By: Rick Brown
Wildfire Mitigation Specialist

The Firewise USA® program has received a lot of attention in East Tennessee after the devastating wildfires of 2016. The program is a major component in helping to make our communities safer by reducing hazardous vegetation, improving the fire resiliency of our homes, businesses and other structures, improving access, and other mitigation measures. The Fire Adapted Communities (FAC) concept takes this several steps further. The FAC model looks beyond just trying to reduce fire hazards in our individual homes and communities, and incorporates a much broader array of components. FAC accepts fire as a risk to the community, and uses a collaborative approach to involve everyone, including residents, businesses, local, state, and government officials, non-government organizations, utilities, and other community assets. Each of these entities has a role in reducing the threats of wildfire in the community before fire happens. FAC also incorporates a well-rounded approach to keeping the entire community safe from fire, and includes the following components:

  • Firewise USA® – involving home and property owners within the community to reduce fire hazards,
  • Ignition-Resistant Structures – involving builders, homeowners, community managers, planners, and inspectors to facilitate fire resistant construction materials and methods,
  • Internal Safety Zones – develops safety zones within the community where people can be safe if a fire does occur,
  • Land Management – local, state, and federal agencies, and private landowners and organizations that manage land as parks, forests or other agricultural or public interest use best management practices that take into account fire prevention concerns,
  • Community Fuel Breaks – fuel breaks around communities are considered and/or utilized to provide a physical break in fuel between wildland and the urban environment,
  • Ready-Set-Go Program – promotes preparedness, awareness, ,evacuation for wildland fire emergencies,
  • Evacuation Planning – work with all partner agencies and organizations to facilitate planning for mass evacuation and sheltering in the event of an emergency,
  • Codes and Ordinances – consider the use of codes and ordinances, through city, county, home owners associations, and other governing bodies to improve fire safety within the community,
  • Prevention Education – an active program to promote fire preparedness education, teaching homeowners to prepare their property and their community how to prevent, prepare, and adapt well in advance of a fire event,
  • Incident Response Capabilities – determines what resources fire organizations in the community, including cooperating agencies are capable of providing in the event of a fire,
  • Cooperative Fire Agreements – develops mutual aid agreements with all local, state, federal and non-government organizations to aid in protection, response, and recovery from wildfires,
  • Post Fire Recovery – includes a comprehensive action plan that takes into account what the recovery needs of the community in the event of a devastating fire, and
  • Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) – Involves an comprehensive plan for the community to reduce hazards and threats of wildfire in the community.

These FAC components will be explored in more detail in future issues of this newsletter. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry also has excellent publications on FAC. Contact your local Forestry Office for details.