AUTHOR: Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan

Another Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Is in the Books

On Saturday, May 6, communities across the country came together in different ways to get ready for wildfires. Some focused on outreach, hosting wildfire education or safety days, sharing information, and creating a space to ask questions and get advice. Other communities organized work projects and hosted potlucks to celebrate their hard work. No matter how you participated, we applaud your efforts and encourage you to keep it going!   On this year’s Wildfire Prep Day, I had the opportunity to visit Reflection Lake, a Firewise USA® and Wildfire Ready Neighbors community located in eastern Washington, a little north of Spokane. While the weather was a little gloomy—overcast with intervals of rain—spirits were high.    IN HIGH SPIRITS  Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan (right), who manages the Firewise USA® program at NFPA®, joined community leaders in Reflection Lake, Washington, Saturday, May 6, as the community celebrated Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.  Photo by Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan   The community had a variety of things going on. Some people cleaned up pine needles and other debris in parks or on lakefront areas. There was a large group of people feeding a burn pile near a beach where trees had been dropped, clearing out an access road and removing a hazard below homes (all local burn regulations were followed). A couple of residents helped a neighbor by cutting up and removing trees that had been dropped and that the homeowner couldn’t clean up.   During the tour conducted by my hosts, we encountered other homeowners who were inspired by the organized Prep Day activities to clean up their properties, raking needles and leaves, pruning trees, and picking up downed debris. Thanks to a grant provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WA DNR), the community had brought in two roll-off dumpsters—one for garbage and one for green waste, making it easier for folks to act.   It was so nice to meet with different community members and hear about the support they get from Firewise USA and WA DNR, and what it means to them.  There was a lot of pride—rightfully so—in the different projects they’ve completed over the past five years and hopefulness in moving forward.    READYING REFLECTION LAKE  Reflection Lake residents marked Wildfire Prep Day 2023 in part by clearing and burning debris.  Photo by Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan   Like so many communities across the country, Reflection Lake is trying to change a community that was built many years ago, without wildfire in mind. Leveraging their funds with grants from DNR, they have removed abandoned structures that presented a hazard, opened up access roads for responders, thinned out tree stands, and pushed homeowners to take actions on their homes and property. I look forward to hearing more as they continue on their wildfire journey and hope to visit again. It was such a beautiful area.   While Wildfire Community Preparedness Day 2023 is officially over, the need for action remains. Wildfires can happen at any time and communities need to stay ready.  Use the resources available for free on to guide your individual and community risk reduction strategies year round.

Take Your Community Through the Wildfire Risk Assessment Process

Firewise USA® sites across the country are working hard to improve the resistance of homes and properties within their boundaries to embers and small surface fires that can spread from a wildfire. But how do they know what messages to focus on in their outreach to community members? How do they decide which projects to prioritize? Completing a community wildfire risk assessment is one of the most important steps in the Firewise USA recognition process. The assessment serves as a tool to help residents gain an understanding of their community’s strengths and vulnerabilities by uncovering the conditions of homes and the corresponding home ignition zones within that community. Ultimately, the completion of a community wildfire risk assessment helps communities understand their wildfire risk so that they can start to engage in risk reduction efforts. An image from the Community Wildfire Risk Assessment Tutorial from NFPA shows an example of property strengths and property vulnerabilities.    The recommendations provided by the completed assessment will be the board’s or committee’s primary tool in determining the action priorities within the site’s boundaries. Luckily, the Community Wildfire Risk Assessment Tutorial from NFPA® makes starting the community wildfire risk assessment process easy. The free online tutorial walks people through the risk assessment process. Individuals who complete this tutorial will be able to: ·       Describe how fire spreads throughout a community ·       Explain how homes typically ignite from embers and low-flame surface fires ·       Identify strengths and vulnerabilities of homes and surrounding landscapes ·       Use those skills to complete their own community risk assessment ·       Develop a prioritized, multi-year action plan to reduce the community’s risk from wildfire Complete the tutorial today and help your community get started on its wildfire preparedness journey.

Firewise USA Reaches New Milestones in 2022

Like many of you, I’m looking forward to what 2023 will bring. It’s going to be a busy year for those living in wildfire prone areas and for the practitioners who support them. But before shutting the door on 2022, I wanted to take a moment to share the outstanding achievements of communities participating in the Firewise USA® program. Hopefully, others are as inspired as I am by the dedication of these people to acknowledge the risk in their communities and to take wildfire safety into their own hands.   Overall, it was a very busy and productive year for Firewise USA participants and supporters. California achieved multiple milestones, reaching 500 communities early in the year and ending the year with over 600. Minnesota, a longstanding supporter of the program, invested in new government employees, including a state liaison who has worked to re-engage with communities that left the Firewise USA program in 2021. We also saw a push in Nevada with a new state liaison who helped bring on 22 new communities in 2022. Across the country, we saw new and existing participants embrace wildfire risk reduction as a way of living.     2022 Participation by the Numbers Total number of active Firewise USA sites at the end of 2022: 2,076 (our first time above 2,000!) Number of new Firewise sites in 2022: 285 (the largest number of new sites in one year so far!) Top states for growth: California, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona rounded out the top-five states for growth in 2022. In the past five years, California, in particular, has more than quadrupled its site number, from 137 in 2017 to 624 in 2022. Total number of volunteer hours worked: 2.2 million, with almost 75 percent of those hours worked at the home and home-ignition-zone levels. Focusing on these areas is critical to reducing home vulnerability to embers from a fire. Total funds invested: Over $90 million was spent on chippers, contractors, home improvement costs, and more in 2022. Combined, the volunteer hours and money spent equals over $154 million invested in making these communities more resilient to wildfires. This is amazing!  We at NFPA thank all of you and your local supporting partners for your acknowledgement of the role you play in wildfire preparedness and commitment you show to being a part of the solution. Congratulations on your continued forward progress. We cannot wait to see what you accomplish in 2023! Is your community ready to take the next step on its wildfire journey? Visit to learn how you can become a Firewise USA site.
Hands holding a house

Spring in to action: financial preparedness for wildfire

As we work through the last month of spring, NFPA wants to make sure you are ready for wildfires.  There are many actions when it comes to preparation ahead of a wildfire, one important step that often gets overlooked is financial preparedness. Homeowners and renters need to have property insurance in place to help recover from a wildfire or other disaster. Recent wildfire losses are highlighting a real problem of underinsurance. According to a posting on, "Most homes are underinsured. Nationwide estimates that about two-thirds of American homes are underinsured. Some homes are underinsured by at least 60 percent and the average is about 22 percent. CoreLogic estimates that three out of five American homes are underinsured by an average of 20 percent." This means that when a loss from wildfire or other disaster occurs, much of the repair or rebuild cost will fall on the homeowner as an out-of-pocket expense. To ensure your coverage is update to-date, our friends at American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) recommend doing the following each year: Update your policy after remodels or home improvements. Ask if your policy has coverages for three key things to prevent underinsurance: Extended replacement cost; Building code upgrade coverage; and Annual inflation adjustment. Be sure your policy reflects the correct square footage, number of bedrooms / bathrooms and doors and windows. Make sure your policy reflects your home’s finishes like granite countertops or hardwood floors. Renters need property insurance too. Consider bundling renters’ insurance with your auto coverage. Add comprehensive coverage to your auto policy to protect car in a wildfire Another important step to determine if you have enough coverage to replace your possessions is to create a home inventory. This task may seem daunting, especially if you've been in your home for many years, but it can be manageable. Some simple steps from the Insurance Information Institute include: Pick an easy spot to start, an area that is contained such as a small kitchen appliance cabinet or sporting equipment closet List recent purchases Include basic information – where you bought it, make and model, what you paid County clothing by general category Record serial numbers found on major appliances and electronic equipment Check coverage on big ticket items Don't forget off-site items Keep proof of value – sales receipts, purchase contracts, appraisals Don't get overwhelmed – It's better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all When creating your home inventory, embrace technology! Take pictures or videos, back them up digitally. There also many apps available to help organize and store your records. The current wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico remind us that wildfires can occur any time of year when the conditions allow.  Start your financial preparedness now – visit APCIA to download the How to Update Your Insurance and How to Create a Home Inventory tip sheets to guide your annual insurance review.  Share with your friends and family so they can be ready too!
500 Firewise Communities in California

California residents lead the way in Firewise USA

In the years that I've worked with the Firewise USA program, I have been amazed by the commitment of resident leaders and their community members to address wildfire hazards in their area. In the last several years we have seen rapid interest and growth in the program, especially in the west, as a result of the wildfire situation. Rather than watching fire happen to them, individuals are taking action ahead of time to improve the condition of their home and immediate surrounding property, to be more resistant to the threat of embers and surface flames from a wildfire. It truly is astounding and I'd like to take a moment to recognize an awesome achievement. Earlier in March I had the opportunity to on-board Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County, the 500th community in California…that's right, 500th! And as of writing this blog, the number of communities in good standing in California has grown to 513.   Since the beginning of 2020 California has seen a groundswell in participation, with much of the effort really occurring at the grass roots level.  While state and local partners are supporting communities, resident leaders are truly driving the charge. Firewise USA sites are guiding and mentoring each other through the recognition process, forming coalitions to learn from each other and leverage mitigation efforts, and even supporting policy changes at the local and state level to help regulate building and vegetation management.    We applaud the residents of California for stepping up and doing their part to address wildfire. A big thank you to CAL FIRE, the host of the state liaison to NFPA, and the network of local fire safe councils, fire departments, and other partners that support these communities. We look forward to seeing the great work continue.   Is your community ready to take action? Visit  to learn more about how to organize your community and take steps towards increasing your chances of withstanding a wildfire.
A wildfire burning at night

Maintaining vigilance through the 2021 fire year

The 2021 fire year is halfway through, and it has been a busy one so far. As of today, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reports over 32,000 fires had been reported, burning over 1.6 million acres.  Communities have been threatened and homes have been lost. Looking forward, the National Interagency Fire Center’s (NIFC’s) Predictive Services newest National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for July, August, September, and October 2021 shows much of the west above normal wildfire potential. This is setting up for a volatile situation. While the main objective of NIFC’s outlook is to improve information to fire management decision makers for proactive wildland fire management, thus better protecting lives and property, reducing firefighting costs and improving firefighting efficiency; it can also be of use to wildfire preparedness practitioners and residents. The outlook reminds us to be proactive, dedicating time throughout the year to improve your home's chances of withstanding a wildfire. Here are a few actions you can take: Clean out leaves, needles, and other debris from your roof and gutters Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches. Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating Create space between plants, trees and shrubs in the 5-30 foot zone from the house, limit to small clusters of a few of each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape. For more ideas on what steps to take around your home and property visit our Preparing Homes for Wildfires Page.  You can also order a package of our Reducing Wildfire Risks in the Home Ignition Zones Poster checklists to share with your friends and neighbors.
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