Prepare Your Community and Department for Wildfire

This week (Sept. 6-12) of National Preparedness Month focuses on wildfire preparedness. The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) is encouraging departments to mitigate wildfire threats by taking advantage of the FREE Wildland Fire Assessment Program (WFAP). These resources are designed to make sure fire departments and residents in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) are ready when the next wildfire strikes.  
What is the WFAP and what can it do for your community?
The NVFC and the U.S. Forest Service teamed up to create the WFAP to help volunteer fire departments work side-by-side with residents to identify threats around their homes and property that may be susceptible to widlfires. Specifically, the program prepares volunteer firefighters and support personnel to conduct home safety assessments and provide residents with recommendations as to how to make their homes more fire adapted.
The program offers training and resources in a train-the-trainer format so students can take the information back to their stations and teach their members about how to perform a home assessment. A checklist is included that can be left with the homeowner, and a copy can be taken back to the department to track how many homes have been reached. The department can also use the checklist to follow up with homeowners to see if mitigation recommendations made during the assessment have been completed. Marketing and supplemental resources are available to help departments publicize this service to the public. 
How can your department participate? 
There are many free resources and training available through the WFAP and our partner programs. Here are some steps and resources to get you started. Visit the WFAP webpage for more. 
  • Take the WFAP training. Now is the time to start training your members through the WFAP so you can begin performing home assessments before the next wildfire season. Take the course online, or host a FREE in-person training.
  • Get out into your community. A variety of marketing materials are available to help departments publicize the WFAP program and spread wildfire mitigation messages. Start advertising your home assessment service so the public knows it is available. Handouts and supplemental resources to leave with the homeowner are available in the WFAP toolkit and on the WFAP webpage. Access marketing materials.  
  • Track your progress. Knowing how many homes you’ve reached and which properties have made changes to mitigate the impact of wildfire is key to finding out if your community is becoming more fire adapted. You can easily log your assessments and track your progress utilizing the WFAP assessment tools. Email with the subject line WFAP Assessment to set up a free, personalized data-tracking system for your department. 
  • Be part of the Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) movement. A “Fire Adapted Community” incorporates people, buildings, businesses, infrastructure, cultural resources, and natural areas to prepare for the effects of wildfire. Gain guidance from the FAC and learn about specific actions you can take to reduce your risk. Access FAC information and resources
  • Involve your department in a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Does your community have one? If so, is your fire department involved and aware of its role in the CWPP? CWPPs address issues such as wildfire response, hazard mitigation, community preparedness, structure protection, and more. If a CWPP doesn’t exist for your community, consider rallying your local and state government representatives in consultation with federal agencies and other key stakeholders to develop one. The process of developing a CWPP can help a community clarify and refine its priorities for the protection of life, property, and critical infrastructure in the WUI. Access CWPP information and resources.  
Now is the time for action.
Reports and studies have shown that fire and EMS departments are a key component in educating residents about the importance of wildfire mitigation efforts. In a two-county survey in Colorado, it was found that the most important sources of information for WUI residents that were related to taking action were informal social networks (such as talking with neighbors) and guidance from local fire departments and county wildfire specialists (USDA/USFS Science You Can Use, Bulletin; September/October 2013, Issue 7). 
Studies predict that the number and intensity of wildfires are only going to increase over the next decades. The NVFC encourages your fire department to recognize what a critical role you play in wildfire mitigation efforts. Utilize National Preparedness Month and the WFAP resources to help residents take personal responsibility so their homes and families are prepared for a wildfire.