October 02, 2017

Wildland-Urban Interface Planner Training Overview

By Ben Yellin, Wildfire Planning International

Successfully mitigating wildfire risk in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) requires collaboration among multiple stakeholders, including land use planners. Land use planning is an often underutilized but critical aspect of the mitigation process and can help guide communities to safely live in wildfire prone ecosystems.

To assist land use planners in understanding wildfire risks in their communities and identifying appropriate planning tools and opportunities to reduce risk, the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire program (CPAW) provided a Wildland-Urban Interface Planner Training. The training was held as a pre-conference event at the 2017 Western Planner/ South Dakota Planners Association Conference in Spearfish, South Dakota, on September 12, 2017.

CPAW is a national program funded by the USDA Forest Service and private foundations and managed by Headwaters Economics and Wildfire Planning International. CPAW provides free consulting services to selected communities to deliver voluntary land use planning recommendations that address the wildland-urban interface. More information about the program, resources for communities, and examples of CPAW community recommendations can be found at www.planningforwildfire.org. Communities interested in participating in the 2018 program can download an application from the CPAW website and submit it before the September 29 deadline.

The WUI Planner Training focused on understanding the wildland-urban interface and related risk factors while providing planning tools, opportunities, and implementation tactics that can be integrated into a local planning process. It was attended by planners, fire chiefs, city administrators and wildland-urban interface specialists from across the west. Facilitators also engaged participants in a scenario planning exercise called “Firetopiaville,” where breakout groups had the opportunity to develop wildfire mitigation strategies and regulations for a community while balancing the real-life challenges of other competing interests.

Thanks to Molly Mowery, AICP, of Wildfire Planning International, www.wildfireplanning.com, and to Section Author Professor Stephen Miller, University of Idaho College of Law, millers@uidaho.edu for their help in providing the material for this article.

For a graphic depiction of how wildfires this summer in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia affected air quality in cities hundreds of miles away we recommend NASA and NOAA satellite image websites, for example, https://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/image​records/90000/90899/smokeusa_vir_2017247_lrg.jpg.

By Ben Yellin, Wildfire Planning International

Ben Yellin is an Associate Planner at Wildfire Planning International and provides customized research and planning assistance to communities. Before joining the WPI team, Ben operated as a wildland firefighter for seven years on Hotshot, Helitack, and engine crews for the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service. Ben earned a Bachelor of Natural Resource Tourism degree from Colorado State University and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at the University of Colorado, Denver.