How to Start a Firewise Community

Firewise USA

Before beginning the process, many have found it valuable to hold a neighborhood meeting to learn about the Firewise Community Program, to promote interest and support, and to recruit volunteers. Information from this meeting can help you determine boundaries for your Firewise Community map. If you are interested in forming a Firewise Community, it is recommended that you contact Karen Caldwell, Firewise Coordinator, Tuolumne Fire Safe Council ( prior to initiating the process.

1. Form a board/committee that is comprised of residents and other applicable wildfire stakeholders.

2. Obtain a written wildfire risk assessment from your state forestry agency or fire department. The assessment should be a community-wide view that identifies areas of successful wildfire risk reduction and areas where improvements could be made. Emphasis should be on the general conditions of homes and related home ignition zones. The assessment is a living document and needs to be updated every five years. Template available.

  • For City of Sonora, the contact is Sonora Fire Chief, Aimee New
  • For areas outside of Sonora, the contact is Paul Karpus, Chief, Cal Fire

3. Your board/committee will develop an action plan – a prioritized list of risk reduction projects/investments for the participating site, along with suggested homeowner actions and education activities that participants will strive to complete annually, or over a period of multiple years. Action plans should be updated at a minimum of at least every three years. The action plan is attached to the Risk Assessment as an addendum. (CA requires a 3-year Action Plan.)

4. Submit Application to Firewise USA. State liaisons will approve applications, with final processing completed by the NFPA. (CA is Pete Munoa, Cal Fire, Land Use Planning Program Chief)

5. Implement the Plan. Host an outreach event and work with neighbors on addressing items in the action plan. At a minimum, each site is required to annually invest the equivalent of one volunteer hour per dwelling unit in wildfire risk reduction actions.

6. Every year participating sites must submit an annual renewal to maintain their “In Good Standing” status. Part of being a recognized Firewise USA® site is reporting the ongoing work residents complete each year to reduce their wildfire risks, while addressing the areas identified in their community’s wildfire assessment.

For more detailed information, resources and templates contact Karen Caldwell, Firewise Coordinator, Tuolumne Fire Safe Council at