Steps to Becoming a Firewise USA ® Community
1. Form a Firewise USA ® Board or Committee
Form a board or committee that is comprised of residents and other applicable wildfire stakeholders. Consider inviting the local fire department, elected officials, emergency managers, and if applicable, the HOA, Neighborhood Association, or property management company to participate. This group will collaborate to develop the community’s risk reduction priorities, develop a multi-year action plan based on the risk assessment and oversee the completion of the annual renewal requirements needed to retain an “in good standing” status.
2. Create a Wildfire Risk Assessment
Your Firewise committee will work together to write a wildfire risk assessment as the first step in becoming a nationally recognized Firewise USA ® community. Placer County’s Firewise USA ® Program Coordinator will help, but it’s important that the community take ownership and learn the concepts required to identify and reduce wildfire risks and hazards. By following the template below, completing the assessment is a relatively easy process and will help your committee better understand the fire problem in your community. Placer County’s Firewise USA ® Program Coordinator will help you complete any sections of the assessment where your committee needs assistance. The assessment is an important piece of the Firewise USA ® application process that will help identify and guide your priorities and activities. The risk assessment will be the board or committee’s primary tool in determining the risk reduction priorities within your site’s boundaries. Assessments need to be updated every five years.
The Firewise USA program is voluntary. Everyone within the site’s boundary will benefit, whether they actively participate or not. While a community risk assessment is part of the requirement for a Firewise USA ® application, individual home assessments by the Firewise committee are not mandatory. The community risk assessment is intended to document overall, global/neighborhood conditions visible from common areas, but the Firewise committee won’t be looking over fences or into backyards. When visible from common areas, the assessment may look at roofing types, general building construction and condition, and general vegetation conditions to help come up with strategies to reduce neighborhood risk. While there are defensible space and vegetation management requirements in the fire code, this assessment is not about code enforcement and the assessment itself does not carry any penalties. It will be used only to help inform future risk reduction strategies.
Learn more about the risk assessment process by taking the online Firewise Risk Assessment Training
Ready to complete your assessment? Download the Firewise USA ® Risk Assessment Template (PDF)
3. Develop an Action Plan
Your board/committee will develop an action plan - a prioritized list of risk reduction projects/investments for the participating site, along with suggested homeowner actions and education activities that participants will strive to complete annually, or over a period of multiple years. Action plans should be updated at a minimum of at least every three years.
4. Conduct Educational Outreach
Host an outreach event and work with neighbors on addressing items in the action plan. These efforts will go towards your site’s annual wildfire risk reduction investment. At a minimum, each site is required to annually invest the equivalent of one volunteer hour per dwelling unit in wildfire risk reduction actions. If your site has identified 100 homes within its boundary, 100 hours of work or the monetary equivalent value of volunteer time needs to be invested towards the Action Plan for that year.
Find examples (PDF) of activities that count towards your investment.
Use the volunteer hourly worksheet (PDF) to collect information from residents in your community.
NOTE - Firewise USA Sites are NOT required to invest or pay any cash to meet the risk reduction investment obligation. Your volunteer time, and the time spent by homeowners clearing their property, counts toward the investment. Look at it this way: each homeowner must invest and document ONE HOUR of work towards reducing wildfire risk. That’s it!
Placer County’s Firewise USA ® Program Coordinator will help you prepare your application, and can help with the application and renewal process for you. You may start an application at any point in the overall process by creating a site profile in the Firewise USA™ portal. Once all the criteria has been completed, the electronic application can be submitted. State liaisons will approve applications, with final processing completed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).