As I write this article today, we are all still waiting for the first snow on the mountain. The rain we received in October has helped to reduce the number and severity of fires in the county but the forest is still capable of having a large fire burn in a wind event.
It’s sometimes hard to get motivated to do fire abatement in the late fall and early winter but some of our most destructive fires in Southern California have occurred during this time of year. Public Resource Code (PRC) 4291 (State of California fire abatement standards) is a year-round California law, not just a law for summer.
After you have passed your inspection, the key is to keep your property in compliance. Most Hill residents know that this part is not easy and is even more difficult for part-time residents.
Most homes are destroyed in wildfires because of spot fires (caused by ember cast) finding a path to the structure. This “path” is usually pine needles or dry grass that leads up to the house. The fire creeps up to the structure, gets established in wood siding or a deck, then takes down the house very quickly. The roof and rain gutters are also places for needle cast to accumulate and become very receptive to hot embers.
After your property is abated, there are two recurring issues. The roof (including gutters) must be kept clean and the first 30 feet around all structures must be kept raked down to mineral soil. The problem is, you rake, the wind blows and it all comes back. Unfortunately, it’s the price we pay for the lifestyle we choose to live up here.
Firefighters make decisions as to which homes they attempt to defend and which homes they drive by during a wildfire. This is because they have very little time to spend at each house. If five engines are assigned to protect 30 homes in an area, there is no time for them to do your abatement for you. Engine companies do what’s called “structure triage.” It means they check your house, determine its survivability, then either defend it or move on to the next house. The goal is to save the maximum number of homes possible while providing for firefighter safety. The abated homes are the ones most easily protected.
Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council (MCFSC) stands ready to help families get their abatement done and comply with PRC 4291. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
MCFSC has grant funds for dead and dying tree removal, fire abatement and education, as well as a grant for low-income assistance. Be sure to call to check on any of these services and your cost share amount (25 or 35 percent depending on the grant) or the qualification for low-income help.
The drought is continuing in most of California and it requires those of us who live in the Wildland Urban Interface to be vigilant all year long. If you would like MCFSC’s assistance in protecting your home, give us a call at 951-659-6208.