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It is with great pride and pleasure to announce that one of our fellow employee owners, Pam Hunt, is the winner of the 2017 CACM Vision Award!! Through the Vision Awards Program, CACM identifies those who exemplify the very best in the profession of community management; honors their contributions to the profession; and recognizes the positive difference that they have made in the lives of their colleagues, association homeowners and the communities in which they live. 

 

We wanted to share the nomination narrative that was submitted to CACM to recognize Pam's hard work and dedication to the communities she serves with pride every day.

 

In just over two weeks, Southern California experienced two catastrophic fires that consumed well over 8,000 acres and destroyed dozens of homes in Orange County. Shortly after this, a fire burned more than 50,000 acres in Northern California wine country, destroying at least 1,500 homes and business and forced an estimated 20,000 people to evacuate the area. It was an alarming reminder for many of us the impact brush, grass and forest fires have on individuals, properties and the economy. Knowing this impact well before this tragedy occurred, is what triggered this manager to take a proactive approach and work towards eliminating the related hazards that a brush or grass fire could cause upon her community association.  

 

Due to this particular association’s proximity to a high fire hazard zone, this manager had to work closely with her board, community, and the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) to ensure that they complied with their Fuel Modification Plan and Fire Safety Awareness Programs. With an association that covers over 65 acres, two-thirds of which is maintained by the Association, this was no easy task. The community was planned in accordance with the Fuel Modification requirements and standards that were in place almost two decades ago and over the years, this community successfully managed their green space, hillsides, and common areas in accordance with these standards.

 

However, in the past few years, the Fuel Modification County Guidelines changed substantially. The current association budget could not sustain long-term management of the costs required to meet the updated FuelModification guidelines as the zones were outlined. In an effort to minimize the financial impact to the community, while complying with these new guidelines, and of course protecting the community from wildfires moving forward, the HOA Board and this community manager worked tirelessly with the assistance of Fire Safe Counsel to reduce the overall fuel modification zones with the OCFA and to optimize the current areas.  

 

After a year of meetings, with OCFA and a Fire Modification Specialist firm, this manager was instrumental in obtaining OCFA approval on a revised 2017 Fuel Modification plan for her community association. The revised plan continued to reduce the risk of wildfires, while also reducing community water usage and the environmental footprint. As part of the plan, the community manager facilitated and ensured completion of a large-scale, community-wide project that included removing existing plant material within 50 feet of all properties, replanting areas and slopes with drought tolerant, certified low fire risk material and re-engineering of the watering zones.

 

However, she did not stop there. In facilitating this project, she learned of the “Firewise USA” program. This national program empowers neighbors to work together in reducing their wildfire risk by taking action and ownership in preparing and protecting their homes against the threat of wildfire. The application process is not an easy one. A community must first develop an action plan that guides their residential risk reduction activities after obtaining a wildfire risk assessment from the state forestry or fire department. The community then sponsored and held a “Firewise Day”, in addition to a required monetary and volunteer-hour investment in local Firewise activities.

 

With her knowledge and expertise in the community management field, as well as in working with fuel modification plans at this and other communities, she guided the board and membership through the application process, and as a result, this association was recently recognized as an official Firewise Communities/USA community, joining over 1400 communities nationwide that have been recognized since the program’s inception in 2002. With this designation, the community will get preference when allocation of grant money is made for wildfire safety or fuel mitigation. In addition, the Association is exploring its eligibility for lower fire insurance options, state and national grant funds and other Firewise community program benefits.

 

By far the most notable result from this manager’s effort was that the community withstood the Canyon Fire 2 in early October, which ravaged through the eastern edge of Orange County and came within a stone’s throw of this association. This community manager’s passion, dedication and commitment to the betterment of her communities was evident in her perseverance; working tirelessly with this association to promote wildfire education, planning and action to reduce the risk of death, injury, property and economic loss. Because of this, she is well deserving of the CACM Innovator Award!