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Firewise Communities USA® Recognition Program

Willow Fire Burning at Night, Credit: Dennis Rein
Is your community ready for this? 2015 Willow Fire Burning at Night, Credit: Dennis Rein

Get Firewise! Get Recognized!

You are hardening your home and getting fire wise anyway right? And so are your neighbors right? So why not pull together and get national recognition for your efforts?
Earning recognition is not the goal. Being safer is. Recognition can be nice though. And has a few perks. Like opening some doors for potential funding help. More importantly, it raises awareness and helps others too. It’s easy!
Get together at least 5 properties in your neighborhood working to mitigate wildfire.
From the program guide:

The Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program was designed as a tool that forestry and fire service professionals can use to work with residents to obtain voluntary compliance with existing wildfire safety rules, as well as to motivate community action toward wildfire safety in the absence of strict ordinances or laws. The Recognition Program encourages and acknowledges citizen involvement in reducing community wildfire risk.

You know you want to get fire wise in general to protect your life and property. But you can help others, feel good, and get benefits by getting recognized, together, for all that hard work.
The five steps of Firewise recognition

Communities Pulling Together

The Firewise Communities program invests heavily in educating residents in the WUI.
Their aim is to help you take action to mitigate wildfire danger, on an ongoing basis. But better yet, why not organize your whole community! Why go it alone?
From Firewise:

The Firewise Communities approach emphasizes community responsibility for planning in the design of a safe community as well as effective emergency response, and individual responsibility for safer home construction and design, landscaping and maintenance.

Organize: Why Go It Alone?

The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council teaches folks the primary cause of catastrophic wildfire loss is failure to prepare for wildfire, particularly your home and structures. You’ve heard, many times, that defensible space is not enough.
The responsibility for home and property loss is that of the property owner. Emergency personnel can only do so much.
Here in California we have the best firefighters in the world. But that is not enough. Defensible space is not enough.
Only you can reduce the odds of a home loss to wildfire. How? HARDEN YOUR HOME. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop there.

Wildfires Will Happen

We know that wildfires will happen and are happening. There aren’t enough personnel and resources to save every home through suppression, hardened or not.
While your best chance of success is to HARDEN YOUR HOME, you can make your effort more effective by organizing your community or neighborhood.
You know wildfires are inevitably going to happen in your area. You know one reason homes are lost is due to lack of preparation. You know your home doesn’t have to be lost if you harden your home.
But, you are not alone. You can fortify all of your efforts by organizing your whole neighborhood.

Benefits of Community Firewise Efforts

The old saying that there is “safety in numbers” is very true. Joining together can make your Firewise efforts that much more effective. Hardening your home is step one. Pulling together is step two.
There are many community-wide issues, such as ingress/egress roadside clearance, that the neighborhood as a whole can address, working with The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council and local agencies.

Safety in Numbers: Prepare Together

Pooling together can radically increase the effectiveness of your Firewise effort.
The NFPA Firewise Communities not only educates you, the individual property owner, how to prepare for wildfire. The program primarily aims to motivate folks to get together, and work together, for the protection and safety of their entire community!
So don’t go it alone. Organize. Get together. Work together.
There are wildfire issues that affect everyone.
There are wildfire issues that are not individual property specific.
For example, ingress and egress to your community is a HUGE factor in how your community can best prepare for wildfire.

Community Assessment

It all begins with a community assessment. Your local The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council Coordinator is available to assist your community in making an assessment.
This assessment will outline the challenges and mitigation efforts needed. In Eastern Madera County, in the Wildland Urban Interface, the issues are very similar for communities. This includes:

  • Poor ingress/egress
  • Heavy fuel loads
  • Poor structure defensible space
  • At-risk construction materials such as flammable decks and siding

Firewise Board

Forming a Firewise Board is easy. All you need is a group of two or more community members. This group will interact with FMC and the NFPA Firewise staff.

Community Action Plan

After your assessment is complete, your community may want to proceed with mitigation. If you have not formed a Firewise Board, you may do so now. If your community does not want to mitigate any of the issues revealed in the assessment, you need not continue.
If, however, you do form a Firewise Board and decide to mitigate, your next step is to make an action plan. At this point, keep in mind that you may also seek recognition for your mitigation work.

Make the Plan, Work the Plan

The assessment is strategic. Your action plan is tactical. With FMC’s help you can now put together a specific fire danger mitigation action plan.
Hereafter, you may just do your mitigation work and call it a day. You don’t have to seek national recognition. However, national recognition has some advantages. One advantage is potential funding opportunities. Another is helping to raise awareness locally and across the country.
Earning recognition together can also have a community building side effect of neighbors helping neighbors and getting to know each other better.

Firewise Event

If you decided to seek national recognition, you must hold an annual Firewise Day event to qualify. This is typically a community get-together with local FMC and fire personnel present to do outreach and education.
Even if you don’t seek recognition, an annual Firewise Day is great way to have a barbecue and work on firewise mitigation together.

Share & Promote Firewise through National Recognition

As mentioned above, one of the benefits of national recognition is helping others. Other local folks may be inspired by your activity, and even on a national level.
Neighbor helping neighbor can be infectious and spread throughout the land. That is the secondary goal of the program, behind only helping you to help yourself mitigate your risk of wildfire losses.

Keep In Touch

Another neat thing about the program and recognition is that you may have more contact with your neighbors than you typically did before. This helps you all keep in touch with each other and strengthen your community!
For more from the NFPA click here to download your copy of the recognition program user guide.

Already a Recognized Madera County Firewise Community?

Click Here for Your Copy of the Firewise User Guide
Click Here for Online Renewal
Click Here to Download the Renewal Form

Interested in becoming a Firewise Community?

Click for more recognition information at Firewise.org