Wildfires are a part of nature. In fact, they are crucial of most ecosystems. However, when wildfires infringe on humans, they can be very destructive. In 2002, a series of devastating forest fires led Congress to pass the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA), which was passed in 2003. One of the primary goals of this act was to provide financial assistance and guidance toward better forest management.
One of the leading solutions for wildfire prevention of the HFRA was to encourage at-risk communities to develop Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP). At-risk communities are identified as those that situate near wildland fuels, or are located near federal lands. The intention of CWPP is to influence and properly direct any future funding that would go toward the reduction of fuel projects that increase the likelihood of wildfires.
In order for a CWPP to be approved under the HFRA, it has to meet three set criteria:
- Local and state government representatives have to collaborate to develop a CWPP, and they must consult with federal agencies and any other concerned parties when developing the plan.
- Prioritized Fuel Reduction. The plan has to categorize and prioritize any areas that are believed to be need hazardous fuel reduction treatment. The plan must also suggest treatment methods that will aim to protect communities and vital infrastructure that are at risk for being impacted by a wildfire.
- Treatment of Structural Ignitability. Measures that both homeowners and business owners within an at-risk community can take to limit the potential of structures in the area being impacted by a wildfire must be identified and recommended.
Firewise and Community Wildfire Protection Programs
A Firewise plan categorizes steps that a community will take to minimize the ignitability of homes with the community, as well how hazardous and ignitable fuels and vegetation within the home ignition zone will be treated. When a community sets out to create a CWPP, it can align the measures that it is recommending for wildfire reduction with Firewise to make its plan more effective.
For instance, according to the principles set forth by Firewise, homeowners within an at-risk community should thin any trees and landscaping near their home to reduce its ignitability. Homeowners should also create and build structures that are comprised of heat-resistant materials. In the event of a fire, residents should have a sound homeowners insurance policy that covers their structure and belongings.
Communities that are at-risk of being impacted by wildfires have the opportunity to prevent impending destruction by developing an effective Community Wildfire Protection Plan that coincides with Firewise. This planning and greatly reduce the devastation that communities can experience as a result of wildfires.