Wildfire activity and costs in the United States are on the rise, and are threatening both communities and the health of our natural lands. Increasing controlled burning and other proactive landscape treatments in natural areas is necessary, but we also need to help homeowners and communities in fire-prone areas prepare for inevitable fires -- to “live with fire” safely. In other words, we need to help them become adapted to fire. This is the goal of the fire adapted communities (FAC) initiative.
Fire is a natural part of our environment. As we choose to live in areas where wildfires occur, we must adapt the way we design, build and live in these areas so that communities are resilient to inevitable wildfires. Fire adapted ommunities efforts connects those who live in fire-prone areas and all who play a role in wildfire education, planning and action with comprehensive resources to help reduce risk. Local stakeholders work together to address the safety of people, homes, neighborhoods, businesses, infrastructure, natural areas and other community assets.
The more actions a community takes, the more fire-adapted it becomes. Actions and characteristics of a fire-adapted community may include:
- Adequate local fire suppression capacity to meet most community protection needs;
- Structures and landscaping designed, constructed, retrofitted and maintained in a manner that is ignition resistant;
- Local codes (building, planning, zoning and fire prevention) that require ignition-resistant home design and building materials;
- Fuels (vegetation) on land near and inside the community are treated and maintained for safety (see a video of a successful fuels reduction project in California);
- A comprehensive Community Wildfire Protection Plan that is being used; and
- Other safety features, such as buffers between fuels and the community; designated evacuation routes; and safe zones in the community for when evacuation is not advisable.
The Nature Conservancy is an active member of the Fire Adapted Communities Coalition. Other members of the Coalition include the Forest Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, International Association of Fire Chiefs, National Association of State Foresters, National Fire Protection Association, National Volunteer Fire Council, U.S. Fire Administration, NWCG WUI Mitigation Committee and the Watershed Research and Training Center. These organizations connect community members with such resources as the Firewise Communities® Program for homeowners, collaborative Community Wildfire Protection Plans for land managers and community decision makers, the Ready, Set, Go!® program for fire departments, and much more.
The Forest Service’s Fire Adapted Communities program, working through a partnership with the Watershed Research and Training Center and the Conservancy, established a nationwide Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network in 2013.
For more information, contact Wendy Fulks (TNC) or Pam Leschak (Forest Service).