Wildfire Risk Reduction Qualification (WRRQ) in Georgia
By: Seth Hawkins
Often we think about wildfires around homes as some distant issue affecting unknown forests and communities out west. It’s important, however, to understand that wildfires do happen in Georgia, and they have a very real impact on our communities and neighborhoods.
As more and more people move into suburban or rural areas of the state, or what is known as the “Wildland Urban Interface” (WUI), there’s a growing need for more information and education regarding the protection of our homes and businesses from the impacts of wildfires.
The first step is understanding the difference between “fire” and “wildfire.” In Georgia, the forestry community is working daily to use prescribed fires to reduce fuel loads and prevent larger, catastrophic wildfires. In fact, approximately one of every 40 acres in the state was burned last year to reduce fuel and wildfire risk. Not every fire is a wildfire, and in most cases, “good fires” (prescribed) can prevent “bad fires” (wildfire).
The odds of there being a raging, 150-foot high wildfire in your neighborhood are extremely unlikely. Unfortunately, depending on weather, topography, and vegetation conditions, small fires near homes do occur, and can pose a risk to valuable structures and property. But through some simple steps, such as clearing brush, using fire-resistant building materials (there are fire-resistant wood products!), and installing more fire-resistant landscaping, residents can make their homes safer in the event of a nearby wildfire.
That’s where GFC and the Georgia Arborist Association come in. A new credential from the Georgia Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), called Wildfire Risk Reduction Qualification (WRRQ), is being brought to Georgia. A cadre of GFC staff specializing in arboriculture and wildfire risk mitigation have plans to begin providing this training to arborists and foresters across the state in 2024.
Two-thirds of Georgia is covered by forest canopy, and as our state continues to grow, the importance of this knowledge will grow – allowing Georgia residents to continue living amongst the trees, while mitigating as much wildfire risk as possible. Look on gatrees.org and georgiaarborist.org in the coming months for updates on the first classes to be scheduled in GA!