A grantor recently asked us for our strategic plan. Since we have never done a formal strategic plan, we decided this was a good time to go through the process and create a useful one (i.e., one that does not sit on the shelf).

We decided to work on the plan this summer and fall. The first part of the process was to review our vision and mission statements, which our board and staff did last week at the Nature Center.

Our vision statement, which expresses our ideal future, or our ultimate goal, came rather easily — “Fire Safe Communities in a Healthy Forest.” We want all the communities in or near the San Jacintos to be safe from wildfire, and we want the surrounding ecosystems to thrive.

The point here is that we can only be safe if the forest is healthy. Overgrown, overstocked forests will always pose a fire threat to the communities within or near them. Aside from the fact that we love the beauty of the forest, we need to keep it healthy to keep ourselves safe.

Fire safety and forest health are inextricably linked. This is why we are such strong supporters of fuel reduction projects carried out by the Forest Service and CAL FIRE.

Our mission statement was more work: “Educate and motivate our community members of their individual responsibilities to become fire safe through awareness, advocacy and actions.” We believe we have a unique mission as residents to convince other residents and property owners that fire safety requires that we all take responsibility for our properties. Community fire safety cannot be left to the fire agencies because, despite their skill and dedication, they don’t have the resources to immediately suppress every fire.

In our meeting, we told stories of our own learning on this subject. Most of us came from cities or suburbs where the fire threat was not great and something to which we gave little thought. We were in the habit of assuming that fire safety was handled by fire departments and code enforcement. They didn’t need anything from us.

When we came here, we learned that the fire threat was far greater than where we lived before. We also learned that government agencies do not have the resources to completely protect the communities that live here.

They are not able to put an engine next to each house to make sure it won’t burn when a big fire threatens. They will do what medical personnel do in disasters — triage — choosing to fight fire where their efforts will have the biggest impact, and letting houses and land burn where their efforts will make little difference. They will not waste time in emergency situations on homes they assess as indefensible.

This means that what every resident or property owner does to their house plays an important role in their own and the community’s safety. Every resident or property owner is in reality a part of the public safety effort regarding fire. We are all partners with the firefighters; we all share in the responsibility for community safety. People who have anything to do with the mountain have to know this, and have to act accordingly, for us to be truly fire safe. Getting this message out to all who live or visit here is the core of our mission.