Fire Adapted Communities


FIRE ADAPTED COMMUNITIES


Working at the intersectionof people, fire & place

The challenges involved in adapting communities to be more fire resilient are remarkably vast and diverse. It’s also inherently local, as no two areas in the state have the exact same set of needs, values, risks, and capacities.
By aligning resources, tools and organizations, the California Wildfire & Forest Resilience Task Force is uniquely structured to address the scope and complexity of resourcing and supporting communities to achieve a more resilient future.

The Vision Statement from the Fire Adapted Communities Work Group is a testament to that approach.

“Our vision for fire-adapted communities will require working across sectors and scales in new ways by engaging people and institutions to build community capacity and partnerships, leveraging investments, and prioritizing and scaling actions for maximum impact. We will accelerate and improve the effectiveness of fire prevention, planning, mitigation, response, evacuation, and recovery. We will embrace holistic and equitable approaches that empower our communities and build sustained wildfire resilience at all scales, while respecting the diverse places and landscapes across our state.”

California’s communities will become more resilient to wildfires by redefining our relationship with fire, protecting and sustaining our people and the places we live, and working towards a fire-adapted future.

FAC Roadmap and Dashboard Project

The Task Force’s Fire Adapted Communities Work Group, with help from Resources Legacy Fund, CAL FIRE, Ascent and others, initiated the FAC Roadmap and Dashboard Project – a strategic statewide initiative focused on fire-adapted and resilient communities, expanding, and building upon other ongoing California wildfire resilience initiatives.

The FAC Roadmap will serve as the strategic plan and implementation strategy for the community fire adaptations and resilience effort of the Task Force, with specific goals and strategic actions that both inform and serve as a critical source of content for the next update to the Action Plan in 2024.

The FAC Framework and Components

The FAC Wheel serves as the organizational foundation for developing a strategic statewide framework for community-focused fire adaptation and resilience. The blue inner ring displays the main framework components, while the green outer ring displays examples of specific programs or activities communities can engage in. The Wheel describes a set of components that make up community wildfire adaptation, but it should be noted that it is not a check-list or “one-size-fits-all” approach; every community’s journey to living better with fire is unique.


COMPONENTS

Prevention

Most wildfires begin with human-caused ignitions, and efforts are already in place to address and reduce these ignitions. For example, electric utilities play a significant role in ignition prevention, and public awareness campaigns can play major roles in prevention, among other efforts.

Actions:

  • Action 2.11: Maintain Fire Prevention Grants.
  • Action 2.21: Review Wildfire Mitigation Plans.
  • Action 2.22: Coordinate Utility-Related Wildfire Mitigation Initiatives.
  • Action 2.23: Expand United States Forest Service (USFS) Master Special Use Permits.

Other Efforts:

·       CAL FIRE “One Less Spark” Campaign
·       Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings
·       OSFM Fireworks Program
·       OSFM Wildfire Prevention Guides
·       Public Safety Power Shutoffs
·       Reducing Utility-Related Wildfire Risk: Utility Wildfire Mitigation Strategy and Roadmap for the Wildfire Safety Division

Resident Mitigation

Fire hazard mitigation in the residential context includes protecting both individual homes and properties, as well as overall neighborhood- or community-scale implementation, to reduce the risk of fire-related damage or loss caused by embers, radiant heat exposure and combustion, or direct flame contact.

Resident mitigation efforts include defensible space, home hardening, and fire-resistant landscaping and building materials, among others. It is important to note that these concepts are not unique to single-family homes, but also includes multi-family properties, manufactured homes, and other housing types, to ensure protection that spans the entire community.

Additionally, while the FAC framework does not include a “commercial mitigation” component, some concepts addressed under resident mitigation may also apply to infrastructure and businesses.

Actions:

  • Action 2.19: Develop WUI Fire Safety Training Manual
  • Action 3.8: Launch Catalyst Fund Forest Investments
  • Action 3.9: Develop X-Prize for Wood Product Innovation
  • Action 3.10: Address Feedstock Barriers through Pilot Projects
  • Action 3.11: Develop Statewide Forest and Wood Products Workforce Assessment
  • Action 3.12: Maintain and Develop Removal Incentives

Other Efforts:

·       California Climate Insurance Working Group

·       California Fire Safe Council

·       California Wildfire Mitigation Program

·       CAL FIRE County Coordinator Grant Program

·       CDI “Safer from Wildfires” Initiative and Regulations

·       Defensible Space Regulations

·       Fire Aside ChipperDay Platform

·       IBHS “Wildfire Prepared Home” Program

·       Local Home Retrofit and Defensible Space Assistance Programs

·       NFPA “Firewise Communities” Firewise USA® Recognition Program

Infrastructure & Business

Wildfires can affect a wide array of assets that are vital to a functioning community, including infrastructure and local businesses. This component of FAC is related to critical facility and infrastructure protection (e.g., hospitals, water infrastructure), along with business continuity, resilience, and the role of private businesses in addressing wildfire risk and supporting wildfire resilience.

Actions:

  • Action 2.8: Develop Defensible Space and Home Hardening Curriculum
  • Action 2.12: Extend Defensible Space Programs
  • Action 2.13: Expand Assistance Programs
  • Action 2.14: Increase Defensible Space Inspections
  • Action 2.15: Improve Defensible Space Compliance
  • Action 2.16: Create a Model Defensible Space Program
  • Action 2.17: Expand Home Hardening Programs
  • Action 2.18: Develop Home Hardening Guidance
  • Action 2.20: Develop Insurance Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Other Efforts:

  • FEMA Continuity Guidance Circular and Continuity Resource Toolkit
  • Local Business Resiliency Initiatives
  • NFPA 1600® Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management
  • Planning and Investing for a Resilient California: A Guidebook for State Agencies
  • PROTECT Program

Community & Regional Planning

Community and regional planning efforts provide an excellent opportunity for localities to reduce wildfire risk within their jurisdictions. Planning, at its foundation, is an articulation of how local or regional governments, residents, and other stakeholders want their communities to look, feel, and function in the future. In WUI areas, or any areas where there are wildfire-related concerns, community and regional planning can set a vision with actionable policies and programs for building resilience to wildfires.

Actions:

  • Action 1.18: Develop Prescribed Fire Strategic Action Plan
  • Action 1.29: Develop Network of Regional Forest and Community Fire Resilience Plans
  • Action 1.36: Complete Timber Harvesting Plan Guidance Documents
  • Action 2.4: Update the Fire Hazard Planning Technical Advisory
  • Action 2.5: Develop WUI Best Practices Inventory
  • Action 2.6: Develop Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) Best Practices Guide
  • Action 2.21: Review Wildfire Mitigation Plans.
  • Action 2.26: Assist with General Plans
  • Action 4.1: Complete Applied Research Plans

Other Efforts:

  • CAL FIRE Land Use Planning Program
  • Climate Adaptation Plans
  • Community Wildfire Protection Plans
  • Fire Hazard Planning Technical Advisory
  • General Plans
  • Joint Powers Agreements
  • Local Hazard Mitigation Plans
  • Regional Forest and Fire Capacity Program
  • Examples and Best Practices for California Communities

Landscape Treatment

Landscape treatments refer to a suite of measures that strategically manage fuel loads to reduce fire risk. Specifically, these measures can include conducting prescribed burns, developing fuel breaks, thinning roadside vegetation, and generally ensuring that forests, woodlands, or other highly vegetated areas are treated in a way that reduces the risk of wildfire ignition and spread.

Actions:

  • Action 2.9: Develop and Maintain 500 Fuels Management Projects
  • Action 2.10: Link with Landscape Scale Projects
  • Action 2.25: Develop Framework for Safe Road Corridors
  • Action 2.27: Expand Highway Treatments
  • Action 2.28: Develop Good Neighbor Agreement

Other Efforts:

  • CAL FIRE Forest Stewardship Program
  • CAL FIRE Prescribed Fire Claims Fund Pilot Program
  • CAL FIRE Vegetation Management Program
  • CAL FIRE Wildfire Prevention Grants Program
  • California Vegetation Treatment Program
  • California’s Strategic Plan for Expanding the Use of Beneficial Fire
  • Keepers of the Flame
  • Roadmap to a Million Acres

Safety & Evacuation

The concepts of safety and evacuation are crucial components of FAC because there will always be some degree of risk—even if measures are taken to reduce risk and build resilience to wildfires, that risk will never be zero. The first and utmost priority when it comes to wildfire, or any hazard, is to protect and sustain human lives, and that could be reflected in pre-fire preparedness, wildfire safety programs and procedures, and robust evacuation planning and execution, among others.

Actions:

  • Action 2.24: Identify Subdivision Secondary Emergency Access
  • Action 2.25: Develop Framework for Safe Road Corridors
  • Action 2.26: Assist with General Plans
  • Action 2.27: Expand Highway Treatments
  • Action 2.28: Develop Good Neighbor Agreement
  • Action 2.29: Expand Messaging Campaign

Other Efforts

  • Assembly Bill 747 (Levine, 2019)
  • Assembly Bill 1409 (Levine, 2021)
  • CAL FIRE Subdivision Review Program
  • Medical Baseline Program
  • Microgrid Incentive Program
  • PG&E Backup Power Transfer Meter Program
  • PG&E Portable Battery Program
  • “Ready, Set, Go” Campaign
  • Senate Bill 99 (Nielsen, 2019)

Public Health

Wildfire can affect people’s physical and mental/emotional health significantly. Perhaps most notably, smoke from wildfires can result in an array of human health impacts (e.g., respiratory issues). However, wildfires can also lead to water supply and soil contamination, along with a severe mental health toll caused by death or injuries to loved ones, property damage or loss, temporary or long-term displacement, and other impacts. A strategic framework for fire-adapted and resilient communities must consider and prioritize public health.

Actions:

  • Action 1.39: Update Prescribed Fire Information Reporting System (PFIRS)
  • Action 2.30: Launch Smoke Ready California Campaign
  • Action 2.31: Release California Smoke Spotter App
  • Action 2.32: Enhance Prescribed Fire Reporting

Other Efforts:

  • California Smoke Blog
  • Protection from Wildfire Smoke Standard
  • Wildfire Smoke Clean Air Centers for Vulnerable Populations Incentive Pilot Program
  • Wildfire Smoke: Considerations for California’s Public Health Officials

Recovery

The goal of disaster recovery is timely restoration, strengthening and revitalization of infrastructure, housing, and a suitable economy, as well as the health, social, cultural, historical, and environmental fabric of affected communities. In the context of fire, recovery refers to the comprehensive and coordinated process of both short-term actions that typically begin after a wildfire has been contained, as well as longer-term, ongoing actions that serve as steps towards rebuilding communities that have been impacted by wildfire. Wildfire recovery is intrinsically broad, as it touches on many different aspects of society and requires coordination between an array of actors.

Actions:

  • Action 1.34: Develop Coordinated State Restoration Strategy

Other Efforts:

  • California Community Foundation Wildfire Recovery Fund
  • California Disaster Assistance Act
  • California Disaster Recovery Framework
  • California Wildfire Fund
  • Consolidated Debris Removal Program
  • EDA Economic Adjustment Assistance Program
  • FEMA Public Assistance and Individual Assistance
  • Fire Victim Trust
  • HUD Community Development Block Grant Programs
  • USDA Disaster Assistance Programs

Fire Adapted Communities is really about the intersection of people, fire, and place.

– Michelle Medley-Daniel, Fire Networks Co-Director

Guiding Principles

    • Recognize that climate change, along with decades of suppression-dominated solutions, is increasing the severity and scale of catastrophic wildfires that threaten the health and safety of our people and lands. We must take decisive and potentially disruptive actions to change our course to realize our vision for a fire adapted future and build sustained resilience in the years and decades to come.

 

    • Redefine our understanding of and relationship to fire as a natural and indigenous element in the landscape that must be understood, respected, and managed safely through increased education, partnerships, and cross-sectoral engagement with Indigenous, Tribal, and scientific and advocacy communities.

 

    • Use holistic, equitable, and community-centered approaches that empower local action and build resilience at all scales, in partnership with and support from public and private entities.

 

    • Engage and build community capacity to reduce risks to public health, safety, and property.

 

    • Recognize the connections between healthy and vibrant landscapes and community resilience and broaden community education and support for the use of beneficial fire and other landscape management techniques.

“The Task Force is shining a light on some very complicated issues. We’re creating a vision for what adaptation means, and that needs be locally driven.”

– Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension


PROGRESS METRICS


Progress On Task Force Fire Adapted Communities Key Actions

The table below shows Key Actions for California’s Wildfire & Forest Resilience Action Plan that are assigned to the Fire Adapted Communities Workgroup. Sort by status to see level of progress completion.

Fuel Reduction Treatment Trackers

“There are lots of valid pathways to living better with fire, and Fire Adapted Communities is about articulating those and helping those communities enact those visions.”

– Michelle Medley-Daniel, Fire Networks Co-Director

TASK FORCE MEETING PRESENTATIONS

On December 15 the Task Force met in Sacramento for its final quarterly meeting of 2023. The primary focus was on Fire Adapted Communities. Below are several presentations that provide comprehensive and current overviews of the state of community adaptation.

California’s Progress on Empowering Community Adaptation: Daniel Berlant from CAL FIRE and CA Fire Safe Council’s Jacy Hyde shared updates on how both statewide programs and local communities are building adaptive capacity and improving wildfire outcomes.

California’s Roadmap for Creating Fire Adapted Communities: Two members of the Task Force’s Fire Adapted Communities Work Group — Steve Hawks from CAL FIRE and Erik de Kok, representing Ascent Environmental — shared updates on the Work Group’s recently completed Baseline Assessment and next steps in developing a statewide roadmap for community fire adaptation.

Regional Leaders’ Perspective on Community Resilience to Fire: In a panel moderated by Molly Mowery of Community Wildfire Planning Center, regional leaders from across the state discussed pressing issues communities are facing to better adapt to fire, and the best ways state and federal institutions can support progress at the community level.

FIRE ADAPTED COMMUNITIES WORK GROUP

On the FAC Work Group page you’ll find additional news and updates along with resources, Work Group leadership and Partners.

Learn More