Firewise Communities USA

Watch Living With Fire: Firewise Communities & YOU presented by Karina Silvas, Firewise Communities Program Coordinator.

You can also watch on YouTube.

Learn how you can help your community to become Firewise.

Firewise advocates meeting on community street.The national Firewise Communities USA program is an interagency program designed to encourage local solutions for safety in the wildland/urban interface (WUI). The program brings together homeowners, developers, community leaders, fire agencies, and others with the purpose of protecting people, communities, and natural resources from the growing risk of wildland fire, by teaching the steps needed to prevent avoidable losses from fire from occurring. The National Firewise Communities Program includes the Firewise Communities/USA recognition program, Firewise Communities workshops, and support for fire organizations and community groups.

If you have the desire to help organize your community and take steps to make it Firewise and safer for yourself and neighbors, we suggest you contact your local or county Fire Safe Council. You can also visit this Cal Fire website page with links to grant information for helping homeowners and communities with the necessary landscape work. Many counties have their own grant programs to help seniors and veterans with home clearing for fire prevention.

Firewise Issues

In 2011, Sierra Forest Legacy conducted Firewise Assessments throughout the Sierra Nevada. Although each community was distinctly different, they all had similar issues regarding home ignition zones – the home and its immediate surroundings up to 100 feet. Here are some of the negative trends that we found in Sierra Nevada communities:

Negative Trends

Flammable material on roof

Wood Shake Roof and / or heavy accumulations of highly flammable material on roof and in gutters.

Thick vegetative screening between homes

Thick vegetative screening between homes.

Wood Piles and / or highly flammable material next to home

Wood Piles and / or highly flammable material next to home

Decks with flammable material on and beneath them

Decks with flammable material on and beneath them.

These are just a few of the trends that we have discovered within Sierra Nevada Communities.

Throughout the Sierra we found that every community shared positive trends as well. Here are some of the positive trends that we have witnessed:

Positive Trends


Homeowners creating fire free zones surrounding their homes.

Removal of flammable materials

Removal of flammable materials from both above and below decks and stairs.

Roofs made out of fire resistant material

Roofs made out of fire resistant material such as composition shingles.

Demonstration areas

Demonstration areas and fuels reduction projects

Fire Safe Councils

Highly active Fire Safe Councils help engage the community regarding fire as well as many other issues.

Remember, you get to choose whether or not your home has a chance at surviving a wildfire. Even with the advent of new firefighting equipment, it is very likely that there will not be firefighting efforts taking place at your home during a wildfire. It is up to you, not fire agencies, to ensure the survivability of your home and community. Firewise and the Sierra Forest Legacy can help. We've been honored to work with communities throughout the Sierra Nevada and look forward to working with your community.

Solutions – What you can do today.

  • Clean roof surfaces and gutters of pine needs, leaves, branches, etc., regularly to avoid accumulation of flammable materials.
  • Remove portions of any tree extending within 10 feet of the flue opening of any stove or chimney.
  • Maintain a screen constructed of non-flammable material over the flue opening of every chimney or stovepipe. Mesh openings of the screen should not exceed 1/2 inch.
  • Landscape vegetation should be spaced so that fire can not be carried to the structure or surrounding vegetation.
  • Remove branches from trees to height of 15 feet.
  • A fuel break should be maintained around all structures.
  • Dispose of stove or fireplace ashes and charcoal briquettes only after soaking them in a metal pail of water.
  • Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings.
  • Propane tanks should be far enough away from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of fire. Keep area clear of flammable vegetation.
  • All combustibles such as firewood, picnic tables, boats, etc. should be kept away from structures.
  • Garden hose should be connected to outlet.
  • Addressing should be indicated at all intersections and on structures.
  • All roads and driveways should be at least 16 feet in width.
  • Have fire tools handy such as: ladder long enough to reach the roof, shovel, rake and bucket for water.
  • Each home should have at least two different entrance and exit routes.

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