Grand County High School student Matt Andrew (left) filmed the video and Michael Falasco served as the director (right, in red coat). [Courtesy Bill Rau]

Castle Valley has been a “Firewise Community” since 2004, participating in a national program that supports homeowners and communities in preparing their properties to be resistant and resilient to wildfire. The Firewise USA program began in 2002 and provides criteria for communities to be prepared for wildfires. Prevention strategies are becoming more important as more wildfires begin in or spread to the “wildland urban interface,” or WUI: the zone where fire can spread between natural and developed areas.

Recently, the Castle Valley Fire Department filmed a professional video guide on how to reduce a home’s susceptibility to wildfires. Castle Valley resident Bill Rau writes grant proposals for the Castle Valley Fire Department. A $4900 grant from the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation funded the fire preparedness video, as well as a refrigerator magnet with fire prevention tips.

“There’s a strong interest in fire prevention in Castle Valley,” said Rau, noting that with more severe fire seasons across the nation each year, awareness and interest is even more acute.

“We had several fires in Castle Valley this year,” said Rau. “People knew we were in extreme drought conditions. The land was so dry, the plants were so dry. The couple fires we had were a real wake-up call to the situation we face out here.”

Many publicly available fire prevention and wildfire information videos feature heavily forested landscapes, Rau noted. He wanted to feature a high desert landscape like the Colorado Plateau, which is also very susceptible to high intensity wildfires.

“It’s important to address our kind of landscape as well,” said Rau.

The film gives sample “firewise assessments” of homes in Castle Valley, pointing out what can be done around a property to protect homes and surrounding structures. For example, making sure your house number is clearly posted at the end of your driveway can help emergency responders find it quickly.

Local residents of Castle Valley and nearby areas were hired as cast and crew. Rau wrote the script; filming was done by Grand County High School student Matt Andrew, who has also submitted films to the Moab Showdown and Monster Movie Mash film competitions sponsored by the Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission. The Castle Valley Fire Department allowed the film crew to use one of its fire engines in the film.

“He’s good, he knows his stuff,” said Rau of Andrew.

The footage, which took a full day to shoot, is being edited now—the final film will be about four minutes long. When it’s finished, it will be available through the Castle Valley website, the Castle Valley Fire Department, on Youtube, and on social media.

Rau said he’s pleased with the footage they produced and with how the editing is going so far. During filming, he was so concerned with the project going well that he didn’t feel like he was having fun at the time, he said, but he added “in retrospect, it was fun.”