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*** Press Release - Sept. 1, 2009 ***
Cook County Firewise Completing County - Wide Wildland Hazard Assessment Project

Updated 02/10/10: The MN DNR has extended the funds of this project to June 2010. If anyone has not had an assessment completed, please contact us to schedule one.

On September 26, 2009, the Cook County Firewise program will be completing its County-Wide Wildland Hazard Assessment Project. Since 2004, the Cook County Firewise Committee has been committed to assessing all properties in the county, as an effort to educate property owners on what they can do to their property to increase the survival of their home in the event of a wildland fire. The committee currently consists of county personnel, two County Commissioners, County Sheriff, USFS, MN DNR, Emergency Management, fire departments and property representatives from each district.

The committee was originally formed in 2000 and has been attending Wildland Interface Conferences to gain training and understanding of Firewise Practices, educational tools and promotion of the Firewise Concepts. At the 2008 National Firewise Wildland Interface Conference, Cook County was one of eight nationally recognized groups at the Regional Level for their Leadership in Firewise efforts. The Firewise Committee has been involved in various county-wide events and has been available and attended lake/homeowner association meetings to speak and do presentations on Firewise Practices. Funding for these assessment programs are obtained by submitting a grant application to the State of MN Dept. of Natural Resources, who receives Firewise Funding through the USFS. The grants are cost-sharing, meaning that for every dollar spent for the project, volunteer time and/or matching funds must be met to equal to amount awarded.

The primary purpose of the Firewise Assessment project is to educate property owners on how to increase the survival of their home in the event of a wildland fire. Any recommendations or suggestions on a Wildland Hazard Assessment are just that - recommended and suggested. There is no obligation on the part of the property owner to do anything with their assessment unless they want to. Some people have been quite surprised when the assessment evaluators do not tell them to cut all the trees on their property, but rather treat them as part of the property and just prune and trim them up some. The Firewise Committee is also aware of shoreline vegetation ordinances and has been working with the Cook County Soil & Water Department to have guidelines and maintenance standards written up to pass along to property owners who have shoreline property.

The secondary purpose of the Firewise Assessment project is to encourage area fire departments to get to know their areas better and be to aware of any potential dangers when responding to structure or wildland fires. Potential dangers include things such as whether or not their fire trucks can safely make it down to a structure without causing damage to the trucks and if they have adequate room to turn around, the type of demographics and topography of a property, how close combustibles are stored next to a structure, type of building materials and if there is a draft site available at a property to draw water from. At the same time, fire departments can also receive funding for projects within their departmental needs, such as dry fire hydrant draft sites, static and holding tanks or various other departmental needs.

Wildland Hazard Assessments are valued at $12.50 per assessment for the local fire departments or the individuals doing the assessment. When area fire departments are not able to complete the assessments themselves, the Cook County Firewise Committee will find others to complete the assessments for them, and then are paid for those assessments. To this date, fire departments within the county have utilized Firewise funds to install dry hydrants and holding tanks for their fire districts. In addition, Firewise funding from the state level include chipper days, defensible space mitigation projects and road improvement projects. Federal projects obtained through Firewise funding include fuel reduction projects on the edge of private property adjacent to Federal land. Such projects have been or are being completed in the Mid-Trail area of the Gunflint Trail, Clara Lake, Tait Lake and currently working in the Twin Lake areas by Devil Track Lake.

Letters are currently being sent to property owners in Cook County who have not yet had a Firewise assessment done. All property owners are encouraged to participate in this program, as it is county supported. If you do not want to participate in the program, or if your property is gated or has a no trespassing sign and would like to participate, please call Cheryl Walimaa, Firewise Administrative Assistant, at 218-387-3688 or email her at If you do not get a letter and know that your property has not had an assessment completed, please contact Cheryl and she will get one set up for you. Not all properties will be able to be completed, as this grant is expiring a year sooner than what it was originally suppose to.

To learn more about Firewise in Cook County, please visit our website at This website was created and is maintained by the Boreal Staff as a public service to our community. There is also an information hotline, 218-387-3688, which also has helpful information for property owners and is maintained by the County.

*** News Release - May 26, 2009 ***

The Cook County Board voted today to approve a third Vendor as qualified under the FEMA grant to install Wildfire Exterior Sprinkler Systems.

Jim Stortz, 273 Loon Lake Road, Grand Marais was approved as a qualified vendor on May 26, 2009. You may contact Jim Stortz at 218-388-0566 or 218-341-7873.

Three vendors are now qualified to install wildfire sprinklers. Additional vendors have applied and are currently being evaluated. Notice will be given when the evaluations are complete and the county board approval is given.

Only approved vendors are qualified to install wildfire external sprinkler systems covered by the FEMA grant. Vendors who are interested in being considered as a qualified installer must respond to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) that is available on the county web site, or in the Cook County Auditor's Office or you may request that a RFQ be mailed to you by calling 218-387-3642 or emailing your mailing information to

Press Release
March 13, 2009


Cook County is working toward releasing funds pursuant to a FEMA sprinkler system installation grant. Questions or concerns about the process should be directed to the Cook County Auditor's Office, to either Braidy Powers (387-3646) or Cheryl Walimaa (387-3642). Do not assume any information from other sources is correct unless you have verified it with the Auditor's Office.

So, while some individuals looking to install wildfire sprinkler systems through the FEMA grant have been providing information about the grant to the public, the grant project has not been finalized yet, and no potential vendor knows what the final project package will look like. In fact, to be eligible for reimbursement under the grant, a vendor will need to complete a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and be approved. The RFQ has not been finalized and will not be issued for some time.

Once the County has completed the RFQ form, there also will be a news release and announcement on the website. At that time, the RFQ form will be available on the county web site (, in the Auditor's Office, and by mail.

After the RFQ is complete, the County will issue a list of approved installers. That list will be released to the press and made available on the county web site and at the Auditor's Office. It also will be mailed/emailed to all FEMA applicants.

Until that list of approved installers has been issued, there is no assurance that any vendor will be approved for FEMA grant money. Please be cautious if you choose to contract with a vendor BEFORE the County finishes this RFQ process, because only systems completed by approved installers will be eligible for FEMA dollars. The published list also may reveal installers that you have not encountered, which may allow you to negotiate better installation pricing.

If you have questions about the grant or the approval process, please contact the Auditor's Office.

To sign up for more FireWise information or to request a FireWise assessement, click here.

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