Before, during and after a wildland urban interface fire


The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) wants to raise awareness about what wildland urban interface (WUI) fires are and how fire departments can help communities become safer.

Here you will find information about what communities need to know before, during and after a WUI fire. Please share these free outreach materials to help your community prepare to live close to nature.

WUI defined

What is the WUI?

While the WUI is a term commonly known in areas that experience wildfires, it may not be common to your fire department.

The wildland urban interface is an area where human-made structures and infrastructure (e.g., cell towers, schools, water supply facilities, etc.) are in or adjacent to areas prone to wildfire.

You may believe that you don’t have a WUI problem, and that WUI fires only occur in western states, but here are the facts:

More than 46 million residences in 70,000 communities in the United States are at risk for WUI fires.

The WUI area continues to grow by approximately two million acres per year.

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security


States with the greatest number of houses in the WUI:

  1. 1. California
  2. 2. Texas
  3. 3. Florida
  4. 4. North Carolina
  5. 5. Pennsylvania

Number of houses in the WUI relative to the total houses in the state* (%)

wui map wui map wui map wui map

*For states in the conterminous United States.

Source: U.S. Forest Service PDF 31 MB

As the WUI continues to grow, these fires will become an increasing problem for fire departments across the country.

In your area, you may have brush fires, grass fires, forest fires or outdoor fires. These fires can have the same impact when they occur close to homes, neighborhoods and communities. Communities need to understand the risks and make changes to their environments to make them less susceptible to fire.

Before

What do communities need to know before a wildland fire?

Teach your community to create defensible space.

They need to keep the first five feet of their homes clear of any flammables such as woodpiles, wood mulch, dead vegetation, pine straw and manmade trash. Remind them to clean their gutters and underneath decks.

Talk to them about creating a family evacuation and communication plan.

Just like their home fire escape plan, they need to think about older adults, people with mobility and functional needs, their pets, and farm animals. Helping them to make plans before the fire will ease frustration and stress when they do need to execute their plans.


Messages to share

Social card

Post this card on your social channels and include your own content to reinforce the message.

prepare for wildfire

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Protect Your Home and Community from Wildfire PDF ~700 KB

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protect your home and community from wildfire

This flyer provides tips to help homeowners prepare for the wildfire season. Customize this handout with your organization’s logo.

Wildfires: Protect Yourself and Your Community PDF ~3.5 MB

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Image of wildfire publication

This double-sided one-page flyer contains safety tips for protecting homes from wildfires. A space is provided for you to easily include your organization's logo.

This pictographs shows you to keep trees and branches away from your home.

Trim branches that overhang your home, porch and deck. Keep plants, trees and branches at least 5 feet from your home.

View and download the pictograph

This pictographs shows a man trimming tree branches away from his home.

Clear leaves and branches from roofs, gutters, porches and decks. Remove dead plants, leaves and branches at least 10 feet from your home.

View and download the pictograph

During

What do communities need to do during a wildland fire?

Talk to your community about evacuation orders and instructions.

Let people know how important it is to be ready to leave when asked to.

Take time to explain how fire moves.

Wildfire can be unpredictable due to changing weather conditions, topography, and type and condition of local vegetation. Remind community members that if they smell smoke or feel afraid, to get out and don’t wait for an official evacuation notice.


Messages to share

Wildfire Evacuation

Download the flyer PDF 518 KB

wildfire evacuation

This flyer provides tips for homeowners to follow when evacuating from a wildfire. Customize this handout with your organization’s logo.

Post these cards to your social channels and add your own content to support the messages.

After

What do communities need to do after a wildland fire?

After a fire, everyone is anxious to return to their homes and assess the damage. Talk to your communities about the importance of waiting to return until local officials have said it is safe.

There will be hot ash, charred trees, smoldering debris and live embers. The ground near their property may contain debris that is hot or smoldering and can burn them, their loved ones, pets and livestock. Water may not be safe to drink.


Messages to share

Post these cards to your social channels and include your own content to reinforce the messages.

Become fire-adapted

Fire-adapted communities make the difference.

Teach your community that when each resident makes their home safer, the community as a whole is safer. Many communities have survived a wildfire event because of their efforts to prepare in advance, which also makes it safer for responding fire departments.

Encourage community members to:

Rake and remove pine needles and dry leaves within a minimum of 3 to 5 feet of a home’s foundation, keeping a 30-foot distance around the home. Dispose of collected debris in an appropriate manner.
Clean pine needles from roof and gutters.
Get out a measuring tape and see how close wood piles are located to the home. If closer than 30 feet, inform homeowners they need to be relocated and moved at least 30 feet away from structures.
Sweep porches and decks to clear them of leaves and pine needles. Rake under decks, porches, and around sheds and play structures.
Mow grasses to a height of four inches or less.
Remove items stored under decks and porches and relocate them to a shed or a storage locker. Gasoline cans and portable propane tanks should never be stored indoors. Locate them away from the home.

Until the threat from COVID-19 passes, fire departments should encourage homeowners to work individually on improving home safety until it is safe to work together again on wildfire community projects. Projects to raise awareness PDF 2.3 MB about what wildfire is and what each home can do before, during and after a wildfire can be big or small, depending on the size of your community and its risks.