LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Norphlet Volunteer Fire Department in Union County was selected as one of the grand prize winners in the National Fire Protection Agency's 1,000 Safer Places: the Firewise Challenge.
In addition to national and state recognition, Norphlet VFD will receive $5,000 to be used for mitigation activities, including chipping of brush, removal of vegetative material, and similar activities that will reduce wildfire hazards.
The Arkansas Firewise program works through the Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) and is a nationally recognized wildfire safety effort that works with communities at a local level. Arkansas was once again recognized as the No. 1 Firewise state in the nation for 2013 with 131 active Firewise communities across the state. Arkansas Firewise has worked with more than 250 communities and most state parks.
According to Kevin Kilcrease, Firewise Coordinator, the number one status is because of Arkansas fire departments whose members contribute so much to the community and state.
"The AFC is proud of this fire department so willing to make wildfire mitigation a part of local concerns. It is fire departments like Norphlet that have made Arkansas the No. 1 Firewise state," said Kilcrease. "Norphlet is exemplary in that the department consistently turns in the Firewise paperwork early in the year, well before the October 1 deadline," he added.
Norphlet firefighters and community members, led by Chief Wesley Harper, have worked on Firewise projects for the past 10 years. They completed wildfire safety assessment surveys on structures in their fire district, and developed a Community Wildfire Preparedness Plan, which outlined wildfire mitigation projects. They then put that plan into action, completing education and mitigation projects each year.
The Challenge, a yearlong campaign that began in January 2013, is a way to encourage residents across the country to take steps to combat the threat of wildfire and reduce the damage fire can do to homes and property. The $5,000 prize was donated to the NFPA by State Farm.
The department will be recognized at an event on Feb. 28, 2014 as part of "A Firewise Toast, A Salute to the National Firewise Family." The Salute is a way for Firewise participants to acknowledge their hard work. Norphlet was chosen, along with four other first prize winners, because of their hard work and dedication to the Firewise program.
"Norphlet was the first community in Union County to be recognized as Firewise in 2004. They have continued to renew yearly and continued to educate their citizens on the benefits of being Firewise. I am very proud of Norphlet's efforts and the citizens of Norphlet should be proud too," said Chris Ludwig, Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) Ranger for Union County.
Norphlet's community projects have included work on the city ball park to make it fire safe by removing low limbs, dead vegetation, and cutting trees back, working to help single parents Firewise their property, cleaning and burning vacant lots, as well as educating the community on wildfire danger and lean, clean, and green principles of Firewise home protection.
The mission of the Arkansas Forestry Commission is to protect Arkansas's forests, and those who enjoy them, from wildland fire and natural hazards while promoting rural and urban forest health, stewardship, development, and conservation for all generations of Arkansans. For more information, visit www.forestry.arkansas.gov.