After coordinating flights and driving schedules, all four Conservation Corps teams made it safely to the Uwharrie National Forest in Troy, North Carolina for our initial SCA training on May 12th. The five members of our Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) team, along with our fearless crew leader, finally met after weeks of wondering who our new housemates and co-workers would be for the next six months. We were incredibly excited to find that we all have common interests in conservation and Arrested Development. This led to a smooth transition through training, where we learned about the rich history of the SCA, the vast spectrum of conservation ethics, and became certified in Wilderness First Aid at the end of the week. When training sessions were done each day, much of our free time was spent conversing with the other conservation corps teams and their projects, as well as listening to the musical stylings of the many talented SCA members, crew leaders, and staff. The SCA training prepped us for what may lie ahead of us this summer and fall in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Our SCA training was supplemented by our CWPP training with the North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS) this past week. We were introduced to the many county rangers we will be working with and the project we will be working on. Our team will be interviewing fire chiefs in rural areas throughout 11 counties of North Carolina to determine Areas of Concern (AOCs), or regions at risk for wildfire damage. We will then visit AOCs and assess risks based on a number of factors, including presence of water sources (such as hydrants) to put out wildfires, vegetation fuel type, and distance of structures (such as houses or fences) from fuel sources. From there, we will use ArcGIS to map these areas and present the data to the NCFS and to communities at risk. With all of our training now completed, the CWPP team is now stocked with all of the tools and information to successfully assess and better prepare communities at risk for wildfires.