No one knows a community better than the people who live in it. Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) are based on this understanding: they put the task of wildfire risk reduction in local hands.
Since 2003, the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) has worked to reduce the threat and damage caused by wildfires. It allows timber harvesting on National Forest land to thin and clear flammable vegetation; aims to get rid of hazardous fuels in National Forests; and also works towards improved firefighting and other risk mitigation efforts.
Establishing CWPPs is just one of these efforts, which empowers communities threatened by forest fires. The initiative authorizes communities living in the “wildland-urban interface” (WUI), or communities near wilderness areas, to create CWPPs for thinning and managing nearby forest areas. This prevents and reduces the spread of fires — ultimately reducing the risks of costly damage, injury, or death.
What is a CWPP?
A CWPP is a documented plan for protecting your community from wildfire. The plan identifies local wildfire threat risks in and around the community, defines what needs to be done to fix them, and proposes an action plan to implement any changes. Each CWPP is made up of two main parts: a report and a map.
- The report includes details about the community itself, a goal for the plan, a summary of any existing wildfire threat risks, a plan to address the risks, and the cost for the plan.
- The map covers details such as land ownership, pinpoints hazards like fuel types, and defines treatment areas.
While the HFRA called for the establishment of CWPPs more than 15 years ago, you might be surprised to learn your community may not have one yet. It’s estimated that less than 10% of at-risk communities have a CWPP.
If you’re wondering if your community already has one, contact your local government to see if there’s one in place — or one in the works. If there’s a CWPP in progress, see if you can get involved in establishing the plan.
Why It’s Important to Have a CWPP
When you look at communities that do have CWPPs, the benefits to creating a protection plan are clear. For starters, these plans mitigate risk and damage — in one case, around 80% of at-risk homes in Colorado were saved when a wildfire struck, due to planning and mitigation work done beforehand.
Having a CWPP also qualifies your community for priority funding for hazardous fuels reduction projects carried out under the Healthy Forests Initiative. Ultimately, a CWPP ensures that your community has a process in place that’s appropriate and specific to your particular locale. It acknowledges that those who live in a region often have the most experience and best solutions for wildfire threat risk reduction.
How to Set Up a CWPP
To set up a CWPP in your community, it’s necessary to involve three different groups: the local government, the local fire department, and the state entity responsible for forest management. You need input from all three, and eventually, all three need to sign off on the plan.
You can search online to find plenty of guides outlining how to start a CWPP.
There are essentially eight basic steps to setting up a CWPP:
- Get decision makers to come together.
- Involve federal agencies.
- Encourage active involvement from diverse groups.
- Create a local map.
- Complete a community risk assessment.
- Make community priorities and recommendations.
- Develop an action plan to tackle the recommendations.
- Finalize and communicate the plan to all community members.
Get Involved in Protecting Your Community
If your community already has a CWPP in place, or is in the process of creating one, you can get involved by reaching out to your local government or fire department. And, you don’t have to limit yourself to just that — there are many other ways you can help protect your community from wildfires aside from your area’s CWPP.
Keeping your property maintained is one big step in the right direction. Invest in inflammable building materials, and educate yourself and others about any fire-related risks. If you want to make an active difference, consider volunteering to be a wildfire lookout in your area to help prevent the spread of wildfires once they start.
Don’t forget to stock up on the proper residential fire protection equipment at your home. It can be easy to forget about having the right fire safety systems in place until it’s already too late. With the right home firefighting equipment you’ll be able to prevent fires from getting out of control, or from starting in the first place.
Fighting wildfires and preventing harm to properties and lives requires a multifaceted approach; one in which individual residents, local and state organizations, and firefighters all work together to combat the risks and threats of wildfire. A CWPP is just one more way to help keep your community safe when a wildfire strikes.
For more expert tips on wildfire preparedness and safety measures, read our other posts on the National Fire Fighter blog.