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FFA-FCCLA Center becomes Firewise certified

COVINGTON — Becoming the first certified Firewise Community in Newton County is an achievement the Georgia FFA-FCCLA Center’s camp manager Russell Towns is proud to have accomplished.

The National Fire Protection Association created the Firewise Community program as a way to encourage local solutions for safety by involving homeowners to take responsibility for protecting their structures against wildfires.

“The idea is simple … to take a proactive approach in protecting people and property from wildfire,” Towns said.

Georgia Forestry Commission’s Wildfire Prevention Specialist Beryl Budd reaches out to communities who are at a higher risk of seeing damages from wildfires. He coached the FFA camp through the program in order to become Firewise certified.

Budd took a risk assessment of the FFA-FCCLA Center facilities, developed an action plan and prioritized plan recommendations.

As part of the Firewise Community program, the camp developed a committee of people including staff members and personnel with Newton County Emergency Management Agency, fire service and the forestry commission to discuss the action plan, Towns said.

“We worked together to develop education and outreach programs. Georgia Forestry and Newton County Fire came during our FFA Wildlife Camp to teach the campers about fire safety,” Towns said. “Beryl also worked with our full-time staff to teach the basics of Firewise and how they can use this knowledge at the camp and also at home. I cannot stress enough how much Beryl has done to make this program successful. He did a great job of casting the vision, and he has invested a lot of time into it.”

Towns was presented a plaque from the Georgia Forestry Commission for being a certified Firewise community during last week’s Newton County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“The FFA Center is the first community I’ve worked with in Newton County and first to complete all the requirements,” Budd said. “The camp also received a $3,000 grant in order to conduct a prescribed burn through the Georgia Forestry Commission’s grant program just for those Firewise certified communities.”

The FFA-FCCLA camp is not the only one participating in the program. Budd said Porterdale and Mansfield will also soon be honored with plaques for achieving Firewise certification.