Part of CAL FIRE’s mission is to prevent fires. The department’s Fire Prevention Program consists of multiple activities including wildland pre-fire engineering, vegetation management, fire planning, education and law enforcement. Common projects include fire break construction and other fire fuel reduction activities that lessen the risk of wildfire to communities. This may include brush clearance around communities, along roadways and evacuation routes. Other important activities include defensible space inspections, emergency evacuation planning, fire prevention education, fire hazard severity mapping, implementation of the State Fire Plan, fire-related law enforcement activities such as investigations to determine fire cause and origin as well as arson cases, and support for local government fire safe planning in the SRA.
Wildland Fire Engineering
Wildland fire prevention engineering processes reduce or eliminate fire hazards and risks, and change the environment by removing or reducing the heat source, modifying or reducing the fuels (this is where our defensible space program resides), and modifying the act or omission allowing the heat source to contact ignitable fuels.
Vegetation Management Program
The Vegetation Management Program (VMP) is a cost sharing program that focuses on the use of prescribed fire, and other mechanical means to reduce wildland fire fuel hazards. The use of prescribed fire mimics natural processes, restores fire to its historic role in wildland ecosystems, and provides significant fire hazard reduction benefits that enhance public and firefighter safety. VMP allows private landowners to enter into a contract with CAL FIRE to use prescribed fire to accomplish a combination of fire protection and resource management goals.
Fire Planning and Risk Analysis
Fire planning incorporates concepts of the National Fire Plan, the California Strategic Fire Plan and individual CAL FIRE Unit Fire Prevention Plans, as well as Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP’s). Unit plans and CWPP’s outline fire situations at the local levels. Each identifies prevention measures to reduce risks, educates and involves the local community or communities, and provides a framework to diminish the potential loss due to wildfire. Planning includes other state, federal and local government agencies, as well as fire safe councils.
CAL FIRE has a long history of providing fire prevention, fire safety, and natural resource protection education to the citizens and visitors of California. CAL FIRE’s Fire Prevention Education programs are spread statewide and come in the form of social media campaigns, school programs, fair exhibits, posters, flyers and thousands of other printed materials, radio and television spots, internet communications, community meetings, and one-on-one contacts with those who live, work and recreate in wildland areas. On July 1, 1980, CAL FIRE implemented the Volunteers in Prevention (VIP) Program to involve and utilize citizens and public service groups in non-salaried positions to reduce human-caused fires.
CAL FIRE utilizes trained peace officers to enforce state forest and fire laws. They are trained and certified in accordance with the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). The enforcement responsibilities within the prevention program include fire investigations, criminal and civil case management citations. CAL FIRE’s Civil Cost Recovery program recovers fire suppression costs when a fire investigation reveals that a party caused the fire negligently, or in violation of law. This serves the State in two ways: it assigns fire suppression costs to culpable parties rather than the taxpayers at large, and it serves as a deterrent to carelessness that can result in destructive fires.
Land Use Planning
The Wildfire Hazard Legislation Safety Element Planning and Zoning Law requires that cities and counties adopt a comprehensive general plan with various elements including a safety element for protection of the community from unreasonable risks associated with various hazards, including wildfires. CAL FIRE has a long history of knowing the importance of planning and its importance to wildland fire safety and risk mitigation. Land use planning incorporates safety element requirements for State Responsibility Areas (SRA) and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHS Zones); requires local general plan safety elements, upon the next revision of the housing element on or after January 1, 2014, to be reviewed and updated as necessary to address the risk of fire in the SRA and VHFHS Zones; requires each safety element update to take into account the most recent version of the Office of Planning and Research’s “Fire Hazard Planning” document; and requires the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to include a reference to the provisions of SB 1241, as well as any other materials related to fire hazards or fire safety deemed appropriate for reference.