May 31, 2016
Michael Baker Planning Practice Helps At-Risk Community Plan for Wildfires
This year, Michael Baker is using its expertise in urban planning and hazard mitigation to contribute to the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) program, a collaboration between Wildfire Planning International and Headwaters Economics that helps communities better plan for and recover from wildfires. The company is one of only three planning consultants chosen to provide planning guidance and counsel on wildfire mitigation policies and land use planning initiatives in selected CPAW communities.
“Michael Baker’s experts in urban and hazard planning are making a difference by helping communities deal with the pressure for constant growth, especially in the western United States,” said Aaron Pfannenstiel, project manager for the Michael Baker International team. “This pressure has driven many municipalities to develop in what is known as the wildland urban interface, an area where natural vegetation and human development result in higher risk of wildfires.”
To accommodate growth and changing wildfire conditions, and keep communities safe and prepared for wildfires, CPAW teams will take part in a year-long process of assessment and planning to help five western United States communities support a sustainable future. Michael Baker’s experts (Aaron Pfannenstiel, senior project manager and Chris Read, hazard mitigation planner) will serve as the primary urban planning team for Wenatchee, Wash., one of the communities in the program. They will work with city leaders and local stakeholders to review existing regulations and policies, and strengthen plans using innovative land use planning tools. The goal is to reduce the community’s risk of wildfires, protect the community from damage and accelerate the recovery process following a wildfire.
“There is a significant need for this type of program in communities around the country,” said Molly Mowery, president of Wildfire Planning International. “Our goal is to demonstrate the escalating need and show how planning tools can reduce wildfire risk in an effort to expand the program for the future. Michael Baker’s record of success in hazard mitigation, climate adaptation and comprehensive planning with a focus on hazards made them a clear choice as a CPAW team member to help us accomplish this, and we are pleased to work with them.”
The CPAW program is funded through a cooperative grant agreement from the USDA Forest Service and private foundations to make the planning assistance available to communities free of charge. Michael Baker experts will continue consulting with community leaders in Wenatchee throughout the year.