Community Action & Involvement
Wildfires, by definition, are out of any one's control and cross property boundaries at will. For that reason, people must work together and across ownership boundaries to effectively address the risk from wildfire or to recover from it once it occurs.
Fuels reduction, though important at the individual property scale, is most effective when carried out across multiple properties to address the whole 'fireshed'. Upgrading an individual home reduces its ignitability, but it is far less effective than when adjacent homes are also fire resistant.
Working together in a neighborhood, community, and/or region is a key strategy for reducing wildfire risk. In California, we have a number of opportunities and institutions that can help us to work together with others before and after wildfires.
Before the Fire
Communities can work together to become more fire adapted by working with Fire Safe Councils, adopting Firewise standards and/or becoming a Fire Adapted Community, and working with local agencies to do Community Wildfire Protection Planning.
A local Prescribed Burn Association can be a resource for landowners who want to conduct prescribed fire on their property.
During the Fire
While the fire is burning, the primary response will be made by the local, state, and federal agencies tasked with emergency response, including local fire departments, CalFire, Forest Service, or Bureau of Land Management depending on land ownership in the burn area.
The following community organizations are also commonly involved with disaster response:
- Community Emergency Response Teams
- American Red Cross local chapters
- Volunteers from local organizations that may include: the American Humane Society, 4 H and others depending on the community.
After the Fire
Recovery strategies vary depending on the damages caused by wildfire. Again, working together to address these damages and values at risk is more effective than going it alone.
Most damage beyond the home occurs on a landscape scale too large for a single person to tackle on their own. Work with your community to protect your land after a fire:
- Structure loss: When structures have been lost, structure debris must be removed before rebuilding. This is usually coordinated between the insurance provider and local jurisdiction. When large numbers of homes are lost, this debris clearing and rebuilding process is often done by state and local agencies on a neighborhood basis.
- Erosion risk: Often after a wildfire, vegetation is consumed, leaving bare ground vulnerable to erosion. Action may be needed to reduce post-fire erosion risk. Working together with local agencies, such as the local Resource Conservation District can reduce risk for all.
- Neighborhood landscape loss: Working together with neighbors to re-establish a fire resistant and water efficient landscape can lead to a safer and more aesthetically pleasing neighborhood.
- Working landscape loss: Managed agricultural, forest and range lands affected by fire can be restored by owners by individual efforts or, it may be possible to work with a local Resource Conservation District to take recovery actions together.