Is reducing wildfire risk just about the homes in a community, or is it more? Are businesses, schools, hospitals, cell towers and water distribution centers immune from the impacts of wildfire?
When assessing a community's assets at risk, you should include public buildings, multiple dwelling units like apartment buildings, and businesses and their owners and managers in the creation of the community's risk assessment and Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
Public buildings and infrastructure are vulnerable
Past fires demonstrate the vulnerability of public buildings and infrastructure. Consider, for example:
- News stories about the harrowing evacuation of the Adventist Health Feather River Hospital, which was destroyed by the Camp Fire in 2018.
- The destruction of the Anova Center for Education, a school for autistic children in Sonoma, California.
- How cell phones did not work during the Camp Fire. The loss of cell towers contributed to poor communication during this wildfire.
These examples highlight the need to include public buildings and infrastructure in all wildfire safety planning.
Preplanning before a wildfire event can help save lives and potentially reduce property loss.
Pre-fire planning tips to make your community more fire adapted
Important wildfire safety plan components
- Reducing the ignition potential of buildings.
- Ensuring that cell towers and water distribution centers have alternate power-supplied generators in the event of a power outage due to a wildfire or other disaster.
- Evaluating evacuation routes to see if there is more than one way out of a community and the condition of the exit routes is good.
- Looking at the conditions of the landscape within and surrounding the community.
Be inclusive when pre-fire planning to help ensure that the whole community's resilience is considered. Inclusivity can also increase the resources and partners in your risk reduction plan.
Pre-Fire Planning to Help Communities Become More Fire Adapted. Contains the illustrated tips displayed below in a handout format.
Protect businesses, public buildings, residents and firefighters from wildfire loss.
Planning before a wildfire occurs ensures that jurisdictions can be more resilient. Hard work by all stakeholders can help a community before, during and after a wildfire.
Each community has its own risks. Use the Community Wildfire Protection Plan template to identify and mitigate these hazards and help communities become more fire adapted.
Collaborate with local, state and federal foresters, park managers or land managing agencies to create healthy forests.
Use nonflammable material, like metal, stone, stucco or brick, for building signs and cladding installed on the outside of the building.
Use hard-wired generators powered by an alternative fuel supply (like propane) for hospitals and water supply systems.
Report any downed power lines, damaged transformers and other distribution infrastructure to your local power utility company.
Mark roads with reflective nonflammable street signs. Create more than one way out of the area and practice evacuations. Create and practice plans for evacuating hospitals, schools and nursing homes.
Clear all debris from hydrants. Install reflective blue dots in the middle of roadways to show the location of the hydrants during smoky wildfire conditions.
Clean leaves, pine needles and anything that can burn from roofs and gutters. This is particularly important on flat-roofed buildings and areas where there are overlapping eaves.
Plant vegetation with high moisture content around buildings. Only use nonflammable materials, like rock, around vegetation. Keep anything that can burn at least 5 feet from buildings. Create defensible space within 100 feet of all buildings.
Seal windows and doors to prevent embers from entering.
Cover vents and openings in the building with mesh no larger than 1/8 inch to prevent embers from entering.
For more information
- International Association of Fire Chiefs. Provides information on pre-fire planning and building community partnerships.
- Fire-Adapted Communities Learn what fire-adapted communities are, where they fit into the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, and how to create one.
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