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Homeowner and Community Resources

Forests have coexisted with fire since the beginning of time, some forests even needing fire to survive. And humans have been using fire to modify their environment as well, and have learned, and continue to learn, about fire and how to manage it to meet specific goals.

In Rhode Island, over half of the state, mainly in the west, is forested with communities and homes scattered throughout. It is important that communities and individual homeowners understand the risks of wildfire and take appropriate steps to protect buildings and manage their forested land to mitigate the impacts of fire in its severity and rate of spread.

Forest Fast Breaks:


Safety Reminders:

Safe Open Burning

As the weather gets nicer remember to be safe when burning yard debris!

Posted by Rhode Island Division of Forest Environment, Forest Fire Program on Friday, April 6, 2018

New Video! Improper fireplace ash disposal is a common cause of wildfires this time of year. We hope this video helps raise awareness and prevents some wildfires here in Rhode Island. Enjoy!

Posted by Rhode Island Division of Forest Environment, Forest Fire Program on Thursday, October 29, 2015


Firewise USA & Reducing Loss From Wildfire

get ready, get preparedFirewise USA is a national program that recognizes communities that practice Firewise principles, but also provides information for individuals on how to plan and protect their homes and buildings

The following diagram from the NFPA webpage Preparing Homes for Wildfire, shows the different zones and the site gives recommendations for reducing the possibility of fire reaching a building. While advanced preparation and planning is recommended, even taking last minute 7 simple steps can help, should a wildfire occur near your property.

home zone

Questions? If you are interested in learning more about what your community can do, or to learn how to become a Firewise Community, contact Senior Forest Ranger Allan Waterman at

Prescribed Fire & Reducing The Severity Of Wildfire

controlled burnHuman experience with wildfires has provided many lessons, often hard lessons with loss of lives. For many years fire has been treated as a public threat with a policy of stopping any and every fire, just like Smokey Bear says.

As fire was suppressed, forests changed. Periodic fires no longer removed fuels like deadwood and brush, resulting in the build up of fuels that burned hotter and spread faster and farther. This has led to the study of fire for a better understanding of fire and its management, including the use of prescribed fire as a tool to reduce the likelihood and the severity of wildfires.

Prescribed fire, or controlled burns, are carried out with planning and monitoring, and with specific objectives, such as:

  • to reduce the fuels on the ground so that should a wildfire occur, there is less fuel available to burn which can slow the rate of spread and the size and heat of the flames.
  • to improve wildlife habitat for specific species by removing invasive plants or understory growth.

forest floorEven Smokey Bear recommends prescribed fire. And DEM’s Division of Forest Environment is working to carry out prescribed fires on state land.

For more information about prescribed fire check out:

Questions? If you own wooded property and are interested in understanding more about the applications of prescribed fire you can find more in-depth information about Reasons for Prescribed Fire. Contact your local fire department for more information and for burning permits.

Local Fire Departments & Fighting Wildfire

controlled burnIn Rhode Island, many communities are served by a local volunteer fire department. They rely on volunteers to provide firefighting services to protect property and life. But these departments are also the first responders to wildfires.

Structural fires are very different from wildfires, and volunteer firefighters need to be trained how to safely fight wildfires, just as they need to be trained to respond to hazardous material incidents and fires. Each type of fire has its own behavior, and risks, and requires knowledge to respond in a safe and effective manner.

The Division of Forest Environment provides wildfire training to volunteer fire departments, when requested.

  • Ask your local fire department if they are trained to respond to wildfire.
  • Encourage your community and local fire department to undergo wildfire training.
  • Consider how you can be involved with your local volunteer fire department, as they rely on residents to maintain the staffing and the ability to protect the community.

Questions? If you are interested in learning more about wildfire training for your local fire department, contact Principle Forest Ranger Ben Arnold at

Community Planning and Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP)

The American Planning Association (APA) has developed the Multihazard Planning Framework for Communities in the Wildland-Urban Interface which lays out a comprehensive framework that:

  • addresses risk from wildfire and other hazards
  • encompasses scales from site to neighborhood, community, and region
  • identifies a range of planning interventions that can be used to reduce risk and maximize the benefits that forests provide across the scales of concern

planningMany communities that are surrounded forests have developed a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). As defined by the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, a CWPP is developed by local stakeholders to identify and prioritize areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and recommend the types and methods of treatment to protect the community and essential infrastructure. The CWPP recommends measures to reduce structural ignitability throughout the community, and may address all or some issues, such as: wildfire response, hazard mitigation, community preparedness, structure protection - or all of the above.

controlled burnIn Rhode Island, Prudence Island developed a CWPP in 2018, with funding from the USDA Forest Service and assistance from DEM’s Division of Forest Environment, including over 100 acres of prescribed burning as the initial implementation of the plan.

Questions? If you are interested in learning more about planning and preparation for wildfires, contact Forest Fire Program Coordinator Olney Knight at