CSFS awards External Partner Special Recognition Award to Schelly Olson
Current Firewise Communities:
Winter Park Highlands.
Pole Creek Meadows
Valley at winter Park
Ten Mile Creek
Schelly Olson, Grand Fire Protection District Assistant Chief of Administration/Public Education, was presented last week with a 2015 Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) External Partner Special Recognition Award. Olson has actively promoted wildfire mitigation and preparedness and promoted the development of Community Wildfire Protection Plans, Firewise Communities USA and active forest management to reduce vegetative fuel hazards in Grand County.
She has a background in fire management, having been a full-time member of the Grand Fire Protection District since 2011, and prior to joining the district, she was a volunteer firefighter/EMT in Grand Lake and worked at Grand County EMS and Granby Medical Center. She also is a CPR and First Aid instructor.
As a volunteer firefighter in Grand Lake she took EMT classes and was later hired by Grand County EMS. She became “hooked” on all aspects of fire and fire education while volunteering at Grand Lake Fire.
In 2011 former Grand Fire Chief Dave Boyes, hired her as an admin and Public Information Officer. Boyes supported her work going after wildfire prevention and preparedness.
“It was my passion and I grabbed onto it, Boyes supported me,” she said.
Part of her duties include speaking at HOA meetings and talking about Ready, Set, Go, a national program that develops and improves the dialogue between fire departments and the residents they serve.
In her current position she is able to increase her wildland fire education.
What pushes her to increase her knowledge? “We are in charge of our destiny. The more we do the better off we will be. If you have the peace of mind that you did everything you could do to protect your home and family then I did my job.”
Olson has two daughters Peyton, 14, and Haley, 17. “Peyton calls me Chief,” Olson said with a smile. “They both are supportive of my work. Peyton may become a first responder,” she said. Haley is currently in the high school EMT classes. “She loves the information and knows that she doesn’t want to do it. She gave it a try.”
Olson’s husband is very supportive of her career path. “He is a perfect example of a challenging homeowner,” she said laughing.
When Olson started the Grand County Wildfire Council in 2013 she wanted all the recommendations from experts. She asked questions like what do we need to do and how can we work with the community. She started working on addressing issues in the county (street signs) and asked for help from all local, state and federal agencies; “all who have a stake in wildfire,” she said. She worked with Ron Cousineau, district forester for the CSFS Granby District to find out what needed to get done.
As chairperson of the Grand County Wildfire Council, a registered 501(c)(3) organization, Olson spearheads numerous projects that help to reduce Grand County residents’ susceptibility to wildfire, such as securing grant funds for wildfire mitigation efforts on private lands and spreading public awareness about defensible space through workshops, newspaper articles and public meetings. The council started with money from The Grand Foundation and the BLM. They created a website from the money, too, she said.
“Ron Cousineau and his professional team of foresters have always been so supportive of me and the Grand County Wildfire Council. We wouldn’t be where we are without their encouragement and expertise,” Olson said.
“We will keep moving forward with educating the community through the council. Helping the community get rid of excess hazardous fuels,” she said.
“There are four sites where people can bring slash, we chip it and send it to Granby Sanitation and they turn it into biomass.”
Olson wants all Grand County communities to become nationally recognized Firewise Communities. “There is still a lot of work to do,” she said. Another goal is for the council to become self-supporting and hire an executive director.
“The wildfire threat never goes away, every year is so different,” she said.
“I still think that I’m not reaching everyone.” Olson said. “Second homeowners don’t want to do a lot of work around the house but it’s so important. Homeowners are the key. They need to do what they can around their homes so firefighters can put fires out.”
“In Grand County, if you need any information whatsoever regarding wildfire in the urban interface, Schelly Olson is a go-to resource,” said Cousineau.
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Okja the husky and Meika the German Shepard are the first to greet guests at the Headwaters Hostel in Granby.