Engage Your Community

Building a wildfire-resilient community is a group effort. Residents, local government leaders, fire departments, architects and developers, land managers, nonprofits, and the business community all have a stake in community health and safety.

Engaging the community to work together to prepare for wildfires first requires a clear problem statement of wildfire risk, then good listening skills and adaptability as diverse stakeholders share concerns and brainstorm solutions. Outreach may include:

  • Partnering with trusted organizations already working in the community.
  • Listening, asking questions, and taking time to learn about strengths, needs, and opportunities in different segments of the community.
  • Building relationships with influential individuals and organizations.
  • Adapting plans as needed to address community concerns.

Convincing potential stakeholders to join wildfire-resilience efforts may require different messages that speak to specific concerns. Collaborate with community partners to determine:

  • Who is the audience? (Be more specific than “the general public.”)
  • What are the concerns of that audience? What messages would be most meaningful?
  • How does that audience comfortably receive information – social media, one-on-one conversations, community meetings, brochures and handouts, workshops?
  • Who should deliver the message? Whom does the audience trust?

For example:

AudienceConcernsEffective message
Elected officialsConstituent needs, municipal budget, re-electionWe can use win-win strategies to reduce risk to homes and businesses.
Builders and developersClear regulations, efficient permitting, income/expense ratioWildfire mitigation regulations will be fair and will improve the bottom line.
HomeownersSafety, homeowners insurance, attractive neighborhoodsHomeowners can decrease risk by taking (xyz) measures.

Additional best practices for engaging in non-English-speaking communities include:

  • Communicate in-person whenever possible.
  • Consider the best language for your community. If possible, communicators should be native speakers.
  • Leave formal uniforms at home.

Community Example

Chelan County, WA– Located in central Washington, Chelan County has suffered several devastating wildfires in recent decades. The county has responded with a robust wildfire planning and preparedness approach, including working with local homeowners to assess homes and properties for wildfire vulnerabilities, reducing flammable vegetation around the home to create defensible space, and providing chipper days to dispose of tree trimmings, yard debris, and other clippings. To engage with Spanish-speaking neighborhoods in Chelan County, local fire districts partnered with trusted local organizations to help raise wildfire awareness and implement mitigation measures.

Very importantly, Chelan County fire districts:

  • Went to the community, visited, and listened with local community residents. In some situations they conversed in Spanish using native Spanish-speaking translators.
  • Partnered with established and trusted groups in the community to help communicate with residents.
  • Identified and tackled easy, win-win projects to establish the purpose, objectives, and benefits of wildfire mitigation.

Invested time, commitment, and resources to build positive, long-term relationships with community members and local groups.