Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP)

Author(s): Sandy Benson
Fire encroaches on the city limits of Valentine, Nebraska.

A Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) gathers together your community's resources to enhance wildfire mitigation and preparedness. The written document identifies the steps a community will take to reduce its risk of damage from wildfires. About the photo: Duane Witte shot this photograph in Valentine, NE as the Big Rock Fire crept into the city limits. 

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What is a CWPP?

Developing a CWPP is not a difficult process, but it does require collaboration between community leaders, county officials, and area fire departments. However, once a plan is in place, your community will be safer and better equipped to protect life and property in the event of a wildfire.

Grassfire in field
CWPPs help communities and first responders prepare for wildfires. Image courtesy: Ralph Moul

Every CWPP has two key steps:

  • It identifies and prioritizes wildfire risk areas within and adjacent to the community;
  • It identifies measures needed to mitigate those risks, and it creates a plan of action to implement these measures. 

Why Should My Community Develop a CWPP?

A CWPP allows a variety of community groups to create strategies for managing local natural resources and protecting their community’s residents and infrastructure. 

Having a CWPP in place provides communities with important benefits:

  • They can decide upon the definition of the wildland-urban interface (WUI) in their area and its boundary.
  • They can help prioritize fuels treatments in their wildland-urban interface.
  • Communities can apply for grants for federal cost share on local fuels treatment projects. These grants can reduce the local cost of projects by at least 50 percent.

CWPP Benefits

  • Communities determine the area(s) of interest. 
  • Communities determine the priority area(s) for treatment.
  • Bringing stakeholders together strengthens response and coordination during emergencies. 

Overview of the process

Interested local parties can take the lead in developing a CWPP. However, the plan should be developed with support from state and federal agencies

  • Form a committee that includes area fire departments, local government, and the Nebraska Forest Service (NFS). 
  • Consult with local federal agencies such as Fish & Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, or the Bureau of Land Management.
  • Identify priority areas that need fuels reduction treatments. These areas must include land within or adjacent to a community OR these areas aim to protect critical infrastructure.
  • The plan needs to provide communities and homeowners with specific options to reduce threats to structures in the event of a wildfire.
  • The NFS will assist your committee in the technical development of the CWPP. Specifics of the plan will determine its cost, however; the NFS can award financial assistance to your CWPP.

Step by step

  1. Bring together the core stakeholders. This includes representatives from communities, counties, and fire departments in the proposed planning area.
  2. Invite the participation of federal and state partners that can provide technical expertise and other resources such as mapping or natural resource planning.
  3. Branch out even further! Invite utility co-ops, Natural Resource Districts, NE Game & Parks, NE Emergency Management Agency, Fire Marshal's Office, etc. 
  4. Establish a base map that includes primary area(s) of interest for the plan. 
  5. Identify areas of greatest risk in the planning areas (a.k.a. Wildland Urban Interface). Rate them using a high to low scale.
  6. Identify the hazard reduction priorities for each community—remember to include important infrastructure and homes at risk.
  7. Develop an action plan with cost estimates.
  8. Finalize the plan with all committee members.

How to assess wildfire risk

  • Evaluate the fuel types near the community or planning area.
  • Look at the area’s past fire history: which locations pose the greatest risk? 
  • Evaluate homes, businesses, infrastructure and other areas of concern. 
  • Remember to include communication facilities, roads, water resources, and other critical infrastructure.
  • Take note of sites with historic, scenic, wildlife, economic, and cultural value. 
  • Review the community’s preparedness plan: include capacity, safety zones, and mutual-aid agreements.
  • When in doubt, make notes and contact the NFS. We are here to assist your community in prevention and preparation efforts.
Charred grass surrounds a lakefront home
Courtesy: Ralph Moul