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Left to Right Emily Micallef and Jolee Harshman

Firewise Workday Turns Into True Test Of Brains And Courage

BASS LAKE — As the heart of fire season ensues, and rural California is once again faced with the continued consequences of increasingly high record-breaking temperatures, seasonal droughts, and poorly managed forests, our local community is reminded of the importance of maintaining a Firewise and fire-safe environment in the home, neighborhood, and general community.  Though this may often present difficulty, the necessity is undeniable, and a task that a strong-willed and dedicated person can readily accomplish. And as a testament to that fact, the will and dedication necessary were best recently exemplified by two young girls who were brave enough to put out a fire that had started in their local community on, ironically, a community-wide Firewise workday.

Story submitted by Dr. Bill Troost, Firewise Chairman, Lakeshore Park, Bass Lake, CA. 

Lakeshore Park is located on the North Shore of Bass Lake in California.  Lakeshore Park has been certified as a Firewise Community for over 22 years and was the first community with certification in Central CA.

We conduct 2 formal workdays per year in the Spring time.  Attendance at one of the parties is required of each resident, and non-attendance draws a penalty of 350 dollars.  Each member puts in sweat labor to reduce any hazardous fire fuels that accumulate over the winter months.  It sounds like drudgery but most neighbors have come to realize its value to our homes and cabins and… fire prevention and protection. We are blessed to have lands we license from PGE that give us access to the beaches and tropic-like waters of Bass Lake.  We also believe in the importance of getting to know our neighbors who mostly do not live at the lake year-round. A significant number of neighbors have enthusiastically received discounts on their fire insurance policies from $200-$350 per year after presenting a copy of our current Firewise Certification. Lastly, we all desire the maximum amount of beautification we can create for everyone’s enjoyment on all 11 acres that support the name “Lakeshore Park.”

The workdays allow us to teach one another techniques of clearing, thinning, and removing unwanted or hazardous plant species…and using hand tools.  For the more experienced, we teach as much as possible how to use our new array of Echo power tools provided to us by our Cal Fire grant (acquired two years ago).  We are careful to emphasize SAFETY PRACTICES (especially for the power tools),  In short, we are creating a positive attitude of esprit du corps…it is working.

Our workday party on April 30th, 2022 was one of the most productive I have supervised in over 25 years.  It required more than 3 days for a professional crew using large trucks and a backhoe loader to remove the work piles created. The work party, and a thank you luncheon had ended.  Our newest LAKESHORE neighbors the Micallef family elected their daughter Emily (15 years old) and her cousin Jolee Harshman(14 years) to represent their family. Emily was a freshman at Yosemite High School at the time of the fire; Jolee attended Sierra Jr. High in the 8th grade. Neither of the girls had ever been involved in a forest management work party.  Both girls stuck to their work and did a good job.  After all the “festivities”, they returned to the beach with poles in hand for some fishing. As they moved around a point to where their desired fishing spot was located, they noticed some suspicious smoke coming from some rocks along the lake.  They chose to investigate.  They noticed a boat of fishermen who were smoking.  The boat left looking for a new fishing spot…but smoke continued to rise from the rocks and the girls could smell the fire.  They had noticed a bucket submerged nearby on the walk over.  They dove in the cold water…retrieved the bucket..and returned to find very large flames seemingly coming from the rocks  As they got closer they discovered an old stump fully engulfed in flames.  They used the bucket to the best of their ability but could not completely put it out.  One of the girls stayed with the fire…the other used a cell phone to contact her mother Michelle to bring a shovel. Returning to the site they used buckets of sand and water to finally put the fire out.

The process of extinguishing the fire was difficult because there was the wind that was fanning the flames and it was scary to the girls in the “fight.” Later, most of us looking at the aftermath were amazed the old stump would burn that much.  There were questions about how the fire could be started by a cigarette thrown into the wind.  Was the fire set on purpose?  Of much greater importance, it was easily possible embers could have set a fire in the large ponderosas on the nearby beachfront…leading directly to our beautiful homes.

Are EMILY and JOLEE …LAKESHORE  PARK and FIREWISE HERO?  Our community says YES!!  We also say this is a wonderful example worthy to share among local people both young and old. The girls first used their BRAINS and then they used their action and COURAGE…I commend these young ladies for recognition.

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