QUINCY, Mass. – Wildfires that damage homes and businesses are increasing in severity throughout the country, as growth patterns put more homes and neighborhoods in areas naturally prone to fire. While the national Firewise Communities® program has long advocated action in existing communities to minimize fire hazards to homes, its new publication, Safer from the Start: A Guide to Firewise-Friendly Developments, seeks to help create Firewise communities from the ground up.
The guide, now available on the "Resources for the Homeowner" page at www.firewise.org, provides developers of new communities and residents of existing community associations a tool they can use to integrate Firewise concepts into design and development, as well as their covenants, conditions and restrictions and architectural rules.
According to Michele Steinberg with the Firewise program, the idea for the guide came about for two main reasons.
"We were hearing from private developers wanting to know more about how to build Firewise communities and subdivisions - how to design new communities with wildfire in mind," Steinberg said. "At the same time, some existing communities governed by associations were discovering that their master deeds or covenants were restricting the ability of residents to make important Firewise changes to their homes. In some fire-prone communities, residents are prohibited from changing a roof from flammable to nonflammable material, or from removing any vegetation, living or dead, from around their properties."
Numerous state, federal and private forestry and fire professionals, planners and researchers provided assistance in developing and reviewing the document, which draws on examples of good Firewise practices from around the country. The Community Associations Institute (CAI), a national membership organization, provided valuable information and guidance regarding community association governance.
"Building Firewise concepts into the community itself means that from day one, there are rules and expectations set on how to address fire safety issues within the community," said Andrew Fortin, CAI's vice president of government and public affairs. "Benefits to this approach include a common understanding of wildfire issues incorporated into the community structure, creation of a common framework of community behavior, and the ability to enforce safety standards."
The guide, which references National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for fire protection infrastructure and fire-resistant construction and landscaping, is expected to be a useful tool for community associations throughout the U.S.
The national Firewise Communities program is an interagency program designed to encourage local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters, and others in the effort to protect people and property from the risk of wildfire. The Firewise Communities program is managed by the National Fire Protection Association and sponsored by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, a consortium of wildland fire agencies. For more information, visit www.firewise.org.