USGBC-LA Wins CAL FIRE Grant to Offer Free Wildfire Defense Education

U.S. Green Building Council-L.A. Wins CAL FIRE Grant to Offer FREE Wildfire Defense Education to Construction Professionals & Landscapers, plus Professionals Database for Homeowners

Multi-Year Program to help reduce emissions, institutionalize fire prevention across real estate, and elevate certified contractors

LOS ANGELES (January 23, 2024) Our region now confronts a year-round fire season, which poses severe and potentially life-threatening consequences. At such critical moments, informed building and landscaping design and maintenance best practices can help save lives and properties by building homeowner awareness and developing professional expertise. CAL FIRE has awarded the U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles (USGBC-LA) a three-year grant to expand and scale delivery of technical workshops to certify construction professionals and professional landscapers, to help reduce fire risk in homes, as well as deliver homeowner education, and a searchable online database of these certified professionals for homeowners.

Since November of 2022, USGBC-LA has trained 327 professionals from the community in Wildfire Defense strategies with 141 certificates issued at no cost for students. With this funding, USGBC-LA will expand all elements–trainings/certifications, tours, toolkit–of its current Wildfire Defense Education and Tours program, which aims to address the needs of residents in the wildland urban interface (WUI) in reducing fire risk by hardening homes and creating defensive landscapes. The program also:

  • Helps reduce emissions.
  • Elevates opportunities for building professionals and empowers them to reduce risk.
  • Provides public, practical know-how and access to dynamic, localized information.

For USGBC-LA, Wildfire Defense is an important part of a holistic approach across California to reduce the environmental impact of our built environment, and provides tangible guidance on building, or rebuilding/remodeling, sustainably. According to CAL FIRE, in 2021, 3,846 structures faced damage or destruction and 2,569,386 acres were burned as a result of California wildfires. Due to the increasing occurrence of fire, many families experience not only property risk, but air quality, business disruption, power outages, and health impacts.

“We’re grateful to CAL FIRE for acknowledging the critical importance of addressing the heightened risks in the wildland urban interface (WUI), exacerbated by overdevelopment in high fire zones and intensified by climate change. USGBC-LA is well-equipped to contribute its expertise to this pressing crisis, and we are delighted

that they will be actively engaged in the unique WUI environments of Southern California. Their efforts will enhance our resilience in the face of future challenges over the coming decades,” stated California Senator Henry Stern (SD27).

“LA County Fire is proud to help support the U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles in their efforts to advance fire prevention efforts through education of home builders, landscapers and homeowners,” stated Brad Weisshaupt, Assistant Chief Forestry Division LACoFD.

Tours and education will be provided primarily between April and November each year. The classes are 2 1⁄2 hours followed by a certification test. Throughout the course of the grant, CAL FIRE and LA County Fire–along with a wildfire defense advisory group formed by local experts–will have the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the training content. The program’s goal is to always reflect the most up-to-date body of knowledge on best practices to reduce fire risk from a design and maintenance perspective. USGBC-LA will also offer an in-person Public Engagement Workshop at our annual California Green Building Conference in May.

“We are incredibly grateful to CAL FIRE for coming in as a partner to help us provide invaluable free education to the building industry, as we reframe the understanding of fire risk in order to replace what is often a sense of hopelessness and inevitability with that of agency and empowerment,” states Ben Stapleton, Executive Director, USGBC-LA. “This program empowers communities with proven, clear, immediately actionable risk-mitigation strategies; combats persistent and counterproductive myths; and provides locally relevant, step-by-step guidance, as well as an opportunity for certification and increased earning potential. Contractor and property owner education begins the kind of peer-to-peer knowledge sharing shown to boost community response, as well as post-fire resilience.”

USGBC-LA’s distinctive approach focuses on overall resilience strategies that address the diverse range of Southern California’s environmental threats at a building level. Additionally, the program will help contractors, property owners and their larger communities realize significant economic benefits, including:

  • Many of the recommended interventions have green co-benefits that help reduce water and energy usage and help property owners save money.
  • The opportunity to negotiate with insurance companies to lower your property risk factor.
  • Minimize property losses and rebuilding costs in the event of a wildfire.

“Our state is no stranger to the devastation caused by wildfires. With the impacts of climate change all but certain to increase wildfire severity and frequency, training and education are paramount to achieving top-down community preparedness,” said California State Senator Ben Allen (SD24), who chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. “USGBC-LA is promoting thoughtfulness and sustainability in development, including wildfire resilience. I commend CAL FIRE for recognizing USGBC-LA’s efforts, and I look forward to seeing the work that USGBC-LA could accomplish with this important financial support.”

USGBC-LA launched the Wildfire Defense Tours & Education program in January of 2020, starting with the delivery of free webinars and tours of firewise properties. Since then, in addition to professional trainings and certifications, the program has: featured CA Insurance

Commissioner Ricardo Lara as keynote for an event on Reducing CA’s Fire Risk; provided multiple virtual home tours for the public; and released (and updated) a free, public Wildfire Defense Toolkit. The education classes and tours have been offered in cities with the greatest exposure and risk in LA County and Inland Empire, and widely promoted as an online resource available on our website to all communities.

The Wildfire Defense Education and Tours program was developed by USGBC-LA in partnership with FormLA Landscaping, with content contributors including Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, the Resources Conservation District of Santa Monica Mountains, and Theodore Payne Foundation.

Wildfire Defense Education and Tours is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing GHG emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment–particularly in disadvantaged communities. The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling, and much more. At least 35 percent of these investments are located within and benefiting residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities, and low-income households across California. For more information, visit the California Climate Investments website at:

To learn more about the Wildfire Defense Education and Tours program, please click here, or contact Fernanda Zuin, To contribute to these programs in any way, or to inquire about providing any other funding support, please email


About U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles

Founded in 2002, USGBC-LA is a 501(c)3 non-profit and member-based organization whose mission is to transform Southern California’s built environment into a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable region for all. We lead by inspiring leaders throughout our communities to take action on climate change, public health, and environmental justice while educating, developing, and empowering a diverse talent pipeline through our training, mentorship, and direct-to-community programs. We connect by merging interdisciplinary perspectives and collaborations to create positive systemic change. We advocate through promoting innovative, impactful policy solutions addressing the most urgent environmental and social challenges of our time.(

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