildfire mitigation efforts provide.

“State forestry agencies know firsthand it’s always wildfire season somewhere in the United States. The 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Awardees know this too,” said Christopher Martin, NASF president and Connecticut state forester. “In their own ways, this year’s winners have ensured the safety of thousands through their wildfire mitigation efforts. We congratulate them for receiving this honor and thank them for their dedication to this critically important work.”

“The threat of wildland fire continues to increase for all of us. We must work together and act now to increase awareness and prepare our communities.” said Chief Ken Stuebing, IAFC president and board chair. “It is my honor to congratulate this year’s National Wildfire Mitigation Award winners for their outstanding leadership and contributions to risk-reduction efforts in their communities. Thank you for setting the example.”

“Individual and community action continues to be a major component to reducing wildfire risk around homes and neighborhoods and the Wildfire Mitigation Awards are the perfect opportunity to recognize and reward this hard work and commitment,” said NFPA Wildfire Division Director Michele Steinberg. “NFPA congratulates this year’s winners. They are an inspiring example of what we can do together to create safer places to live and work.”

“We’re proud to be a part of this annual effort to recognize such dedicated individuals in the field of wildland fire mitigation,” said Jerry Perez, Fire and Aviation Director for the USDA Forest Service. “The outstanding work of this year’s recipients is representative of the efforts of all fire prevention and mitigation specialists across the U.S.”

The 2022 Wildfire Mitigation Awards will be presented at the Wildland-Urban Interface Conference in Reno, Nevada, on March 22, 2022. The nominations period for the 2023 Wildfire Mitigation Awards will open this summer. For more information about the awards program and how you can nominate your mitigation hero for national recognition, visit www.stateforesters.org/mitigation.

Media Contact: Whitney Forman-Cook at wforman-cook@stateforesters.org 

About the National Association of State Foresters
Since its start in 1920, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) has served as a leading authority on forest management in the United States. NASF’s members are the primary delivery system for forest management activities nationwide. They conserve, enhance, and protect state and private forests, which encompass nearly two-thirds of the nation’s forests, and are responsible for wildfire protection on more than 1.5 billion acres. Learn more at www.stateforesters.org.

About the International Association of Fire Chiefs
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world’s leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous response, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more at www.iafc.org.

About the National Fire Protection Association
Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit www.nfpa.org. All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

About the United States Forest Service
The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.