Becoming a Firewise USA® Recognized Community

This process typically takes a steering committee 2-6 months from start to Firewise USA application submittal, depending on community and steering committee engagement.

Are you and your neighbors interested in becoming a Firewise USA® Recognized Community? We will help you! We have put together a checklist to help guide you through this process.


1. Form a Steering Committee with a few proactive neighbors. Depending on the community size, a steering committee is typically a group of 3-4 proactive neighbors who are interested in organizing neighbors, sharing education, and collecting data for the Firewise USA® process. The commitment is typically one or more hours a week, depending on how quickly the application is being completed. The minimum community size is 8 primary dwellings.

2. Engage the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County (FSCSCC) for assistance. This will include a presentation from a Firewise coach about the process and connect your groups with other Firewise neighborhoods. Contact:

3. Complete a Community Risk Assessment

  • Poll and collect neighborhood data on pages 3–7. (Neighborhood Data Survey*)
  • Schedule a community walk-through with a fire professional to supply observations/recommendations for pages 8–9. Our FireSafe Council coaches can help align you with a Fire Professional for this step
  • Provide a map illustrating boundaries of your community (page 11) - pdfView example map

4. Prepare a CALFIRE Three Year Action Plan, using observations from the Community Risk Assessment and your neighborhood priorities. The following areas need to be addressed in your plan for each of the next 3 years:

  • Education and Outreach - For example, hold a “Home Hardening Workshop” at one neighbor’s home inviting others to attend, to help emphasize simple steps like replacing attic and foundation vents with 1/8” versions
  • Home Hardening - For example, encourage neighbors to replace wood bark mulch with a less flammable material (gravel) within the first five feet of the house
  • Fuel Reduction - For example, encourage homeowners to do more defensible space work around their properties in the first 30 feet of the home
  • Evacuation Planning and Wildfire Preparedness - For example, maintain alternative evacuation route – grading, gravel, vegetation management

5. Complete a minimum of one Community Education Event related to wildfire risk reduction. See examples.

6. Meet the Wildfire Risk Reduction Investment criteria (minimum 1 hour or $28.50 per household for the year). See examples.

  • Poll neighbors for hours and $ invested in the last year (individually or community work parties) (Neighborhood Data Survey*)
  • Summarize data into categories requested by the NFPA online application (xlsxsee sample template)
  • Encourage bragging rights: go well beyond the “low bar” required minimum

7. Create a Firewise USA® portal account

  • Add two Regional Coordinators: Lynn Sestak ()  Shane Vargas ()
  • Upload your Community Risk Assessment and Three Year Action Plan
  • Document your Education Event(s)
  • Add your Wildfire risk reduction investment data
  • Ask one of your Firewise coaches for a review

8. Submit your application!

*In order to customize and edit the Neighborhood Data Survey you will need to save a copy to your google drive.

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