October was a busy month filled with more work than ever for the Ragin’ Raleighs. It began with the crew finalizing and completing CWPPs in Brunswick County. Then they set their sights a bit to the west of Brunswick, on Bladen County.
A visit from Program Manager Brian Doughty was a welcomed source of encouragement and enlightenment as the crew hit the five month mark of their internship.
The Ragin’ Raleighs volunteered at Kidsfest in Goldsboro, NC, helping out at a fire prevention booth with the Wayne County NCFS Ranger and Assistant Ranger. Additionally, the crew spent 11 days representing both the SCA and NCFS in the FireWise building at the North Carolina State Fair. This was a great experience as they got to interact with a variety of interesting people and eat some tasty fair treats, too!
Despite the crazy schedule, crew members still found time to continue work on their individual parts of the final project. The Ragin’ Raleighs were happy they began the final project early on, as things got pretty hectic towards the end of October.
A field day at Jordan Lake State Park allowed the Ragin’ Raleighs to complete their Fire in the Field course. Crew members constructed a handline, used a drip torch, and practiced deploying their fire shelters. Culminating the experience was the dreaded final exam, which turned out to be not as intimidating as originally imagined.
To optimize work efficiency and decrease fuel consumption the Ragin’ Raleighs spent a night in Bladen County at Singletary Lake State Park, and later in Onslow County in the Croatan National Forest.
As the leaves began to change colors, October came to an end. The crew discovered the joys of a rained out Halloween in the form of massive sugar binges on November 1st. The Ragin’ Raleighs focused work efforts on finalizing drafts in Bladen County, creating rough drafts in Jones and Onslow Counties, beginning interviews in Guilford County, and prepping to part ways following the completion of their internship in Raleigh.
A lot has happened since our last update, as of a few days ago we are officially two thirds of our way through our project. So, where did we leave off? August. In August, the Ragin’ Raleighs successfully battled a case of the shingles, with only one project leader falling victim. After decontaminating the entire house and both SCA vehicles, the crew continued working on finalizing Community Wildfire Protection Plans. As part of the finalization process, the crew learned how to use a map plotter and completed several community assessments on foot. By late August, the Ragin’ Raleighs had successfully completed eight Community Wildfire Protection Plans in Duplin County. As August began to wind down, the crew worked on their wildland firefighter training course – Fire in the Field. The month concluded with the Ragin’ Raleighs experiencing an earthquake and weathering through Hurricane Irene in the same week.
September began with a bang. The crew worked on finishing up their Fire in the Field coursework and continued to finalize CWPPs. While printing off plotter maps at their agency partner’s office, the crew had the fortunate opportunity to sit in on a meeting that overviewed the forest stand damage caused by Hurricane Irene. When their wildland firefighter coursework was complete, the Ragin’ Raleighs began to focus their work efforts on the North Carolina coastal county of Brunswick. A new challenge was presented as the county was a two and a half hour drive from their home office in Raleigh. To achieve optimal efficiency the crew organized their work into a series of three trips, spending several nights at Leland VFD and Tri-Beach VFD. The crew experienced a shift in leadership as Michael Catano left to pursue other dreams, leaving Tim as the newly instated Project Leader. To increase their neighborhood community participation, multiple crew members volunteered at Community Fun Day. As September comes to a close, the Ragin’ Raleighs will have finished CWPPs in Greene, Lenoir, and Wayne counties. Our work continues onward with the reviewing of Brunswick County and beginning Bladen County on the horizon.
The dull look in the children’s eyes was lifted when Smokey Bear came through the double doors from the fire department’s garage…
On, Monday, August 8, 2011, the CWPP team visited a Girl Scout troop at the Deep Run Fire Department to give a presentation on fire safety in honor of Smokey Bear’s birthday. Upon their arrival Michael began introductions with a short story of Smokey Bear’s history. Then Katrina led an activity on fire prevention, campfire safety, and handed out a fire safety video, coloring book, and activity book to each child. After successfully completing a household fire prevention worksheet, candy was also handed out by Michael and Katrina and immediately inhaled by the Girl Scouts.
Meanwhile, the other two crew members, Jim and Tim, were busy preparing Smokey Bear. Tim eagerly volunteered to transform into everybody’s favorite woodland creature, minus Jim ~ his favorite is Woody the Woodpecker. Jim lead Smokey (Tim) through the dark and dirty garage filled with obstacles. The girls were asked to call Smokey three times, getting louder and more excited each time. Once Smokey Bear arrived, the children immediately lit up. They exploded with cheers as he entered the room and began to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him. The other three crew members could not hold back their laughter as Tim entered the room as Smokey Bear. One younger brother was too scared to go up to Smokey and needed help from his father. He became ecstatic when Smokey gave him a high five and a hug.
After a quick appearance and many pictures, Smokey had to depart to fight a fire (Tim had to take a break from the blistering sweat).
Then the crew handed out balloons to be blown up and have the children draw Smokey’s face on it. Each balloon had an individual mouth piece to help blow the balloon up. The girls quickly discovered that the mouthpieces made an interesting noise when air passed back through it from the balloon. Needless to say that blowing up the balloons became an event in itself. As the children were working on their balloon portraits, Smokey came back from fighting his fire to model for them as well as to take more pictures with the children and their balloons. One girl even gave Smokey her balloon to remember her. Smokey departed off into the sunset with a dance, cheered on by everyone. The Girl Scouts and family finished the celebration with birthday cake and ice cream to fuel their evening sugar binge.
The crew thoroughly enjoyed their first community outreach event and look forward to participating in future community events.
June 27th – July 8th
The Ragin’ Raleighs arrived home last week to an upset refrigerator. Utilizing their excellent detective skills, the Mikes and Katrina discovered the fridge’s intake valves had frozen over. A hammer, chisel, and copious amounts of duct tape solved their troubles as the appliance began to operate correctly once more.
After travelling north the previous week, the crew knew mountains of work awaited them at the office. The Ragin’ Raleighs stayed extremely busy through Thursday, delivering rough CWPP rough drafts in Wayne & Greene counties, conducting fire department interviews, creating maps, and assessing communities at risk.
On Thursday, the team had a visit from Program Coordinator (Fire & Native Plants) Mike Stefancic. We briefed him on our daily work flow and gave him an in-depth explanation of the project our team is working on.
The week concluded with a large homemade cook-out in our backyard. Our agency partner from the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources and Mike Stefancic were there to join us for the feast.
July 4th greeted the Ragin’ Raleighs with a welcomed half-day of work. Progress was made this week with about 80% of the rough draft CWPPs in Wayne and Greene counties completed.
This week the Ragin’ Raleighs headed to Hagerstown, MD to pick up their second work vehicle. With a planned stop in Sherando Lake Recreation Area to cross-train with another SCA crew (check out George Washington/Jefferson Nat’l Forest crew’s page!!!).
After six hours of skillful navigation through the crazy traffic and construction of the D.C. area, and a whole lot of hilarious team bonding, the crew arrived at the storage unit in Hagerstown, MD. Upon meeting and greeting our new truck the crew discovered a dead battery in need of a jump. A quick battery jump to our new truck and we hit the road, only to stop a quarter of a mile later.
In the suburban following the truck, we noticed the rear right tire was wobbling around a lot. So, we all turned our vehicles around and found a nice cul-de-sac to change the tire in. At last, we were putting the final bits of our SCA vehicle training to use! We changed the wobbly tire out with the spare, and re-jumped the truck's battery—a first for Katrina! Unfortunately, more truck problems ensued and the truck spent the next few days in the shop.
On the way to GWJ, the crew spent the night at Catoctin Mountain Park, where Camp David happens to be secretly located. The next day the crew went geocaching at Antietam National Battlefield. After geocaching led us to a slave selling block—with a silly band bracelet found—the crew headed for Sherando Lake Recreation Area in the George Washington/Jefferson National Forests to meet up with another SCA crew.
Our time cross-training with the George Washington/Jefferson (GWJ) National Forest trails crew was spent learning about stream behavior, trail maintenance, and the underpinnings of what makes a trail a trail. Project Leader Dan Solomon split up the crew with several members gathering rocks and placing them in a washed out trail. Meanwhile, the other half of the crew dug up soil to cover the rocks, and fill in a crevice created by heavy rains. Our lunch break with the fellow SCA crew was greatly appreciated as the work was quite different from the Ragin' Raleighs normal day-to-day tasks. The afternoon was spent furthering the filling in of the trail and burial of rocks. The high point of the day occurred when Project Leader Dan spotted an Eastern Timberland Rattlesnake where we had been collecting rocks. Another first sight for many in the crews!
After a hard day’s work, the rewards of trail work became readily apparent to the Ragin’ Raleighs as well as an appreciation for the work of fellow SCA crews. The day ended back at base camp, learning how to clean and sharpen tools.
On the hitch’s final day, the Ragin’ Raleighs woke up bright and early, packed up camp, and said goodbye to the GWJ crew; before making our way back up to Hagerstown, MD to pick up our fixed truck. A quick stop in Hagerstown and we were once again back on the road, this time headed to Washington D.C.
Once in Washington D.C. we took a break and stopped for lunch at Ben’s Chili Bowl, where we hoped to catch a glimpse of some of the many famous frequent patrons. After lunch, the crew visited the Washington monument and visited the National Museum of American History.
While leaving Tim and Katrina rose to the challenge of DC rush hour traffic. Three hours later, we had made it approximately 60 miles and were in need of a pit stop. After dinner the Ragin’ Raleighs were homeward bound once more. Finally traffic had lightened up and all were ecstatic to be moving faster than 5mph.
Alas, when we reached the North Carolina state line, the vehicles erupted into joyous cheers; in spite of how much fun we had had the past week, we were all elated to be closer to Raleigh. Shortly before 10pm, we came upon the familiar Gladstone Drive and at last were home sweet home.
The Ragin’ Raleighs geared up for their first week of service.
Our Monday morning was spent as a crew creating a map of the districts in North Carolina we will be working in using ArcGIS software. The afternoon centered on interview prep for the next days’ work.
On Tuesday the Ragin’ Raleighs successfully finished two interviews, Mar-Mac Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) and Grantham VFD, with the help of the Wayne County assistant ranger- Hannah. The first interview began a bit late, and thus our second interview with Jordan’s Chapel was cancelled as the fire chief/farmer needed to tend to his fields. This was our first exposure to some of the troubles of working with volunteer fire departments that we may face throughout the remainder of our CWPP work.
Wednesday was used to enter interview data into our database, create business cards, setup work phones, and complete six community assessments in Wayne County. Thursday focused on data entry and interview prep. In the evening we drove to Snow Hill, NC to interview three fire chiefs.
With their first week of work finished, the Ragin’ Raleighs felt they had a better idea of how things would progress throughout the rest of their time in North Carolina.
The Ragin’ Raleighs settled into their second week of work with a continued focus in Greene and Wayne Counties. The week’s goals placed strong emphasis on data entry, area of concern maps, and completing the first CWPP rough drafts.
In Greene County with the aid of County Ranger Brian Lovett, the crew interviewed fire chiefs and representatives from Arba, Jason, Maury, and Walstonberg volunteer fire departments. Well, sort of--about five minutes into the interview Brian and Walstonberg fire chief were called away to handle a debris-burning situation gone awry. After the interviews, the crew headed out to complete community assessments.
A nearby smoke plume intrigued the crew, upon closer inspection, the area on fire happened to be the area the crew needed to assess. Oh the irony, eh! This enabled the crew to visualize the need for CWPPs.
After completing several CAs with the help of Hannah, the crew was able to bond with her over a delicious lunch of barbequed chicken, hushpuppies, and chewbread.
An assessment of Indian Springs’ areas of concern revealed the true need for up-to-date maps, as their combination of an outdated topographic map and a more recent atlas road map led them to attempt to assess several areas with non-existent roads.
The Ragin’ Raleighs ended the week on a strong note with the rough draft completion of CWPPs for Mar-Mac, Grantham, and Indian Springs fire districts.
We traveled from our SCA housing in Raleigh, NC to Longview, WA for SCA training.
Our formal training was used to introduce everyone to the SCA organization. While some crews were just meeting for the first time, we had already gathered for a bit in Raleigh and were able to discuss more in-depth our expectations for the next six months.
Over the course of the week, the Ragin’ Raleighs learned about Field Operation Standards, driving and safety concerns with the company vehicles, ERPs, IRFs, opportunities within the SCA, and Leave No Trace principles. A great deal of our time at Camp Evergreen was spent on team-building/bonding. We played many games of ninja, spoons, hacky-sack, and even did a little penguin dance.
The end of the week focused on becoming CPR and Wilderness First Air certified, with the help of the Aerie Backcountry Medicine team. Through lecture, small group work, and hands-on scenarios, all of the crew was able to successfully complete WFA training. On our last day, we learned about base camp setup, tool safety, and mechanical advantage. Then we departed Longview for our new home in Raleigh.
The second week we spent training with Mr. Rogers, our contact from the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources. The Ragin’ Raleighs were introduced to the NC Fire Wise program, GIS map-making, GPS basics, fuel models, CWPPs, and how to perform community assessments.
Having three days was a short time period to go through everything and we only skimmed the service on most of the subject matter. A larger emphasis on how to fill out the CWPPs, Community Wildfire Protection Plans, community assessments and the Microsoft Access program was placed. These last three subject matters were the key tools needed to successfully put together our final products over the next six months.
On our last day of training, Mr. Rogers and the crew were introduced to several of the County Rangers we will be working with. The second half of our day was spent practicing filling out community assessments in Wayne County.
After two weeks of training, the Ragin’ Raleighs were eager to begin work. They felt their training had prepared them for the work to be done.
This season the CWPP team, aka "Ragin' Raleighs" based out of Raleigh, NC will be completing Community Wildfire Protection Plans for a majority of Eastern North Carolina. Working along with the North Carolina Forest Service, we will be assisting fire departments in being more efficient at responding to wild fires. We will accomplish this by interviewing fire chiefs to obtain valuable information and compile CWPPs for their fire districts. The data collected will include: fire department equipment list, areas prone to fire, history of wildfire, water access and helipad landing sites. In addition to this, we will be assessing communities located in areas prone to fire. Along with the data collected, maps will be created using GIS for each fire department. The maps will display Areas Prone to Fire, Staging Areas, Helipads and Water Points.
The CWPPs will increase awareness of wildfire risks in fire district communities, and will also be used to understand and improve the mitigation efforts to combat wildfires.
Hey all! My name is Jim Spiher. I just graduated with degrees in GIS and Geography from Michigan State University. I am 23 and this is my first SCA experience. I am a member of the Ragin' Raleighs CWPP team, and so far I love it. My interests outside of conservation includes; the outdoors, sports, cooking, and computers. An interesting fact about me is I have been a baseball umpire for 13 years, and am continuing that here in Raleigh. Hope you all are enjoying your SCA experiences as much as I am. Cya!
I am from Melbourne, Fl and have recently graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s is Science, majoring in Biology. I was introduced to the SCA through their Alternative Spring Break program in Florida and am now working in North Carolina through the SCA putting together Community Wildfire Protection Programs for fire districts in various counties.
Tim Bransford hails from San Antonio, TX, where he learned the meaning of wide open spaces and the art of road tripping. His love for the outdoors spurred from his many trips to Big Bend National Park in far west Texas (it’s well worth the trip, he promises). Tim recently graduated from Baylor University with a B.S. in Environmental Science. Among his research interests are wildlife ecology and conservation biology. He has helped conduct habitat research on the endangered Indiana bat in Missouri, studied mantled holler monkeys in Costa Rica, and spent a summer researching woolly lemurs in the rainforests of Madagascar. Science aside, Tim enjoys being both an adventurous spirit and a nerd. Backpacking, camping, hiking, mountain biking, travelling, and napping are his favorite hobbies, as well as watching any series of Star Trek. Tim is very excited to put his GIS knowledge to work this season in the gorgeous state known as North Carolina.
|2011 CWPP Final Report|
|Update #3- Road Trippin' and Cross Training|
|UPDATE #2 – First CWPP Interviews & Community Assessments|
|UPDATE #1 – Introductions & Training|