Fire Safe Marin will help your neighborhood navigate the process and complete these steps to becoming a recognized Firewise USA site. Using the process below, communities develop an action plan that steers their residential risk reduction activities, while engaging and encouraging their neighbors to become active participants in building a safer place to live. Neighborhoods throughout the United States are embracing the benefits of becoming a recognized Firewise USA site.
Steps to Firewise USA Recognition
1. Form a Firewise Board/Committee
Form a board/committee that’s comprised of residents and other applicable wildfire stakeholders. This group will develop the site’s risk reduction priorities, a multi-year action plan, and complete the annual renewal requirements needed to retain an “in good standing” status.
2. Create a Wildfire Risk Assessment
Your Firewise committee will work together to write a wildfire risk assessment with the help of your local fire department and Fire Safe Marin. But, it’s important that the community take ownership and learn the concepts required to identify and reduce wildfire risks and hazards. The risk assessment will be the board/committee’s primary tool in determining the risk reduction priorities within your site’s boundaries. While there are defensible space and vegetation management requirements in the fire code, this assessment is not about code enforcement and the assessment itself does not carry any penalties. It will be used only to help inform future risk reduction strategies.
3. Develop an Action Plan
An action plan is a prioritized list of risk reduction projects that a Firewise site will complete over three years. It includes suggested homeowner actions and education activities. Action plans are developed by the board/committee and need updating at least every three years. As of 2022, Firewise USA requires California Firewise sites to use the following template for their action plan.
4. Conduct Educational Outreach
Each participating site is required to have a minimum of one wildfire risk reduction educational outreach event annually. An easy way to accomplish this is to take advantage of Fire Safe Marin’s educational programs. For example, participate in webinars and community workshops, and watch Fire Safe Marin’s wildfire videos.
5. Make a Wildfire Risk Reduction Investment
At a minimum, each site is required to invest the equivalent of $27 per dwelling unit in wildfire risk reduction actions annually. This is the annual national hourly volunteer rate.
Note: Firewise USA Sites are NOT required to invest or pay any cash to meet the risk reduction investment obligation. Your volunteer time, and the time spent by homeowners clearing their property, count toward the investment. Look at it this way: each homeowner must invest and document one hour of work towards reducing wildfire risk. That’s it!
There are a wide range of qualifying expenditures (contractor costs, rental equipment, volunteer activities, grants, etc.), that can be used in meeting the investment. Residents completing select home modifications, along with any qualifying work performed at their home and in the adjacent home ignition zones, can contribute related hours and/or costs towards meeting the site’s collective investment amount.
Examples of investments tracked by money spent:
- Chipper costs: purchase/rental, fuel and oil, disposal fees, etc.
- Other equipment costs: chain saw purchase/rental, power equipment purchase/rental, hand tools, protective equipment, etc.
- Contractor costs: arborists, landscapers, professional forestry services, debris removal, etc.
- Home improvement costs: roofs, decks, windows, vent screening, retrofits, etc.
- Grants: grant awards not accounted for in the costs previously recorded
- Vehicle mileage: slash drop-off, rental equipment pickup, meetings, etc.
Fire Safe Marin will help you prepare your application, and, can manage the application and renewal process for you. You may start an application at any point in the overall process by creating a site profile in the Firewise USA™ portal. Once all criteria are complete, the electronic application can be submitted. State liaisons will approve applications, with final processing completed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).