Wildfire Mitigation Explained

April 11, 2023

Explore strategies for wildfire mitigation that will help reduce the risk of damage to your home and surrounding areas with expert guidance from the WFCA.

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What steps can you take to mitigate the effects of wildfire? Luckily, there are many strategies you can employ for your home and property.

How to Reduce the Risk of Wildfire Damage

As housing developments spread and the wildland-urban interface grows, there is a greater risk of wildfire threatening human lives and structures. Individuals can take steps to reduce the risk of fire damaging their own property. It is also highly effective to connect with your community in areas with high fire danger and engage in risk mitigation programs to reduce fire danger throughout your neighborhood.

What is Wildfire Mitigation?

Before a fire threatens your home, you can practice wildfire mitigation strategies to stop or slow fires. These precautions make your house more likely to resist damage from fire. Wildfire mitigation strategies also help protect your neighborhood and the firefighters defending your community from fire.

Wildfire Mitigation Strategies for Your Home

Clearing any possible fuel that could ignite in your area is the first step to reducing fire risk. There are also several strategies to help mitigate the damage that wildfire can cause to your house.1

Creating a Firewise® Site

Firewise USA® is a national program that offers a framework for communities and neighborhoods to collaborate and reduce wildfire risk. A Firewise® site is any natural and/or landscaped area around a home that is designed to improve the structure’s chance of surviving a wildfire.

Firewise USA® has a set of specific criteria that communities can follow to maximize their home’s resistance to wildfire. This includes organizing a neighborhood committee, performing a community wildfire risk assessment, and engaging in education and risk reduction activities.2

The Home Ignition Zone

You can build out the defensible space around your house to act as a buffer between the home and any trees, grass, or shrubs nearby. This will help slow the spread of fire. The area of defensible space around your home, called the home ignition zone, is divided into three areas.

  1. The Immediate Zone, or Zone 1, is the house itself and the space up to 5 feet away. This area should be completely clear of flammable materials, especially during droughts.
  2. The Intermediate Zone or Zone 2 is between 5-30 feet away from your house. This area can be firescaped with fire-resistant plants and landscaping design to prevent fire from spreading from your yard to your house.
  3. The Extended Zone or Zone 3 is 30-200 feet from your house. This area can be kept cleared of debris and firescaped with well-spaced trees and shrubs to interrupt fire, keep it low to the ground, and make sure the flames spread slowly.3

Fire Resistant Plants

Incorporating hearty, fire-resistant plants into your landscaping can reduce the risk of fire spreading on your property. Fire-resistant plants have moist leaves, watery sap, and thick bark that keep them from easily combusting.4

However, even fire-resistant plants can be damaged or killed by fire if they are not maintained. Ensure your plants are more likely to resist wildfire by regularly watering, fertilizing, pruning, and clearing away dead branches and dry debris.5

Construction Materials

To prepare your home for the possibility of wildfires, you can implement home-hardening techniques. Protect your house from flames, embers, and sparks by using fire-resistant building materials and a fire-safe home design.6

Wildfire Mitigation Checklist

  • Learn about the wildfire risk in your area and your community’s plan for responding to a wildfire.
  • Maintain the plants around your house throughout the year and cultivate the defensible space around your property.
  • Keep combustible materials away from your house.
  • Ensure your roof and house siding are made of non-flammable material.
  • Use wire mesh to cover vents into your house that embers could get into. Any attic vents, chimneys, or other openings could allow flaming debris into your home and start a house fire.7
  • Having insurance on your home helps you rebuild after a wildfire if your house is damaged. Check-in with your insurer annually to make sure they have an up-to-date picture of your property and that you know what your policy covers. Keep an inventory of important items in your home, garage, and property area.8

How to Help Prepare Your Community

In addition to individual actions to protect your home and property, an essential way to mitigate wildfire damage is by engaging your community. Neighbors can share home-hardening resources and take care of shared defensible space. A community wildfire protection plan (CWPP) can help identify local risks, plan ways to mitigate those dangers and establish risk reduction activities within the community.9 One important example of a community risk reduction activity is working to reduce flammable fuel on federal and non-federal land. This may include prescribed burns or home hardening and defensible space strategies implemented throughout the community.10

High- and medium-risk communities should discuss wildfire mitigation practices that residents can collectively take in the area. For example, the Firewise® defensible space framework helps to bring communities together to create and implement local plans to protect their homes against the risk of wildfire. Implementing a CWPP can follow a structure similar to the one outlined below:

  • Communicate clearly. This may include using multiple languages, in-person as well as written or recorded formats, and having accessible materials for residents to review.
  • Make safety a top priority, focusing on wildfire risk reduction.
  • Prioritize efficient, actionable ways to mitigate wildfire risk for a wide range of people. Make sure community members are motivated to participate, and that risk mitigation activities are inclusive of underserved populations (e.g., people with disabilities, immigrants, elderly people, people in poverty, people who do not speak English as a first language).
  • Use resources wisely and with guidance from a range of community members. Make sure everyone feels heard.
  • Ask for help with activities that partners, volunteers, and residents can support, such as property assessments, project coordination, and mitigation event planning.
  • Focus on positive outcomes and celebrate successes.


  1. Climate Check, “Wildfire Mitigation and Adaptation Guide for Homeowners.” Accessed December 27, 2022.
  2. National Fire Protection Agency, “How to become a Firewise® site.” Accessed Mar 30, 2023.
  3. Wildfire Risk to Communities, “Home Ignition Zone.” Accessed December 7, 2022.
  4. USDA Forest Service U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Fire-Resistant Plants for Oregon Home Landscapes.” Accessed January 23, 2023.
  5. Cal Fire, “Fire Smart Landscaping.” Accessed January 23, 2023.
  6. FEMA, “Protect Your Property from Wildfires.” Accessed February 27, 2023.
  7. FEMA, “Avoiding Wildfire Damage: A Checklist for Homeowners.” Accessed March 29, 2023.
  8. Cal Fire, “Wildfire Action Plan.” Accessed March 29, 2023.
  9. Climate Check, “Wildfire Mitigation and Adaptation Guide for Homeowners.” Accessed March 27, 2023.
  10. Coalitions & Collaboratives, Inc., “Community Wildfire Mitigation Best Practices Toolbox.” Accessed March 29, 2023.

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