Town of Paradise, California, to require all new homes be built to Wildfire Prepared Home standard; creates path to mitigate existing homes
Connie Bryant Breedlove
Managing Director, Communications
Mary Anne Byrd
Paradise, Calif., June 22, 2022– Wildfire Prepared Home™, the first-ever wildfire mitigation program to allow homeowners to achieve a designation showing they’ve taken the science-based actions required to meaningfully reduce their home’s wildfire risk, is now open and accepting applications from single-family homeowners in California. A voluntary program based on the latest wildfire research from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), Wildfire Prepared Home fills a gap for homeowners looking to demonstrate the wildfire mitigation actions taken on their property and creates a uniform standard for all stakeholders to reduce wildfire risk.
Joining IBHS for the program launch, the Town of Paradise, California, today announces steps to create a path for every resident to achieve the Wildfire Prepared Home designation for their property, making it the first municipality in the nation to do so. During a time of rapid rebuilding following the 2018 Camp Fire, new homes in Paradise will, as of July 14, 2022, be required to be built to IBHS’s Wildfire Prepared Home standard. To assist owners of existing homes, the Town is pursuing federal funding to address the cost associated with mitigation actions required to qualify for a Wildfire Prepared Home designation. Currently in the environmental clearance stage with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Town’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) project would help homeowners retrofit their homes to achieve IBHS’s Wildfire Prepared Home designation.
“Homeowners, insurers, communities and policymakers have expressed a shared desire to reduce the losses and human suffering caused by wildfires, particularly wildfires that spread into suburban communities, as Paradise experienced in 2018,” said Roy Wright, president and CEO of IBHS. “Science, public policy and market demand have finally come together to provide a meaningful benefit for homeowners. Wildfire Prepared Home brings together the group of mitigation actions that must be taken together to reduce wildfire risk and sets homeowners on a pathway to achieve a designation that shows they are doing their part to reduce the impact of wildfire.”
Based on the latest wildfire research from IBHS and input from the broader fire protection community, Wildfire Prepared Home is designed to meaningfully reduce wildfire risk by reducing the chance a home ignites during a wildfire. The system of actions required for a designation addresses the resilience of three vulnerable areas of a home – the roof, specific building features and defensible space, including the 0-5-foot home ignition zone.
Wildfire Prepared Home balances achievability with meaningful risk reduction. No home is fireproof; yet the system of actions required by Wildfire Prepared Home can limit the catastrophic reach of wildfire as it approaches neighborhoods by mitigating the most vulnerable components on and around a home. The voluntary program includes built-in homeowner education, a system of required mitigation actions, an initial verification process and an annual check-in to ensure ongoing landscape maintenance.
In a unanimous vote last week, the Paradise Town Council adopted Wildfire Prepared Home requirements into ordinance, paving the way for a uniform approach to reducing wildfire risk as the Town continues to rebuild following the 2018 Camp Fire.
“Our community knows all too well that hardening your home can help save it in the event of a wildfire, and we are happy to see IBHS rollout this designation program to support our homeowners in making their homes safer,” said Paradise Town Manager Kevin Phillips. “We have a unique opportunity as we continue to rebuild to do so in a way that ensures greater resilience for generations to come.”
Wright, a Vacaville native whose family members lost their homes in Paradise during the Camp Fire, will join town leaders, including Mayor Steve Crowder and Town Manager Phillips, along with representatives from the insurance industry at an event today to designate the first home into the program.
“Paradise experienced the heartbreak of wildfire as profoundly as any community in memory,” Wright added. “As the town rebuilds, Wildfire Prepared Home will reduce the chance that happens again. For other communities in California, Wildfire Prepared Home offers a clear path to reduce the likelihood you have to rebuild from ashes. Homes can be built or retrofitted to the Wildfire Prepared Home standard, and every eligible home should.”
Wildfire Prepared Home applies the Suburban Wildfire Adaptation Roadmaps, released by IBHS in August 2020, to create a direct path for homeowners to apply the research to their homes and demonstrate their commitment to mitigation through a designation. Homeowners must take an active role in mitigation to achieve and maintain the 3-year designation, including submitting annual landscape reviews to ensure the ongoing maintenance needed to keep landscaping in compliance with the program is occurring. When homeowners embrace this system, the designation differentiates their homes from unmitigated or partially mitigated properties.
“This program brings together more than a decade of IBHS wildfire research with learnings from the broader fire protection community,” adds Dr. Anne Cope, chief engineer at IBHS. “As our research continues, we will immediately incorporate findings into the program’s standard. Yet the wildfire crisis in California is happening right now, and we cannot let more communities suffer damage, disruption and displacement while we wait for perfect answers. We must apply what we know now to reduce the catastrophic reach of wildfire into suburban communities.”
Wildfire Prepared Home fills a gap as a specific, parcel-level mitigation program to reduce wildfire risk at a time when homeowners are eager to do more to protect their properties. Risk reduction efforts at the parcel-level, in concert with effective community actions like the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Firewise USAÒ program, provide homeowners greater peace of mind and are often recognized by the insurers who analyze changes in the risk landscape.
“The specific steps required for the new IBHS designation are fully aligned with current research and knowledge on how homes ignite from wildfire and what can be done to prevent it,” says Michele Steinberg, NFPA’s wildfire division director. “We have long advocated for residents of wildfire-prone areas to prepare their homes and property to resist wildfire flames and embers, and to work cooperatively with neighbors to reduce vulnerability across the community using our Firewise USA® recognition program process. Property owners will benefit from taking the steps to earn the IBHS designation and can further improve their risk profile by working with neighbors using the Firewise USA process.”
Available now in California, single-family homeowners can get started to achieve a Wildfire Prepared Home designation by taking a free online home assessment at wildfireprepared.org to identify the areas of their home that require further mitigation before applying for a designation.
About the Town of Paradise
The Town of Paradise was almost completely destroyed by the most destructive wildfire in California history – the Camp Fire – in November 2018, with more than 11,000 homes and businesses destroyed, and its population of 26,500 displaced as the community rebuilds. As of June 2022, nearly 8,000 residents have returned to call Paradise home again, with 1,400 homes rebuilt and over 700 under construction. 350 businesses have reopened, including restaurants, hardware stores, grocery stores and a medical clinic. Paradise expects its population to reach 75% of its pre-fire population by 2035. For more information on Paradise’s recovery, visit www.townofparadise.com or www.makeitparadise.org.
About the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS)
The IBHS mission is to conduct objective, scientific research to identify and promote effective actions that strengthen homes, businesses and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss. Learn more about IBHS at DisasterSafety.org.