Don't Just be Wise... be Firewise!

The increased threat of fire that we’ve seen over the last decade can often leave people feeling frightened and helpless. However there are simple steps you can take that go a long way towards protecting your home should a fire ever break out nearby. Below, Anacortes Fire Department Chief Dave Oliveri lets you know what you can do to stay Firewise:

The Keys to having a Firewise Home:

Firewise Landscaping

Home Ignition Zone: Keep leaves and needles off your roof and deck. Create a fuel-free area within 3-5 feet of your home’s perimeter. From 5 feet to a minimum of 30 feet out, thin and space vegetation, remove dead leaves and needles, prune shrubs and tree limbs. Keep areas around decks, sheds, fences and swing sets clear of debris and vegetation.

Landscaping and Firewise Plants: To prevent fire spread, trim back branches that overhang structures and prune branches of large trees up to 6 to 10 feet from the ground. Remove plants containing resins, oils and waxes; make sure organic mulch is at least 5 feet from structures. Choose Firewise plants- find lists at

Be Prepared

Action Plan: Develop, discuss and practice an emergency action plan with everyone in your home. Include details for pets & large animals. Program cell phones with emergency numbers. Know two ways out of your neighborhood and have a predesignated meeting place. Maintain an emergency water source. Always leave if you don’t feel safe- don’t wait to be notified.

Emergency Responder Access: Identify your home and neighborhood with legible, clearly marked street names and numbers. Make your driveway at least 12 feet wise with a vertical clearance of 15 feet and a slope of less than 5 percent to provide access to emergency vehicles.

Firewise Construction

Fire-resistant Roof Construction: Use fire-rated shingles such as asphalt, metal, slate, clay tile or concrete products. A fire-resistant sub-roof adds protection. Box in eaves, but provide adequate ventilation to prevent condensation and mildew. Roof and attic vents should be screened to prevent ember entry.

Fire-resistant Attachments: Any attachments to your home such as decks, porches and fences must be fire-resistant. If not, your home is vulnerable to ignition.

Fire-resistive Walls and Windows: Embers can collect in small nooks and crannies and ignite combustible materials; radiant heat from flames can crack windows. Use fire-resistant siding such as brick, fiber-cement, plaster, or stucco and tempered or double-paned glass windows to protect your home.

Home Safety Checklist

  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris, and pine needles.

  • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles.

  • Enclose under-eave soffit vents or screen with metal mesh.

  • Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh no larger than 1/8”.

  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows.

  • Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustable materials from accumulating.

  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors, mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles- anything that can burn.

  • Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

All of these simple fixes will make your home safer from embers and radiant heat.

We've Updated our Community Hike Categories!

For those of you familiar with our community hikes, you’re probably used to seeing each outing listed under categories like Senior and Adult, All Ages, Extra Gentle, and Fitness Hikes. Our hikes aren’t changing, but we’ve decided to reclassify and rename the categories. We are doing so with the goal of making our hikes accessible to more people.

Instead of limiting hikes to certain age groups or user groups, we’re just categorizing the hikes, based on a variety of metrics, into levels of difficulty. We’ll leave it up to you to determine which hikes are geared towards the experience you’re looking for! As always, please contact us with any questions about particular hikes or if you’d like help determining which hikes would be ideal for you and your family.

Our new categories are as follows:

Easy (Green Circle): These hikes are gentle and suitable for all hikers. Generally 1-2 miles roundtrip with minimal elevation gain and very few obstacles along the trail.

Intermediate (Blue Square): These hikes are suitable for those in fair hiking condition or novices who want a bit of a challenge. Generally 2-4 miles roundtrip with moderate elevation gain. May include some steep sections and some obstacles along the trail that require balance or maneuvering.

Challenging (Black Diamond): These hikes are challenging for unconditioned hikers. Generally 4-7 miles roundtrip with moderate to significant elevation gain. Steady and often steep inclines. May include difficult terrain or obstacles throughout.

Advanced (Double Black Diamond): These strenuous hikes are suitable for well conditioned hikers only. Generally 7+ miles roundtrip with significant to extreme elevation gain. Likely to include a fast pace, steep inclines, trail obstacles, or all of the above.

Click here to see our Community Hike Levels Key.

Proposed Bike Skills Course

When the old city dump was capped and put out of commission about 10 years ago we were unsure what we could do with that land. The rules regarding closing and capping the dump prohibit the city from replanting it as a forest. Tree roots could penetrate or uproot the cap exposing what is below.

An option we are exploring is turning this brownfield into a bicycle recreation park. This park or skills course would have different features to enhance the abilities of young riders. A gravel path could help riders learn how to ride on uneven surfaces once they have mastered riding on smooth paths like the Thompson Trail. Another element could be a pump track or other skill building features.

In addition to learning skills, the park can help us teach local youths about conservation and stewardship. There will be opportunities to build rain gardens to treat storm water run-off from the skills course. City Engineering staff are advising us on the best way to do this. We may also have a chance to remove invasive plants off of the dump cap and replace them with native species. A wetlands delineation was done to establish wetland buffers and define the boundaries of the potential park.

The Parks and Recreation Department wants to hear from you about this idea. The project could be a success for recreation, conservation, and stewardship.

Written by Jonn Lunsford

Melissa's Message: Leave No Trace

The ACFL is an important part of our community and many people enjoy spending time in our forest lands. Our favorite trails are an essential component of the outdoor experience, whether mountain biking, hiking, or taking a horseback ride through the woods. As summer approaches, these trails and the forest will feel the increased impacts as more people in our community get outside to enjoy nature and other outdoor activities. A lot of people consequently means a lot of impacts and these impacts can accrue quickly, especially on fragile ground.

According to Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, 9 out of 10 people in the outdoors are uninformed about their impacts. With that in mind and summer approaching, I would like to share some of the ways we can lessen our impacts, based on Leave No Trace principles, to help the forest flourish into the future.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare to stay safe, reduce stress and make the most of your visit.

    -Know the rules, regulations, and special concerns of the ACFL

    -Check the trail maps for elevation, and bring it along with you if you are venturing into a new area.

  2. Stick to trails to protect fragile areas such as rocky outcrops with lichens, moss and plants, and respect private property.

    -Walk and ride in the middle of designated trails.

    -Do not create new trails or trample undeveloped areas. User-created “social trails” can lack important features of properly designed ones, leading to greater erosion and heightened impacts on plants and animals.

  3. Trash your trash and pack out animal waste.

    -Pet waste has a major impact on our local watershed by introducing pathogens and nutrients. Bagging it up and bringing it out with you is the best way to ensure that our waters stay clean.

    -Pack it in, pack it out. Put litter- even crumbs, peels and cores- in bags and dispose of in garbage cans.

  4. Leave it as you find it.

    -The best way to show your appreciation for ur forest inhabitants is to leave them as you found them. Everything in the forest has a purpose.

    -Treat living plants with respect. Carving, hacking or peeling trees or plants may kill them.

  5. Keep wildlife wild.

    -Observe wildlife from a distance and never approach, feed, or follow them. Stressing wildlife in these ways damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.

    -Know and follow leash rules for your pet to minimize wildlife interactions and off trail disturbances.

  6. Be considerate of others to increase the enjoyment of the outdoors for all visitors.

    -Keep your pet under control to protect it, other visitors, and wildlife.

    -Yield to other users on the trail.

    -Leave generous space between you and other visitors.

    -Avoid making loud noises, yelling or listening to music through speakers. Many people visit the forest for solitude and peace; plus you have a better chance of seeing and hearing wildlife!

It is important that we do our best to protect the ACFL as users of this wonderful natural resource. It is also the season to be particularly mindful of the lack of rain and the flammability of dry plant matter in the ACFL. According to the National Park Service, nearly 90 percent of wild land fires in the United States are caused by humans. The agency attributes negligently discarded cigarettes as one of the primary causes of these wildfires; one mindlessly dropped cigarette could mean serious unintended consequences.

Educating ourselves and others about ways we might impact he ACFL and how to lessen impacts by practicing Leave No Trace principles, we can do our part to preserve the forest ecosystem and continue to enjoy it into the future. For more information about Leave No Trace visit:

Bear with us

Anacortes has a new visitor. For the first time in 20-50 years, a black bear has been confirmed on Fidalgo Island! It was sighted in the Rock Ridge neighborhood near the Little Cranberry Lake Forest Lands. Click here to read the full Skagit Valley Herald article. This male bear is likely out looking for a mate and will probably wander East shortly. If you’re out hiking, we suggest keeping your dogs on a leash while in the forest lands (a requirement in the ACFL). Spot a bear? Don’t panic and no need to call 911. Just respect the bear’s space and send us an email at to let us know where the sighting occurred. We’ll keep tabs on his location this way. Let’s enjoy this unique visitor while we have the opportunity and let him enjoy his forest habitat.

Meet Our New Executive Director!

Asa Deane will join The Friends of the Forest team part time in April and assume his role as Executive Director full time starting in May. Deane, a central California native, comes with a strong environmental education background and experience as a Program Director, inspiring and empowering students to connect with the natural world. After stints as both a cabin counselor and naturalist for an outdoor science camp, he was introduced to the idea of bringing people closer to nature as a job. Through his time spent outdoors, it became clear that in order to want to protect something, you have to feel connected to it; an insight that drives his personal and professional life.

 Deane’s love for the outdoors, desire to work with children, and mission to help protect the natural world came together in one unified career path. Seeking the next steps in their careers, he and his wife, Jenna, relocated to the Pacific Northwest. He served as the Program Manager at Wild Whatcom, an outdoor education non-profit based out of Bellingham. Now, having accepted the Executive Director position at Friends of the Forest in Anacortes, Asa is ready to jump in and get to work. 

“I could not be more exited to work with Friends of the Forest, both the organization, as well as the people that utilize the incredible resource that is the ACFL. My first time hiking in this forest, along the Heart Lake trails, I was amazed that such a place existed within the city limits and how lucky the people of Anacortes are to have it. As I learned more about the story of the land, this solidified my feeling that this was the work I was meant to be doing and the organization I was meant to work with. I hope to help Friends of the Forest protect and enjoy this beautiful forest for years to come through the combination of outreach, education, and stewardship- the very three things I feel are most important in successful land conservation.” -Asa Deane

Members and non-members alike are invited to join the Friends of the Forest in welcoming Asa at a meet-and-greet reception at the Depot Building, 611 R Ave., on Wednesday, June 19th at 6:30 pm. Get to know our new Director and learn about our exciting new forest education programs launching this summer from our Forest Educator, Melissa Courtney. Beverages and delicious appetizers from Gere-a-Deli will be provided. We hope to see you there!

Thank you!

A huge thank you to those who sponsored, donated, or attended the 2018 Annual Benefit Event! We had another fun and successful celebration with $65,000 raised for youth forest education programs that year after year continue to have a positive impact within our community. Thank you to all who support this mission and legacy.

Little Cranberry Fire

Little Cranberry Fire

As most of you know, there was a forest fire in the Little Cranberry Lake Area of the ACFL that began on August 25th. City staff and first responders supported DNR fire crews as they worked for days to contain the fire to 17.6 acres. The cause is still unknown, though suspected to be human related. It began close to the old copper mine, also know as The Bat Cave. Trail #122 remains closed at this time.

Friends of the Forest featured in GoSkagit

ANACORTES — The city of Anacortes, which was built around the maritime, timber and fishing industries, today boasts a large area of preserved forests.

The Anacortes Community Forest Lands are a treasured playground for hikers and mountain bikers, a haven for naturalists and a tool for educators.

This year a group instrumental in preserving these lands is reflecting on its 30 years of existence.

Read the whole article here »