A new network of communities working to live with wildfire will be launched in Washington this spring, modeled after the national Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network. In early January, the Fire Adapted Communities concept was adopted for Washington state at a meeting that brought together representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, several conservation districts, The Nature Conservancy, Department of Defense Joint Base Lewis-McChord, fire departments, the Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group and other organizations.

Fire Adapted Communities are communities that take action to reduce their risk of losses from wildfire; a key component of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. They recognize that each of us has a role in those actions. Nationally, we have seen many benefits for communities that take steps to live with fire; we have also seen how important it is for those communities to share information and learn from each other.

The National Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network is a program designed to share best practices and innovations with the goal of accelerating the adoption of fire adapted community concepts nationwide. Across the nation, there are 17 hubs participating in the national Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network—a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, US Forest Service, Department of Interior, and the Watershed Research and Training Center.

“The Learning Network has been incredibly helpful for us,” explained Annie Schmidt, director of the Chumstick Coalition, a participant in the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.

“We have been able to talk to other communities who are facing the same challenges and learn from their approaches,” Schmidt continued. “Last summer, we were able to reach out to other communities who had experienced similar fire seasons and talk to them about what our next steps should be. Those conversations were invaluable.”

The Bureau of Land Management is supporting acceleration of Fire Adapted Communities in Washington state through funding for a state-level learning network in Washington. The Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network will begin with a small group of communities. Those communities will receive support and some funding as needed from network staff to help increase their capacity and share lessons with each other. We are working together with the national Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network through communicating, sharing, and learning, in order to make the greatest difference possible for Washington State communities.

The Washington Network plans to be up and running early this spring. The ultimate goal?  A resilient, fire-adapted Washington made up of communities that understand both their role and the role of fire in the landscapes we share. By stepping up and contributing to the solution, we can reduce our risks from wildfire.

By Ryan Anderson, WA Fire Adapted Communities Executive Coordinator, ryan@scwrcd.org