Frequently Asked Questions
Credit: Will Harling, Mid-Klamath Watershed Council
What is a fire adapted community (FAC)?
A fire adapted community is a community that understands its risk and takes action before, during and after the fire in order for their community to be more resilient to wildfire. Fire adapted community members are informed and prepared, collaboratively planning and taking action to better live with wildland fire.
At its core, the fire adapted communities (or FAC) concept is a framework to help us better coexist with fire. FAC is not a one-size fits all approach, a checklist, or a specific set of actions a community must take. FAC is also not an end point. Your community is always changing; change is constant in our social and political environments, ecosystems, and economies.
The beauty of FAC as a framework is that communities of all sizes, economies, policies, etc. can take ideas and concepts and adapt them to meet their local needs. This means FAC work is never complete. It is something we will need to steward throughout time.
Each community will improve their wildfire resilience using steps and strategies unique to them. You know your community best! Broadly speaking, the more actions a community takes to improve their wildfire outcomes, the more fire adapted they become.
Want to learn more? Check out our FAC Graphic and Facilitators Guide.
Who should be a part of a fire adapted community?
Because wildfire risk is shared among all who live and work in a community, the fire adapted community framework stresses that everyone shares responsibility. Stakeholders in a fire adapted community include residents, businesses, policy-makers, land managers and emergency responders, as well as local, state, tribal and federal governments. Check out the Community Roles in Fire Adaptation graphic.
Is "fire adapted communities" just a new name for Firewise?
No. “Fire adapted communities” is not a program; rather, it is a holistic and adaptive framework to help communities live better with wildfires.
The Firewise USA® recognition program is one of many tools a community can use to address its fire risk. Focused primarily on residents and residential action, the Firewise USA® program is an important piece of the wildfire adaptation puzzle. The International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Ready, Set, Go! Program, focusing on empowering fire departments to communicate with their constituents, is another common tool used as part of a community’s overall fire adaptation framework.
Additional strategies such as evacuation planning, developing and updating community wildfire protection plans, adopting WUI codes and ordinances, conducting controlled burns and performing post-fire recovery planning all contribute to a fire adapted community.
How will we know when our community is finally fire adapted?
There is no defined end-point for communities striving to live more safely with wildfire. Our communities are always changing: new residents are moving in, economic drivers ebb and flow, and natural vegetation continues to grow! As a result, our fire adaptation efforts must be ready to adapt to fit our communities’ evolving needs. Collaboration with local partners (including residents, community organizations, agency partners and more) often helps communities identify and mitigate their changing risks. These “local FAC coordinating groups” can take many forms and, in many places, are an essential element in making durable progress.
Why do we need to build wildfire resilience?
For the last 100 years, U.S. fire suppression policies have largely kept fire from playing its natural role. As a result, many of our fire-adapted and fire-dependent ecosystems are overgrown–limiting their function and posing a threat to communities. Fire is a natural and necessary element for most of our natural areas; when it is excluded, landscapes are prone to unnaturally severe and damaging wildfires that are getting worse.
Removal of fire from ecosystems that depend on it, coupled with more people living in and around natural areas, have created a dangerous wildfire problem. Wildfires have been impacting communities with increasing frequency and severity. As a result, we need to find ways to restore fire to people and places that need it while also ensuring our homes and communities are capable of withstanding its impacts. We can no longer suppress our way out of our wildfire problem; we need to learn how to live more safely with wildland fire.
What is the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network?
The Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (FAC Net) is a national network of people working to build sustainable wildfire resilience capacity in fire-prone communities. The Network is the result of a partnership among the Watershed Research and Training Center, The Nature Conservancy, the USDA Forest Service and Department of Interior as well as the many wildfire resilience practitioners who make up our membership. Read more about our story here!
What is FAC Net working toward?
FAC Net’s mission is to connect and support people and communities who are striving to live more safely with wildfire. The existing wildfire suppression model is costly and insufficient alone to safeguard our places. Fire adaptation is an alternative which allows communities to prepare for wildland fires, mitigate their impacts, and recover more effectively when they inevitably occur.
The Network has the following objectives:
- Demonstrate fire adaptation in a variety of contexts representative of the diversity of communities with wildfire risk in the US;
- Innovate and experiment with new practices to enhance fire adaptation before, during and after wildfires;
- Share and spread knowledge and practice among Network members; and
- Spark and support the fire adaptation efforts of other practitioners in locations outside the Network.
By modeling a viable alternative to the current fire management paradigm, FAC Net members are leading the change toward fire resilience in the United States.
How can I join the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network?
We welcome individuals and organizations actively working on fire adaptation to join FAC Net as affiliate members. When you become a member, you commit to advancing the practice of fire adaptation and to sharing and learning with other community wildfire resilience practitioners.
Join FAC Net as an affiliate member and:
- Connect with others working on fire resilience;
- Access resources and tools;
- Communicate with state and national leaders, program staff and decision-makers; and
- Learn from others through training and learning groups, peer connections and professional staff support.
How can my community be recognized for our fire adaptation work?
There is no formal fire adapted communities recognition program. If you are interested in adaptation and want to connect with other people and places working on these issues, consider joining our affiliate network.
Members of FAC Net are working to advance fire adaptation in their place. They have not reached any particular “level” of activity or “safety.” Anyone, anywhere can be taking fire adaptation actions!
What do you mean by “learning network”? And why is a learning network a good way to to address wildfire issues?
Networks take many forms. The connections among any group of people can be looked at as a network. A learning network is a group of people sharing their experiences and using their connections to learn better and faster, together.
FAC Net is a formal peer learning network. It places a “complex social problem” (living with wildfire) at the center of our connections. Peer networks are powerful structures for developing emergent strategy, where a clear answer or technical solution is not readily available.
How is FAC Net connected to other national wildfire initiatives?
FAC Net is part of a cooperative agreement between The Nature Conservancy, USDA Forest Service and agencies of the Department of the Interior that supports a portfolio of networks and strategies that bring people together to collectively identify and meet our wildfire challenges. These include the Fire Learning Network (FLN, since 2002), Prescribed Fire Training Exchanges (TREX, 2008), Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (FAC Net, 2013) and Indigenous Peoples Burning Network (IPBN, 2016). Learning opportunities are routinely offered across this portfolio and bring together wildfire practitioners from a wide array of communities, emphasis areas, and organizations.
In addition to work with the family of fire networks, FAC Net staff and members engage with the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy regional committees, the National Wildfire Coordinating Group Wildland Urban Interface Mitigation Committee, and other project initiatives, helping to create a conduit from practitioners to national strategy conversations.