Understand what communities can do before a wildfire to make it less susceptible and prepare for evacuation and safety protocols.
Community maintenance and safety measures
Landscape treatments: Vegetation management is a critical component of wildfire mitigation. Prioritize the removal of combustible material locally wherever possible. This includes forests and regularly removing dead plants, leaves, and pine needles. Dead trees, bushes, etc. are the fuel that allows a wildfire to spread. Embers blown from a fire can travel for hundreds of yards and quickly spark a new fire if it lands on dry material. Prolonged drought and higher-than-average temperatures brought on by climate change have produced dangerously dry conditions across much of the western states. Prioritize the removal of combustible material locally wherever possible, including forests and regularly remove dead plants, leaves, and pine needles. You can also create incentives for fuel reduction on private lands.
Critical infrastructure protection: Ensure any critical infrastructure maintains fire-safe building standards. Keep fuels away and create fire break areas where possible.
Regulations and Policy: Set building standards and regulations to help mitigate fire damage in the future. Do not allow building in areas with high wildfire risk.
An educated community is a safe community
Prevention: Public education on the causes of wildfires can help prevent them. Nationally, nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans. The main causes of human-ignited wildfires are campfires left unattended, debris burning, hot ashes and BBQ coals, and vehicles or equipment that throw sparks. Communications campaigns and signs in areas prone to wildfires can help drive awareness of the risks.
Resident mitigation: Homeowners and business owners can be allies in wildfire risk reduction. Municipalities should use every opportunity to inform and train constituents and property owners on best practices to mitigate all forms of fire hazards. Outreach programs should encourage property owners to take steps to take physical mitigation steps, from regularly clearing gutters, to intentionally creating defensible spaces - fire-resistant landscape buffers around their buildings. Combustible materials such as firewood piles and trash bins should be covered with wire mesh to reduce fire risk
Community engagement: The local government needs to have a game plan in place, but so should your constituents. So community members can mitigate their risk before disaster, and can recover efficiently should one strike. Offer regular training and resources on how to prepare and respond to a wildfire
Evacuation planning: How can you contact constituents quickly when a wildfire strikes? What wildfire evacuation routes are established? Wildfires can be unpredictable and fast-moving. Considering questions like these and educating constituents early and often will ensure that you and your residents are not caught off guard. Constituents should be prepared to evacuate their homes and businesses at a moment's notice and be made aware of pre-established evacuation routes and emergency shelter locations through a public-facing GIS and other regular communication.
Additional community tools can be found at wildfirerisk.org