The Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council is about to embark on another endeavor to reduce the risk of significant fire damage on the Hill.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has recently approved Riverside County’s “Local Hazard Mitigation Plan.” This week the county Board of Supervisors passed a resolution adopting the current plan. Edwina Scott, Fire Safe Council executive director, attended their meeting in case questions affecting the local council’s plan were raised.

With these actions, the Fire Safe Council is now eligible for a federal grant to help pay for the cost of replacing flammable wood shake shingle roofs with any type of Class A roofing, e.g., composition, asphalt, metal or tile shingles. The grant will pay for 75 percent of the cost.

The $885,000 grant, which has been pending for nearly three years, awaiting approval of the county plan, will help replace about 100 roofs on the Hill, according to Scott. “It’s been a roller coaster,” she said about the grant’s approval. “I’m still a little bit nervous and apprehensive.”

The local council has been preparing for this step. Scott says the prospective grantees have been identified and were willing to contribute 25 percent of the cost of roof replacement. The first steps in the next few months will be to re-assess each prospective building then submit a comprehensive proposal for FEMA’s final approval and funding.

“The people all want to replace their roofs,” she said.

Ron Perry, Council board member, learned of this grant at a fire safe seminar. He returned and discussed it with the board and Scott.

“We got going and with some help from Big Bear’s council we began a proposal,” she said. Then the board learned they had a month to submit a final application, “We shifted in higher gear and got it done,” Scott said proudly.

The Hazard Mitigation Plan took a year to prepare and involves more than 50 subunits within the county, including the Idyllwild Fire District and all three water districts.

“While the [Hazard Mitigation Plan] did not specifically identify roof replacement, fire was one of the top hazards in the plan, and fire resistant construction (including roofs) is a mitigation strategy,” said Peter Lent, deputy director of the county’s Office of Emergency Services. They prepared the overall plan and managed its progress through the FEMA approval process.