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Planning for Wildfires

A Fire Adapted Community acknowledges and takes responsibility for its wildfire risk and implements appropriate actions at all levels. The more actions a community takes, the more fire adapted it becomes. Proper wildfire preparedness enables communities to safely accept fire as part of the natural order of things where they live.

Communities at risk

Nearly half of Wisconsin's towns, cities and villages are described as being at high or very high risk to destructive wildfires, which can impact entire communities by affecting tourism, the tax base, timber revenue, homes and infrastructure. Find out if your community is at risk to wildfire [PDF].

Community plans

Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) [PDF] are plans collaboratively created and implemented in high risk communities by a core team that includes members from local government, fire departments, county, state and federal land management agencies and other community stakeholders. The community takes ownership of their wildfire risk and develops solutions to implement on the local level.

View the Preparing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan handbook [PDF] and a map of Wisconsin [PDF] showing communities at high wildfire risk.


  • Helps community prioritize wildfire risk reduction projects.
  • Results in priority consideration for grant funding.
  • Develops good working relationships between fire departments, emergency managers, public land managers, local officials and the community at large.
  • Provides access to resources such as public educational materials and expertise.
  • Prepares communities to better handle emergencies.
  • Promotes good stewardship of local resources.

Create a plan

  • Your town/village is a designated community at risk to wildfire (, keyword "fire").
  • Community leaders and property owners are concerned about the possible consequences of wildfires.
  • Your town/village board, fire department, local DNR forestry and other area land managers are able to engage in the process to develop a CWPP.

Planning process

  1. Establish core committee members—town board, fire department and DNR forestry.
  2. Invite other stakeholders to participate—homeowner groups, emergency management, Forest Service, County Forest, etc.
  3. Tour your community to discuss wildfire-related concerns and possible solutions.
  4. Create a map of your community that shows the areas of greatest wildfire risk.
  5. Create an action plan that describes the steps that will be taken to educate your community, reduce wildland "fuels" and better prepare your community for wildfire.
  6. Finalize and share the CWPP with your community.
  7. Once the CWPP has been adopted by your town/village, the committee meets as needed throughout the year to implement the action plan.

CWPP Action Plan

The most important part of a CWPP is the action plan, which outlines the various fuels reduction, education and community planning projects that your community will implement over the life of the plan.

Project examples

  • Fuels reduction
    • Neighborhood brush pickup
    • Leaf and brush collection sites
    • Fuelbreaks on public land
    • Homeowner defensible space projects
  • Education
    • Fire danger signs
    • Wildfire information packets
    • Fire awareness publications
    • Media outreach
    • Community events
  • Community planning
    • Update fire number signs
    • Install dry hydrants
    • Evacuation planning
    • Property and driveway assessments

Firewise USA

Firewise USA [PDF] is a national program designed to help fire-prone neighborhoods improve wildfire readiness and recognizes those efforts. It encourages property owner groups to take action before a wildfire occurs. The focus is on personal responsibility and the development of local solutions. Eligible applicants are property owners associations, camps and other neighborhood groups.

View a map of Wisconsin [PDF] showing Firewise USA sites.


  • Creates defensible space which prevents fires from advancing and endangering buildings and lives.
  • Results in faster fire suppression, which keeps fires smaller.
  • Concentrates efforts on fighting wildfires rather than devoting often limited resources to protecting buildings.
  • Strengthens relationships between local firefighters and property owners.
  • Offers peace of mind, knowing that your neighborhood is doing what it can to protect itself.

Reasons to join

  • Your neighborhood is within a designated Community at Risk to wildfire.
  • Organization leaders and property owners are concerned about the impacts of wildfires.
  • Your neighborhood, fire department and local DNR forestry managers are committed to the recognition process.


Each year, your organization selects a wildfire risk reduction project to pursue and can apply for grant funds. The funds require a 50:50 cost share. The time and effort participants put into their projects is most often their 50% match.

The time invested by committee members to create and implement an action plan builds and strengthens partnerships that are especially helpful during an emergency.

Being a Firewise participant rarely costs money. It does require an on-going investment in volunteer time.

Steps to becoming a recognized Firewise USA site

  1. Generate neighborhood interest and contact your local DNR office to get started.
  2. Form a Firewise Committee of neighborhood representatives.
  3. Work with DNR and local fire department to complete a wildfire risk assessment.
  4. Based on wildfire risk assessment results, the Firewise Committee creates an action plan.
  5. Complete a wildfire risk reduction project.
  6. Apply for Firewise recognition.
  7. Complete at least one project annually to maintain recognition status.

Project examples

The Firewise Committee determines your annual project. One project per year is required to earn and maintain Firewise USA recognition status.

  • Firewise workshop or presentation
  • Curbside chipping of brush
  • Common area brush cleanup
  • Educational materials
  • Homeowner wildfire risk assessments

Ready, Set, Go!

Ready, Set, Go! [exit DNR] engages local fire departments to deliver the fire adapted communities message using Firewise, wildfire situational awareness and safe evacuation planning. Firefighters encourage homeowners to get READY by preparing for the fire threat ahead of time, get SET by being aware of the situation when a fire starts and GO by leaving early when asked to do so.

View the Ready, Set, Go! Wisconsin Wildfire Action Guide [PDF].

Ready, Set, Go! Benefits

  • Gives the public a better understanding of how they can support firefighters during a wildfire emergency.
  • Demonstrates how to make homes more likely to survive wildfires.
  • Provides a template to create a Wildfire Action Plan for households.
  • Outlines steps to quickly evacuate, if necessary.


Wildfires in Wisconsin are very fast moving and conditions change rapidly. You may only have advance notification of evacuation a few minutes to an hour or two at most. Therefore, it is imperative that you prepare in advance.

Get ready

  • Create a family disaster plan that includes meeting locations and communication plans and rehearse it regularly.
  • Plan to take the four P's: papers, prescriptions, pictures and pets.
  • Have fire extinguishers on hand and train your family how to use them.
  • Ensure that your family knows where your gas, electric and water main shut-off controls are and how to use them.
  • Plan several different evacuation routes.
  • Designate an emergency meeting location outside the fire hazard area.
  • Assemble an emergency supply kit as recommended by the American Red Cross.
  • Appoint an out-of-area friend or relative as a point of contact so you can communicate with family members who have relocated.
  • Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers posted near your phone and in your emergency supply kit.
  • Keep an extra emergency supply kit in your car in case you can't get to your home because of fire.
  • Have a portable radio or scanner so you can stay updated on the fire.

Get set

If you are aware that a wildfire is in the vicinity and are not in immediate danger, prepare for the worst case and do the following:

  • Be ready to go when notified.
  • Alert family and neighbors.
  • Collect up those important personal items and place them in your vehicle.
  • Park your vehicle outside the garage, facing the exit.
  • Close all windows and metal shutters (if installed).
  • Open window shades and curtains.
  • Turn outside lights on to help firefighters see your house under smoky conditions.
  • Remove flammable deck furniture and door mats.
  • Put ladders up against the roof (non-flammable ones).
  • Turn on your garden hoses, with sprinklers attached.
  • The idea is to saturate all around the base of your home and yard as best you can.
  • Turn off propane tanks.


By leaving early, you give your family the best chance of surviving a wildland fire. You also help firefighters by keeping roads clear of congestion, enabling them to move more freely and do their job in a safer environment.

  • Take your emergency supply kit containing your family and pet's necessary items. Leave your house/cabin unlocked with a note inside of who evacuated, where you are heading and the time and date.
  • Leave early enough to avoid being caught in fire, smoke or road congestion. Don't wait to be told by authorities to leave. In an intense wildland fire, they may not have time to knock on every door. If you are advised to leave, don't hesitate!
  • Leave to a predetermined location (it should be a low-risk area, such as a well-prepared neighbor or relative's house, a Red Cross shelter or evacuation center, local school, etc.)
  • Have several travel routes in case one route is blocked by the fire or by emergency vehicles and equipment. Choose an escape route away from the fire. Drive with your headlights on.