Redings Mill gains national attention for wildfire plan

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REDINGS MILL Mo -- The Redings Mill Fire Protection District has become the first district in Missouri to achieve Firewise Community/USA status. Firewise Communities USA is a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) program co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Association of State Foresters. It is a nation-wide initiative designated to encourage and acknowledge community action that minimizes home loss to wildfire.

This program is of special interest to small communities and neighborhood associations that are willing to make efforts to mitigate the hazards and, thus, lower the risk of home damage from wildfire. Mitigations involve adopting various techniques and implementing specific programs tailored to the hazards that are unique to the communities within the district.

More information about this national program can be found at

The Redings Mill Fire Protection District encompasses approximately 13,000 people in a 110-square-mile area that covers part of Newton County. It’s namesake community, Redings Mill (population 159), is a small community located in northern Newton County at the southern edge of Joplin.

Due to the growth of the Joplin and Neosho communities, this area – despite its designation as a “rural” fire district – has become a textbook example of a wildland/urban interface area. The forested landscape has a heavy sprinkling of both residential and commercial dwellings.

It also has accumulated a heavy sprinkling of fuel for wildfires. Two ice storms in 2007 and a tornado in 2008 put a large amount of tree debris on the ground and greatly increased the risk of wildfire. A 2008 survey estimated the downed tree debris equaled an average of 40 tons of fire fuel per acre. That is a sharp contrast to what is considered a normal fuel load on a forest floor – five tons per acre.

With the help of staff from the Missouri Department of Conservation and Southwest Missouri Resource and Conservation Development (RC&D), the Redings Mill Fire Protection District developed a pro-active multi-step plan that focused on taking steps to reduce vulnerability of structures and raise awareness about fire safety through ongoing education programs.

“Achieving Firewise recognition is not a quick or easy process,” said Michele Steinberg, support manager for the Firewise Communities Program. “The Redings Mill Fire Protection District has done an outstanding job of creating a local Firewise Task Force and implementing Firewise principles.”