How to Prepare

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Firewise USA Recognition Process

Using the process below, neighborhoods (AKA Firewise “site”) 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 plan to live. Neighborhoods throughout the United States are embracing the benefits of becoming a recognized Firewise USA site.

Steps to become a Firewise USA site

Form a Firewise Board/Committee
Form a board/committee that’s comprised of residents and other applicable wildfire stakeholders. Consider inviting the local fire department, elected officials, emergency managers, and if applicable, the HOA, Neighborhood Association, or property management company to participate. This group will collaborate on developing the site’s risk reduction priorities, develop a multi-year action plan based on the risk assessment and oversee the completion of the annual renewal requirements needed to retain an “in good standing” status.
Create a Wildfire Risk Assessment
Your Firewise committee will work together to write a wildfire risk assessment as the first step in becoming a nationally recognized Firewise USA™ site. Your local fire department and the Fire Safe Council can help, but it’s important that the community take ownership and learn the concepts required to identify and reduce wildfire risks and hazards. By following our template below, completing the assessment is a relatively easy process and will help your committee better understand the fire problem in your community. The Fire Safe Council and your local fire department will help you complete any sections of the assessment where your committee needs assistance. The assessment is an important piece of the Firewise USA application process that will help identify and guide your priorities and activities. The risk assessment will be the committee’s primary tool in determining the risk reduction priorities within your site’s boundaries. Assessments need to be updated every five years.

The Firewise USA program is voluntary. Everyone within the site’s boundary will benefit, whether they actively participate or not. While a community risk assessment is part of the requirement for a Firewise USA application, individual home assessments by the Firewise committee are not mandatory. The community risk assessment is intended to document overall, neighborhood conditions visible from common areas, but the Firewise USA committee won’t be looking over fences or into backyards (unless the property owner extends an invitation!). When visible from common areas, the assessment may look at roofing types, general building construction and condition, and general vegetation conditions to help come up with strategies to reduce neighborhood risk.

The assessment is usually conducted by the neighborhood Firewise USA committee with help – 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.

Learn more about the risk assessment process. Take the online Firewise Risk Assessment Training.
Download the Community Wildfire Risk Assessment.

Develop An Action Plan

This should be a prioritized list of risk reduction projects/investments for the participating site, along with suggested homeowner actions and education activities that participants will strive to complete annually, or over a period of multiple years. The submitted action plan should be broken down by year and reflect those goals. As of 2018, the cycle for this is three years as it should be a living document that residents are checking off as they go. As circumstances change (e.g., completing activities, experiencing a fire or a natural disaster, new construction in a community, etc.), the action plan may need to be updated more frequently. Click here to view an example of an Action Plan

Make a Wildfire Risk Reduction Investment

At a minimum, each site is required to annually invest the equivalent of one volunteer hour per dwelling unit in wildfire risk reduction actions. If your site has identified 100 homes within its boundary, than 100 hours of work or the monetary equivalent, based on the independent sector value of volunteer time, need to be completed for that year. Examples of activities that count towards your investment.


The Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council will help you prepare your application. You may start an application at any point in the overall process by creating a site profile in the Firewise Portal. Once all the criteria has been completed, the electronic application can be submitted. State liaisons will approve applications, with final processing completed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Much of the material found in this section has been reproduced from NFPA’s website, © NFPA
Thank you to FIRESafe MARIN for the use of material from their site:

We need your help

Support the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council. Become a member, and help us achieve our mission of promoting wildfire safety across the County through education and action.


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