Just five months after bracing for the Party Rock Fire, a grant will help Nancy Brown be ready

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Days after the Dobson Knob Fire ripped through around 2,000 acres in McDowell County and months after wildfire ravaged Southeastern United States, a $500 grant will help Nancy Brown at the Full Moon Farm Wolfdog Sanctuary protect the animals she cares for.

Saturday, May 6 is Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, which serves to remind those who might be in the path of wildfire that precautionary measures can be taken.

Brown is one of six applicants from North Carolina and 150 nationally awarded funding from State Farm Insurance, which teamed with the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Communities, to be used for reducing potential loss from a wildfire. Brown is seeking volunteers on May 6 and 7 to help remove brush and other potential fire fuel at the Full Moon Farm.

It was only five months ago that Brown and a team of volunteers were preparing for the worst as the Party Rock fire was approaching. On property next to the 17-acre Full Moon Farm, firefighters were burning ground cover before the Party Rock fire got close.

“My son came and we got everything important out of my house,” Brown recalled. “I never had to leave, but I was ready to go.”

Instead of leaving, Brown focused on protecting the 60-plus wolfdogs - a hybrid of domestic dogs and a subspecies of wolf - and their kennels from the approaching fire.

“Nobody wants my dogs loose,” she said. “So we worked on moving anything that could serve as fuel from their kennels.”

The undertaking required 12 10-hour workdays for Brown and her seven volunteers. The fire never reached Full Moon Farm, but the close encounter is still fresh in Brown’s mind.

She learned of the grant program offered through Firewise from the N.C. Forest Service.

“Funding is always important for me here,” Brown said. “Normally all of the money we raise goes directly to the caring for the animals. Although $500 isn’t going to be enough to do everything we need to do, we’re hoping with support from the community we can get the most important stuff done."

Andrew Wagner, who has volunteered at Full Moon Farm in the past, operates the Asheville office of Heartwood Tree Service. The arborist toured the property on April 21 to identify trees and roots posing fire risks to kennels.

“I’m primarily focusing on some of the hazards that have existed here for years - dead or dying trees next to the dogs, which are the biggest threat to the animals and the fences,” Wagner said.

Wagner will bring a "two or three guys" to Full Moon May 6-7, he said. Brown is relying on volunteers, friends and neighbors to help with the rest of removing brush and other fuel from around the property.

"Typically at this time of year we're focused on light landscaping, pest control and caring for the animals," she said. "But even though this isn't something we'd normally do, it's still just as important."

Wildfires in the region last year spread rapidly in large part because of an unusually dry summer. According to the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council's website, current conditions in WNC range from "severe drought" to "abnormally dry."

The Firewise Communities Program suggest homeowners structure the land around their homes to "increase chances that firefighters will be able to try and protect your property."

Want to help? Contact the Full Moon Farm at 664-9818 or email Nancy Brown at nancy@fullmoonfarm.org.

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