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7 Posts authored by: msnow Employee

The action plan is one of the most important steps for your Firewise USA® site to complete. Once it is written, it is easy to file away and forget about, however, it can be one of the best tools your community has as a road map to success.

A well-thought out action plan can help your community stay organized and focused. Whether you are starting to write your first action plan or your just refreshing it, here are some tips you can consider:

  1. Use your risk assessment as your guide: When setting your priorities think about what you learned from the risk assessment and actions you can take to address your challenges.
  2. Think about what residents can do at their individual homes: The most important place to start when reducing your wildfire risk is at the home itself and its immediate surroundings. Select some goals that encourage residents to take action at their own homes and think about how you can motivate them to do so.
  3. Include the positive: You don’t have to limit your action plan to the tasks that your community needs to improve upon. Include events or goals that your community has had success with. This is a reminder of what is working for your community and the activities you want to maintain throughout the years.
  4. Set specific and measurable goals: Set benchmarks and ways to measure the progress in your community. Dates and deadlines may help you stay on track. Remember that you can always make changes to these goals based on what you learn is achievable for your community.
  5. Check in with your goals throughout the year: Consider your action plan as a living document. Set aside some time once or twice a year to review it and see where you are making progress. It may even helpful to write down comments on how you have addressed some of your goals or which goals have been more challenging. For those more challenging goals, your board/committee may want to set aside time to brainstorm or research new ways to approach the issue.

 We sometimes get wrapped up in reaching the risk reduction investment every year that we forget to really see what we have accomplished on our action plan. If you use your action plan to guide your activities, the investment will follow. It also allows for a record for future board members to carry on the work that you have started in your community.

In some states, you may be asked follow a specific template. Before starting your action plan, check in with your regional coordinator or state liaison to see if they have a template for you to follow.

Learn more about starting your Firewise USA site at our website, You can follow Marie Snow on twitter @MarieSnowNFPA

There’s a movement happening in Marin County, California. Residents living in the county of more than 260,000 people are taking a more active approach in preparing their homes and communities for wildfire. 

Last year brought an explosion of growth in the number of Firewise USA® sites in the county, making it the fastest growing county of the year. Prior to 2018, the county had nine participating sites, the first site getting its start in 2009. Marin County has now grown to 30 recognized sites and has the fourth highest participation in site numbers by county in the country. 

Todd Lando of FIRESafe Marin said after the 2017 fires in the North Bay, local fire departments were overwhelmed with questions from residents. They used the Firewise USA® program to start to teach homeowners what they can do to reduce their wildfire risk. 

The program allowed local experts to handle the overwhelming interest because neighbors were working together and helping each other learn about the things they could do to make their home more ignition resistant.  

Lando says the communities are seeing the added benefit of getting to know each other and bond with each other by working towards the same goal. 

It can sometimes be a challenge to talk to your neighbors about wildfire risk reduction. One tip Lando gives to homeowners is to start with working on your own home. Once you start taking action around your property, it can be easier to talk to neighbors about why you are doing the work and what they can do as well. 

The success in Marin County was recently highlighted in the Marin Independent Journal. Program participants explained to the paper why they’ve decided to participate in Firewise USA®. The spread in the number of sites was described as contagious. Mill Valley fire Battalion Chief Scott Barnes told the Journal, “Someone hears about a neighborhood forming a Firewise community, and then they say, maybe we should think about the same.”

Lando doesn’t expect the interest in Marin to slow down anytime soon. He is already working with several more communities that plan to apply for recognition in 2019. 

Photo Courtesy Todd Lando. Marin County residents meet to learn about reducing their wildfire risk. 

Follow  Marie Snow on twitter @MarieSnowNFPA.

While this past year we watched devastating wildfires make the television news cycle throughout the country, quietly thousands of people decided to take action to reduce their wildfire risk. Wildfire preparedness doesn’t often make national headlines, but it is becoming a topic of discussion in neighborhoods across the country. The Firewise USA® program is geared towards helping residents work together to not only learn about the wildfire risk in their community, but to take steps to make their neighborhood safer from wildfire. 

In 2018, we asked our Firewise sitesto take even more action than they did in the past by increasing the minimum requirement to become a Firewise USA® site. Despite this change, we saw neighborhoods across the country step up to the plate. 2018 welcomed 163 new sites across the country, with an increased sites in states like California, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado & Georgia. 

The Firewise USA ®  program began in 2002 with 12 pilot sites and currently has a total of 1,478 active participating sites in 42 states. 
Program-wide in 2018, Firewise USA® sites invested more than $65 million in risk reduction efforts.  This included over 1.3 million volunteer hours of "sweat equity".   

Science shows us that wildfires are inevitable in the wildland urban interface, but there are things we can all do to make our homes more likely to survive when this does happen. The 1,478 sites within the Firewise USA® program have committed to a continued collaborative effort in wildfire risk reduction. Every year sites are required to report their accomplishments and reach a minimum investment equivalent to one hour of work per home within the site.


The mission does not end here! We look forward to 2019 and encouraging even more achievements in the sites that have begun their journey to be safer from wildfire. 


Photo Credits: NFPA wildfire photo library

Wildfire burning across the country are putting homeowners on heightened awareness. It’s a reminder that there are things we can do to prepare ourselves before an evacuation hits our neighborhood.


The National Interagency Coordination Center reported 16 uncontained wildfires were burning as of Tuesday June 26.


In Northern California, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Monday in Lake County where the Pawnee Fire is burning.  Cal Fire reported this morning that more than 22 structures had been destroyed and 3,000 people have been evacuated.


Near Durango, Colorado homeowners remain on a pre-evacuation notice as firefighters work to get control of the 416 fire which forced them out of their community earlier this month.


Wildfires have threatened communities all over the nation in the last month, including fires in Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico & Texas.


It’s a reminder that we need to prepare our family and homes. When a wildfire is burning nearby your neighborhood, there are things you can do to make your home and family safer.


First and foremost, if an evacuation notice is given to your neighborhood, leave as early as possible. This not only ensures your safety, but it clears the roadways for firefighters to get equipment in place to fight the fire. Lynnette Round, a spokesperson with Cal Fire, emphasized the importance of staying aware and following evacuations. She told the Sacramento Bee sometimes people wait too long to leave. 


Before you get an evacuation notice or if your home is on a pre-evacuation notice, here are 5 tips for protecting your family and home.


  1. Stay aware of the latest information on the fire from your local fire officials and local news media.

  2. Place your emergency supply kit and other valuables in your vehicle. If you have household pets, you’ll want to remember to include the supplies they will need as well.

  3. Move patio furniture indoors to a shed or garage. If you can’t do that, move them as far away from the home as you can.

  4. Close and protect your home’s openings, including attic and basement doors and vents, windows, pet doors and any openings that may allow embers to get inside your home.

  5. Connect your garden hose and fill any pools, hot tubs, garbage cans, tubs, or other large containers with water. Firefighters have been known to use the hoses to put out fires on rooftops.

NFPA offers even more wildfire safety tips and you can also learn more about the actions you can take to reduce your wildfire risk.

Midland Hills Country Club has transformed their community in just their first year of participating in the Firewise USA™ Program. I interviewed residents Margaret Anderson and Jesse Riechman as we featured their Firewise USA™ site in the January 2018 newsletter for the Northeast Region Cohesive Strategy Committee (NE RSC).

Midland Hills Community members came together to celebrate their recognition as a Firewise USA site. Photo Courtesy: Margaret Anderson

I choose the community because they are the first in the state of Illinois and they have done a lot of work to reduce their wildfire risk. Speaking with these residents I was even more energized to write about their Firewise USA™ site because of the pride they have for their community and the work they’ve done.


Margaret Anderson told me she loves living in the community because they value their privacy and it’s a great place to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking. It’s this pride for her community that made her want to work with her neighbors to become a recognized Firewise USA™ site.


One of the challenges that some Firewise USA™ sites can sometimes struggle with is keeping participation high. Midland Hills Country Club is a unique community where the land is co-owned by the Homeowners Association.


Because of this, it was very important that residents agreed on the work they did on their land to reduce their wildfire risk.


Read how their community came together and their advice for others who want to participate in the Firewise USA™ Program in this month’s issue of the NE RSC’s newsletter.

Midland Hills receiving their Firewise USA plaque for the work they have done to reduce their wildfire risk. Photo Courtesy: Margaret Anderson


The Northeast Regional Strategy Committee works to support the mission of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy which includes restoring and maintaining resilient landscapes, creating Fire-Adapted Communities and effectively responding to wildfire.



A recent update to the Firewise USA™ annual renewal process was developed to make submitting the required information easier, but to also help NFPA collect better data on the risk reduction activities completed across the country throughout the year. As a result, you may notice some changes when submitting this year’s information. This year resident leaders will use the new Firewise portal launched in July to complete their renewals. The portal is a more efficient system than what we’ve had in the past, and at the end of this year we believe it will allow us to tell a better

story about the accomplishments Firewise sites have made.


Renewal blog photoThis year, NFPA will still be collecting the investment data that sites have contributed to their risk reduction efforts, but through the new portal, both monetary efforts and time contributions are automatically calculated. The new renewal breaks down the investment into categories where you just input the dollars and hours you’ve spent. This will allow you to add and save your activities throughout the year and help you keep track of the work being done. When it comes to reporting your volunteer hours, we’re asking participants to share what type of work is being done and where. Having this information provides a clearer picture of the accomplishments each Firewise site has made and it will help you keep better historical information to look back on in future years.


The Vegetation Removal section is a brand new feature that was added based on feedback we’ve received during past renewal seasons. Along with their Chipper Day, many Firewise sites also give us a total amount of vegetation taken out of their community in their narrative. Now the Firewise portal provides a place to capture and store that information, so over the years it will be easier to view and track efforts.


There’s a lot of great work being done to reduce wildfire risk within the more than 1,400 Firewise sites across the country. Our goals this year were to create a tool to help you manage your Firewise site and to gather information that participants can be proud of!


With any new system, there are questions and we have a training document and a training video available to help guide you through the portal. This year’s renewal deadline is November 15, 2017. If you have any questions about how to log-in, use the portal or what information you can include in your renewal, you can reach our customer service team at

Our thoughts and concerns are with the people of Southeastern Texas today and everyone affected by the flooding and impact of Tropical Storm Harvey. It is hard to remove our minds from the devastating images of the destruction that has been done across the state of Texas.


We have more than 85 sites recognized in the Firewise USA™ program in Texas, several of them in regions affected by Harvey. The NFPA’s Wildfire Division has been committed to helping these communities reduce their wildfire risk and we truly know how recovering from any natural disaster can be a long and difficult process.


We are also thinking about the safety of the residents affected and the rescue workers. According to our state partners in Texas, more than 170 staff members from the Texas A&M Forest Service have been deployed to help with relief efforts. This is a reminder for us of the great partners we have in Texas and their ability to lend assistance during this time of need.

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