On Wednesday, December 13, the community of Mullins Cove in Whitwell, Tennessee, celebrated its official recognition as a Firewise USA® site. Mullins Cove is the 25th community in Tennessee to earn this distinction.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture-Division of Forestry (TDF) promotes Firewise USA® as part of its Fire Adapted Communities program.

Mullins Cove is a very remote community in of Marion County. The community is nestled between the Tennessee River and Prentice Cooper State Forest. It lies within a winding stretch of road with 22 miles from one end to the other along Mullins Cove/River Canyon Road. There are 350 homes within the community and a population of 1,550 people. Travel time from end to end varies depending on weather conditions, but usually takes 45 minutes at best, as the road is extremely narrow in places. Forest fuels with in and around the community are very dense.

Many local officials from Marion County and neighboring Hamilton County attended this recognition event as well as several members of the TDF. Also in attendance were members of the Mullins Cove Firewise Committee, which included Chairperson Robert Payne and members Brenda Payne and Roger Gregory.

County Mayor David Jackson addressed the audience and spoke of how proud he was of this community to work so hard to attain this recognition.

Assistant District Forester James Dale introduced the TDF Staff which included District Forester Andy McBride, Wildland Fire Chief Wade Waters, Area Forester Brian Haddock and the local fire crew. Jim spoke of the importance of the homeowners of the community to understand that they were the best defense from a wildfire. By taking steps to create defensible space and keep their homes ember resistant, they would be safer as well as the first responders who serve them. Fire Chief Wade Waters presented a statement from State Forester David Arnold congratulated the community and applauded the community for recognizing that risk and preparing for future wildfire threats by safeguarding homes, developing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, and earning Firewise USA® recognition.

In becoming a recognized community, several requirements must be met. Perhaps the most important is developing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. This plan is based on wildfire risk assessments, which are completed by TDF representatives and the locally selected Firewise USA® committee. The committee works with wildland and structural fire representatives to complete the collaborative CWPP. The plan serves as an opportunity to target potential hazard fuel reduction projects, structure ignition concerns, training needs and prevention strategies, and other issues related to fire protection.

Committee Chairperson Robert Payne highlighted the risks identified with in the CWPP. “As our Firewise Committee developed our Community Wildfire Protection Plan, some of the items that were identified were: the need for dry hydrants, continued interaction with the community helping prepare their homes to be of the need to identify safety zones within the community, emergency notification of Mullins Cove residents and the development of a water evacuation plan to safely cross the river.” In closing, Robert pointed out, “The Community and the Firewise Committee realize that we must continue fine tuning our CWPP and especially the above mentioned highlighted points. In the near future, we will be meeting with different groups and individuals to obtain technical information, guidance and ideas on how we can best continue to implement our CWPP.” Robert stated “I rest a little easier at night just knowing we have worked with Jim Dale and David Fiorella and all the Division of Forestry, we have a plan.”

The event wrapped up with James Dale, Wade Waters and Andy McBride presenting the Firewise USA® community recognition sign and plague to committee members; Robert Payne, Brenda Payne and Roger Gregory. The ceremony concluded with a wonderful lunch reception.

Submitted by David Fiorella, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist