Rep. Mary Bono Mack (left) and FSC Project Mangaer Pat Boss (center) listen when Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins (right) points to a potential fire risk while touring the community with Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council officials. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Thanks to some terrific people, the Woodies are going strong.


As readers of the Town Crier know, the Woodies, the volunteer group who prepare firewood and abate properties, recently had four chainsaws stolen when a trailer was broken into. The saws have not been recovered.

But several people in the community heard about the theft and donated four saws to replace the stolen ones. We are most grateful for their thoughtfulness and generosity. Thank you, folks; the saws are being put to good use.

As I wrote in last month’s column, our organization is putting a great deal of effort into implementing a grant that will help homeowners replace wooden roofs. Last week we were visited by Linda Ortiz, the California Emergency Management Agency grant manager for these FEMA funds.

We also had representatives from Riverside County Office of Emergency Services and the County Fire Department, both of whom are involved in the administration of the grant. They met with Executive Director Edwina Scott and Project Managers Pat Boss and Don Patterson, as well as a group of board members, to review and clarify the procedures of the grant.

This wooden shingle roof is eligible to be replaced with grant funds that the FSC will receive later this year. FSC reimburses the home owner 75 percent of the cost. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Later in the day they viewed several of the homes that will have roofs replaced under the grant, and we were delighted that they were joined by Rep. Mary Bono Mack and County Fire Chief John Hawkins.


We were very happy to hear Chief Hawkins make the case to the congresswoman about why replacing wooden roofs is so important. He explained how fire embers can get lodged in the gaps between shingles and set the roof ablaze, and how the Fire Safe Council is on the cutting edge of fire prevention with this grant.

The chief is right to say this kind of work is the edge of a developing trend, in my opinion. You can see the trend in changing building codes throughout the country. We have understood the necessity of vegetation management for years, but now with better materials we are also ready to make homes more fire-resistant.

This grant targets the most vulnerable part of the house — the roof — but we know that ember-resistant vents and dual-panes and tempered glass in windows can also make a big difference.

A large and nasty problem with wood roofs is not just that they catch fire much more easily than other kinds of roofs, but that the shakes or shingles from the roof can become dangerous airborne embers themselves, thrown high and wide ahead of the fire.

One amazing set of stories about his was taken from pilots who fought the Bel Air Fire in 1961, which saw hundreds of homes with wood roofs burn. Air tanker pilots reported seeing burning, flying shingles at high altitudes over the fire. A helicopter pilot over the fire reported pulling burning wood shingles out of his cockpit upon landing.

We are just now completing the final list of homes that will be included in the grant. If you own a home with a wood roof and have been in contact with Fire Safe project managers and know you are on the list, we appreciate your work with us. If you have a wood roof and recently received a postcard from us, please call us right away at (951) 659-6208.

FEMA is very clear that no homes can be added to the list after it closes in November.

Linda Ortiz, Emergency Services Coordinator with the California Emergency Management Agency, discuss the grant process with FSC staff and directors. Photo by J.P. Crumrine