Home Hardening Assistance

Department: CAL FIRE/OES

Program Description: California is developing the first home hardening assistance program, designed to help low-income high fire risk communities, collectively achieve home hardening and defensible space. The program is currently funded 75 percent through FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funds and matched 25 percent with state appropriated funds.

Assembly Bill 38, (Wood, 2019) directed the Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to enter into a joint powers agreement (JPA) with the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) to develop and administer the California Wildfire Mitigation Program. The program is designed to encourage cost-effective structure hardening and retrofitting and facilitate vegetation management, the creation and maintenance of defensible space, and other fuel modification activities. The legislation directed the JPA to develop criteria and a scoring methodology to prioritize financial assistance to areas and community based on vulnerability to fire, the impact of future climate risk and factors that lead some populations to experience a greater risk to wildfire, adverse health outcomes, or and inhibited ability to respond to a wildfire, including socioeconomic characteristics of the areas or communities that would be protected by financial assistance. Areas eligible for financial assistance under the CWMP include State Responsibility Areas (SRA) located within any Fire Hazard Severity Zone and Local Responsibility Areas (LRA) located within a very high fire hazard severity zone.

Program Impact: The California Wildfire Mitigation Program is currently in the demonstration phase, being piloted in three select areas, Whitmore in Shasta County, Dulzura in San Diego County and Kelseyville-Riviera in Lake County. New pilot communities are also being considered for Tuolumne and El Dorado Counties. The lessons learned working with these pilot communities under the demonstration phase are being used to refine the program and build the program framework before expanding to additional areas within demonstration counties, and ultimately, across the state.

Resilience in Action: The California Wildfire Mitigation Program Joint Powers Authority has been actively updating the program framework based on lessons learned while working with the initial pilot communities. A wildfire home assessment application and training program has been developed and input from the pilot communities has instigated added features and improvements to the application and training program. The pilot communities have been actively conducting environmental review for their project areas. Procurement procedures for contracting for home retrofitting work are actively being developed. The target time frame for retrofitting the first homes in each of the pilot communities is anticipate for later this year.

Interagency staff from CAL FIRE and Cal OES discussing home hardening needs.