Press release from the N.C. Forest Service, shared Jan. 15:

TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY — Seventy homes in the Slick Rock community are better protected from wildfires after a North Carolina Forest Service program helped remove a large amount of forest fuels.

The project began in July 2012, when residents met with personnel from the Forest Service about becoming a Firewise Community. The community then formed a six-person Firewise Committee to help facilitate the project.

The Forest Service trained committee members to do Firewise home assessments and to complete contracts for the work to be done. Members completed home assessments and worked with property owners to get a consensus to have the work done. The committee chose a contractor, and after a year and half of planning, the work was completed within two weeks in late 2013.

Crews were able to remove hazardous fuels from the Home Ignition Zone, including some trees 4 to 6 inches in diameter, and a few larger trees, that helped with vehicle access and fire safety around the structures. The Home Ignition Zone is an area of about 30 to 60 feet surrounding a home, depending on the slope. Fire burns faster and hotter when the slope is steeper. Hazardous fuels were removed from around 70 structures and 5.2 miles of road.

“The people of the community that we received feedback from are very pleased with the results of the project,” said Frank Rogers, Transylvania County ranger. “It was a success due to involvement and coordination with the Slick Rock Firewise Committee, residents of Slick Rock, contractor Bill Leatherwood and his crews, and the Forest Service.

Rogers said committee members Kathy and Bob Welch, Rip Davenport, Mike Rosenthal, Dee Dee Sheorn and Randy Theis put in many hours working on the project. “They are to be praised for their efforts,” he said. “This project would not have happened without their dedication.”

Funding for the project came from a $60,372 grant from the N.C. Forest Service’s Community Protection Plan program. The grant was awarded through the U.S. Forest Service’s National Fire Plan, which provides funding for fuel-mitigation projects within 10 miles of national forests and park lands.

The National Fire Plan was developed in 2000 with the intent of responding to severe wildland fires and their impacts on communities by addressing five key points: firefighting, rehabilitation, hazardous fuels reduction, community assistance and accountability.

The plan provides funding to states to help prevent wildfires by mitigating the conditions that lead to them in high-risk communities within a 10 mile radius of national forests. Each community that applies for a grant through the program is evaluated for its risk, which is determined by vegetation type, available vehicle access, terrain, emergency-response times and access to water sources.

To learn more about Firewise in North Carolina, visit For more information about all the programs available through the N.C. Forest Service, visit

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Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at

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