Experts predict wildfire threat to communities in the western United States will continue to increase well into the future. They emphasize this problem cannot be solved by simply increasing firefighting resources and stress the importance for communities to become proactive in reducing the threat. A key tenet of their solution to the growing wildfire threat is to create fire adapted communities.
Fire adapted communities are composed of like-minded residents committed to working towards becoming fire adapted. Being fire adapted means creating a community that can survive wildfire with little or no assistance from firefighters. This is possible because fuel that feeds fire, such as vegetation within and adjacent to the community, is managed, homes and other structures are built and maintained to increase resistance to ignition, and residents gain knowledge and skills to take preemptive action. Residents of a fire adapted community understand that reducing the wildfire threat to a community and increasing its survivability is not solely the fire department’s responsibility, but the entire community’s responsibility.
In a fire adapted community, people join together to adequately prepare themselves and their homes for the occurrence of wildfire. Reducing the wildfire threat is constantly being thought about, discussed and addressed through action by homeowners.
Residents of fire adapted communities:
- Recognize their community is vulnerable and has a wildfire problem.
- Understand how a wildfire will threaten their home.
- Are aware of the limitations of fire suppression efforts and accept responsibility for protecting their home through pre-fire activities.
- Are knowledgeable about how weather, topography and fuels influence wildfire behavior.
- Work with neighbors and local fire services to develop a community action plan (e.g., Community Wildfire Protection Plan).
- Routinely assess their home’s vulnerability to wildfire and take action.
- Actively communicate about wildfire threat and promote actions necessary to reduce it within the community.
- Share their knowledge with newcomers to the community.
- Understand that they share wildfire risk with their neighbors (i.e., if one house is inadequately prepared, the risk to the whole neighborhood increases).
- Know that mitigating the wildfire threat to their homes is not a one-time effort, but ongoing.
To assist communities in becoming fire adapted, a new organization has been established called the Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities or simply The Network. The Network helps bring communities together with the resources they need to work toward becoming fire adapted. You can learn about fire adapted communities; join The Network as an individual, group, community or partnering organization; and subscribe to The Network’s online newsletter by visiting LivingWithFire.info. Subscribers to The Network Pulse newsletter receive updates on the program, news about grant opportunities and other helpful tips about becoming fire adapted.
Ed Smith is a natural resource specialist with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. To sign up to receive The Network Pulse newsletter, contact Jenny Digesti at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about the Network, contact Elwood Miller at email@example.com. For information about gardening and landscaping to reduce fire threat, contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.growyourownnevada.com. For information on drought, visit www.livingwithdrought.com.