What is NFPA Firewise USA®?
The FireWise USA, a program of the National Fire Protection Association, encourages local solutions for safety by involving homeowners in taking individual responsibility for preparing their homes from wildfire risk. The program provides resources to help homeowners learn how to adapt to living with wildfire while encouraging and empowering neighbors to work together to take action now to reduce their wildfire risk and prevent losses.
Using a six-step process, communities develop an action plan that guides their residential risk reduction activities, while engaging and encouraging their neighbors to become active participants in building a safer place to live. Neighborhoods throughout northern California and the United States are embracing the benefits of becoming a recognized NFPA Firewise USA® Community.
The six steps of NFPA Firewise USA® recognition:
- Form a NFPA Firewise USA® board or committee.
- Obtain a wildfire risk assessment for your neighborhood or community.*
- Create an Action Plan.
- Conduct educational outreach in your neighborhood.
- Invest a minimum of one hour per dwelling in risk-reduction actions annually.
- Submit an application to your state Firewise liaison.
*The assessment is a written document outlining hazards and risk related to wildfires where you live. This will be prepared by your Firewise committee in cooperation with the Monterey County Regional Fire District. You will create an action plan based on the assessment.
The NFPA Firewise USA® program is co-sponsored by the NFPA, USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.
Improving Your Properties Wildland Fire Hazard Rating
Three factors influence the spread of a wildfire. They are topography, weather and fuels. Fuels include vegetation (living and dead) and structures (including roofs, siding, and decks).
Statistics and visits to past wildland fire sites show that modifying fuels have a positive effect on a home’s ability to survive a wildfire! It is impossible to guarantee a home will survive a wildfire but by incorporating fuel mitigation strategies and vegetation management techniques; hardening the structure; and performing annual maintenance, your home’s chance of survival is significantly increased. These preventive measures are important to provided an increased level of protection during the time it takes a wildfire to pass.
The Wildland-Urban Interface is defined as "a line, area or zone where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels". Homes built in the wildland-urban interface are susceptible to wildland fire. Steep terrain, canyons and ravines, along with critical fire weather, increase the wildland fire potential. The Monterey County Regional Fire District possesses all of these factors.
What can you do to reduce the wildland fire risk?
The following actions, along with regular maintenance, will provide a safer wildland fire environment and you will be Sharing The Responsibility for your wildland fire safety.
- A home’s roof is the most vulnerable part of the structure during a fire. In an effort to reduce fire danger, Monterey County has a code for roofing that requires a Class A roof in very high hazard severity zones and a Class B roof in all other areas.
- Creating a defensible space around your home will enhance your structure’s ability to survive a wildland fire. A defensible space is an area free of seasonal vegetation growth, fire resistive planting and fire safe plant maintenance. Public Resource Code 4291 requires a defensible space of 100 feet from the structure but not to exceed beyond the property line.
- Provide a spark arrester for chimneys
- Make sure the fire department can see your address (both day and night) from the main street in front of your home.
- If access to your property is over a bridge, make sure that the bridge meets access requirements. This means the bridge must support 40 tons, handling the weight of the fire apparatus.
- Provide protection for balconies and decks. Do not store items under the deck or balcony; remove vegetation from under the structure; construct decks of ignition resistive materials and provide an enclosure around the deck or balcony that resists the intrusion of flame and embers.
- Provide protection from the intrusion of embers and flame into eave and vent openings in the structure. This may include the use of fire resistive screening (screen openings no larger than ¼ inch) over vents and eave openings.
Keep your family fire safe by having an escape plan. Make sure all members of your family and anyone that may be caring for family members know the evacuation routes from your home.