The threat of wildfire is an unpredictable danger that can strike at any time. The wildfire that may happen in your community does not have to have devastating effects. You can protect your family, and your home, from wildfire by following proper maintenance and safety precautions.
The national Firewise Communities program is a multi-agency effort designed to involve homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, and others in this effort to protect people, property, and natural resources from the risk of wildland fire before a fire starts. The Firewise Communities approach emphasizes community/neighborhood responsibility in planning the design of a safe community, as well as, an effective emergency response and individual responsibility for safer home construction and design, landscaping, and maintenance.
The national Firewise Communities/USA program is intended to serve as a resource for city/county/state/federal agencies, tribes, organizations, fire departments, and communities across the U.S. who work toward a common goal to reduce loss of lives, property, and resources to wildland fire. This is accomplished by building and maintaining communities in a way that is compatible with our natural surroundings.
Idaho currently has fifteen nationally recognized Firewise Communities/USA located throughout the state (as illustrated below). Three of these communities are planned communities where the developer has included firewise construction, landscaping, and other considerations in the development plans.
All of the Firewise Communities in Idaho vary in size, topography, population, and fire threats, but they have one thing in common…they are concerned enough about wildfire to work together to protect their community. To learn about some of these communities and how they became firewise, go to www.firewise.org/usa/index.htm and visit the Idaho section.
What are the Benefits of Being a Firewise Community?
Communities choose to become firewise for many reasons. Communities whose residents work together have a greater chance of surviving a wildfire. Working with your neighbors creates greater protection, since the more homes within a community that adopt firewise practices, the more effective the impact on reducing the threat of fire. It also helps grow community relationships with one another and local fire staff. Additionally, it can offer peace of mind, knowing that your community is prepared to survive a wildfire. But, most importantly, it reduces the chances of losing lives, property, and resources from fire.
How Does a Community Become Firewise?
Becoming a Firewise Community can easily be accomplished in any neighborhood, subdivision, or small town. The basic requirements are:
- Work with a local wildland urban interface specialist to complete a community assessment and develop a plan that identifies wildland fire safety projects to be implemented by the community.
- Organize a local board or committee that leads and implements the Firewise Community/USA program and tracks its progress or status.
- Plan and hold a Firewise Communities/USA Day each year that is dedicated to a local Firewise project.
- Invest a minimum of $2.00 per capita annually in local Firewise projects. Time and materials provided by volunteers and/or local fire staff can be included.
- Submit an annual report to Firewise Communities/USA that documents continuing compliance with the program.
Becoming a Firewise Community, Step by Step
Becoming a Firewise Community begins with you. It will require some time and coordination, but little else to get the process started. You can follow these steps to become a Firewise Community:
- Contact your local Firewise Communities representative, Dave Summers.
- Organize a site visit with your Firewise Communities representative and local fire officials so that the community can be assessed in terms of wildland fire safety.
- Recruit community members for a firewise board or committee. This group will organize and manage firewise community projects and activities.
- Hold a meeting of the board/committee and have the Firewise Communities Representative present the community assessment.
- Based on the assessment results, develop an action plan to address the wildfire threats in the community. The plan must be approved by the Firewise Communities Representative.
- Work with the community to implement the action plan. The first action item can be used for the community’s first Firewise Day.
- Complete and submit the Firewise Communities/USA application. Submit the application to your Firewise Communities representative.
- Once you have been recognized as a Firewise Community, renew your status annually using the renewal form.