A traumatic event like a wildfire can have devastating effects on the community. Pre-fire planning — including home hardening and landscape maintenance at the home and in the community — can help reduce the risk of loss from wildfire and help neighborhoods and cities be more resilient after a wildfire.
Communities that complete pre-fire planning usually recover more quickly because they have developed support networks.
The recovery process may take many years. All large-scale wildfires are followed by post-fire flooding that threatens infrastructure, water supplies, homes and businesses. Even residents whose homes survived the wildfire may not be able to safely return for some time or may need to evacuate frequently for several years after the fire.
Helping people recover financially and emotionally
Recovering communities need resources to help them rebuild financially and emotionally. Consider the following steps:
Identify people who may need additional assistance.
Ensure there are adequate housing options. Some residents may have medical needs, pets and livestock, or English may not be their first language. They may also need financial assistance or social services.
Clean up burned properties.
Debris may contain hazardous materials such as asbestos or lead in the ash and remains of burned structures. Local health departments can be a key partner.
Develop a recovery plan for post-fire flooding concerns.
It should identify risks and prioritize mitigation projects to reduce life-safety threats and further damage. Remember to establish rain thresholds for road closures and evacuations. The National Weather Service may be able to assist you.
Address landscape restoration needs in order to prevent further harm to the watershed.
These projects can reduce flooding as well as help to protect water quality.
Repair and maintain infrastructure.
The more quickly damaged infrastructure is repaired, the more quickly life can get back to normal for community members. Remember to inspect other infrastructure that may be subject to flooding like culverts, dams and ponds. They may need to be repaired to reduce the likelihood that they will fail in a flash flood.
Resources to help with the community rebuilding process
- The U.S. Fire Administration's Reimbursement for Firefighting on Federal Property can provide reimbursements for costs if you responded to a fire on federal property.
- The Action, Implementation and Mitigation program can provide technical assistance, mentoring and some funding opportunities for mitigation efforts to be implemented post fire or as the community is rebuilding for the future.
- After the Flames provides resource information on post-fire recovery and provides informational webinars and conferences.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMPG) Post Fire provides funding to implement hazard mitigation measures after major wildfire events following a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) declaration. FEMA’s HMGP Post Fire assists with long-term hazard mitigation planning and projects following an FMAG or presidential major disaster declaration.
- FEMA's Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program provides annual support for states, local communities, tribes and territories as they undertake hazard mitigation projects to reduce their risks to natural hazards.
- The Natural Resource Conservation Service assists with site-specific post-fire efforts through their Emergency Watershed Protection program. The program includes technical and financial support to local governments to implement projects.
- The U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers (USACE) provides a wide range of technical assistance to communities, including modeling and forecasting. Through Silver Jackets, USACE helps communities explore the availability of mitigation grants and determine ways to use them creatively.
Prepare for individual recovery
Individual recovery is easier if community residents prepare. Encourage them to think about the following:
- Work with your insurance company to ensure you have an accurate inventory of your home. Consider taking pictures of your home and its contents. Save this information in a safe place. Make sure you have enough insurance to help you rebuild.
- Develop a personal support network. Identify relatives or friends out of the area who you can stay with temporarily.
- Get involved with local recovery efforts and resources.
The recovery process can be easier and communities can be more resilient with preparation before, during and after a wildfire.
Facebook and Twitter cards provide the opportunity to share a quick message with your audience about what to do after a wildfire.
For more information
- How to create a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Learn about the key components, how a plan can benefit a community at risk from wildfire, and how to create a plan for your community.
- 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.
- Addressing wildland fire challenges with the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. The three strategy goals are resilient landscapes, fire-adapted communities, and safe an effective risk-based wildfire response.
- Include everyone in community wildfire preparedness. Pre-fire planning tips for wildfire to help ensure that your whole community's resilience is considered.
- Doing the little things makes a difference in wildfire safety. Can grass roots fire service-led and community-driven wildfire efforts make a difference in the survival of homes, neighborhoods, cities and firefighters? The answer is a resounding “yes!”
New materials highlight row house firefighting safety
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently released a free fact sheet and poster that highlight tactics for fighting row house fires and areas for potential fire extension.
Considerations and suggested resources to help communities rebuild and individuals to recover after a wildfire.
Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!™
This year's Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 4-10) campaign works to educate everyone about the simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves, and those around them, safe in the kitchen.
Include everyone in community wildfire preparedness
Pre-fire planning tips for wildfire to help ensure that your whole community's resilience is considered.
Preparedness Month and fire safety
Severe weather can happen at any time, in any part of the country. That's why it is important for your community to be ready for severe weather events and to understand the fire risks that can come with them.
Respiratory Protection Week 2020
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has assembled informative webinars and other content to help you make the best decisions about respiratory protection and to keep you safe.
A pictograph is worth a thousand words
Our pictographs can help you reach everyone in your community with fire and life safety messages.
Hurricane Isaias shows why storm fire safety matters
Despite making landfall as a weak Category 1 hurricane, the wind and storm surge from Isaias caused significant fire safety problems for Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.
New graphics highlight wildland firefighter safety messaging
Graphics for wildland firefighters that depict the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders and 18 Watch Out Situations are available for download.
Minimizing the effects of wildfire smoke during COVID-19
Inform your community about these actionable steps they can take to minimize the respiratory effects of wildfire smoke.
Retrofitting homes with lower cost sprinkler technologies
USFA is working with the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute on research to reduce home fire sprinkler retrofit complexities.
Doing the little things makes a difference in wildfire safety
Learn about simple and low-cost actions that homeowners can take to protect their homes from wildfire.
First responders: know your fire investigation role
This year's Arson Awareness Week (May 3-9) highlights the crucial role that first responders can play in a successful fire investigation.
Fire onboard: safety tips for boaters in your community
Resources you can use to make people in boating communities aware of onboard fire dangers and how to prevent boat and marina fires.
WUI fire evacuations: how national address point data helps
A national address point database can be of value to officials during wildfire evacuations by allowing for more precise mapping and improved information sharing.
Mitigating the risk and impact of assaults on EMS responders
The SAVER checklist helps departments assess and implement training, policies and practices to mitigate assaults on EMS responders.
Helping assaulted first responders during legal prosecutions
Recommendations to overcome common obstacles to the legal prosecution of people who assault first responders.
How organizational factors affect firefighter cancer screening
Having two or more health and safety officers influences the availability of firefighter cancer screening.
Teach your community about the dangers of fire
A recent survey shows that many in your community probably don't understand the life-threatening risks from heat and toxic smoke produced in a modern home fire.
Community paramedics helpful in treating home-bound patients
A community paramedicine program, integrated with an advanced illness management program, can be effective in treating frail, older adults in their homes.
Mitigating wildfire vulnerability: one community's success story
Learn how the Montecito Fire Protection District used a socio-ecological mitigation approach to successfully fight the Thomas Fire.
Medal of Valor ceremony recognizes two Kansas firefighters
U.S. Fire Administrator Keith Bryant attended the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor ceremony at the White House on May 22, 2019.
Assessing cardiovascular disease risk with push-ups
Can a simple exercise like a push-up be an inexpensive way for fire departments to assess cardiovascular disease risk in firefighters?
Using nanotechnology to minimize fire damage
Nanotechnology, manufactured at scale and low cost while posing minimal health risks, may potentially point to a future with fewer fires that are less lethal and less damaging.
A better DC hot stick technology is on the way
New tool will help prevent first responder electrical injury.
Takeaways from a hoarding intervention strategy
A recent study of the City of Vancouver’s Hoarding Action Response Team provides key takeaways for fire departments.
Firefighter decon challenges? Try a communication intervention.
Learn about a communication intervention strategy designed by researchers to increase post-fire decontamination behaviors in firefighters.
Firefighter decon challenges: knowledge versus practice
Understanding firefighter beliefs related to decontaminating bunker gear is an essential first step to reduce exposure risks.
Dual dispatch to cardiac arrest: can it save lives?
Dual dispatch of EMT-trained firefighters shortens response time and increases survival chance for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients.
Waking children with maternal voice smoke alarms
A new study from Nationwide Children's Hospital shows that maternal voice smoke alarms are more effective in waking children than conventional tone alarms.
How one homeowner saved his house from the Carr Fire
Learn about wildfire mitigation measures one California homeowner took during construction and maintained over the years to make his home fire-resilient.
EMS Mobile Integrated Health during disaster response
How one community's MIH providers assisted with patient care during severe flooding.
Training helps EMS workers identify human trafficking signs
Learn about the key components of a human trafficking training and awareness program for EMS workers.
Reducing airborne contaminant exposure with fireground tactics
New study provides valuable insights into fireground exposure risks and ways to mitigate them.
Smoke alarm messaging: Facebook ads versus phone calls
Study shows automated calls were more successful than Facebook ads in getting residents to request a free smoke alarm install.
Fire and life safety concerns in peer-to-peer lodging
Fire departments and communities around the U.S. are starting to recognize and address the unique fire safety concerns that peer-to-peer lodgings, like Airbnb, present.
Circuit training impact on volunteer firefighters’ cardiovascular health
About 20 percent of volunteer firefighters meet the VO2 max fitness level recommended by NFPA 1582. So how might volunteer firefighters best improve their cardiovascular fitness? A study published this year explored how circuit training may help.
Mitigating fireground injury risks: Suggested interventions
Firefighting poses many hazards that come in a wide variety of work settings. A recent study focused on the scope and nature of fireground injuries to determine what steps fire departments can take to better mitigate hazards posed by certain risks.
Home fire safety canvassing: Achieving better results
Planning a home canvassing event? These research-based tips can help you to win maximum neighborhood participation.
Firefighter burnout and workplace safety
Are firefighters who show symptoms of burnout less likely to follow safety procedures? A team of researchers recently set out to learn if burnout impacted a firefighter’s ability to follow required safe work practices.
New Firefighter Cancer Registry will help to monitor cancer incidents
The voluntary registry will include the number and type of fires each firefighter attended.
Study reveals successful smoke alarm installation partnership
Find out what happened when Maricopa County, Arizona firefighters partnered with nurses from a home visiting program to get smoke alarms into homes of the “hard-to-reach.”
Fire sprinkler tax incentives for small businesses
Fire service officials: Here’s some news that you can share with local small business owners to encourage them to install fire sprinklers.
EMS prehospital documentation accuracy: Can body-worn cameras help?
This article discusses the results of a pilot study where EMS providers used body-worn cameras to see if they could help to improve the accuracy of their prehospital documentation.
Factors that contribute to preventable firefighter deaths
A recent study highlights the importance of SOPs in preventing firefighter fatalities.
Clear boarding creates a ”no ply“ zone
There’s a new alternative to plywood for boarding up vacant and abandoned buildings that can help prevent arson: clear board.
Clean gear is the new badge of honor
This article looks at firefighter perceptions of dirty gear and how Palm Beach County Fire Rescue promoted organizational resilience to combat the risk of firefighter cancer from dirty gear.
Clean your PPE and skin post-fire to reduce chemical exposure risk
Firefighting activities can lead to chemical contamination. This article presents research findings on cleaning personal protective equipment and skin to reduce chemical exposures.
Transforming cardiac emergency care with drone delivery of AEDs
Preliminary studies suggest that medical drones may make a life-saving difference in providing emergency care to cardiac arrest patients, especially those in a rural setting.
Turnout times: How important is time of day?
Research findings from a recent study into how station design of dormitory location and the time of day of the emergency affect turnout times.
The effect of repeated exposure trauma on firefighters
This article details findings from a research project that studied the impact of repeated exposure trauma on firefighters.
New report offers insights for emergency responders on chlorine releases
Multiagency chlorine release experiments were conducted in part to help emergency responders meet the planning, tactical and operational challenges of a catastrophic Toxic Inhalation Hazard release.