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North Carolina has more WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) designation than any of the 48 contiguous states according to research conducted by the USDA Forest Service and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is estimated that more than 12,000,000 acres in NC fall within this category. In 2016, WNC had more wildfire acres burned (62,000) than the previous 50 years combined. Recurrent severe droughts have wildfire managers, community leaders, and residents concerned that significant wildfire risk will grow more prevalent for the Appalachian Mountains and the people who live there.

McDowell County covers 441 square miles, incorporating some of the steepest terrain in WNC. Steep gorges are filled with years of fuel build-up and overgrown rhododendron, leaving limited access for establishment of fuel breaks. The county’s population is just under 45,000 people with 70% of them living in the WUI. The county borders a high wildfire risk zone with a history of frequent wildfires. Old homes are nestled into these mountain communities, alongside newer gated communities with their own set of issues: primarily seasonal residents, heavily wooded lots, narrow, winding roads, no accessible water sources, poor cell service, and often host Air B&B guests who might not be familiar with practices of campfire safety.

Due to effective initial attack and frequent low intensity fires, often hidden from sight, awareness and action continue to be at the forefront of our local mitigation efforts. Increasing defensible space, hardening homes and completing fuels treatments are necessary to live safely with wildland fire on the landscape.

Resources our network can offer:

Identify your risk:

Free Home/Community Assessments

Determine your property's Wildfire Risk Rating.

Fire Adapted Community Education

We can provide education materials as well as community presentations to aid in understanding wildfire and steps you can take to mitigate risk.

Reduce your risk:

Access to the Mitigation Tool Cache

Free mitigation equipment rentals! Rakes, wheelbarrows, pole saw, PPE, leaf blowers with gutter attachments--all at your fingertips to take action and mitigate your community's wildfire risk.

Cost-Share Assistance Program

MCWN can offer reimbursements to incentivize residents to get mitigation work done!

Fuels Removal Program

Reduce wildfire risk by hiring a road-side debris pile removal service (service provided by NCFS).

Prescribed Burning

Controlled burning can reduce the intensity and magnitude of bigger wildfires by reducing the accumulation of flammable fuels.

Other resources

Fire Adapted Landscaping

Learn how to create and maintain a fire-resistant landscape while reducing your risk from wildfire.

and more!

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Contact our Wildfire Preparedness Coordinator

for more information:

Jen Haas

828-206-6159 or

Is your organization interested in becoming a MCWN Partner?

Do you currently perform wildfire mitigation activities in McDowell County?

We'd like you to become our partner to combine resources, learn from each other, and create a more resilient and fire adapted community!

Our Current Partners Include:

City Of Marion

McDowell County

Marion Fire Department

US Forest Service

NC Forest Service

The Nature Conservancy

Mountain Valleys RC&D

and growing!