Norm Walker
President, Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council

As I am writing this article, Los Angeles Fire Department and their cooperators are fighting a brush fire in Pacific Palisades (Palisades Fire). This in itself is not unusual except for the fact that there is no “fire weather” to speak of in the area. The humidity is up and the temperature is down, including some drizzle in the fire area.

Despite these conditions, the fire burned actively for three days and nights. This is an indicator of how dry the chaparral is already and it’s only May.

Last year, we witnessed the worst combination of low fuel moisture, abundant fuel, lightning and windstorms that resulted in the worst fire season in California history. Unfortunately, this statement is being repeated about every two years!

Cal Fire’s Ready-Set-Go program is a must read for all of us who live in the wildland urban interface ( Having a plan before an emergency can be the difference between surviving or not.

For those who may not know, the Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council (MCFSC) stands ready to help families get their abatement done and comply with PRC 4291 (State of California fire abatement standards). We are a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. We have three paid staff members; Kat Wilson, executive director, Katherine Garver, project manager and an administrative assistant, a position currently open. Our seven-member Board of Directors (three vacancies being recruited) is all volunteer, as is our working group the Woodies (21 members).

Our fire safe council has been operating for the last year following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, utilizing virtual board meetings and emails to document our activities. We have just now begun having in-person meetings again, following CDC guidelines for masks and social distancing.

The fire safe council is funded through grants from Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service, Southern California Edison and Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as donations from the public and civic groups. The current grants are 65/35 grants so the homeowner only pays 35% of the total abatement cost. One hundred percent of the grant monies go to contractors who do the actual abatement. The 35% that the homeowner pays and public donations go to public education (bi-annual newsletter and public functions) and the operating costs of the fire safe council.

Idyllwild Fire Protection District and Cal Fire are continuing their abatement inspections so your property cleanup should begin now. If the job is too big for you, call Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council at 951-659-6208. Our contractors normally implement defensible space work to bring a property in compliance with PRC 4291. This can include brush and dead or dying tree removal. No work is done until you approve the plan and the price.

Keep in mind that fire abatement is part of your pre-fire planning that will help firefighters save your home. Keeping your property and roof clean after passing your inspection is a constant job in a pine forest that must be done. Ember cast from a fire (including a structure fire) can ignite your roof or deck if not kept clean.

For abatement questions or fire prevention advice, please give us a call.