The National Association of State Foresters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and NFPA have announced a partnership to manage and deliver the Firewise Communities/USA program. This is the newest element of the 10-year-old Firewise program, the national effort to minimize home loss to wildfire. The new collaboration will encourage and acknowledge community-level efforts to address fire problems in the wildland/urban interface.
Firewise Communities/USA provides technical support and national recognition for individual communities that are addressing wildfire risks. The new partnership allows wildland fire staff from federal, state and local agencies to work with communities to assess wildfire risk and create plans to reduce them. The communities are responsible for establishing their own network of cooperating homeowners, agencies and organizations, and ultimately identifying and implementing their local solution.
"Firewise Communities/USA is a unique opportunity available to Virginia's fire-prone communities" stated John Miller Chief of Resource Protection with the Virginia Department of Forestry. Its goal is to encourage and acknowledge action that minimizes home loss to wildfire by preparing for a fire before it occurs. "The Virginia Department of Forestry is eager to implement this program in neighborhoods throughout the State" adds John. Firewise Communities/USA is a project of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group's Wildland/Urban Interface Working Team. It provides citizens with the knowledge necessary to prepare and maintain a Firewise neighborhood while coordinating with the VDOF for effective emergency response. The program draws on a community's spirit, its resolve, and its willingness to take responsibility for its ignition potential.
Becoming recognized as a Firewise Community/USA begins with the community itself. A community representative should contact the Virginia Department of Forestry. Additionally, there is an online form at www.firewise.org.
A VDOF representative will schedule and meet with the homeowners to evaluate the neighborhood. In this evaluation, the group will discuss home ignition potential, fuel reduction options, safety zones, access, and other important criteria. The evaluation will revolve around principles outlined further down this page.
Meanwhile, neighborhood homeowners create a multi-discipline Firewise committee that can include homeowners, fire professionals, and/or members of other interest groups. Participation by planners, land managers, urban foresters and/or members of other interest groups is also encouraged. Committee members work together to develop a plan that prepares the neighborhood for a wildland-urban interface (WUI) fire. Full development of the WUI plan may take several months.
Upon completion of the Firewise assessment of the community's readiness to withstand a WUI fire, the VDOF schedules a meeting with the local Firewise board/committee. The assessment is presented for review and acceptance. If the site assessment is accepted, the Firewise board uses it as a basis for creating a plan that contains agreed-upon, area-specific solutions to its wildfire issues. All members of the Firewise board must concur with the final decisions. Their recommendations are presented to, and approved by VDOF. At that time, the group may determine methods for plan implementation, including funding. Local solutions are implemented following a schedule designed by the local Firewise board and the Virginia Department of Forestry. A permanent Firewise task force, committee, commission or department is created that will maintain the program into the future.
The plan prepared by the Firewise Committee contains specific action items that can be implemented by homeowners with assistance from fire staff or other sources. When they are executed, they are called "Firewise Days." A Firewise Day must be held each year in order to maintain recognition status. Firewise Days can include chipping days, public awareness events, brush clearing, or other activities.
Firewise Communities are able to quantify their concern about the wildfire issue. To this end, they are willing to invest $2/capita in Firewise projects each year. This means that in a community of 200 residents, $400 will be invested in projects named in the plan prepared by the Firewise Committee. Volunteer hours, use of equipment, and time spent by agency fire staff can be included in this figure, as can state or federal grant dollars.
Firewise Communities/USA recognition status is achieved when the Virginia Department of Forestry receives the community's completed Firewise plan, and after the community has completed one Firewise project. At that time, a Board member can download the Firewise Communities/USA application from the program's website at www.firewise.org. The Virginia Department of Forestry will forward the completed application to the national Firewise program office.
Recognition renewal is completed by December 31st each year. Recognized communities submit documentation indicating continued community participation to VDOF. Renewal forms can be found online at www.firewise.org.
Living in a house surrounded by nature and woodlands can be peaceful and beautiful, but it can also be risky. Many new residents to rural areas bring with them a "back to nature" philosophy that harbors a desire to leave their property and all of the property around them as undisturbed as possible. This philosophy often leads to insufficient access roads and hazardous fuel conditions very near homes, creating a dangerous situation for rural homeowners and firefighters in the event of a wildfire.
Firewise subdivision and home design can significantly increase the chances a community will survive a wildfire. Home designs should include a safe location for the house and the use of less combustible materials. Subdivision designs should include proper access and turn arounds, suitable signage, and adequate water supplies for fire control.
Firewise principals are the responsibility of everyone. Property owners, developers, emergency managers and government officials all play a role in making your home, everyone's home, Firewise.
The following tools and recommendations are safety steps that will give your home a chance to survive while firefighters race to bring the wildfire under control. These steps can mean the difference between saving your property and total disaster!
Wildfire Prevention and Education is critical to our mission of protecting the forest resources. Our prevention and education teams work throughout the state to help educate the public about wildland fire safety during times of increased wildfire danger. Click here to see what's going on.
Last modified: Tuesday, 25-Nov-2014 12:16:21 EST