Stepping up to the challenge - Firewise USA participation increases along with more rigorous criteria
It’s never been more important for communities to engage in wildfire risk reduction around homes and neighborhoods. During 2021, participation in the only nationally available, standardized, and documented community wildfire risk reduction program, Firewise USA® increased to 1,839 sites in 43 states. Thirteen percent of the current total are new to the program; more than half of participating sites have been working on wildfire risk reduction for five or more years.
Wildfire risk reduction is an ongoing process and must be addressed continuously due to the dynamic nature of wildfire risk. NFPA staff are especially proud of all communities that stepped up to the challenge of new criteria meant to ensure the continued high quality of the Firewise USA program. Behind every smiling face holding a Firewise sign, there is a tremendous amount of work and coordination that happens each year. Let’s take a look at the numbers!
There are nearly 1.5 million people living in Firewise USA® sites around the country, working on wildfire risk reduction for 645,874 dwelling units. During 2021, these sites:
- Invested $133.9 million in wildfire risk reduction work
- Logged 2 million volunteer hours
- Removed 2.49 million cubic yards of flammable vegetation
The volunteer hour for 2021 was valued at $27.20, and participating sites must accomplish the equivalent of one hour of work for every dwelling unit (home) in the community. They can achieve this through documenting work hours, cash spent, or in-kind services received. Most encouraging in the numbers was the significant effort to make changes to homes and home landscapes within 100 feet of the structure – modifying the Home Ignition Zone to reduce vulnerability to flames and embers. A solid 70% of the documented work was in the Home Ignition Zone last year, up from about 65% in 2020.
The $133.9 million in risk reduction investment was split roughly 60/40 between volunteer hours vs. cash or in-kind. Nearly half of the annual cash investment in risk reduction were costs for professionals to do the work needed. Nearly a quarter of these investments involved home improvements to reduce ignition potential.
While growth has been significant in the West, a number of states that usually aren’t associated with wildfire risk show strong commitment to wildfire risk reduction when we look at the top 10 states for Firewise participation.
In 2022, NFPA will be creating more tools to help interested communities work through the Firewise process more readily. Stay tuned for what’s new as the year goes on!