Getting Ready for the 2023 Firewise USA Renewal Application

Did you know that being recognized by the Firewise USA® program requires annual commitment to action? Each year, participating communities engage in educational outreach and science-based risk reduction within their boundaries. This annual work improves the overall condition of homes and properties, increasing the odds of withstanding a wildfire.    Firewise USA sites share the work they’ve done through the annual renewal application, found on the Firewise USA portal. This sharing keeps them in good standing for the next calendar year. For 2023, renewal applications are due Friday, November 17, and can be started now. (Please note: Sites that became recognized for the first time in 2023 do not need to renew this year.)   Ready to start your renewal application? Here are some tips to help you along the process.   Logging into the system The renewal application is online, and you will need to log in to get to your community profile. Make sure you can log in at If you forget your password, you can use the “Forgot your password?” link underneath the log-in button—make sure to check your spam or junk folder if you don't receive anything. If you are continuing to have trouble, email us at Filling out the application Contact information: Make sure we have the correct physical address for shipping any program materials to. Typically, this is updated when a new resident leader takes over guiding a community. Overview: This section allows for a couple of important updates. Adding another resident leader: Have someone else who wants to help share the job of resident leader? You can give them access to the portal through the “Manage Contacts” button. You can add a resident leader by inputting their email address. If they don’t already have an account set up, the system will send them an email inviting them to set up an account. Updating dwelling unit count: Did your community expand or shrink its footprint?  Update your dwelling unit count to accurately reflect your community. This is important for risk reduction investment reporting and for your community boundary. Please update your boundary map and upload it in the risk assessment step. Risk assessment and action plans: If your documents are current, you can import them to the application by clicking “Reuse current risk assessment” or “Reuse current action plan.” The system will remind you if it is time to update them. Learn more about updating your action plan in our 2021 renewal blog. Want or need to update your risk assessment? We have an online tutorial and template to help you better understand the purpose and how to go about it. Reporting actions: The next three sections are where you tell us about your community’s achievements. Educational outreach: This can be done in a variety of ways—virtual meetings or trainings, in person, digital outreach, print, workshop … the list goes on and on. The key point is that information is shared with your community members around wildfire safety and what actions they can take individually, and how your Firewise committee is guiding overall community efforts. Vegetation removal: We want to hear what you took out of your community. This section has an estimation tool to help calculate cubic yards removed. You can also tell us about any prescribed fire events or altering of fuel (chipping and scattering or other similar activities) that took place. Risk reduction investment: The cornerstone of the Firewise USA program is residents taking action and doing the work to improve the condition of their homes and properties against wildfire. 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, for instance, then 100 hours of work—or the monetary equivalent—need to be completed for the year. Review and submit: The final step allows you to review everything and ensure you have met the requirements. If you are short on the investment, that section will be red. If you have met the hours worked or monetary investment, it will be green. If your application is good to go, check the acknowledgement box at the bottom and click on the green “Submit” button. Application submitted!   Once your application is submitted, it will be added to the queue for review. State liaisons and NFPA staff will read through applications to ensure all criteria are met. If there are any questions or concerns, they will send the application back with a note on what steps to take. If everything looks good, they will approve it and the system will send an email letting you know. The email will include a link to your newly updated Certificate of Recognition.   If you run into any issues along the way or have questions, please send them to   We appreciate the commitment that all of you have shown to living with wildfire and the proactive steps you are taking to improve safety. We look forward to learning about what you achieved in 2023 and sharing your efforts to inspire others.

California Designates its 700th Firewise USA Community

Upper Mark West Fire Safe Council in Sonoma County, California, was recently designated a Firewise USA® community, representing the 700th Firewise community to be recognized in the state. According to Chief Daniel Berlant, deputy director of CAL FIRE – Office of the State Fire Marshal’s Community Wildfire Preparedness and Mitigation Division, reaching the 700th community came just eight months after celebrating the 600th community milestone.   The Upper Mark West community is extremely active, regularly hosting hands-on fire prevention workshops, community work parties, and gatherings to promote fire safety education materials. They also put out a regular newsletter. In addition, the community has been successful in its grant writing efforts. They are currently in the middle of completing a CAL FIRE planning grant, which addresses large-scale fuel reduction projects, along with a county grant to do roadside fuel reduction project. RELATED: NFPA Urges Action to Mitigate Wildfire Risks Amid Unprecedented Destruction   It’s incredibly exciting to see the momentum around Firewise continue to build and grow throughout California, which holds more than 30 percent of all Firewise USA communities nationwide.   The efforts of Upper Mark West in coordination with the other hundreds of Firewise communities throughout the state will collectively help reduce the potentially devastating impact of future wildfires. I hope this momentum and enthusiasm will motivate not only more communities in California to participate, but also those in the many other states that face the real threat of wildfire. Most recently, the devastation that occurred in Maui reinforces just how important it is to be as prepared as possible. Firewise can play a critical role in those efforts.    The Firewise USA recognition program is administered by NFPA. Individuals and communities participate on a voluntary basis and are recognized as a Firewise community upon the completion of certain tasks, including forming a committee of residents and other wildfire stakeholders, obtaining a written risk assessment form, developing a 3-year action plan for the community, hosting an outreach event, and ultimately completing their application to become a Firewise community.    To learn the steps and begin the process of becoming a Firewise community, visit
HIZ immediate zone with attribute

Clearing the five-foot zone around your home is critical to safety from wildfires

At NFPA, we spend a lot of time working to better educate residents about ways to reduce their homes’ risk to wildfire. But in that process, as we frequently speak of the home ignition zone and what actions to take, we sometimes forget that this entire concept may be completely new to some people.  With that in mind I'd like to review what the home ignition zone is and its first component - the home and the immediate area. The Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) - a concept coined by retired USFS researcher Dr. Jack Cohen – centers around the concept that the condition of the home (what it is made of and its state of repair) and the vegetation surrounding it, out to 100 feet, have the biggest influence on whether or not a home will ignite from a wildfire. Original research by Dr. Cohen and additional research from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) show that the home and the first 0 to 5 feet around the structure, known as the immediate zone or noncombustible zone, has the greatest impact on your risk and should be your starting point for reducing risks. The HIZ is critical due to the primary source of home ignition: embers and small surface flames. The goal is to keep embers out, creating a 5-foot buffer where they or surface fires can't reach your house. Clean up any debris, such as leaves, needles, and branches, from your roof and gutters. Check the 0-5 feet around the base of your home and attached structures, such as a deck, for any debris. Keep this area clear and well-maintained. Replace wood mulch products with non-combustible alternatives, such as crushed stone/gravel options. Create a walkway with non-combustible materials like concrete or pavers. If there are trees or shrubs next to the home, make sure they aren't overhanging the roof, gutters, or chimneys. Keep shrubs trimmed and trees pruned. For more tips and resources that you can share with family, friends, and neighbors, visit our Preparing Homes for Wildfire page. By spending a little time on these types of projects, you can greatly improve the chances of your home withstanding a wildfire, gaining greater peace of mind in the process.

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.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Is Almost Here. Get Ready for May 6!

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day (Prep Day) is just around the corner! What projects are you planning to help prepare your home and neighborhood for wildfire? For the ninth consecutive year, NFPA® and campaign cosponsor State Farm® encourage everyone to join together on the first Saturday in May for events and activities that can help make homes and communities safer from wildfire. On Saturday, May 6, 2023, people from across the United States and Canada will take part in projects that increase their safety from wildfire. Take the opportunity to defend your home ignition zone by taking simple, low-cost steps along with your neighbors.   NFPA and State Farm make it easier with a Prep Day toolkit. The toolkit is a wealth of project ideas, safety tips, promotional material, and more. While project awards are not part of the 2023 campaign, Prep Day activities bring tremendous value to your community. For instance, Prep Day work can help Firewise USA® sites meet their annual investment criteria for volunteer hours. Engaging in Prep Day can be an important first step for people who want to be safer from wildfire but aren’t sure how to begin. Use the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Toolkit, videos, social media cards, and other wildfire safety resources at Share them with others in your community to not only make a difference in safety on Prep Day, but to make a difference all through the year as well.
A wildfire is shown burning below an airplane

Learn How Wildfire Preparedness Makes a Difference! Join Us for a Facebook Live Event April 6

Let NFPA® help you get ready for Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 6 by attending a Facebook Live event next Thursday, April 6, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. I will be hosting along with our special guest, Drake Carroll (pictured at right) from the South Carolina Forestry Commission. Drake is the state’s wildfire prevention and Firewise USA® coordinator and has been working in forestry and fire since graduating from Clemson University more than 15 years ago. Most importantly, Drake has spent years working closely with communities to help them prepare for wildfire. He has helpful information to share with you about the lessons he has learned. During the event, you’ll hear from Drake about examples of wildfire preparedness activities you can do in your area on May 6. He’ll highlight the important partnerships that help the small team at his agency reach neighborhood residents. And he’ll share the story of a wildfire that occurred last spring, and how preparedness is helping to protect not only homes, but also an important community institution and the lives and safety of residents and visitors. You’ll be able to ask questions and get answers in the chat during the live event, and to review the recording after the presentation ends. It’s easy to join the event, either through Facebook’s registration process where you indicate you are “Going,” or by using our Zoom registration link. Whichever way you register, you’re sure to get valuable information and insights about wildfire preparedness that can help you have a Prep Day activity on May 6 that makes a real difference.

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.
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