What is Firewise?

The Firewise Program has its origins in the 1985 fire season during which 1,400 homes were destroyed making fire managers acutely aware that the
“wildland urban interface” where residences mix with undeveloped forest and open lands was an unavoidable reality of contemporary firefighting. It’s
also a problem that it is national in scope; in other words, wherever there are forests. The term “Firewise” was coined in the early 1990s to identify the
growing knowledge that landowners could use to reduce their fire risks. A website by this name was launched in 1997 by the National Fire Program

Focused first on simply raising awareness of the potential for fires in semi-urban settings, Firewise program managers moved on quickly to the task of
developing and providing information about the simple and practical techniques homeowners could use to reduce the risks of home destruction by

The two greatest risks to homes during wildfires are: 1) Flammable roof, vulnerable to the embers thrown during a wildfire and, 2) Vegetation close to
a house which can catch fire and generate enough heat or flames to ignite siding or other parts of the home’s structure.

Firewise went to work with this information to learn more about how structures burn and, in particular, what causes them to ignite. This led to the
“International Crown Fire Experiments” of 1998 in the Northwest Territory. Scientists set large fires in, on and near structures of various types to
obtain high quality data about how close vegetation could be to a structure yet not put that structure at risk of igniting from radiant heat. The three
main takeaways from this research were that you can significantly reduce your fire risk by:

Clearing flammable trees and shrubs 30 feet or more from structures,
Making sure small flames in grass or shrubs cannot touch the home, and
Using nonflammable roof materials to minimize the damage that embers can cause.
With reliable, quantitative data in hand, Firewise and its partners disseminated information broadly with the primary message being “Your home CAN
survive a wildfire.” Publications and videos are great tools but hands-on workshops put homeowners in direct contact with experts and enable
attendees to ask specific questions about home materials, vegetation options and other factors that may affect their home’s survivability.

Firewise workshops are designed to assist community “spark plugs” and provide them the technical information they need to make a compelling case
for becoming Firewise, as well as provide a flexible tool kit they can use to encourage community involvement and match need to the community in
which they live.

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The Firewise USA® program is co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.