A recent research article in the latest Society of American Foresters Journal of Forestry, December 2012 discusses the importance of community wildfire protection planning in engaging residents and other stakeholders in efforts to address their mutual concern about wildland fire management, hazardous fuel and forest health project prioritization. It was interesting to note that of the 13 Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) that were studied 7 of these communities have one or more recognized Firewise Communities/USA® sites located within the geographical bounds of the CWPP planning area . Since the inception of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act in 2003 there have been literally thousands of CWPP’s written across the nation. My hope is that one of the outcomes of all of this hard work is that more and more communities take the opportunity commit to the Firewise Communities/USA recognition program. The benefits of this voluntary approach results in community action in a critical area that the government agencies do not have domain - the private landowner/homeowner site and the shared common spaces that exist within these critical areas where life and property are most at risk.
Some of the more salient best management practices that were identified by the article include:
- Paying attention to framing the problem
- Choosing the correct scale where participants can make things happen
- Taking steps to facilitate implementation and long-term success
All three of those points are also relevant and should be a part of the conversation when a community, neighborhood or sub-division is trying to become a recognized Firewise Communities/USA site. The beauty of the Firewise Communities/USA program is that it is voluntary, flexible, provides a planning and organizational template with the commitment and understanding that there will be an annual wildland fire mitigation investment, annual Firewise day and renewal process. The net result of this recognition is tangible, sustainable action and awareness in the most critical area within the wildland-urban interface – your family, your home, your neighbors.