July 21

Firewise and You

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Get Firewise and Harden Your Home

By now you’ve heard that a lot. You’ve probably seen the inserts, fliers, postcards or seen me at a community meeting.

So you know that mitigating the risk of catastrophic loss in a wildfire is not abstract and can be accomplished.

When you look at the behavior of fire scientifically, you absolutely can alter that fire behavior in a good way by altering conditions.

I want to give you a brief firewise summer recap before we talk a little about the Madera County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

The Little Things Make All the Difference

So your home may be a Firewise home by now, ‘hardened’ against wildfire. If not, you are putting yourself and family at risk.

Your hardened home will not easily burn from flames, embers, or heat. Even with no action taken by firefighters or emergency personnel your hardened home is much more likely to survive intact. That is your goal. Your properly hardened home is truly a ‘fire wise’ home.

You may have seen Jack Cohen, USFS Fire Scientist on the web site videos. His science has revolutionized thinking about fire behavior and its mitigation. His work has also proven, scientifically, that widlfire is not a tsunami like force laying waste to everything in its path.

It’s the little things that can make all the difference. Embers are the culprit literally most of the time.

Address and harden your roof, gable vents, chimney, roof assembly, roofing type, eaves, eave vents, gutters, siding, windows, doors, foundation, foundation vents, and create a noncombustible 3 to 5 foot perimeter around your home. The wildfire danger begins to be mitigated making your home more able to withstand fire. All items being kept clear of combustible debris is a key element.

Firewise Home Hardening Refresher

You’ve got your evacuation plan. You’ve got your go kit. You’ve rehearsed. You signed up for MC Alert. You’ve got your defensible space.

But defensible space is not enough. Defensible space provides safety for firefighters and protects your home from direct flame impingement which means flames actually hitting your home and igniting it that way.

But it’s embers that are most likely to destroy your home.

Even if you can’t make upgrades to your home structure, just keeping your home and its immediate vicinity clean and clear of combustible materials will make a huge difference.

Combine that with defensible space and you are ready to start saving for more improvements to the actual structure.

Embers and Firebrands

If you haven’t heard it yet too many times, I’ll say it again, embers directly or indirectly ignite 90 percent or more of the homes and structures lost in wildfires. This is huge and useful information for us.

We truly can affect the wildfire’s behavior. So do the little things to mitigate the danger of catastrophic loss. Start at the chimney and work your way down.

Clean up and remove all flammable debris off your roof. Clean your gutters. Clean your eaves. Clean the walls. Work down to the ground. Do this on a very regular basis.

After your structures have all the little things cleared away. Double check. Rinse. Repeat. Now work out from you home and structures and clear all combustible flammable material out at least 3 feet. Preferably 5 feet. Rinse. Repeat.

Now move out to 30 feet with modest fuel reduction. Then 100 feet (the law). Then 200 feet, the home ignition zone (HIZ).

Finally, band together with your neighbors and become a recognized Firewise Community. I bet you saw that coming.

The Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)

In 2008 the Madera County Board of Supervisors created the CWPP to move toward mitigating wildfire danger all over the county.

The Firewise Program dovetails with the CWPP in that both have the same overall objective, protect assets at risk, life and property.

The CWPP has a list of the most at-risk communities in the county. We’ve been working hard to assist those communities to address wildfire danger mitigation. Your community may be listed. See the The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council web site.

We are all in this together whether or not your community is listed. Everyone needs to mitigate the danger, everywhere. However the CWPP does offer a good point of view from which we can focus our efforts.

Please contact me at rpmaybee@sti.net (559) 760-7407 for further discussion.

Roger Maybee
The Cascadel Ranch Fire Safe Council Coordinator


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