Help Your Community Be Prepared for Wildfire through the Wildland Fire Assessment Program
April 17, 2018
The U.S. saw one of its worst wildfire seasons on record in 2017, and forecasters predict the trend will continue for severe wildfire seasons well into the future. As more and more communities are built in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), for many it is not a matter of IF, but WHEN a wildfire will strike. Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is May 5, and now is a great time to launch or expand your community wildfire mitigation efforts.
Wildfire mitigation can improve the chances of a home surviving a wildfire, and fire departments can play an active role in making sure their community is prepared. Research has shown that one of the most important sources of information that prompt residents in the WUI to take action to reduce their wildfire risk is guidance from local fire departments and county wildfire specialists.
The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and the U.S. Forest Service partnered to create the Wildland Fire Assessment Program (WFAP) to help local fire and emergency service departments in these efforts. This is the first program specifically targeted to prepare fire service volunteers to evaluate individual homes and provide residents with achievable recommendations to protect their property from wildfires and make their community more fire-adapted.
Training and tools available through the WFAP include the following:
- WFAP Course – Available in-person and online, this four-module train-the-trainer course covers understanding the WUI problem, identifying the home ignition zones that surround a structure, evaluating the home, and additional resources to help implement an assessment program.
- WFAP Toolkit – Presented in a train-the-trainer format, this award-winning toolkit provides information and resources that can be used to teach the fundamentals of performing home assessments with and for residents in communities that are susceptible to wildfires.
- Assessment Tools – These include a WFAP checklist and online data-tracking system to enable a fire/EMS department to record how many assessments have been performed and recommendations made to residents.
- Supplemental Resources – Ready-to-use and customizable documents are available to help departments implement and market a local home assessment program.
Since the WFAP program was launched in 2011, about 750 fire service members have completed the train-the-trainer course, taking the knowledge and tools back to their local communities. Volunteer firefighters, Fire Corps teams, and other fire service volunteers have utilized the program to successfully conduct campaigns that make their communities safer and better prepared for wildfire.
A hands-on training component will be added to the existing in-person classroom course to enable students to practice home evaluations and put their training into action. This new on-site assessment piece will be available in 2018 to select pilot locations in areas most susceptible to wildfire threats.