To live better with fire, we need to adapt to fire. That’s where the concept of fire adapted communities comes into play. Local people learning and working together is the foundation of fire adaptation. Learning and working together builds community capacity and resilience.
In 2012, The Watershed Center and The Nature Conservancy, together with the USDA Forest Service, set out to explore how we might use a network approach to spread fire adaptation concepts. Networks are particularly well-suited to adaptive problems—like our wildfire problem— because they are designed to evolve. We knew there were communities across the country that had been pioneering fire adaptation strategies. So how could we use the knowledge and experience of those practitioners to support and enrich others? How could these practitioners help other communities begin their journey? How might we get started in places that have enormous fire risk, but haven’t yet begun to develop resilience strategies? We began designing a pilot project that would help us answer these questions.
In 2013, we launched the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (FAC Net or the Network) to demonstrate, innovate and rapidly and broadly disseminate practices that improve community wildfire resilience. We started with eight members and kicked off the effort with a workshop in Boise. Within the first year, we began seeing results—more and deeper partnerships, higher profiles for members enabling them to attract resources, and learning exchanges seeding new approaches.
Today our network includes two dozen core members and more than 120 affiliates. Together, FAC Net and its partners are changing the way people relate to wildfire. We’re connecting people to resources, and to other practitioners, so they can reduce their wildfire risk and increase community resilience. A change in our fire management paradigm requires a change in culture, and the FAC Net is helping lead that change.