Working across boundaries to help protect communities

Blog Post created by megan.fitzgerald-mcgowan Employee on Apr 14, 2020

One of the benefits of the Firewise USA program is that it brings residents together to have structure and a voice. We've all heard that wildfires don't recognize boundaries and how it is important for landowners (individuals, private companies, government, etc.) to work together. Being organized can make it easier to partner with neighboring landowners on wildfire risk reduction projects. Brad Wright with the Virginia Department of Forestry shares with us the power of relationships and what they can lead to.

 Brush Mountain West Fuels Break Cross Boundaries Accomplishment

On January 22, 2020 the Eastern Divide Ranger District of the GW & Jefferson National Forest conducted an 18 acre controlled burn along the top of Brush Mountain outside of the Town of Blacksburg VA. The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) assisted with the burn to address a shared goal with USDA Forest Service-George Washington/Jefferson National Forest (USFS-GW/JEFF), to reduce the threat to the Wildland Urban Interface. Map of the area burned to create a fuels break for the Laurel Ridge Community

Plans for the controlled burn started 3 years earlier as part of mitigation efforts for the adjoining Wildland Urban Interface community of Laurel Ridge as a Cross Boundaries project.

The Cross Boundaries Program allowed for both agencies to effectively achieve a common goal by:

  • Strategically focusing on high risk areas
  • No boundaries allow for work on abutting properties
  • Collaborative planning, implementing, sharing success and lessons learned
  • Allow limited funding and resources to go further
  • Providing the same message

 Even before planning for the controlled burn started the VDOF had been working with the Laurel Ridge Community since 2008 to mitigate its risk of wildfire through the Firewise USA Program. One of the original mitigation objectives in the Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Laurel Ridge was for a fuels break to be established and maintained along the adjoining USFS-GW/JEFF boundary. USFS and DOF resources working together to burn and hold the unit

Although this project was small in acreage it was big in impact and helped set the stage for another Cross Boundaries project along the same mountain range to protect another Wildland Urban Interface Community.

 Last fall I had the opportunity to visit Laurel Ridge and see the preparation being done ahead of this project.  Residents adjacent to the proposed fuel break had taken steps to improve the ignition resistance of their homes and home ignition zone.  They understood that in order for the controlled burn to happen, they had to do their part to help create the best possible outcome.

 A big thank you to Brad, the Virginia Department of Forestry, the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest, and Laurel Ridge for sharing your story!  Has your community found success through its participation in Firewise USA in engaging partners in landscape level projects? Share your story with us by emailing

What will it take for you and your neighbors to take action?  Visit more to learn more about how to organize your community and steps towards increasing your chances of withstanding a wildfire.

As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need tminimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.  


Photo credit: courtesy of Brad Wright, Map of the area burned to create a fuels break for the Laurel Ridge Community and USFS and DOF resources working together to burn and hold the unit.