Eyes of nation watching Firewise Etoile

ETOILE, TX (KTRE) - At 13, Hannah Gilbert, with the help of her classmates, is saving her community from going up in flames.

"It's really important to us because we did help set it up and we do want to continue to go farther," said Gilbert, who is the Firewise committee board president at Etoile ISD.

It's a national program designed to teach communities how to be safer from the threat of wildfire.

"It just makes me feel good that I get to help people and protect them from fires," said Jilian Quisenberry, class president of Etoile's seventh grade.

"This is just a pretty awesome thing in our opinion as adults to see these kids taking hold of this and just going with it, like a wildfire itself," said Linda Tootle, the special programs teacher at Etoile ISD.

Most FireWise committee boards are made up of adults, but at Etoile ISD the students are on the board and they are leading the charge in their communities.

"It says to me that you can come from a small school, a small community and you can do things that are very notable for the whole United States for the world and it doesn't matter where you come from, it just matters that you make a difference," said Sarah Hottman, superintendent at Etoile ISD.

This summer Etoile had five fires in one week. No homes were lost.

"Right now is a teachable moment," said Jan Amen of the Texas Forest Service. "We had those horrible fires all across East Texas and we don't want anything like that to happen to anybody else."

The initiative has gained national attention.

This week, the University of Florida has two people in the town doing a case study with the kids.

"Part of the reason we're doing this effort is to identify success cases across the country and make those cases more visible to other educators and youth programs so that more people can do things like this," Martha Monroe said.

Meanwhile these little girls, living on the edge of the Angelina National Forest, educate parents, friends, and anyone who will listen to keep wildfire out of their community.

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