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Wildfire Prevention: The Wildland/Urban Interface

This page provides links to useful information on wildfire prevention for local governments in Washington State, including examples of local building code regulations.


Overview

Most of Washington State is vulnerable to wildland fires. The 2013 Washington State Enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plan from the Washington Department of Natural Resources identified 221 communities in 34 counties at greatest risk to wildland fire, based on criteria in the wildfire hazard severity analysis developed by the National Fire Protection Association.

This risk is greatest in the so-called “wildland/urban interface” (WUI), the transition zone between cities and nature, where people have built homes on land prone to wildfires.

The federal and state governments require that each county prepare an all-hazard mitigation plan. Wildfire is one of the items included. Community wildfire prevention plans are not required but most communities with identified wildfire hazards have or are preparing plans. Local governments can also adopt building codes and other regulations aimed at reducing wildfire risk.

Below are some useful resources to help develop fire mitigation plans, community wildfire protection plans, fire-resistant building codes, and other tools to reduce the risk and severity of wildland fires in populated areas.


Model Codes

Model codes are intended to supplement a jurisdiction’s building and fire codes. The objective of a model code is to establish minimum regulations for the safeguarding of life and property from the intrusion of fire from wildland fire exposures and fire exposures from adjacent structures, and to prevent structure fires from spreading to wildland fuels, even in the absence of fire department involvement.


Government Agencies

Federal

  • National Interagency Fire Center — Supports wildland firefighting on a national level. Website covers topics related to aviation, communications, fire information, fire shelters, NICC, policies, prevention/education, programs, and safety training
  • U.S. Fire Administration: Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Toolkit — Provides resources to help assess fire risk, develop appropriate codes and standards, and to plan and train for wildland fires
  • U.S. Forest Service: Fire and Aviation Management — Provides links to various guidance documents
  • Forests and Rangelands — As a collaborative federal project between the US Dept of the Interior & US Dept of Agriculture, this program provides fire, fuels, and land management information for government officials, land and wildland fire management professionals, businesses, communities, and interested organizations and individuals.
  • Landfire.gov — Federal program provides downloadable geospatial data on vegetation, wildland fuel, and fire regimes

State

WA Department of Natural Resources

  • Community Wildfire Protection — Provides grants and technical assistance to reduce fuels and better prepare communities with high wildfire risk. Includes links to community wildfire protection plans (CWPPs) developed by local citizens and state and federal agencies.
  • Fire District Assistance Program — Helps local and rural fire districts defend against wildfire by offering training, grants, surplus engines and fire equipment, and other resources

Examples of Local Wildfire Prevention Regulations/Plans

Building Regulations

  • Clark County Code Ch. 15.13 — Requires regulations for development where elevations exceed 500 feet and have one or more of the following: slopes exceeding 25%, forest type vegetation, or are located outside an organized fire protection district
  • Richland Municipal Code Sec. 21.01.030 — Building code requires noncombustible building materials for certain properties deemed hazardous for wildfire purposes
  • Wenatchee Municipal Code Ch. 3.36 — Provides building standards for properties within the designated wildland-urban interface boundary
  • Yakima County Code Ch. 13.12 — Adopts International Wildland-Urban Interface Code, with amendments

Weed Abatement Regulations

For examples of local weed abatement provisions, see our page Weeds and Other Nuisance Vegetation.

Community Wildfire Protection Plans

To access and download examples of community wildfire protection plans (CWPPs) across the state, see the Department of Natural Resource’s Community Wildfire Protection webpage. MRSC has an additional resource: a City of Walla Walla 2016 Request for Proposals from firms to develop an update to the Mill Creek Watershed Oregon and Washington CWPP.  

All-Hazard Mitigation Plans

For examples of all hazard mitigation plans, see our page on Hazard Mitigation Planning.


Recommended Resources

  • Firewise USA — Offered by the Natonal Fire Protection Association, this program engages homeowners and community members in wildfire prevention through tools, training, and community outreach. Offers publications and fact sheets that can be downloaded to educate community members about fire prevention and safety. 
  • American Planning Association: Planning for Wildfires (2005) — This report outlines how knowledge of wildfire risks can be incorporated into comprehensive planning and identifies best practices for development in at-risk areas. Available through MRSC Library Loan

Last Modified: September 06, 2018