Chris Kramer, Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council president. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Chris Kramer, Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council president.
Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Chris Kramer, formerly the first vice president of the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council, was chosen as its new president at the Jan. 13 meeting. Former President Michael Esnard told the board he and his wife planned to move in the spring and he would step down as president, but will remain on the board as director until they leave.

Kramer is a 30-year veteran of the Palm Springs Fire Department. He and his wife, Gigi, have been Hill residents since 2007. They met years ago as members of the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit.

While they had a cabin in Idyllwild, as Kramer’s retirement approached they considered several locations, but after a Thanksgiving trip to Utah, they decided Idyllwild should become their new permanent home.

Jim Taylor, another former RMRU member, introduced Kramer to the MCFSC’s Woodies group. After his first morning working with them, Kramer said when he returned home, he told Gigi, “I’m unretiring. That’s work and I’m one of the youngest.”

“Everybody in the Woodie knows what needs to be done each day. It’s like an orchestra,” Kramer added.

A year later when another former MCFSC president, Blair Ceniceros, was leaving the board, he encouraged Kramer to get more involved with MCFSC.

“When you get involved, you hope that the result is better than before you started and you’ve done something positive,” Kramer said about his prospective time leading the MCFSC. “It’s a well-run organization and we all work well with together. Our part is made simple with a great executive director, Edwina [Scott].”

Over the past year, MCFSC has helped many homeowners replace their wood-shake shingle roofs with safe, fire-resistant shingles. In the future, Kramer sees more emphasis on helping homeowners improve their structure’s fire defensiveness.

“People clear the brush on the property, but then they should look at the house and ask how to make it more defensible,” Kramer said. For example, a simple fix for eaves to make it more difficult for air-borne embers to enter and create a fire is a smaller screen, he added.

The county fire code committee, which includes all local fire organizations and MCFSC, is still discussing how to address the concerns citizens raised at last summer’s fire chief Town Hall meeting. “People who abated their property but were frustrated with the neighbor with the vacant lot who did nothing,” Kramer said.

The state’s Public Resource Code requires abatement for structures. Riverside County’s abatement ordinance can require significant abatement of vacant lots, such as disking of fields, at much lower elevations. Kramer explained that the county’s committee is seeking a compromise that fits the Hill. And evaluating the San Bernardino County ordinance is a start, Kramer stated.

“People want to make lots a little safer for those who have done their part,” he said. “But the [Riverside County Board of] Supervisors has the final say.”

Residents are aware of the fire threat and are conscientious about doing abatement, Kramer stressed. Last spring, the transfer station was full of green waste and stopped accepting it. MCFSC wrote a letter encouraging Waste Management to accept more, otherwise it would discourage abatement efforts.

“I hope it’s just as full next season. It says a lot about people here and what needs to happen,” Kramer said proudly. “If there’s a question, call us.” MCFSC’s phone number is 951-659-6208.

The other MCFSC officers are Norm Walker, first vice president; Larry Kuenemann, second vice president; Ray Barmore, secretary; and Jerry Holldber, treasurer. Other directors remaining on the board are Lois Henson, Doris Lombard, Ron Perr, and Marvin Spreyne.