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Helping Communities

Communities that have been or may be threatened by wildland fire may need many types of assistance. Community participation is at the core of carrying out citizen-driven solutions to reduce the risks of fire in the wildland/urban interface. Agencies provide support for educating citizens on the effects of fire, community fire protection planning, and training and equipping rural and volunteer firefighters. Through a variety of grant programs including Rural, State, and Volunteer Fire Assistance and Economic Action Programs, delivered by the Agencies and the State Foresters, communities can take action to live safely in fire-prone areas.

Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)

An aerial picture of a house saved on the Canyon Ferry Fire.

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) provided communities with a tremendous opportunity to influence where and how federal agencies implement fuel reduction projects on federal lands. A Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) is the most effective way to take advantage of this opportunity. Additionally, communities with Community Wildfire Protection Plans in place will be given priority for funding of hazardous fuels reduction projects carried out under the auspices of the HFRA.

A handbook for Wildland-Urban Interface Communities was developed and is sponsored by Communities Committee, Society of American Foresters, National Association of Counties, National Association of State Foresters, and Western Governors' Association. The Handbook outlines:

  • How to convene other interested parties,
  • What elements to consider in assessing community risks and priorities, and
  • How to develop a mitigation or protection plan to address those risks.

Preparing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan: A Handbook for Wildland-Urban Interface Communities (March 2004) (PDF, 839 KB)

Community Guide to Preparing and Implementing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan

A supplemental resource guide to Preparing and Implementing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan: A Handbook for Wildland-Urban Interface Communities. March 2004.

A Collaborative Approach for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to Communities and the Environment 10-Year Strategy Implementation Plan, December 2006 (PDF, 0.5 MB), identified several tasks associated with the development of Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. The tasks were completed and the result is an updated CWPP guide provided for community members, agency, and organizational staff members. This guide contains additional technical assistance for developing CWPPs, information about forest restoration and wildland fire use, and information about successful land use codes and state ordinances addressing wildfire risk in the wildland urban interface.

A collaborative group including local, state, and federal agencies and individuals from across the United States developed this Community Guide.


Becoming "Firewise" is a process. Being Firewise is not difficult, but requires commitment. A Firewise person pays attention to those details in the environment that might start or encourage the spread of a wildfire.

The Firewise website includes educational information for people who live in or vacation in fire-prone areas of the United States. It was designed to acquaint people with the challenges of living with wildland fire. The site includes interactive games and tutorials, along with a message board and a Firewise Communities Workshop area. Learn how you can make your own neighborhood Firewise by participating in the Firewise Communities/USA recognition program.

Firewise is a program of the National Fire Protection Association with funding from the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters.

Learn more about Firewise Communities…

Rural Fire Assistance (RFA)

The Rural Fire Assistance program was authorized in the FY 2001 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, P.L. 106-291, as a pilot effort to augment rural fire department (RFD) firefighter safety and wildland fire protection capabilities. From 2001 - 2005, the Department focused grants to provide training, personal protective equipment and essential firefighting equipment on a cost-shared basis to RFDs. These departments are often the first line of defense against unwanted wildland fire and they provide fire support that benefits resources on DOI-managed lands. Grants may only be used for basic wildland fire safety equipment and tools, communication devices, wildland fire training, and community wildfire prevention and education activities.

Fiscal Year 2006 focused efforts on both basic and advanced training for local firefighters by providing the "on-the-ground leadership" necessary to improve safety and maximize their effectiveness in wildland fire suppression operations.

Currently, direct assistance to communities will be delivered through firefighter training and provided to rural fire departments in communities near DOI-managed land. The Department will continue the Ready Reserve program to develop local firefighters who will be trained to become qualified for initial and extended attack. Aligning the goals of the RFA program to serve small communities through enhanced coordination with the Forest Service State and Volunteer Fire Assistance and the DHS Assistance to Firefighters grant programs.

Learn more about the Rural Fire Assistance (RFA) Program…

State Fire Assistance (SFA)

The SFA program assists state forestry agencies in wildfire response coordination and delivery, compliance with the national safety and training standards that ensure state and local crew deployment to federal fires and other emergency situations, hazard assessments, fuels treatment projects, and public education efforts.

Contact your State Forester's office for grant application forms and deadlines.

Learn more about State Fire Assistance (SFA)…

Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA)

The VFA program, formerly known as the Rural Community Fire Protection program, is administered by state forestry agencies through 50-50 cost-sharing grants to local fire departments in rural communities. The program's main goal is to provide federal financial, technical, and other assistance in the organization, training, and equipping of fire departments in rural areas with a population of 10,000 or less.

Contact your State Forester's office for grant application forms and deadlines.