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EMS to host first Community Risk Reduction discussion
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Dawson County Emergency services will host its first community risk reduction discussion Tuesday in the Dawson County Junior High School auditorium.

The discussion will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 25.

The public is invited to attend the discussion about strategies to mitigate community risks, and learn about fire safety and injury prevention.

The event is hosted in partnership with Georgia Forestry Commission, U.S. Forest Service and others. Presenting will be Lanier Swafford, chief of Dawson County EMS, Mike Davis with the U.S. Forest Service and Frank Riley, Georgia Firewise liaison and member of the Chestatee-Chattahoochee Resource Conservation and Development Council.

"The goal is to educate and inform the community of risks in the wildland-urban interface," Swafford said about the event. "Many homes are built in close proximity to each other or to the woods, and we want to provide fire safety education to the public and teach people how to prevent fires and injuries within the county."

Swafford said the event will be a combination of lecture and discussion, with opportunities for question and answer segments.

The talk will include local and state data about fire safety and prevention. Riley will present information about Firewise, a program from the National Fire Protection Agency that includes educational materials for home and business owners encouraging them to protect their property from igniting wildfire or being damaged by fire.

Riley said that the program encourages people to remove the fuel around their homes and businesses that can ignite fires.

"It's important to not have big piles of brush and dead material around a home- keeping dry leaves, fallen branches and other brush 30 feet away from any structure is good because if you see a brush fire coming towards the house you can stop it with a hose, but once it gets to that fuel source it's much harder to put out," Riley said.

With the drought and dryness that North Georgia is facing, wildfire prevention should be at the top of everyone's mind, Riley said.

"People think we don't have wildfires here, that they're all out west," Riley said. "But we're in the middle of a drought, the humidity is down and it's windy. The wildfire threat is pretty real- numbers wise we have more wildfires here in Georgia than in California."

Riley said it's the small things that can lead to big fires, like how dry leaves in gutters can ignite fires on roofs.

"Since we started the Firewise program in Towns County in 2008, we've reduced the number of fires 75 percent," Riley said. "It just takes people being aware."

Riley said that the program just asks people to help protect themselves. He said that communities looking for more information can go to their website at firewise.org.

Creating a more informed public, Swafford said, will create a safer environment for everyone.
"I hope this will be the first of several sessions we have so that together we can develop a safer, firewise community," Swafford said.

Dawson County Junior High School is located at 109 Allen Street in Dawsonville.
For more information, contact emergencyservices@dawsoncounty.org.